Monday, October 16, 2017

Many Gifts

This weekend we were blessed at SPPC with many gifts, but one spirit.

On Saturday night fifty to sixty people gathered for a late Thanksgiving feast.  Felicity and her friends prepared a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, mashed potatoes, yam casserole, dressing, gravy, green vegetable medley, and cranberry salad.  Followed by pumpkin tars with whipped cream, or apple crumble.  The dinner was sponsored by the Parking Lot Club and was a treat for us all.  More importantly it was an opportunity for members of the congregation to meet and mingle with families whose children come to the Parking Lot Club on Thursday afternoons.  SPPC likes to practice fellowship around a common meal, and in doing so we follow the practice of the early church.  A wonderful way to welcome others into our fellowship.

Then, on Sunday afternoon, a similar number of people had the pleasure of hearing the McKenna String Quintet in concert.  This remarkable family of five, talented siblings has been in Victoria for the past few weeks, studying with various teachers, including the LaFayette String Quartet.  During that time, they have attended Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian Church, much to our delight.
Their concert opened with Mozart's String Quintet in D Major, K.593.  
This was followed by a vocal duet, Al Shlosh D'varim arr. Allen Naplan and performed by Minja and Marja McKenna.  The piece is based on Jewish morality laws, translated to mean: "The world is sustained by three things: by truth, by justice, and by peace."  The number was a surprising and lovely addition to the concert.

Following intermission the quintet, slightly rearranged, played Vaughn Williams' lush and romantic "Phantasy Quintet."  I overheard someone remark that it sounded Irish, perhaps that's why the family chose it.  Their father's background is Irish.

We then had another vocal piece, this time with all five of the performers singing. Esto les Digo by Kinley Lange is based on Matthew 18:20  "Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I also in the midst of them."  

The concert concluded with Boccherini's "String Quintet in C Major," Op. 42 No.2, a lively and engaging finish to the afternoon.
Except it wasn't really the end, the quintet treated us to an encore, a vocal arrangement of "Loch Lomond."

We had a truly remarkable weekend at the church, because so many were willing to share their gifts in the Spirit of Christ.  Thank you to everyone.  To the McKenna's we wish you well as you return home to Calgary, and on your musical journey.  
To everyone who helped, set-up, cooked, took-down, offered the hand of friendship and prayed for the success of both endeavours, thank you.  God bless us, everyone.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Thanksgiving Sunday

Happy Thanksgiving!  
Canadian thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays.  What joy to celebrate the harvest, to bring in the sheaves, to see the granaries full and the preserve shelves sagging under the weight of summer's goodness.

This year, my harvest wasn't that good. And I've heard the same story from others.  A cold, wet spring knocked the blossoms off the fruit trees.  The rain kept the bees away.  Then hot, dry weather and smoky skies stunted the growth of many vegetables, particularly zucchini, in August.  Can you imagine a gardener asking for zucchini?  Usually we're trying desperately to give them away!
But even with a poor year, the table at the church is filled with the fruits of the earth.

Still, the disappointment with my own crops made me think about other times and other places.  In our world, we don't fear famine.  We can always buy what we need, even if we can't grow it.  But the people of Israel knew famine, it's what sent them into Egypt, and slavery. 
 People in parts of Africa and Asia are starving today, sometimes because of warfare, sometimes because of failed crops.
 On this thanksgiving weekend, when most of us sit down to too much food, let us be grateful for the feast before us and remember those in need.  
A gift to PWS&D reflects our love for God's people everywhere.  Closer to home, there's a box in the narthex for the food bank.

Thanks to all who brought offerings for the table at church, including Heritage Acres. Enjoy the feast and family and friends.  Rejoice in the goodness of God's world.  "Come Ye Thankful People Come!"

Monday, October 2, 2017

McKenna String Quintet

What a busy Sunday we just had.  World Wide Communion, a visiting string quintet and the installation of Rev. Noel Kinnon as our minister emeritus, and the beginning of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  Talk about a high Sunday.

Let's start with the McKenna's a quintet of siblings, visiting our church, who graced the service with their music during the prelude, offertory and postlude.  Such a wealth of talent in one family.  We thank them for their participation.  If you missed them on Sunday, you can hear them in concert on October 15, at the church.  More details to follow.

A minister emeritus in the Presbyterian Church in Canada has no special duties, no special powers and no remuneration.  The title is simply an acknowledgement of affection and esteem from the congregation to the retired minister.  There was no shortage of affection or esteem in Sunday morning's service.  Noel is a great friend to Saanich Peninsula
Presbyterian Church, often filling the pulpit when Rev. Irwin is called away.  Judging by the number of guests in the pews, Rev. Kinnon is also a friend to a great many people, not of our congregation.  Praise God!
Although it was specifically stated that he had no new responsibilities as our minister emeritus, Noel was very much part of the ministry team, taking the children's story and officiating at Holy Communion.

And that brings me to World Wide Communion Sunday.  The McKenna's are not only gifted string players, they sing -- beautifully.  The piece they chose this morning was in Spanish.  Fitting for a day when Christians around the world celebrate communion.  Sometimes we feel small and alone in the hurly-burly of our culture, but Sunday we were part of "a great cloud of witnesses."

Finally, Sunday marked 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.  On Oct. 31, 1517 Martin Luther famously nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg Castle church, beginning a movement that would reshape the western world.  Rev. Irwin's sermon "Sola Gratia -- By Grace Alone," was based in one of the tenets of Luther's reformation.  We are saved by grace alone, by God's gift, not by our deservedness.

Ironically, the Bible Study groups have just begun the study of the Letter of James, a book Luther described as "straw."  James emphasises "works" to illuminate and act out our faith.  Some see this book as a contradiction to Luther's Sola Gratia.  Come along on Wednesdays at 9:30 am or 7:00 pm to see where the study takes us.

As I said at the beginning of this post, quite a Sunday.  Hallelujah!

Monday, September 25, 2017

New Parking Lot Season

September is the time for going back to school and getting back into the fall routine. Part of that re-start is the Parking Lot Club.  Ball hockey is our major focus, although food seems to run a close second.  

The first event was this past week and we had a nice turn out with some familiar faces and a few new ones.
The fun continues Thursdays at 4:30 pm until 6:00 pm for the rest of the fall term.
As noted, hockey is our primary focus, but when numbers warrant we have crafts, badminton, or a walk in the woods.  The club is sponsored by the church and welcomes youth ages 6 - 12 from the community.
We had a beautiful day on Thursday, not to hot, not too cold and no rain.  But, if the weather doesn't co-operate, we still play hockey -- indoors.  It gets very loud but that's just part of the game.

Don't wait for an invitation, all are welcome.  Bring your friends.

Monday, September 18, 2017


Last week's sermon was based on Genesis 1:1-10, Creation.  Rev. Irwin spoke mostly about the great and large things of God's imagination, light and dark, the heavens and the earth, the seas and the dry land. "And God saw that it was good."
During the glorious days of this week, I noted the smaller details of creation.  Not only are they good, they are most wonderfully made.

Monday, September 11, 2017

commissioning Sunday School teachers
     I attended a writers' workshop this weekend.  We had a speaker who made insider jokes and we all laughed.  We tossed around terms like GMC (Goal, Motivation, Conflict), black moment, hero's journey and Amazon algorithms.  These are all English words, understandable to anyone, but the phrases hold extra layers of meaning for writers of commercial fiction in 2017.

     Similarly, on Thursday night SPPC choir went back into session. Conversation centred on time signatures, staff lines, rests, repeat signs and rallentando.  Again, words that make sense to the layman, but have a wealth of meaning for a musician that others may miss.

     In our culture we use many terms that are based in Scripture -- cross to bear, Eden, David and Goliath, into the lion's den, -- to name a few.  Some children's games use Biblical titles, Jacob and Rachel or Jacob's Ladder, for example.  Yet, for many in our modern world, these terms have lost their power.  Goliath just means "giant."  They have never heard the whole story of the shepherd boy who said "The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” 1 Samuel 17:37  The youth who answered Goliath's boast with trust in God. "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands." 1 Samuel 17: 45-46

  For the Christian, we insiders, these terms are layered with meaning, they remind us of the God we worship, the God who cares for us, who provides for even the lilies of the field.

    On Sunday morning we commissioned our Sunday School teachers.  These faithful servants of the Lord will teach our children and youth to be "insiders" to the language of scripture, to learn the many layers of meaning in a simple story, and to love and trust the Lord, Jesus Christ.  
     The congregation offers its support to our teachers and our gratitude for their willingness to undertake this vital ministry.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Growing Old

     There was a birthday celebration at church last Sunday.  Betty turned ninety.  She had visiting family in church with her and a cake on the table.  And a lovely cake it was!

Isn't it odd that we celebrate birthdays as children and teens, and as seniors, but in the middle-years we are loathe to admit our age? Why are we ashamed of the advance of time after age thirty but embrace it with joy when we are truly old?  Perhaps we've learned wisdom?  That is purported to be a benefit of old age, although I once saw a sign that read "wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone."  

The Bible has some encouraging advice on growing older.  In Ps. 92:12-15, declares that those who walk with God will still bear fruit in old age.  Job 12:12 asserts that "old men have wisdom."  Proverbs  16:31 assures us that "grey hair is a glorious crown."

God designed us to live fully and in His company at all stages of our lives and then, when the earthly body is worn out, to be with Him in glory.  Is. 46:4, 2 Timothy 4: 7-8

Happy birthday, Betty.  May your light continue to shine.  And to all those in the middle years, remember that grey hair is the splendour of the old. Proverbs 20:29 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Before she moved, Edna gave me a great gift, a copy of the Rev. Dr. Cecil Kirk's manuscript on hymns for every day of the year.  
Coming up with something for this blog every week is sometimes a strain.  When I'm stuck, I turn to other writers for inspiration.  As a former parishioner at SPPC, I find Dr. Kirk's thoughts reliable and appropriate.  Here is what he has to say on "Be Still, My Soul," his choice of a hymn for August 27.

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heav’nly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hast’ning on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Scripture reading;  Luke 21: 13-19

Jane Borthwick made her translation of the German original of this hymn in 1855.  The hymn itself was written in 1752 by Katharina von Schlegel.  Very little is known about her though she is believed to have been the head of an Evangelical Lutheran nunnery in Cothen.  It is not impossible that she may have been attached to the ducal court there.  The songs of the German Pietists were largely unknown outside that country until three women  - Jane and Sarah Borthwick and Catherine Winkworth - translated them into English.  Jane and Sarah Borthwick published a volume of translations under the title Hymns fro the land of Luther" and it was there that this hymn first appeared.  Miss Borthwick was a devoted member of the Free Church of Scotland and was actively engaged in missionary  and social work.

When first published in English, the hymn was headed "Submission" and was accompanied by the words of Jesus:  "In your patience possess ye your souls."  This is the key to the theme that runs all through the hymn - the Christian's attitude of complete trust and submission to the Lord in times of grief, pain or bereavement.

One of the great assurances of the Christian faith is that we are not called on to travel the pilgrim road alone or unaccompanied.  "the Lord is on thy side."  He is our constant companion in every situation whether glad or sad.  It is important to know this because Jesus himself described Christian discipleship as cross-bearing.  He stated that anyone who would come after Him must be prepared to deny himself and take up the cross daily and follow Him.  (Matt. 16: 24)  That cross may be "of grief or pain" and yet we must be prepared to bear it patiently trusting God to provide the strength and to order our way for us.  Whatever happens to us "he faithful will remain" and however difficult the road we are called to walk we know it "leads to a joyful end" because Christ Himself will be there.

As we look back over the years that have gone, we can see the ways in which God has provided for us and directed our way.  So very often our understanding of the divine guidance is fully understood only as we look back to it.  For the present all may now seem dark and mysterious but we rest our confidence in the loving presence of our God and when we do so we shall discover that "all . . . shall be bright at last."  Our Lord is as capable of ruling the stormy passions of the world around us and those that beat within us as He was of controlling the elements of nature during His earthly life.

The further we travel along the road of life, the more likely it will be that some of the travelling companions of the years will depart through death.  The loss of such friends can be a real trial for us.  We have valued them for their support and encouragement.  Their loss means that we are cast more and more upon the One who comes to us "to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears."  But more, He fills up the voice that has been created for "thy Jesus can repay from His own fullness, all He takes away."

Life passes all too quickly by and "the hour is hastening on when we shall be forever with the Lord."  That thought should fill us with hope and expectation.  Here below we have human "disappointment, grief and fear."  There has been the sorrow of defeat and loss; we have been confronted with change and our eyes have known bitter tears.  But we have so much to look forward to.  We shall experience "love's purest joys" and we shall arrive "safe and blessed" in our heavenly home.  With such blessings we can "be still" in the presence of the Lord.
                                                                     -- Rev. C.J. Kirk

Monday, August 21, 2017

Mixed Emotions

Wednesday afternoon we experienced a text book case of "mixed emotions" at SPPC.  Our friend, mentor, fellow traveller, and example, Edna, has decided to leave our fellowship.  Not because she doesn't like us any more, but in order to be closer to her family in Ontario.  We couldn't let her go with a celebration, of all that she has meant to us and all that we hope for her, but the celebration was tinged with heavy hearts.  
Bin-Sie  paying tribute

We wish you all that is good, Edna, health, relationships, a loving congregation, and steadfast faith.  We will miss you in so many ways -- your departure leaves gaping holes in the fabric of our congregation -- but we thank God for the time you spent with us and we know He will uphold you and give you meaningful work in your new church. 

Edna responds

Janet presents a gift from SPPC

God speed
We wave farewell with much love
 and gratitude.

The Congregation at SPPC.  

Lots and lots of food

Monday, August 14, 2017


This past week has been one of high tension.  Wildfires in the Interior of B.C. have blanketed this part of the province with smoke, a reminder of how quickly life can turn, putting our normally safe homes  in peril.
Media is full of stories about famine, floods, riots and a boat load of refugees being pushed into the sea.
In world affairs, two unpredictable leaders are "playing chicken" with nuclear bombs.
Anyone who isn't stressed, has his head in the sand.

And now it's Sunday.  At SPPC Rev. Irwin has returned from holiday.  Our friends are in the pew.  A man with a cheerful smile pours coffee.  There are cookies on the table.  Here, in the worship of God, I find sanctuary.  The minister preached on hope, using Psalm 13 as his text.

I came home and looked up a previous Bible Study, Praying the Psalms, by Juanita Ryan, and I found a lesson on Psalm 57, a prayer of distress.  At the time of writing, David had fled from King Saul and his 3000 men. In fear for his life, David hid in a cave and called out to God, "Be merciful to me . . . because I come to you for safety."  David goes on to detail the danger that surrounds him.  His enemies have spread a net to capture him, they have dug a pit where he might fall in.  His enemies have teeth like spears and arrows.  This is no pretty poem.  David is desperately afraid.  In his distress, he calls on God, confident that the Lord can and will protect him.  By the end of the Psalm, he says "I have complete confidence in God.  I will sing praises to him.  God's constant love reaches the heavens and His faithfulness touches the skies.

This morning's sermon, on Psalm 13 covered much the same material.  God is constant.  God loves us.  When we cry for help, God hears.   We will know trouble, it may endure for a time, but in the end we belong to God.  He will rescue us, just as he rescued David from the armies of King Saul.

When our world is in crisis, we can turn to God for courage.  We can pray to God for wisdom for our leaders.  We can trust God with our lives.

The Sunday service included "What a Friend we Have in Jesus," which includes the lines "are we weak and heavy-laden, cumbered with a load of care, . . . take it to the Lord in prayer.. .  In his arms He'll take and shield thee, Thou wilt find a solace there."

It's a lovely summer day here.  The sun is shining, there's a cool breeze.  I could have spent my Sunday morning at the beach, on the golf course, out in a sailboat or reading in the garden.  I'm so glad I went to church instead.  "Can we find a Friend so faithful, who will all our sorrows share?  Jesus knows our every weakness.  Take it to the Lord in prayer."