Monday, December 30, 2013


   Christmas in Victoria is more often green or grey than white, but many of us have fond memories from other parts of the country where bringing in the tree meant a sleigh ride into the bush, reddened faces and numb fingertips.  One of my favourite memories is carolling on Christmas Eve while snow fell softly from a star-studded sky.
   I make it a point to NOT remember being stuck in the ditch, having to use jumper cables to start the car and missing the plane because snow closed the roads!
    One of our members, Lois, is having a typical Canadian Christmas season this year in the Caribou.  She sent these beautiful pictures and this post.  Thank you, Lois, for sharing with your SPPC friends.

Well, my grandson always cuts down the tree off the ranch property, he refuses to give in to an artificial tree.  We always attend the Christmas recital at Aimee's extended family's church in Williams Lake.  
    Christmas Eve is traditionally an ice fishing day, weather permitting, although I don't participate in that!  If someone is energetic and enterprising, and willing to clear the snow from the pond ice, there is skating to participate in.  No snowmobiles on this ranch, it's horses or tractors.
     Christmas Day is gift exchange, attending to the cattle, then horse drawn sleigh rides for all the grandkids prior to turkey dinner, either at Aimee's or Gary's daughters' house in town. 
     Christmas in the Caribou is snowy, cold and traditional!  

Merry Christmas, 

Monday, December 23, 2013


Emmanuel, God with us;
                               Beautiful Saviour, 
                                     Prince of Peace,
                                Wonderful Counsellor,

                                    Alpha and Omega,
                                    Good Shepherd, 

                                         King of Kings, 
                                     Blessed Redeemer,
                                      Lord of Lords

                                  Lamb of God, 

                            Mighty God

                           Son of God


Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Decorations

 Once again SPPC is decked out in wreaths and poinsettias, lights and a Christmas tree.  We have Jean Strong and Pat Aumonier to thank for spearheading this annual transformation of the sanctuary.  Although they have helpers, these two ladies spend many, many hours creating the trimmings we all enjoy.

     Looking at the decorations I began to ponder their symbolism.  While some modern ornaments owe more to Disney than to the Nativity, the oldest of our symbols do carry Christian messages.

The Christmas tree represents life (green) in the darkness of winter and its shape points us toward heaven and Christ.  Another story about the Christmas tree concerns St. Boniface (circa 722 AD) who stopped a child from becoming a human sacrifice to a pagan god, by striking down the oak tree that was to the stake where the child would die.  A fir tree sprang up in its place and St. Boniface declared it a holy tree.  He then told the faithful to carry one to their homes and surround it with love and gifts. 
    The Christmas tree  as we now know it comes from Germany, where Martin Luther is said to have been so awed by the brilliance of stars on a winter evening that he brought an evergreen tree into his main room and decorated it with lighted candles to recreate the scene outside for his children. 
    In 1521 Princess Helene de Mecklembourg brought a Christmas tree with her to Paris after her marriage to the Duke of Orleans.  Parisians were so delighted with the custom that the area of Alsace started to run out of pine trees and a law was enacted to limit their use to one per house.
The circle of the wreath, represents God's eternity. Already a part of English folklore, holly with its sharply pointed leaves, was adopted by the early church as a symbol of the crown-of-thorns. The red berries depict the drops of Christ's blood. The tradition of hanging a holly wreath on the door at Christmas began during the 17th Century and signified a home that celebrated the birth of Christ.

Even the candy cane, is symbolic of the first Christmas.  Its shape is that of a shepherd's crook and reminds us that the shepherds were the first to hear the news of Christ's birth.

Candles, like Christ, bring light into a dark world, but they have a special history in Ireland. During the early part of the 17th century, Catholicism was persecuted by Protestant rulers from England, yet the people of Ireland clung to their religion.  Many Catholic priests were expelled from the country or executed, but those who remained travelled in secret to celebrate the mass in homes at night.  At Christmas time, a candle in the window was a signal that welcomed the priest.

The star shape of Poinsettias points to the Star of Bethlehem and their red colour is the colour of sacrifice.

   You may be surprised to know that the Presbyterian church has not always welcomed Christmas decorations within the sanctuary. John Knox, a strict reformer, regarded all such festivities as pagan or popish.  "All worshipping, honouring, or service invented by the brain of man in the religion of God, without His own express commandment, is idolatry," wrote Knox. 
    When Cromwell ruled in England, there was a determined attempt to remove Christmas from both religious and secular life. In 1645 a group of ministers was appointed by the British Parliament to produce a new Directory of Public Worship.  The resulting document decreed a strict observance of  Sundays as holy days for the worship of God but all other festivals, or Holy Days, including Christmas, Easter and Whitsun were eliminated.

   This ordinance was not popular and there are reports of violent confrontations when government tried to force shops and businesses to remain open on Dec. 25.  After the Restoration, all the legislation of the Cromwell period was declared null and void. Christmas was once again celebrated both in public and in private, within the church and on the street.  In Scotland, however, the influence of John Knox was so strong that Christmas did not become a public holiday until 1958.
   How ironic that Christmas was once banned for being un-Christian and today is under attack for being too Christian!  
In any case, the decorations in our church are lovely and filled with meaning.  Let's enjoy them and say thank you to the decorators for their faithful service. 


Monday, December 9, 2013


By Alice Valdal

If you missed the musical play on Saturday night, you have missed The Christmas Spirit.

It was a wonderful night with a large audience, ready to be pleased.  They laughed at our jokes, applauded our singing and contributed over $505.00 to the collection plate.

We had our own version of the Nutcracker with a beautiful Sugar Plum Fairy and an impish toy soldier.

We had duelling divas -- one rich and one clever.

We had kitchen volunteers to feed the cast before the show and cater to the crowd afterward.

And we had a hard working cast that also included, a school disciplinarian and a rock star wannabe, a giant teddy bear and a little girl who had to give him up.  But the heroes of the story were a grumpy angel and a sulky teenager.  In the end we all learned that "Christmas isn't teddy bears, or gifts beneath the tree.  Christmas Spirit comes from God and dwells in you and me."

I mentioned the generosity of the audience in filling the donation plate.  What makes their gift even greater is the matching formula for "Spread the Net."  Our $505.00 will be matched six times over, meaning that over $3000.00 will go to purchase mosquito nets in Africa, where mosquito-born malaria kills a child every 60 seconds.  Thank you to everyone for catching the Christmas Spirit.

Monday, December 2, 2013


by Alice Valdal

This Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 is the annual Christmas musical presented by the Living Flame Choir - intergenerational version -- at 7:00 pm. This year, the theme of the play is finding the Christmas Spirit in a world obsessed with shopping and eating and entertainment.  
    When I wrote the play, last April, Black Friday sales were the farthest thing from my mind, yet news reports of stabbings and fist-fights and even a shooting over bargain priced goods, make the play more timely than I imagined.

    Next Saturday marks the eighth year we've signaled the Christmas season at SPPC with a musical play.  Little did I think, eight years ago, when we staged "Once Upon a Christmas" that I'd be in this position today.  

 Prior to doing a Christmas play, the Living Flame Choir (children's edition) had put on a short musical in the spring.
 We did "Don't Rock the Ark", "Heroes of the Faith", and "Bones."    The latter was our most ambitious undertaking with images of wheels whirling across the ceiling and a four-headed monster dancing down the aisle.  

   Sadly, our numbers fell off and there were not enough singers to put on another play.  
  The few children that remained were very disappointed.   "But it's our turn!" wailed one, with a very long face. And so the Christmas Play, with an intergenerational cast was born.  A one off, thought I.

Our shows have included a Russian cobbler and his shrewish wife, a legendary set of chimes, travellers lost in Israel on Christmas Eve, an impatient congregation so determined to put on a "perfect" Christmas Eve service that they forget who the service is for.

We've followed a camel on a long journey from the East and we've dealt with a grumpy old man who refused to put up his Christmas lights.


This year we have a sulky teenager and a cranky angel.  
Should be fun. 
 Join us.  Admission is free and we give you cookies and coffee afterward.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Busy Week

Whew!  We've had a busy week at SPPC.  It all began last Saturday with the Harvest Dinner.  Eighty-five people sat down to a dinner of Roast Pork with applesauce,  Beef Tenderloin with mashed potatoes and gravy.  Not to mention all the other dishes and endless desserts.  Felicity and Martha served punch and nibbles in the Ross Lounge for early arrivals, while a crew of eight put the last minute touches to the dinner.  
By six-fifteen all was ready and the diners, including many invited guests, filled the tables in the Molloy Hall.  Fun, fellowship and good food.  A typical event at SPPC.
By the time the last guest left, around nine, the kitchen crew tottered home to a well-earned rest and the church coffers were richer by over $1100.00

   For a change of pace, the Grief and Recovery group held a meeting on Tuesday morning.  Linda Cliff R.N. gave a talk on end of life care.  A difficult topic, but one we will all face.  Better to be prepared!

On Friday night, Molloy Hall was busy once again, this time with crafters. A huge basket of lavender for making sachets, filled the air with sweet fragrance. We got to enjoy some free aroma therapy.
An annual event at SPPC, this casual and relaxed evening is used to make Christmas decorations for our shut-ins, to play some games and, of course, have a bite to eat.  

      And, as if the above weren't activity enough, we had a photographer at the church all week taking pictures for our new photo-directory.   It has been some years since our old picture directory was published.  It may be sad to say good-bye to those younger images of ourselves but it will be lovely to see the faces of our newer members in the directory.

     So, that's the week that was, and we're not into December yet.  Stay tuned for stories from the Christmas Play.  We've been rehearsing since September, searching for the "Christmas Spirit."  Come on Dec. 7 to see if we find it.

Thanks to Janet Smith for sharing her photos.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Caring for Neighbours

   The news has been filled this week with images of disaster in the Philippines.  Many charitable organizations, including the Red Cross have launched special appeals.  Canada's DART team has been dispatched to help.  Food, medicine, water, shelter -- all are needed -- again.  
    The typhoon in the Philippines is just one more in a string of natural disasters.  Last summer there was flooding in Alberta, a landslide in India.  Before that a tsunami in Japan, an earthquake in Haiti. The list is endless.  The need persistent.  It's easy to feel overwhelmed.
  Yet God has told us to feed the hungry, Is. 58:10-11, to share the burdens of others, Gal 6:2, and to do good. Heb.13:16
   One way we follow those commandments is through the Presbyterian World Service and Development Fund.  Before disaster strikes, in the far-flung corners of the world, we are there   Before a particular crisis arises, we  have people on the ground, programs in place, connections with local churches and an understanding of the geography and culture.
    We also monitor where our aid goes and how it is used.  Last month, our congregation hosted a luncheon with Rev. Laura Kavanagh to learn about her work as part of an inspection team with PWS&D.

   On this occasion she shared her experience of visiting schools, hospitals and community centres in Afghanistan.  Child mortality is high in that country, and our church's support of pre-natal care programs is of great benefit.  Inspection teams, such as the one Rev. Kavanagh travelled with ensure that money donated through the church is put to the best possible use, that the programs we support bear real results and that services are delivered to those who need it most.

When news of the world seems an endless litany of grief, it is good to remember that every day our church is involved in feeding the hungry, easing the burdens of the poor and doing good.

The church is wherever
God's people are helping,
caring for neighbours
in sickness and need.
The church is wherever
God's people are sharing
the words of the Bible
in gift and in deed.

    ----- Carol Rose Ikeler

Note:  You may donate to relief in the Philippines through your offering envelope at SPPC.  Until Dec. 8, the federal government, will match all donations.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Remembrance Day

Today is Remembrance Day in Canada.  I asked some members of the congregation what that means to them.  Here are their replies.

Remembrance Day is a time to remember the soldiers who fought for us in the wars.  At school we have a minute of silence.  -- Peter, age 8

To me, Remembrance Day is a time of celebration and thanksgiving. It's the one day each year we all come together to thank those who have given their lives for our families, our country, and our freedom. It's a time to remember those who we have lost, and praise the ones who still stand. Remembrance Day is a time to rejoice for our soldiers and their bravery.
  -- Felicity, Senior Sunday School Class

Remembrance Day.  Whenever I think of that day, I think of my 18 year old son going to Afghanistan. He, like all the rest, went to make a difference in the lives of the people there. A lot different from our parents, and grandparents day, in the forces.
     I remember when my son was receiving the medal of dispatch and parents of fallen son's and daughter's were picking up medals on behalf of their lost children. It tore my heart out. I was a lucky Mother, one that did not have to deal with no child, or a child that will never be the same.
     I am thankful, praising God for looking after my son, who should have never come home, on many an occasion.
     I think that, unfortunately, the Devil is alive and well in this world. People  prey on the poor, and uneducated.  I hope that the people of this world become less selfish and that hatred between religions, regions and races ends.  God's word is what we have to remember, so that we can be strong, against those who want to cause harm. We as Christians need to stand and support our own so that when others are being harmed, we stand together and help. -- Darlene, Rentals Co-ordinator

Memories of Remembrance Day
      During our time in Ottawa, 1986 to 2000, public esteem of Remembrance Day seemed to change substantially. In the 80’s and early 90’s, there seemed to be a sense that war service and things military were somewhat low on the scale of public respect or recognition. During the next decade,that seemed to change and the sense of respect and the honour attributed to those Canadians who served in the “World Wars”, grew considerably.
     At that time in Ontario, Remembrance Day had ceased to be a public holiday for schools. As a result, each school had the opportunity to develop a Remembrance Day programme which would be meaningful to students.Our school had the advantage of tradition and many former students and staff had served in the military. We had a formal Remembrance Day Service to remember those who gave their lives in the service of Canada in the great wars. One of my tasks was to read the Roll of Honour recognizing those who paid the supreme sacrifice. On that Roll there were 40 young men who perished in World War One and 31 in World War Two. Each year, we welcomed back veterans who had served in these terrible wars, and our students were profoundly moved to spend time with these men who had served their country in the time of war. In the formal service, there was
always a sense of great reverence and respect as we remembered those who died in the wars.
     A few years ago, Dorothy and I had the opportunity to visit the battlefields in Belgium and Vimy Ridge, in France. Our appreciation of the tremendous sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of young men and women became all the more real. The white crosses, row upon row, in many different cemeteries, speak of the great sacrifice made by so many. This sacrifice was made that we may live in relative peace and we must remember those who gave so much.
     In B.C.,Remembrance Day is a public holiday (of sorts), and the schools are closed. For most young people it is just another holiday spent, perhaps,idly at the mall. In cities and small towns, there is usually a Remembrance
Day Service, often sparsely attended by young people. Would it not be better to have students in school where each school could develop a suitable programme to remember and recognize the sacrifice made so that we may live in a time of peace? As we read the obituaries today, that great generation of men and women who served in the Second World War is passing. Let us not forget.
 --Roy, elder at SPPC

What does Remembrance Day mean to me?

     It's all about recognizing and appreciating sacrifice.  I was fortunate enough to grow up in the decades where major onflicts did not call for a national call to arms but I never took for granted the price that was paid for that privilege.  My first experiences with veterans of these conflicts was when I worked at Metropolitan United Church; the ordinary, extraordinary worshippers who paraded at the Remembrance Day services with their medals and stories.  Combine that with the Biblical verse John 15:13 . . . no greater gift than to lay down one's life . . . and you see that the ceremony of remembrance becomes very personal.  I have been privileged to worship and work with many veterans; humbled to watch them parade and remember their comrades.  Attending church and cenotaph services is the very least I can do. -- Tore, choir member

Remembrance Day.  I cannot help but remember my father, who contributed to winning "The Great War" (WWI) in that he gave his eyesight and received twelve other shrapnel wounds.  I never heard him complain or grumble.  Mother never said to us children, "Your Daddy's having a bad day."  He was an example of courage and of being a wonderful father.  I had a hero for a father and a saint for a mother.  --Peter, aged 96