Monday, December 31, 2012


Book Review

by Linda Cliff

by John Stott

For those of you who have been enjoying the Wednesday morning Bible studies John Stott is a familiar name.   Stott helped us with our journey through Romans, the Beatitudes, and Acts.   So it was with a great deal of excitement that I checked “Why I Am a Christian”  out of the library.

This is a personal book.  Stott offers a clear and analytical account of why he is a Christian.  He begins by explaining how God pursued him but he also adds accounts from other famous Christians, so the reader gets an expanded view of what it means to wrestle with the question of their salvation.  He then goes on to discuss the claims of Jesus.  He states that he believes that Christianity is true and we can look to the claims of Jesus to confirm this.   Then Stott takes us to the cross.  He discusses the atonement for our sins, the character of God revealed by the cross, the conquering of the powers of evil and how the resurrection proclaims the victory of the cross.  The last section discusses the needs of human beings and how these needs are fully met through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.   The book ends with an invitation for the reader to respond to the claims of Christ and a sample prayer is offered.

This book helps us to look at the question “Why Jesus”.  Stott gives the reader 7 chapters to explore this question in a clear and logical way.  Stott is saying that if you take an honest look at Jesus you will discover that following him gives you the purpose, identity and freedom you have been searching for.

Monday, December 24, 2012


What a busy time we've had over the past four weeks as we prepare for Christmas.  We started with a craft/games night. 
 Then went on to the Christmas Play.  Then the Christmas pageant and white gift Sunday.  As if the day wasn't full enough already, we had a potluck and carol sing-a-long.

   There was story-telling.

And there was a surprise guest.

And all that activity was just at church.  Individually we've attended parties, sung the "Messiah", gone carolling, shopped, wrapped, baked, cleaned, written cards and packed Christmas hampers.

If Advent is a season of preparation, we've certainly done our share of preparing for the big day.
   But Advent is also meant as a period of expection, of waiting, of reflection, and for that we need a pause from our busyness. 
   On Sunday morning we were reminded of the innocence and beauty of a baby when we baptized Laura Elspeth Margaret Napier-Whale.  
   Now, on the eve of Christmas I wish you all a time of silence to contemplate the manger, to wonder at the breadth of God's love. 
    I wish you the quiet of the hillside to listen to the angels singing. 
    I wish you the peace of the stable at midnight to see the animals kneel.
   Now that Christmas Eve is here, I wish you all the blessing of quiet anticipation, of waiting, with bated breath, for the coming of the Word made flesh.
    Merry Christmas

for more pictures, click here

Thanks for Janet Smith and Diane Cunningham for sharing  pictures.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Pageant

Once again, we've seen the story of the first Christmas as told by the Sunday School in words and music and action.
We've seen angels 
and heard them proclaim the 
message of good news.  "unto you is born .... a saviour."

The shepherds arrived at the manger. 

And what are shepherds, without a stray sheep or two?

The kings arrived, bringing their gifts.  
The baby in the manger got a little exuberant but totally charmed us all.

   As it is, each time it is enacted, the pageant was wonderful.  Praise God that generations of children retell the story year after year. This year's angel is next year's Mary.  Last year's sheep is this year's Joseph.  Played the world over, sometimes with children in bathrobes and towels, sometimes with actors in rich gowns and jewelled crowns, the nativity play draws us close to the manger, close to the infant king who changed the world. 
    Praise God that each year we hear again that "unto us a child      is born, unto us a son is given and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, the Might God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace."

For more pictures click here

Monday, December 10, 2012

CITY LIGHTS - A Christmas Musical

   Hope most of you had a chance to enjoy "City Lights" live on stage at SPPC on Saturday night.  If you couldn't be there, here's a recap.

The residents of Dominion Crescent have entered the T-C Christmas lights contest for the best neighbourhood category.  They've decorated their street to the nth degree but one house remains dark.  Mr. Groves, a newcomer to the crescent obstinately refuses all requests for putting lights on his house, even if the others do it for him and someone else pays the hydro.
    You see, Mr. Groves has lost his son, a soldier.  They had harsh words before the boy joined up.  Consumed with regret and sorrow, Mr. Groves vows never to celebrate Christmas again.  Until a child visits him and talks about Jesus.  
    The miracle of Christmas touches the old man.  Lights begin sparkle on his house and in his heart. 
   I've posted some pictures.  Hope you enjoy them. 

As well as providing an evening of entertainment, the play raised $500.00 in donations to the Sidney/Lions Food Bank.

Thanks to all who helped, especially those who put on a lovely reception for after the play.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas is Coming!

Christmas is coming and the calendar fills up with parties and concerts and shopping and decorating.  Please remember to leave a space for the SPPC Christmas Musical, this Saturday, Dec. 8 at 7:00 pm. here at the church.  Admission is free.  

Now, here's another note about Advent.
I subscribe to the PCCWeb Daily Devotionals.  They land in my inbox every morning -- a good reminder to start my day with God.  Recently I received the following, with a request to share it with my congregation.

Question: What joins 6000 readers in 55 countries every day of the year?
Answer: PCCWeb Daily Devotionals.  These are available online and by e-mail every day and are free of cost.
The Daily Devotional has been published by volunteers every day for the past 16 years. Here is what readers are saying about it:
In an increasingly troubled world, the PCCWeb Daily Devotional reminds us of what is truly important: the love of God and His active presence in our lives. I have started every day for the past year with Daily and the Bible reading selections. While the world remains troubled, Daily is helping me to live "in the world" and not "of the world." – Robert Foster, Escondido, California, USA.
I love these devotions, and every morning, it is the first thing I read. Because of the devotions, I see God more and more in the ordinary things of my daily life, and I find myself asking what God is teaching me here now in this time. I see God in everything. I am amazed how often the message is just what I need to hear as I hear God speaking to me through the devotions. – Liz Samis, Drayton, Ontario, Canada.
I find the Daily to be a calming reprieve in the hubbub of day-to-day earthly matters that cause us stress and concern. Whether I read the Daily in the morning, evening, or somewhere in between, I find it calms my thinking and reminds me that God is in control, that I am one of His children, and that He loves me in spite of my sins. – Peter Morrison, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Although the Daily website is provided by the Presbyterian Church in Canada, writing is not restricted to Canadians or Presbyterians. Devotionals are submitted by volunteers from all over the world, from places like Uganda, Brazil, Australia, Mexico, India, Sri Lanka, and Britain, as well as Canada and the USA, making Daily truly on online community with friendships throughout the world. The sincerity of the writers is obvious. A “PrayerLine" is also part of Daily, where readers can ask for prayer, or pray for the concerns of others.
There are some 6000 known subscribers by e-mail, but there are several untrackable formats besides e-mail, such as webpage, text feed, podcast, Facebook, Twitter, and smartphones. In addition, subscribers find the devotionals useful to take to meetings of ladies, men, elders, trustees, and study groups. Readers pass them on to friends and relatives by e-mail or word of mouth, and use them for children's stories and sermon illustrations, so the grand total of beneficiaries is impossible to calculate accurately.
Check it out at We really hope that you will subscribe! The coming season of Advent and Christmas is a time of particularly pleasant devotionals.
(with contributions from Jack Vallance, Nanaimo BC, Canada)

Monday, November 26, 2012


by Anne MacKinnon

   When I think of moving there comes to my mind a nightmare vision of boxes.  These boxes invade my living space and sit, open mouthed, as it were, hungry for my treasures -- framed photos, books, papers, records, tapes, cassettes, cd's dvd's  -- all of which seem to have hidden themselves in odd cupboards since my last move.  Someday soon, I say to myself, I'll sort through these items and reduce them to more manageable amounts!
   Next follows the shock of kitchen cupboards and drawers filled with china, cutlery, small appliances and so on.  Boxes, more boxes!  And so it continues through all the remaining rooms.  Where did all this 'stuff' come from ?
   Years ago, I attended a lecture on "acquisitiveness" -- how we go through life collecting things we feel necessary to our well-being.  in so doing we create problems for ourselves as we have to find shelter large enough not just for ourselves, but for all our collected items.
  The emotional effect in moving is not always recognized but it is real.  Moving into the uncertainty of renting can be quite distressing.  It is said that after the death of a spouse or family member or a divorce, the next highest stress is created by moving.  However, in my case, stress was remarkably reduced because of the amazing help and support I received from my friends and family, and I thank God for them.  I could never have managed at this time of my life without them.
   When I was younger, moving seemed a great adventure.  I never worried too much about the upheaval involved, and indeed, found it quite exciting.  Nowadays it seems as if security and knowing that I have a place where I am comfortable and feel at home is all the excitement I need.
    My recent experience of moving, makes me feel very strongly about the homeless,  and what they face on a regular basis -- constant moving.  Affordable housing seems to me something that is one of the great needs in our community.

Monday, November 19, 2012


   On Nov. 11 I stood in the drizzle with hundreds of others at the Sidney cenotaph, united in spirit with hundreds of thousands of other Canadians and listened to the sombre roll call of the dead.  A ritual I consider important and meaningful.  

 Nov. 11 was also Sunday this year, and earlier in the morning I'd stood with my congregation to baptize a new member into our church family.  

  Baptism and Remembrance.  Seems an odd juxtaposition yet what better way to honour those who fell than to affirm life anew?  Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we could live life in abundance.

Welcome Abigail Jerusha Elizabeth Smith into the family of God and the congregation of Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian Church.

A few weeks ago we had the joy of welcoming another baby into our fellowship.
Hailey, daughter of Alisha and Mike Anderson of Gold River, sister to Kaitlin.

And he brought forth his people with joy, and his chosen with gladness:  Ps 105:43

For more baby pictures  click here

Monday, November 12, 2012


 What is a sacred space? At its most basic, it is a place which invites the contemplation of divine mystery, and encourages an attitude of spiritual openness.  -- G.K. Chesterton

   While most definitions of sacred space agree with Chesterton's declaration, most also include the notion that it is an area set aside.  Places of worship often encourage this idea of set aside.  Stained glass modifies the light, heavy doors muffle the noise of the every day.  Incense, candles, ritual are all tools used to diminish the outside world and focus the worshipper's thoughts on the sacred.  
   When I visited Paris, I was excited to see Notre Dame Cathedral.  I believed that within its soaring arches, on stones imbued with a thousand years of prayer I would experience a special connection with the holy.  I held my breath as I stepped through the massive doors, eager to partake of the history of  this sacred setting.
   Imagine my disappointment when I found that the sanctuary was no longer a place "set apart."  Instead, it was a tourist stop, no different than the Louvre or the Champs Elysée.  Even though a few parishoners knelt in prayer, there was no acknowledgement that we were visitors in a church.  Guides marshalled their tourists and marched through the place without even bothering to lower their voices.
    Such a contrast to the little church I grew up in.  We too had a high ceiling (great for singing) and modest stained glass windows, but it wasn't the architecture that made my church special, it was the sense of sacred space.  There was a long staircase leading from the vestibule up into the sanctuary.  My Mom had a rule that we had to stop talking when we reached the top of the stairs.  When I stepped into that hushed place, I felt I was in "the house of God."   
   Similarly, at camp, we had an outdoor chapel, a natural amphitheatre made of a rocky outcrop that rose in a series of bench-like tiers.  Here we were wide open to the sky and the sound of tires on the nearby highway.  Yet, it too was sacred space, set aside through silence.  When we rounded the edge of the main lodge and started up the path to the chapel, teenaged girls stopped talking and turned our thoughts toward God.
    True, God is in all things, the holy and the mundane, the trees, the rivers and the plains.  He sits at our kitchen tables and in our homeless shelters.  He walks our sidewalks and treads our forest paths.  Yet I treasure the "sacred spaces" of my life.  When I climbed the stairs in my old church to say good-bye to my parents for the last time, I was comforted by the sense of sacred space. 

Akin to sacred space, is the notion of holy ground.   
And he said, "draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off they feet, for the place wheron thou standest is holy ground. 
Exodus 3:5
  While I was disappointed by my visit to Notre Dame in Paris, I was struck dumb and humbled when I stood in the Canadian War Cemetery in Dieppe.  So much sacrifice.  So much sorrow.  There voices were hushed, tears spilled, and hearts overflowed.  We stood on holy ground.

On this November 11 weekend, I remember and say thank you and send a prayer to God that such carnage cease, that young men and women grow old and weary beside their own hearths, surrounded by those they love and that war and hatred pass from this earth.

Monday, November 5, 2012

by Alice Valdal

  It's been a gloomy week on the Saanich Peninsula.  True, there was an hour of "Sunshine"  at lunch at SPPC on Monday, but by and large, we've been wrapped in fog, pelted with rain and bowed under lowering skies for the past seven days.
    After our long and glorious autumn, the abrupt switch to rain was a bit of a shock, yet when the skies opened I couldn't help but think of that great chorus from Mendelssohn's Elijah "Thanks be to God, He laveth the Thirsty Land."
    We live with such an abundance of fresh water it can be hard to relate to the desert people of Israel.  But, this summer when water levels in the Cowichan River ran so low salmon couldn't reach the spawning beds and had to be carried upstream in trucks,  alarm bells rang all over the Island.  People in Crofton worried about their drinking water.  Mills worried about their operations and workers worried about their jobs.  We got a small hint of what the Isrealites endured thousands of years ago.
      At the time of Elijah, in a land where water was scarce at the best of times, there had been a drought for three years.  Wells and streams had dried up. Famine raged. Livestock died for lack of food and water.  Scouts were sent throughout the land searching for even a few blades of green grass. 
     Into that desolation came Elijah, calling on God to send rain.  And God answered him.  The people of that time could imagine no greater blessing than dark clouds and thunder and lightening and a deluge of water.  No wonder Mendelssohn imagined them singing out in joy.
      So, when the rain falls on us here, remember the salmon, carry an umbrella and give thanks to "God Who Made the Earth".

Monday, October 29, 2012


On Saturday afternoon over a hundred women and three men enjoyed a fashion show and tea sponsored by the Fellowship committee at SPPC.  The organizers were gratified to see a sizable proportion of the audience came from the community.

  The models, all shapes and sizes, were  members of the congregation. 

There were helpers in the dressing rooms and in the kitchen.

Clothing was supplied by Sidney Casuals.  
  To make up for their lack of training on the catwalk, the models resorted to silliness, and the audience responded with cheering and clapping.  It was a very good natured audience, not the least dour.

  Once the fashion part of the afternoon was over, tea and sandwiches were served.  Then Alice and Tore Valdal presented their version of Oklahoma!  To the great relief of the audience this was a "minute for mission" performance and not the full two hour production. 

All in all it was a great way to spend a rainy, Saturday afternoon, enjoying a tasty tea and  lots of laughter.

My thanks to Janet Smith for sharing her photos.  
SPPC is extremely grateful to Sue and Sidney Casuals for their generous contribution to our event.
The proceeds of the day, approx. $600.00 will be split between Mission and Outreach and SPPC

Monday, October 22, 2012


By Linda Cliff

“Having a voice in decisions about your health care treatment is important.    There may come a time when, due to illness or injury, you are incapable of expressing your treatment wishes to health care providers.  By planning in advance,  you can be sure that your family, friends and /or health care providers know your wishes, and can ensure these wishes are followed.”  

   This is the opening paragraph to the Advance Care Planning Guide developed by the province of British Columbia.   It sounds very official and also touches on a topic that we would rather ignore than discuss.   It is hoped this session will dispel some of these feelings about discussing Advanced Care Planning.  
    Any discussion about care planning begins by thinking about your beliefs, values and wishes regarding future health care decisions.  It has been my personal experience that this discussion between family members can be both lively and reaffirming.  It is a time to share ideas with loved ones and gives you a way of having these discussions in an open and caring way. 

During the presentation (scheduled at SPPC for November 5 10:00am - Noon ) you will learn about: 

 Temporary Substitute Decision Makers
 Representation Agreements
 Advance Directives
 Enduring Power of Attorney 

As capable adults we tend to shy away from such discussions as we feel we don’t need this information now.  My question is why wait?   By working through the process of developing an advance care plan, thinking about your preferences about health care you will open yourself and your loved ones to a rich discussion about what you find important in your life.   It can also be an opportunity to share your faith with others as the discussion easily moves to the spiritual realm as well as the physical.  This is a discussion we should have when we are well.   Please come: 

Presenter:          Dawn Dompierre, RNDate and Time:  November 5 at 10:00am
place:               Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian Church
                       9296 E. Saanich Rd. (by the airport roundabout).

Everyone is welcome!  Tea and Coffee Provided.

Ed. Note:  Linda Cliff is a long time hospice nurse who has faced the issues of advanced care planning with many patients and their families.

Monday, October 15, 2012


  The sock,-- humble, taken for granted, mismatched, missing, holed, cotton, wool, bamboo, silk -- is an amazing wardrobe article. 

 It takes us hiking --

 It tickles our funny bone.

It bundles a baby in love.

It hangs by the fire filled with expectation.

It lets us show our team colours, or declare our nationality.

It can even become our friend.

But the most amazing thing a sock can do is hold compassion and comfort for someone living on the street.  Someone with cold toes and blistered heels.  Someone who is loved by God.

October is "Warm Toes" month at SPPC.  Fill a sock with toiletries, a treat, a message of hope, a book . . .
and put it in the basket in the narthex.  At the end of the month they will be delivered to Our Place, a token of Christian love.