Monday, March 29, 2021

Holy week 2021--Updated


Palm Sunday service is available here

Yesterday, Palm Sunday, was the start of Holy Week. Normally we would have a list of services and events posted here and in the newspaper and maybe on posters in the narthex. In 2020 our COVID-19 response was brand new and the province was in the initial lockdown of the pandemic. Many of us thought that after a few weeks or maybe even three months we would be back to normal.

Wrong! We were of the mindset of soldiers going off to fight in WWI who were convinced "it will be all over by Christmas." It was four more Christmases before survivors saw their loved ones again.

Now, as we face our second Easter of the pandemic, we have more realistic expectations. We also have some variance in the Public Health Orders around worship, that allows for some outdoor and/or indoor services.

At present this is what we know for services at SPPC:

  • Maundy Thursday, April 1, 5:00 pm. In-person communion service, outdoors. Maximum attendance is 50. Inclement weather might require us to stay in our cars but please dress warmly and plan to worship outside.

  • Good Friday April 2, 10:00 am live-streamed worship service with an in-person congregation of up to 40 people. 

  • Easter Sunday, April 4, 10:00 am. Live-streamed worship service with an in-person congregation of up to 40 people. Worship will conclude with the celebration of the Lord's Supper.
Other restrictions include 
  • no socializing before or after service. 
  • Face coverings must be worn even when seated. 
  • Physical distancing is required. 
  • No congregational singing.
The Maundy Thursday service requires pre-registration. Call the office at 250 656 - 2241 if you wish to attend.
Attendees are encouraged to do a personal health check before coming. B.C. Health check is available here.

As noted in the announcement from Dr. Bonnie Henry, the number of COVID cases on Vancouver Island is rising. Orders may change at any moment. Right now, we are allowed four services with COVID protocols in place. 

However, we must remember that just because we "can" doesn't mean we "should." Rev. Irwin and Session have done their best to strike a proper balance between the desire for in-person worship and the desire to keep congregants safe. No one should feel obligated to attend service if such a meeting is beyond your own comfort level and personal risk tolerance.

Easter will happen, however we worship. The darkness of Gethsemane and Golgotha will give way to the joy of Easter morning and the Risen Christ. Alleluia!

Monday, March 22, 2021

Ups and Downs

The link to this week's service is here.

The news from SPPC is a mixed bag this week. The good news is, our members are getting their vaccines. I saw in the newspaper that Blanche was one of the first. Kay got hers in the first week of March as well. I'm sure there are others. We often worry that our congregation is elderly, but when it comes to getting vaccinated, elderly is good.

The daffodils in the front beds of the church blooming happily. Nice to see a reward to Linda's hard work last summer and fall. Tore's been adding a few licks of paint here and there--a sure sign of spring.

On the sad front, Rosemary E. passed away this week. I first met her in a Lenten devotional circle. My but that woman could pray! It was my first time sitting in on the group and I was astounded at how Rosemary could talk to God like He was an old friend. Praise, supplication, intercession, adoration poured ceaselessly and confidently from her lips.

Later, in Bible Study class, I got to know her better. As well as being a prayer warrior, Rosemary was a keen student. On Wednesday mornings she'd show up with her workbook full of notes, the questions already researched and answered. If I was lucky enough to be in her small group, I could just crib the answer from her. Later she would take the lesson home and go through it all again with her husband. They liked to share books, with her reading aloud to him.

When her granddaughter, Josha, was in the Living Flame Choir, Rosemary was a faithful supporter. She'd turn out with a big smile on her face and a flowery hat on her head, bringing encouragement and gratitude.

Although none of us has been able to meet in person for the past year, I feel a sense of loss. I shall miss Rosemary's kindness, her steadfast faith, her cheerful attitude and her bright pink sweater. 

As per COVID rules, there will be no public funeral, but we keep Reynold, Josha and the whole family in our hearts.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Book Review


God and the Pandemic

A Christian Reflection on the Corona virus and its Aftermath 

                               --  By:  N.T Wright 


Let’s start by learning more of N.T. Wright.  Wright is a research professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of St Andrew and a senior research fellow at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford.  Previously he was Bishop of Durham, Canon Theologian of Westminster, Dean of Litchfield and fellow, tutor and chaplain of Worcester College, Oxford.  He is also the author of over eighty books.  I became familiar with his work when I started a Lenten devotion he had written for the You Version Bible App.   

 The book is short (only 80+ pages) and was written in July 2020 soon after the pandemic had begun and when we were all hoping it would be short lived.  He states the aim of this book is not to offer solutions to the questions raised by the pandemic but to help us resist the knee jerk reactions which are so easy to accept. He feels we need a time of lament, of restraint.  He feels if we spend time in the prayer of lament, new light may come.

Wright begins with the Hebrew Scriptures and asks us to consider how early Jewish people responded to their tragedy of the Babylonian exile. He guides us through some of the Psalms and the book of Job.  Wright suggests “we are simply to lament, we are to complain, we are to state the case, and leave it with God”.  

He then turns to Jesus and the New Testament.  He uses stories from the Bible to point us to how early Christians responded to the tragedies of their times.  Wright notes that these early Christians do not attempt to lay blame, call for repentance or assume that Jesus is returning soon.  Rather, “they ask three simple questions: 

  1. Who is going to be at special risk when this happens? 
  1. What can we do to help? 
  1. And who shall we send?”  
Wright reminds us throughout history; Jesus’ followers have started hospitals, cared for the wounded, fed the hungry and tended to the dying. 

Early in this book Wright refers to the “End Times” and how many Christians feel the pandemic is heralding these times.  I find it difficult to explain how, but Wright develops a clear argument of how he feels that this is NOT what the pandemic is about.  Instead Wright takes the reader through the Gospels and explains that Jesus is God’s sign and that God’s kingdom is now.  You will have to read this book yourself as I found my own ideas about God and Jesus changed as I read both the book and the scriptures Wright uses. The author wants the reader to look at what is happening, to be prayerful and look for what may come.     

E-book is available on Amazon for $5.99 

 Thanks to Linda Cliff for this week's blog.






Monday, March 8, 2021


As our world moves toward the end of COVID many are dreaming of travelling again. Meantime, Barb Lyon has sent us this report of a trip she took in 2019 where she "met" an ancestor.

     My cousins and I planned a trip for September 2020 to travel to Germany, Austria and Italy, travelling by train along the way. Our trip was, of course, cancelled due to Covid 19 travel restrictions but we did manage a trip the previous year to England.
     My cousin Gerry and her husband Ray have visited England previously and were posted there for five years during Ray’s career in the Canadian Navy. I couldn’t have asked for more knowledgeable, kind and accommodating travel companions.
     One of our stops was West Bromwich in the West Midlands area of England. There we visited the grave of our great, great, great, great uncle James Eaton.

Born in London in 1783, Eaton entered the navy in 1799 during the French Revolutionary Wars. He was appointed signal midshipman aboard HMS Temeraire by 1805, and served as such at The Battle of Trafalgar with Lord Nelson on the HMS Victory during the Napoleonic wars.
HMS Victory

The HMS Tremeraire was broken up after the war but we did visit the HMS Victory in Portsmouth.

It was James Eaton, as signal midshipman, who repeated Lord Nelson’s command at the start of the Battle of Trafalgar that “England expects that every man this day shall do his duty”.
     James Eaton is buried at All Saints Church in West Bromwich. The Warden there was very generous of his time and gave us am interesting tour of the Church and its grounds.
This is a picture of my cousin Gerry with the Warden and myself at James Eaton’s grave site.

We visited Hill House in West Bromwich where James Eaton lived until his death in 1857. We knocked on the door hoping for a brief look around but the current owners were not at home
Hill House, Dagger Lane, W. Bromwich


Built in the early 16th century, Hill House became the home of Captain James Eaton in 1839. It is believed Charles Dickens was a visitor to Hill House while he wrote "the Old Curiosity Shop." 

     The next day we travelled from Portsmouth by ferry to the Isle of Wight.There we visited Osborne House which Queen Victoria and Prince Albert built between 1845 and 1951. Prince Albert designed the house himself in the style of an Italian Renaissance palazzo. The Royal Family enjoyed the House as a change from the stuffiness of Buckingham Palace and the more relaxed atmosphere for their 11 children. The family used it as a summer home and rural retreat.
Osborne House

We greatly enjoyed our tour of the House and the extensive grounds.
     Queen Victoria died at Osborne House on January 1 1901 and even though her will expressed her desire that the House be kept in the Royal Family, Queen Victoria’s heir Prince Edward VII donated the House to the state in 1902. As such it is the first and only royal residence to be enjoyed by only one generation of the Royal Family. 

     We look forward to the day when we can enjoy each other's company again and travel God's magnificent Creation.

Thanks for the armchair tour, Barb. Imagine being the man who passed along the order "England expects . . . his duty."

Monday, March 1, 2021


On Tuesday of last week the Lenten devotional used Psalm 77 as the scripture. This passage is a lament, meant to sung. As a side note, we learned that at least one third of the Psalms are laments. That got me to thinking, why so many laments in the Psalms? Why a whole book of Lamentations? Even Jesus lamented saying " if Thou be willing, take this cup from me." Matt.22:42 

A bit of research turned up this definition of lament: a passionate expression of grief or sorrow. Another authority points out that the lament is an expression of sorrow, whereas grief is suffering. The expression part may be missing. 

In every age and clime humans have known heartbreak. For as long as we have a record, the lament has been part of our literature. Often it is purely instrumental. Think of our Remembrance Day ceremonies. One of the most moving moments is when the piper plays the Lament. The heart pours out its grief in pure emotion, no cerebral interference. If laments are so much a part of our being, they must serve some deep human need.

Lamentation, then, is about release, about letting the painful emotions flow:fear, doubt, bewilderment, anger, shame and guilt, perhaps, as well as sadness. 

                                                                              from Psychology Today 

The article goes on to "lament" our modern need to apologize for expressing grief. 

But, I still wonder why there is so much lamenting in the Bible. Didn't God chastise the Israelites in the wilderness for murmuring and complaining? Surely faith should make us joyful. More research . . .

  "Lament is prayer to God." 

So, my complaint is "I'm sick to death of this pandemic!" My lament would be "Dear God, I'm sick to death of this pandemic. Help me."

Note, in the lament example, I'm speaking to God, so my lament is a prayer. The lament is also an expression of faith. If I didn't think God had power to act, or compassion for my grief, there would be no point in telling Him of my distress.

Speaker and writer Niki Hardy puts it this way. 

3 Ways to Tell the Difference between Complaining and Lamenting

  • A complaint goes to another person while a lament is given solely to God
  • A complaint focuses solely on our grievance but a lament grounds our pain in the truth of who God is.
  • Complaints are screamed into the silence while a lament is uttered within the music of our praise

During our devotional time I jokingly said I might give up writing my list of thanksgivings and start a list of laments. Rev. Irwin was quick to point out I needed the thanksgivings too. His advice is Biblical. The pattern established in the Psalms is to cry out to God, let Him have a full description of my anger, sorrow, disappointment, grief, hurt -- give Him the full list of wrongs endured. I can go ahead and yell about a lost Christmas, missed celebrations, lonely funerals, grandchildren missing grandparents, family holidays cancelled. As Dr. Kirk used to say, "God has broad shoulders."

But, using Psalm 77 as a pattern, we see the change in verse 11. Now the writer remembers and meditates on God's mighty acts. In reminding God of His goodness, the psalmist also reminds himself and his hearers. Here my list of wrongs done unto me shifts to a list of mercies shown unto me. Our God is Holy, He works miracles, He has saved the nation, He controls the thunder and the sea. 

I turn to my list of thanksgivings. Remember it is 1000 items long and growing.

Finally, in the last verse of Psalm 77 the writer says God led His people like a shepherd. The Good Shepherd. Our friend, protector, provider, nurturer, comforter. 

We often hear that the Bible is a blueprint for living. Since broken hearts are part of living, God provided the blueprint for how to lament. . . and how to trust Him.

When I finished writing my lament, I stepped outside into the sunshine and found this happy little crocus pushing up from the frosty ground. Something to add to my list of thanksgivings.

Note: To join the Lenten Devotional every weekday morning at 9:00 am, follow the link sent our in Rev. Irwin's weekly letter, or call the office - (250) 656 -2241-  for assistance.