Monday, May 29, 2017

When Morning Gilds the Skies

We don't often sing the hymn, "When Morning Gilds the Skies," but after our incessantly gloomy winter and spring, now that the sunshine has finally arrived, I find myself humming this old favourite.

When morning gilds the skies, My heart awaking cries,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Alike at work and prayer, To Jesus I repair:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

To God, the Word, on high, The host of angels cry,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Let mortals, to, up-raise, Their voice in hymns of praise;
May Jesus Christ by praised!

Let earth's wide circle round In joyful notes resound,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Let earth and sea and sky, From depth to height, reply,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Be this, while life is mine, My canticle divine,
May Jesus Christ be prised!
Be this the eternal song, Through all the ages on,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

The hymn is similar to many of the psalms with its constant refrain of praise.  It is also reminiscent of  the opening of Psalm 19, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the skies proclaim the work of His hands."  
In the letter to the Romans, Paul states "Since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities -- his eternal power and divine nature -- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, that that people are without excuse."
In the first stanza we see the rising sun and give praise.  We move through the day at work or prayer and give praise.  Angels and mortals all give praise.  The whole earth, from depth to height give praise.  Finally, the poet invokes the praise of Christ in eternity.

Translated from the German by Edward Caswall, it began appearing in hymnbooks in 1854. Distinguished English poet and translator Robert Bridges amended the translation in 1899, noting that  “It is of great merit, and I have tried to give a better version of it than the current one, keeping the original metre, preserving the first lines of the old translation, since it is by them that the hymn is known.” The hymn's popularity grew to a high point in the 1980's. I remember singing it in elementary school -- back when the school day began with a Bible reading, the Lord's prayer, a hymn and the national anthem. 

The tune, “Laudes Domini”, was composed by Joseph Barnby (1838-1896), an English organist and choirmaster who was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1892.  The soaring melody mimics the rising of the sun and demands the worshipper to stand straight and praise with conviction.

Enjoy the sunshine, and don't forget to praise Jesus Christ in the morning and in the evening and in all phases of your day.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Busy Day

Last Wednesday was a busy day at SPPC.  Presbytery met. We started a new Bible Study.  We got a new piano.  All in the same day.

Presbytery will have it's own report, but I can tell you the Bible Study was well-attended and interesting.  Rev. Irwin is using a different format this time, we're all in small groups all the time and he leads each one.  We watch a short video, prepared by the Christianity Explored Ministries, then reply to an open-ended question like "What's the best gift God could give you?"  There is no "right" answer but the question provides a jumping-off place for discussion. Another short video presentation, then more discussion, this time using Biblical texts to explore the role of God in our lives.  The study is very different format from what we've done before, but change is good.  Right?

The new piano arrived during Bible Study.  I heard the delivery people playing scales while we looked at Psalm 19.  Later I took the opportunity to try it out myself.  Here's a picture.  Isn't it pretty?

The baby grand is a gift from a generous donor and will enhance our music program.  The most obvious difference is that the music director now faces the choir.  If you've ever sung in a group you know how important that is.  For years the choir has tried to impart a uniform, choral presentation while looking at the director's back!

The piano has a lovely tone which the congregation will surely enjoy, especially once it has been tuned and overhauled. That will be in about a month's time when the instrument has had time to settle into its new environment. 

The upright piano has been moved from the sanctuary to the Ross lounge, so it is still in service to our congregation.  The smaller piano is in the hall for now.  Being on a good trolley means it can be easily moved from one location to another as the need arises.

A grand piano in the sanctuary opens up more opportunities for music in worship and in concert.  An exciting development for our congregation.  Many thanks to our anonymous benefactor.

Monday, May 15, 2017


Lots of things to share on this week's blog.  We're starting a new Bible Study for one.  It is called Life Explored and was developed by the same team that presented Christianity Explored, a study done at this church some time ago.  Life Explored uses the Bible story of creation, fall, redemption, new creation to illuminate modern life.
The format is a bit different this time.  The lesson begins with a video presentation, then a time of discussion.  The morning session has been divided in two so that we'll work more in small groups. You can choose either 9:15 am, or 10:30 am, or 7:00 pm. 

Last week's celebration of Irwin's ten years with our congregation inspired a lot of pictures!  I'm sharing some more here.

If you were there, you should be here!

Finally, Bette Dempster of our congregation celebrated her 100th birthday with cake and a visit from some SPPC friends. 

Thanks to Russell and Norma for sharing photographs.

Monday, May 8, 2017

10th Anniversary

  On Sunday, after service, eighty people attended a luncheon to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Irwin's call to Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian Church.  
   Afterwards, I browsed through my photos of those ten years and realized that the congregation had really lucked out.  We got Irwin and his family.  I also discovered that I have many, many more pictures of his children than of Irwin.  They are very photogenic!  Here they are at Christmas 2007

The way they are now! 

Ministry Moments 2007 - 2017

Easter Sunrise Service                                               
Love of music. 
 Recital at Joan's.
 Ten years of
Christmas Pageants

 New session

Interlude at Jonah Man Jazz  

picnic games director

singer/actor in "Spirit of Christmas"
                                                                 Father's Day with Peter  

                                                       Commissioning Mission Team for Dominican Republic                                      f

Offering thanks and good wishes to Elizabeth.

                                                     Learning to use the AED                      (Defibrilator)                                           

Irwin and Erik at farewell party for Joan

                                           Anniversary lunch.

Gifts from the congregation.

Noel says "a few words."

                                            The family.

Years is a big frame, hard to catch hold of, but the moments in those ten years are soul-deep.  I've included those I'm aware of. I'm sure every member of the congregation can add another moment that was important to him/her.  Thank you for ten years, Irwin -- and family.  We look forward to many more.

Monday, May 1, 2017


Did a bit of a double take this week when I got my voters card. On first reading it appeared that our church would be open for advance voting during Sunday morning service.  On closer examination, I discovered the advance poll at SPPC was for Friday and Saturday only.  Sunday voters had to go to the Saanich Fairgrounds.
Still, the idea of voting for who would form the next provincial government while attending a worship service is intriguing.  In our modern world, church and state are completely separated and any suggestion that they should overlap is vigorously opposed.  It wasn't always so.  In the first century various Roman emperors made a determined effort to stamp out the Christian church.  Constantine, in the 4th century ended the persecution of Christians and invoked a kind of religious tolerance during his reign, but Christianity was the state religion.
       During the Middle Ages, church and state were fused in Europe as the Holy Roman Empire. After the Reformation, religious strife raged across Europe in the Thirty Years War, as princes and small states tried to use the power of religion to achieve their temporal aims of conquest.  When Henry VIII broke with the Roman Catholic Church in 1534 in order to obtain a divorce, he established the Church of England as a state religion, with himself as it's "Supreme Governor" -- a title still carried by the English monarchy today-- and setting off an era of violent religious persecution in England.  Religious strife, supported by the state, continued to plague Europe for centuries.  Huguenots, Puritans, Anabaptists and Doukhobors , fled their homelands to begin new colonies in North America where they hoped to be free to practice their faith without fear of the government.   Thus, in Canada and the United States, there is no state religion.  The state is deemed to have no place in the practice of faith and the church is unrecognized in the halls of government.
        The history of religious intolerance justifies the separation of government and religion, but like many philosophies, it is impossible to implement in its entirety.  Governments are made up of human beings, some with deeply held religious beliefs and some who vehemently deny God.  To suggest that their faith, or lack of it, will not influence their decisions is to disregard human nature.  Many great thinkers throughout history have tried to break down the various aspects of being human between mind, body and spirit, only to find the exercise futile.  The mind lives in the body and is therefore influenced by the experience of the body.  The soul, that part of us that appreciates beauty, for example, lives in both the mind and the body.  We need the body to hear music, we need the mind to appreciate it's technical wizardry, and we need the spirit to respond to its beauty.  We cannot compartmentalize our moral (religious) beliefs and pretend they do not influence our judgement on secular matters.  Even if such a thing were possible, would we wish a totally amoral government? One whose decisions are based strictly on practicality with no ethical foundation? Might as well use a computer program to weigh up the pros and cons on any issue and spit out a decision based on the numbers.
      Maybe voting during a church service is not so far-fetched after all.  The Bible is clear on our duty to participate in civic matters. 1Timothy 2:1-4 exhorts the believer to pray for the leaders of society.  1 Peter 2: 13-15 instructs us to submit to human authorities.  God even instructs the Jews in exile in Babylonia to "seek the peace and prosperity of the city." Jeremiah 29:4-9.
I hope you all exercise your vote, whether in the early polls or on voting day, May 9, 2017.