Monday, January 13, 2020

Roaring 20's and PCC

We're having a party at SPPC on the 20th of this month, to celebrate 20/20 -- a vision plan the congregation adopted a couple of years ago. Now that 2020 is here, session thought we should celebrate.
The theme of the party is the 1920's. We'll have food and music and some old-time fun. 

We are all familiar with the term "roaring 20's" as it applies to secular life -- prohibition, votes for women, rum running, dancing -- but what about the era in the Presbyterian Church in Canada? Did we "roar" or whisper?

A little history here. Since the 1700's there had been reformed congregations in what is now Canada. Some were associated with the Church of Scotland, others with the French Huguenots, others with Dutch and German churches. On June 15, 1875 four major churches came together and formed the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The historic vote took place in Victoria Hall, Montreal.
Victoria Hall, Montreal

There were some dissenting congregations, but over the next several years, most joined the PCC denomination. Finally, in 1918 the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul, Montreal, the last major congregation affiliated with the Church of Scotland in Canada joined the Presbyterian Church in Canada. 
The denomination grew throughout the country and by the 1920's was the largest Christian denomination in English-speaking Canada.
Then came 1925 and church union. The "roaring" began.

Seventy percent of Presbyterian congregations joined with the Methodist Church, Canada, and the Congregationalist Church to form the United Church of Canada, on June 10, 1925. 

The remaining thirty percent were unconvinced by the doctrine of the new denomination. This group, consisting of those Presbyterian congregations, and a number of minority groups which opposed union into the United Church of Canada, met for prayer just before midnight in Knox Presbyterian Church (Toronto). Some 79 dissenting commissioners, and others equally concerned about the future of their church, had come to resume the General Assembly of the "continuing" Presbyterian Church that night. They were led by Rev. Dr. David George McQueen.
For over a decade these congregations used the term "Continuing Presbyterians" or "Non-Concurring Presbyterians." In 1939 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that these congregations had the legal right to the name Presbyterian Church in Canada.

Now it is 2020.  Are we ready to roar into the next decade? 

Monday, January 6, 2020


In the Christian calendar, January 6, Epiphany, marks the end of the Christmas season. In the secular world, Christmas seems to begin right after Hallowe'en and end at midnight on the December 25. This disparity between the shopping mall and the church sanctuary can be confusing, so just to set the record straight -- Christmas is a Christian holy day that marks the birth of Jesus, Saviour of the world. We do not know the actual day of His birth, but December 25th is the day chosen by the early church.

Advent is the four weeks before Christmas Day. While the secular world is in full party mode from the beginning of December, the Christian church is in a time of waiting, a season of contemplation and sacrifice. 
An example of the schism between popular custom and Christian tradition is the Advent calender. Many parents and grandparents give Advent calenders filled with treats to the children in their lives. In other words, the kids get presents every day until Dec. 25.  The Advent calender of my childhood had coin slots on every day and children were expected to put money (sacrifice) in the slots, then take the filled calendar to church as an offering on Christmas. 

Epiphany marks not only the end of the Christmas season, but the arrival of the Wise Men at Bethlehem. Given that most children's pageants lump the angels, the shepherds, the holy family and the magi into one big scene, it is easy to forget that the "travellers from the East" arrived later.

The Biblical record found in Matthew 2: 1-12 is brief, noting only that the men were guided by a star and arrived with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh and that they did not reveal to Herod the location of the Christ child. 
Over the centuries many traditions have grown up around these mysterious visitors. They've been given names, Caspar, Balthassar and Melchior. Eastern tradition sets the number of magi at twelve, while Western churches set the number at three. What is important to note is not the number, but the fact these worshippers were Gentiles--a fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecy that Christ would be a "light to the Gentiles."
Notice also, that the Wise Men (kings) (magi) worshipped, thereby acknowledging the divinity of Jesus. They would not otherwise have worshipped a Jewish child born to modest parents from Nazareth.

There are many wonderful legends around the Wise Men. One of my favourites is the story by Henry van Dyke Jr. about the "Fourth Wise Man"  who never did get to Bethlehem but spent his life giving his time and gifts to the poor and needy.

These legends bring joy to the Christmas season, they illustrate the Christian story and that satisfy our desire for pomp and riches in Bethlehem.They have inspired fine artwork and many carols.
But, if we are wise, like the magi, we will base our faith on the Biblical account. 
It has riches enough if we look carefully.