Monday, December 29, 2014

Year End Wrap Up

 December was a busy month at SPPC.  As we prepared to celebrate the birth of Jesus our Sunday worship took on a tone of expectation.  Lighting the first candle of Advent, the candle of hope, set a small flame in the sanctuary that grew Sunday by Sunday.
    On the second Sunday we lit the candle of peace, and held our "Christmas Celebration" concert in the evening.  The beautiful carols reminded us all of the peace Christ promised.

    Joy is the theme of the third Advent candle.  That day we presented our white gift offerings.  Those little parcels wrapped in white brightened Christmas for eighteen families on our list, with more left over for the Sidney Lions Food Bank.  Service was followed by a bake sale, in aid of the mission trip to the Dominican Republic.  We are getting very close to our financial goal for that endeavour.  Another reason for joy.

     The fourth Sunday, we lit the candle of love and enjoyed the Sunday School's presentation of the Bethlehem Story.   The smiles around the sanctuary shone with love.
 On Christmas Eve, we lit the Christ candle, the culmination of all our expectation.  The light from that candle circled the sanctuary. We have 120 candles, but the worshippers outnumbered the candles!  Still, the light was shared with all as the choir and congregation sang "Silent Night," one of the best loved carols of all time.
     Christmas morning we gathered once again, a much smaller crowd and most were a little sleepy, but we heard again the news of Christ's birth in Bethlehem, greeted friends and visitors and went home to Christmas dinner with the gifts of hope, peace, joy and love in our hearts.

    The Sunday after Christmas is considered a "low" Sunday in the year, but the choir turned out and sang an anthem, Rev. Irwin delivered a thoughtful sermon, the organist prepared a beautiful Bach number for the postlude.  The children's story recalled the anticipation of Christmas morning and it was food bank Sunday, reminding us all that gifts are not just for one day in December but all year long, just as the gift of Christ is forever.  
     Perhaps Dec,. 28 is a low Sunday in terms of attendance, but not in terms of meaningful worship.
     Happy New Year everyone!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Pageant, 2014

For many, the annual Christmas Pageant is a highlight of the season.  We watch as last year's sheep, grows into this year's shepherd, and last year's shepherd becomes this year's Joseph.  Whatever the changes in costumes and roles, the innocence and joy of the children's presentation is constant.  Here are some photos of this year's production.  Enjoy!

Lots of excitement backstage.

Mary and Joseph take their places at the manger.

Entrance of the angels.

                                                                  and the shepherds.

The angel's proclamation.

                                                       tiny angels need a helping hand.

The kings arrive.

                                                     It has been a long journey.

Narrators to tell the story

                                            to attentive shepherds.

     The Kodak moment, when all is in place, the story is told and the wonder of Bethlehem enters our hearts.

   Thank you Diane and Norma and Joan and Cheryl and all who made the morning special.

Monday, December 15, 2014

End of Life Decisions

  Late in November, the Pastoral Care Committee hosted a talk by Linda Cliff.  As many of you know, Linda has many years of experience as a nurse with Victoria Hospice.  Her topic was "Doctor Assisted Suicide," a timely, and difficult subject.   Here are her notes from that conversation.

  The discussion about Physician Assisted Death and Euthanasia is big news these days.  Presently there is a private members bill being presented in parliament and the province of Quebec continues with its discussions about PAD.  As Boomers age, I predict this will become a topic that will be debated in our homes as well as the courts.  The following definitions may help you to understand the terms that will be used in this discussion.

Deliberate actions taken by a physician with the intent to terminate the life of a patient.  The procedure is to administer a lethal drug and the successful outcome is immediate death. 

A doctor intentionally helping a person to commit suicide by providing drugs for self administration, at the person’s voluntary and competent request.

The use of a specific sedative medications to relieve intolerable suffering from refractory symptoms by a reduction in patient consciousness using appropriate drugs carefully titrated.

A symptom which cannot be adequately controlled despite aggressive therapy.

An unintended but sometimes expected side effect of some drugs used in symptom control.  It may be temporary or transient but could be persistent.

Many fear that legislation in Canada would be the beginning of a “slippery slope” and the possibility of abuse of the laws would be an issue.  These statistics from Belgium support such fears:
  • 32% of assisted deaths are done without request.
  • 47% of assisted deaths go unreported.
  • in many cases it is nurses who administer the medications, not physicians.

Each of us will develop our own opinion of which side of the argument we wish to support.  We must ensure that our opinions are based on information rather than emotion. 
Advance Care Planning is a way for you to become involved in your own health.  You may find the following web sites helpful.

Taken from a talk by Linda Cliff

November 25, 2014

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Celebration

  My goodness, what a busy day we had for the second Sunday of Advent.  During the morning service we celebrated three joyous and solemn sacraments.

     Felicity received her baptism.  Then Felicity, Rebekah, Maximilian and Kevin confirmed the vows of their baptism and became members of the congregation by profession of faith.  Mary, an elder in her former congregation, joined SPPC by letter of transfer.  After that emotional and meaningful event, we shared in
the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper with our newest members.

In the evening, we celebrated in a different way, with a carol sing-along, stories
and pictures and musical performances.  
The Living Flame Choir sang the beautiful,  "Softly Falls the Snow," based on an old German carol, accompanied by Elizabeth on piano and Larry on cello.
 A very special performance for us all.
    Special guest, Steve Sturgess, shared his latest song, "Christmas Present."

     Our own Janet, Tore and Alice offered their musical gifts while Roy read a children's story accompanied by slides.  

 Afterward, we had coffee and goodies and conversation and fellowship in the hall. 
 A wonderful day to raise our Christmas spirits and to remind us that the infant Jesus, is our Lord and Saviour and that "where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in."

Monday, December 1, 2014

Cue the Music

One thing leads to another in sometimes surprising ways.  In the case of SPPC, the Variety Show featured, among others, Tristan Thompson.  He brought his friends along and they all had a good time.  So, when Tristan was looking for a venue to film his latest music video, he opted for SPPC.  Yup! Our Presbyterian place of worship is on the hit parade, although you might have to look closely to recognize it.
Glitz, lights, a jukebox, and stage smoke transformed our space into a stage set reminiscent of Frank Sinatra.  Note the old-style microphone!
There was a producer, lighting technicians, extras and a make-up artist, not to mention the star himself.

    Quite a transformation from Sunday morning to Sunday night.

   Moving from hi-tech to no-tech, music from SPPC was on offer in downtown Sidney on Saturday afternoon.  
The coldest day of the season!
Sidney businesses, looking for ways to enhance the downtown experience invited Faithlink to sing carols on Beacon Ave. Saturdays and Sundays from now until Christmas.  Several churches are involved in the Faithlink initiative, but it seems SPPC choir will be a mainstay of the caroling.
The dogs were a great attraction
 Participation is not restricted to choir members though, anyone who cares to join us is welcome.  Speak to Jean, or show up in front of Alexander's coffee shop just before 1:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
A fan took our picture.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Shepherd's Way

by Alice Valdal

      Redundancy is often considered in a negative light but when it comes to communication, redundancy can be a good thing.  Apparently humans aren't very good at taking in new information so they need to receive it in many forms, hence, redundancy.
   At SPPC, this blog is one form of communication, the weekly bulletin is another, as are announcements from the pulpit but this week I draw your attention to our church newsletter, "The Shepherd's Way."
  Blanche Richer, ably assisted by husband Bill, is our editor and I asked her a few questions about how she came to that position.  Here's what she had to say.

   We have been doing "The Shepherd's Way" for seven years, since Easter 2006.  I love to write and it seems to come naturally to me.  When we attended Trinity Presbyterian Church, I edited their magazine, "A Joyful Noise," for ten years and Bill did the cover pictures and all the illustrations.  Then we transferred to Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian Church and I really missed having a regular deadline, for I thought that all the work and effort of producing a worthwhile magazine really kept my mind active.  So, when Beulah asked me if I would do a magazine for SPPC, she said that I could think about it for a few days.
   "I'll give you my answer right now," I replied.  "Yes, I will do it."

  Q.How many issues per year?
   A.  There are four issues:  Easter, Summer, Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

    Q. What is your background re newsletters?
    A. When I was much younger, many years ago, I wrote short stories and articles for publication in English magazines.  I have always been a reader and I like to be surrounded by books.

    Q. What is the most difficult and the most satisfying aspect of putting together the newsletter.
    A.  "The Shepherd's Way" has developed into a certain pattern with regular features such as cover, back page, minister's pages, cartoons, etc. and when I gather all the stories, articles, items, news and ideas from the congregation, each new piece just seems to fall into place.  But I sometimes have to juggle quite a bit.
    Finally, I number the pages (by hand) and then take them to Staples to be printed.  But my most satisfying moment is when I hold the first new copy 'hot off the press.'  Then home for a cup of tea.
   Q. Bill creates wonderful illustrations for the magazine.  Has he illustrated other publications?
    A.Bill comes from Guernsey and has drawn since he was able to hold a pencil.  Before he came to Canada, he studied drawing, pen and ink and painting which included oils and water colour, landscapes and ships and seascapes.  He has illustrated several books, including Lanterns and Shadows, an anthology by a group of Oak Bay authorsand articles in newspapers and magazines.

  Q.  Do you mind if I mention you are both senior citizens?
   A.Neither of us minds being called a Senior. (On Jan. 22 next year, I'll be 90.)  I don't feel old.  

Thanks Blanche, for answering my questions and for your faithful service, along with Bill, to SPPC.  "The Shepherd's Way," is enjoyed by everyone in our congregation.  It gets taken home and read and reread, then handed on to friends and family, a tribute to your diligence and your talent.

Monday, November 10, 2014

O God Our Help


 The hymn, "O God Our Help in Ages Past recommended   by the Royal Canadian Legion among others, is so strongly associated with Remembrance Day it is difficult to think of it in any other context.   Yet as a paraphrase of Psalm 90, it has its roots in the time of Moses, (some commentators believe Moses wrote the words).  Whoever the author was, the fact remains that the psalm recalls a time when the Israelites were homeless, when their lives were uncertain and their future unknown.  No wonder they responded to the assurance that God is eternal, that he holds our lives in his hands, that He controls time.   
    Small wonder that those sentiments resonate still with people caught up in war and its aftermath, for those who sorrow and for those who fear.  God is eternal.  God is our home.

  1. O God, our help in ages past,
    Our hope for years to come,
    Our shelter from the stormy blast,
    And our eternal home.
  2. Under the shadow of Thy throne
    Thy saints have dwelt secure;
    Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
    And our defense is sure.
  3. Before the hills in order stood,
    Or earth received her frame,
    From everlasting Thou art God,
    To endless years the same.
  4. Thy Word commands our flesh to dust,
    “Return, ye sons of men”:
    All nations rose from earth at first,
    And turn to earth again.
  5. A thousand ages in Thy sight
    Are like an evening gone;
    Short as the watch that ends the night
    Before the rising sun.
  6. The busy tribes of flesh and blood,
    With all their lives and cares,
    Are carried downwards by the flood,
    And lost in foll’wing years.
  7. Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
    Bears all its sons away;
    They fly, forgotten, as a dream
    Dies at the op’ning day.
  8. Like flow’ry fields the nations stand
    Pleased with the morning light;
    The flow’rs beneath the mower’s hand
    Lie with’ring ere ’tis night.
  9. O God, our help in ages past,
    Our hope for years to come,
    Be Thou our guard while troubles last,
    And our eternal home.
verses in italics are omitted in most hymnals

Here are Dr. Cecil Kirk's notes on this most beloved hymn.

Scripture Reading Psalm 90

            Isaac Watts is rightly regarded as the pioneer of English hymnody.  He perceived what was truly needed and provided it.  In more than six hundred hymns, Watts stressed the reality of faith and hope.  He emphasized the majesty and sovereignty of God and promoted the Church’s mission to the whole world.

            This hymn, considered to be one of the grandest in the English language, is really a paraphrase of Psalm 90.  The psalm itself has a recurring penitent note but Watts has cast the hymn as one of assurance and hope.  Of the nine original verses three have been dropped in most hymn books.

            Watts entitled the hymn “Man frail and God eternal”, a theme that runs through all the verses.  The psalm begins by focusing our gaze on the everlasting God who is the creator of the universe (Ps. 90. 1-2) and then on the transitory nature of human life (Ps. 90.3).  Human life is frail, mortal.  Human beings are born to die.  The psalmist likens his life to a passing dream and to the grass of the field which flourishes in the morning but by evening has withered away (Ps. 90. 5-6).  It is hardly surprising then that he admonishes us to “number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90. 12).

            By way of contrast with the brevity and uncertainty of human life, Watts writes of the eternity of God.  He is “from everlasting . . to endless years the same”.  Time is meaningless as far as God is concerned (Ps. 90. 4).  Not so with men and women whose allotted life span soon passes (Ps. 90. 10) and the years are gone.  This is the thought expressed in the fifth stanza of the hymn where the “sons” referred to are not our sons but the sons of time, the days and weeks and years of the past.  It is these that are forgotten and pass into history as new events and new tasks demand our attention.

            It was about 1714 that this hymn was written, a time when Britain was facing a political crisis over the question of the Protestant succession as Queen Anne approached death.  Watts wrote to allay the fears and forebodings of many people.  From the very beginning there is a strong affirmation of faith in the eternal God and his sufficiency in every time of need.  The words of the hymn point us away from ourselves to fix our confidence and attention on God who is able to take care of all our fears.  Just as he has provided help for us in the past, whether as individuals or as a nation, so we can depend on his unfailing goodness to enable us to face the perils of the future.  The help we have already received is a pledge that he will not fail us in the years to come.  He is faithful and dependable.

            And, finally, God is our home, our spiritual home.  Without him we are aimless wanderers with “no abiding place”.  In him, and in him alone, we rest secure. 

Monday, November 3, 2014


The Variety Show and dinner came off with flying colours on Saturday night.  Special thanks to organizers, Diane and Darlene, to the kitchen staff and the serving staff, and all the other helpers.  You did us proud.  Comments on the food were all positive, even somewhat surprised. :-)  Visitors hadn't expected such high quality.

     This was a new venture for our congregation, inviting community based acts to come and share their talent with us.  We are most grateful to Tricky Magic, the Craig Henderson Trio, Tristan Thompson and the Canadian College of the Performing Arts as well as surprise guest, Art Pruce for donating their time and talent.  Michael Denton was emcee extraordinaire!  Of course, it was all in a good cause and raised $2000.00 for the mission trip to the Dominican Republic.  Well done everyone, and thanks to our friends and neighbours for their support.

    If you missed the Variety Show, here is a list of other fund-raising events you might like to attend.  

Silent Auction

    On Nov. 22, at Friendship Community Church 7820 C. Saanich Rd.
    There is still time to donate something.  Use your imagination.  I know our own Bill Richer has donated a framed, original drawing.  There are golf lessons on offer and lots of "treasure" baskets.  If you've nothing to put in the auction, you can always be a buyer!  Come and enjoy what promises to be a fun evening, and you just might find that perfect gift.

Bake Sale

   On December 14, after service, the Sunday School is running a bake sale.  Proceeds go to the mission fund and goodies go into your larder.

Bottle Drive

  We will continue to have our bin in the Narthex for refundables to be dropped off. Thanks!
We will hold another community bottle drive on the first Saturday after the Christmas and New Year’s celebrations! We are thinking that people will be happy to unload their refundables after lots of company and celebrating!. We can use helpers for this in the areas of sorting, driving to collect, making coffee and hot chocolate for those working, and light lunch to keep us going.  Truly committed bottle drivers are out scouring the ditches too.

Bridge Luncheon

   In February we'll host a Bridge Luncheon.  This popular card game never goes out of favour so buy your tickets early to ensure your place at the table.  Or get together some friends and make up a foursome.

   Lots of opportunity to support youth initiative and to have fun at the same time. 

Monday, October 27, 2014


        Every time I walk into SPPC these days, I'm surprised by bags of pop cans and a few cases of empty wine bottles.
 Of course, I know the empties are part of our fund-raising efforts for the mission to Dominican Republic, but what would a stranger think?  SPPC knows how to party?  SPPC needs better janitorial services?
   I've also chuckled this week at my middle-class friend scouring the ditches for empty bottles.  Again, I know what she's up to but would her other acquaintances think she'd fallen on desperate times?  Should someone buy her a bag of groceries?

       For the past several weeks I've listened as the men of the Victoria Choral Society practiced a piece of music, out of context.
     "The Piper," composed by Tobin Stokes of Victoria,commemorates a tragic story from World War I.   A young piper, Jimmy Richardson, of the Canadian Scottish Regiment, played his pipes in full view of the enemy when his battalion's advance was stalled by a dense, barbed wire entanglement at the Battle of Ancre Heights in France. Encouraged by his example, the Battalion forced its way through the wire and made it to the their objective. 
Piper James Cleland Richardson

       Richardson also acted as a stretcher bearer.  After saving a wounded comrade, he returned to the field to recover his pipes. It was the last anyone saw of him.  Jimmy Richardson  disappeared into the mists of battle.  He was awarded the Victoria Cross, posthumously for "conspicuous bravery."
     It was believed his bagpipes had been lost in the mud but in 2002 they were found in Scotland. A British Army chaplain had found them and brought them home where they remained on display in a school where he taught.  The pipes were then returned to the Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary's).

     When I heard the men's chorus practice their part of Stokes' composition, the music was pleasant enough, but it had no meaning.  Now, I've been to the concert, and realized their part is wonderful, beautiful and  critical to the entire composition.  The men's chorus, the bagpiper, the timpanist -- they all played their individual parts but only the composer knew the whole.  Each musician had to play his part and trust the one who wrote it.

    Last week our nation witnessed tragic and senseless deaths in Ottawa and Quebec.  The news from Syria and N. Iraq tells of terrible persecution of Christians and others.  Ebola ravishes populations in West Africa.  We cry out our anguish and our sorrow.  We ask why?
     We can only trust  the Great Composer.  He alone knows the whole, he alone can weave our disparate parts into something beautiful and worthy and holy.

1 Cor. 13-12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.