Minister's Message: Emptiness and Fullness

I have been living in empty space at my new house and a box-filled space at the other: contrasting experiences in these days of significant personal and professional transition. These days I’m neither a Montrealer nor a Cowansvillian (is that even a word?) as I have a foot in two very distinctive worlds of city and country. What I’m noticing these days are the sounds that are different in the empty space - echoes reverberating through the rooms - and the way shadow and light dance on the walls in rooms with no curtains on the windows.

In the story of the temptation of Jesus (read Matthew 4: 1-11, Mark 1: 1-12, Luke 4: 1-13) Jesus lived for 40 days in a very different space: a desert.


No human traffic.

Broad, wide space, uncurtained, sand for a bed and a rock for a pillow.

In that ‘emptiness’ he hears different sounds, one of which would be the Voice of the One who said at his baptism: this is my beloved Son. He is listening in silence and stillness for a word that will root him in a sustaining courage for the three year journey and ministry that lie ahead.

The tempter tries to unsettle Jesus, to distract him from God’s presence and call. As Jesus fasts and prays, the first temptation is to fill his stomach by turning rocks into bread and use God’s gift and power for his personal needs. He refuses and instead speaks of a bread for the soul that will deeply satisfy the spirit. He resists the temptation to fill his empty stomach and lets his spirit be the boss over his physical hunger.

On this Lenten journey we are invited to live with emptiness and feel hunger, that starts with hunger of stomach and moves deeper to hunger of our spirits.

I do not want to feel hunger and do all that I can to avoid it: nuts in the glove compartment, snacks easily accessible, fruit bowl filled. How can one go without food? Of course, if you never feel hunger you miss the incredible joy of a freshly cooked meal or garden herbs whose taste is amplified by your need.

When you know hunger your taste buds appreciate the meal so much more.

I resist emptiness and would easily go back to the sure and familiar place where I lived for 23 years. Everything had its place, it accommodated my needs. Yet as I listen, and live into the transition, I know that God is leading us to new places of learning and wonder. I know that God gives all of us strength, focus and courage.

In these times of instant gratification, of over-consumption and consumerism, the Lenten journey cries out: stop, feel your hunger, listen to your spirit and inner needs. Live in places of emptiness with trust that God is with you.

A blessed Lent.

Rev. David

A Lenten Hymn:

Jesus tempted in the desert,
                lonely, hungry, filled with dread:
“Use your power,” the tempter tells him;

                “turn these barren rocks to bread!”

“Not alone by bread,” he answers,
                “can the human heart be filled.

Only by the Word that calls us
                is our deepest hunger stilled!”

(Herman Stuempfle, 1990, VU 115, tune of Beach Spring)

Need Glasses?


As of this week, we have a new partner at the Mission: Philippe Rochette, also known as Bonhomme à lunettes. Philippe and his team of fellow opticians set up clinics in community organizations all over the city to help people who need glasses to get them at affordable prices. You must come with your prescription from an optometrist and they will fit you for glasses at rock bottom prices. But why don’t I let them tell you about what they do? The following is from their bilingual website. They will be at the Mission Thursdays from 1-3PM until at least June.


Le Bonhomme à lunettes, aka Philippe Rochette, is a nomadic optician working with community organizations in the Greater Montreal area and Montéregie with a great choice of affordable glasses with all the options, for men, women and kids. Honesty, simplicity and solidarity are the keys to understanding our philosophy. Possibility of $20 glasses for welfare recipients.


Glasses are not a luxury. Seeing clearly is a necessity. My mission is to make glasses affordable to everyone. How do I do that? It’s actually pretty simple. When you buy glasses from me, here’s what you are NOT paying for: head office space, a huge ad on a billboard along the highway, or a ‘prestigious’ name on the frame. You don’t pay for those things simply because I don’t have any of them. I trust word-of-mouth and the dynamism and loyalty of community organizers.

In Memoriam: Evelynne Ringland

The following obituary ran in the Gazette this week. Please note the celebration of Evelynne’s life will be held at SouthWest United at 1PM Saturday, March 16th. Our deepest condolences to family and friends.

RINGLAND, Evelynne Joan 
It is with profound sadness that we announce the peaceful passing of Evelynne at St. Mary's Hospital on March 6. Evelynne was predeceased by her parents James and Elizabeth Ringland, her sister Mae and brothers-in-law Benny Cameron and Desi Grieve, and her nieces Elaine and Lianne. She is survived by her sister Anne, brothers Jim (Mary) and Tom (Ruth) and by nieces and nephews. Visitation will be at SouthWest United Church, 1445 Clemenceau, Crawford Park, Verdun on March 16, 2019, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. followed by the service.

Sugar Shack Theme at next Community Meal

There will be something for everyone at next Wednesday’s community meal. While chef Sheena is preparing primarily vegan menus, some weeks volunteer cooks will be working with meat and dairy that is already in our fridges.

Join us Wednesday, March 20th at 12:30 for the following mouth-watering meal:

Sugar Shack Theme

This week’s meal will be primarily vegan, but we will be cooking a donation of ham and bacon with the meal as well.
We are inspired by the changing season, the maple syrup flowing and enjoying a hearty late-winter meal together.


Vegan Split pea soup, bread and vegan cashew cheese

Beans in sauce
Ham and bacon
Vegan Shepherds Pie
Maple syrup and other homemade garnishes

Apple crisp

Spring Fling 2019

Believe it or not, spring will soon be here! We are planning one last blow-out sale to raise money for next year’s Breakfast Club. We will therefore be accepting donations of gently used toys, bric-a-brac, household items etc. for our White Elephant table. Please no clothing. There will be a snack bar and bake table.
We are also offering to rent tables to vendors for $15 each. Contact Sheila for more information

This event which is scheduled for Saturday, May 18th, at SouthWest Mission, 631 Melrose, Verdun.

A Message From SouthWest Council

 March 8, 2019


Dear Church Family and Friends,

 For the past twenty years, God has blessed our efforts, ministry and minister here at SouthWest.

 It is with sadness and regret that we announce that Rev. David has decided that it is time to leave SouthWest United Church and Mission at the end of May 2019 and to continue his Ministry in Cowansville.

 There is no doubt that losing Rev. David will be a time of upheaval for our faith community. It will be a time of bittersweet sorrow but let us rejoice with Rev. David as he moves into another area of life and ministry. We will continue to hold him in our hearts and uphold him in prayer as well.

 The period of transition and change will be a time of reassessment and the setting of new directions.

 We look forward to an enriching and productive time as our congregation embarks on this next phase of its journey. This is an important and exciting time in the history of this congregation we call SouthWest.



Darlene Halfyard, Chair of Council

Dennis Brown, Secretary and Clerk of Session.


Minister's Message: Hello and Good-bye?!

The first night in my new house was last Thursday. Compared to Montréal, it was very, very quiet, although a very empty house. I woke up at four o’clock when my hip hit the floor, the air mattress had lost its air, and had a blurry moment of: Where am I? What happened to my bed?

The Lenten journey is calling us. The ashes of anointing on Ash Wednesday, made from last year’s palms, will also be available at Emmanuel for the first Sunday of Lent. They speak of the cost of following Jesus on a journey that makes difficult decisions and ends in sacrifice and death.

These days I am very conscious of changes, transitions and endings.

I read my letter of resignation at SouthWest last Sunday, a deeply emotional experience. It was a goodbye after almost two decades of ministry, of shared journey, challenges and joys.

To quote my written words:

I have served Crawford Park and Verdun United Churches since the summer of 1999 and grown with you through many changes including the amalgamation of SouthWest and the beginning of SouthWest Mission in 2007.
The number of baptisms, weddings and funerals (which we call Celebrations of Life) are of historical record. The number of worship services, sermons and prayers? A lot, I would say.
As two decades come to a close and yet more changes lay ahead I discern some new challenges for me.

My years with you have been rooted in a generous gospel, one that reached into the wider community with radical hospitality, deep joy and inclusion.
SouthWest has transformed my life and I am grateful.
Thank you for the blessing that has been mine to serve you.

With love...

The very first hymn I sang in the Dunham United Church during my internship in 1998-1999 was VU 633. Its prayer language and hope touched me as I left the Presbyterian Church to join the United Church. It was also sung last Sunday at SouthWest.

Bless now, O God, the journey
that all your people make,
the path through noise and silence,
the way of give and take.
The trail is found in desert
and winds the mountain round,
then leads beside still waters,
the road where faith is found.
Bless sojourners and pilgrims
who share this winding way,
whose hope burns through the terrors,
whose love sustains the day.
We yearn for holy freedom
while often we are bound.
Together we are seeking
the road where faith is found.

(Sylvia Dunstan, 1989)

As the move continues forward slowly, and beds will make their way into freshly painted rooms, I am grateful for life and love. The next months before officially leaving SouthWest at the end of May will be emotional and busy.

As we together move into our Lenten journey we are ever surrounded by brothers and sisters in faith that are with us in all the challenges ahead.

We are rooted in faith, hope and love!

With love,

Rev. David