Beryl's Blog: Remember the Sabbath, to Keep it Holy

We live in a busy world. So many things scream for our attention and it is getting harder and harder to fit everything into a 24-hour, seven-day week.  And for those who still have young children at home, weekend sports or family activities may be the only precious moments they have to still connect to one another.

0nce upon a time, we lived an agricultural life style; our livelihoods depended upon growing our own food, maintaining our own livestock and helping our neighbours to do the same. Hours were long and chores were endless. But, Sunday, or Sabbath, was the one day in the week where, even if for just a few hours, families could put on their best Sunday clothes, drive the horse and buggy to worship and socialize with those they had not seen nor heard from for several days and then go home, eat together and relax until chores had to begin again. 

Even more important, as a community, they could lift their voices in songs of praise and give thanks for good weather, abundant produce and just enough rain. They could pray, as one, for the misfortunes which befell them individually, or as a group and then join forces to assist in any way possible to help their neighbours.  They grew a community of faith and love, whether related by blood or by common need.

Sabbath, for most Christians, has fallen by the wayside.  Sunday family dinner has become a scramble to get everyone at the same table, at the same time.  Grandparents, elderly aunts and uncles, cousins and friends no longer grace our dining rooms, if we indeed have a dining room.  We have lost the benefit of the extended family; the continuity in our lives.

That was not the way of Jesus and his followers; they ate as a family and shared all they had at meals.  In doing so, they created strength in numbers, a bond of friendship, an open invitation to those who might be alone, and a strong sense of community and support in times of both sorrow and joy. Most important, they created a holy space to honor the One who created them!

It is no secret that church attendance has dropped to a low from which we may never recover.  But, perhaps, there is still one thing we can do as our communities get smaller and smaller. Something we can do as a gift for those who are “family”, blood related or not.  And that is to set aside a few hours on Sabbath (or on any one day of the week) to open our hearts and our homes to those who are alone.  To offer up a place of welcome and friendship that is missing in the lives of so many people.  It does not have to be elaborate; tea and dessert may be enough. The most important item on the menu should be the willingness to love and be loved.

Sabbath was and is Creator God’s fourth commandment and is a blessing, a gift to us:

Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don’t do any work—not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town. For in six days God made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; he rested on the seventh day. Therefore God blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as a holy day.        [Exodus 20:8-11 The Message (MSG)]           

 As Jesus so often said, perhaps now is the time to “Go and do likewise”.


SouthWest Stories: Dennis and Dorothy Brown

“We were introduced by his old girlfriend.”

Dorothy Brown is recalling how she met her husband Dennis, over sixty years ago. They were just kids: fifteen years old. Nevertheless, they have been together ever since.

Both grew up in Verdun, and attended Verdun High (which is currently the Champlain Adult Education Centre). Dorothy attended Verdun United Church as a teen, when her family lived around the corner on Egan. Dennis lived on Claude street until the age of ten, when the family moved to Moffat.

“I thought everybody had rats until I moved to Moffat,” he says. In his early home, “you could hear them running up and down the halls all the time.”

The happy couple, 1962.

The happy couple, 1962.

Dennis and Dorothy – interestingly, her maiden name is also Brown - were married by Rev. Jones at VUC in 1962.

“I remember the day very well,” Dennis says. “We listened to the Alouettes game in the vestry while we waited for you.”

Dorothy admits to arriving half an hour late for her own wedding despite the short distance she had to walk. “All the neighbours were out in the street,” she says. She had to stop and talk to each one as they admired her dress and wished her well. She was 20 years old; Dennis had turned 21.

Dennis started working at Trans Canada Airlines as a mail boy, but before long had moved into purchasing. He stayed with the company as it became Air Canada, and retired as a Manager after 34 years.

Although Dennis had to travel a lot for his job, he says he rarely got a chance to visit the cities he flew into. “I saw the Eiffel tower out the window of my hotel room.” After he retired, they drove across Canada and visited “cities where I’d only ever been in airports,” Dennis says.

Having worked for an airline, Dennis still gets passes for travel. That helped them afford a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Australia about three years ago. They flew to Sydney, then took a Pacific Ocean cruise with stops in New Zealand, Tahiti and Bora Bora, and ending in Vancouver. A highlight, according to Dennis, was swimming with sharks and stingrays off Mo’orea, an island near Tahiti.

The couple has two daughters, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild. The daughters, Carolyn and Lisa, were baptized at VUC, and Dorothy attended with them for a time, but then the family moved to Lasalle and life got busy.

Dorothy worked at the Montreal Star as a clerk for five years when they were first married, then left to become a full-time mom and homemaker. She volunteered at her children’s school in the library and the lunch program, and got involved with the Girl Guides of Canada. She continued volunteering when she became a grandmother, becoming known as the “pizza lady” at their primary school.

Dorothy says it’s when she lost her mother in 1996 that she felt a strong need for a church community again. They decided to give Crawford Park United a try. At the time, Rev. Nerny was leading both the Crawford and Verdun United congregations. Within a few years he would retire and Rev. David (Lefneski) would take over both churches.

By 2005, both churches were in severe financial difficulty. Dennis by this time had taken on the responsibilities of Clerk of Session and was on the Official Board. He recalls two years of meetings, meetings, meetings before the decision was reached to merge the congregations and sell the VUC building, the larger of the two. The stained glass windows now found in the back and sides of the SouthWest sanctuary came from Verdun United. The distinctive wooden pipe organ was built specially using some of the proceeds from the sale. The choice of the name SouthWest signaled a new beginning. Dennis has continued as Clerk of Session and is still on the board – now called Church Council.

Dorothy was never an “official” member of the UCW at Crawford or SouthWest, but over the years, she always seemed to be helping out with church events, whether cooking, setting up or serving. These days, Dorothy is in charge of the church kitchen. She is hoping to bring back a once-a-month meal at the church, and maybe a Holly Tea during the Christmas season. She coordinates the Bingo that is on a break for the summer, but will be back in the fall on the first Saturday of each month.

Dorothy is not shy to say more help is needed. The congregation is getting smaller and people have less energy. She also recognizes that some may not have been made to feel welcome in the past when they tried to volunteer. Today she says, “If someone wants to help, I say, ‘pick up a cloth’! I’m never going to say no,” adding, “I also think saying thank you is important.”



Church Notes

Worship Team meeting and School Supplies

SouthWest’s Worship Committee will be meeting on Sunday August 25th after the service. They will have some basic business to discuss, but would also like to encourage a broader participation. Please come if you have ideas as to what we would like to do as a community over the coming months (meals, special services, invited guests, community involvement, etc.) Come especially if you have a little time and energy to contribute.

We are taking up a collection of school supplies to be donated to either Verdun Elementary or St. Columba House. A box will be set up in the church entranceway. Cutoff date: September 1st. Some items that are always appreciated are:
- duo tangs
- Hilroy copy books
- glue sticks
- scissors
- scotch tape
- HB pencils
- pencil crayons
- pencil case
- lunch box/ bag
- Kleenex boxes

Are You a Good Photographer?

Ever look at bulletin covers or other United Church of Canada materials and think, “I could do that”?

The United Church of Canada is looking for professional-level photos for two projects:

• Photos of United Churches for the 2021 church calendar. (Deadline Dec. 30)

• Photos showing spirituality or Christian life for the cover of Sunday bulletins. (Deadline Oct. 30)

An honorarium of $100.00 will be provided for each selected picture.

Farewell to Frank

A big thank you to Sheila Morrison for organizing the send-off for superstar volunteer Frank De Montigny on Thursday. About a dozen SouthWest friends met for an early dinner at Café Benedictins on Verdun ave near Woodland. The food was good and our waitress very patient!

Frank is heading back to Saskatchewan at the end of the month to be closer to family. The Breakfast Club “munchkins” will miss Mister Frank, as will we all, but we wish him bon voyage and all the best.

Photos by Sheila and by Sue Mooney.

Frank1 (2).jpg

Pieces of history


This pamphlet was discovered among some old Verdun United files. Featuring songs from O Canada to Oh! Susannah, it’s barely bigger than a cheque book. Sponsored by Tooke Brothers manufacturing, which used to be on de Courcelle Street, it also features ads for some of their products. Whenever it was published (1950s?) you could get a dress shirt or a pair of tailored pyjamas for $4.95! Anybody remember using this for singalongs? Contact the office if you have memories to share.


Minister's word: Peace, Perfect Peace

I am, by nature, a person who wants all things to be right and to run smoothly. I call it my Martha syndrome.  In fact, I always have a “Plan B”, just in case.

But, lately, something is changing.  In the clear light of day, or in the deep silence of the night, I sometimes find myself with a sense of the deepest peace.  A feeling so warm, so gentle, so calm that, just for a moment, it takes my breath away.  Perhaps it’s something that, with grace, creeps slowly upon you as you age.  Perhaps it is the result of so much of your stuff becoming water under your own bridge.

In any event, I have found myself wondering about the quote from Philippians 4: 7 “The peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Just what is that peace which passes all understanding?

Over the past week I have had the honor of walking with two families who have lost a loved one.  I have done this too many times over the past eleven years or so.  But, this week, perhaps because I am more open to it, I witnessed that calm maturity and acceptance which borders on the presence of the holy; inner peace.

And that, perhaps, is where the mystery lies.

According to “The Mind of Christ” by T.W. Hunt, in the Bible, the word peace is often translated to mean “to tie together as a whole” or “when all essential parts are joined together”.

Inner peace then is a wholeness of mind and spirit, a whole heart at rest.  It has little to do with external surroundings.

Peace is not the absence of trouble, it is the presence of God.  It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit

In John 14: 27, Jesus said “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”.

My wish for you is that you too may find that place of peace, deep peace. 


A new perspective on accessibility


The article below from the United Church of Canada website is a reminder that most of us will deal with “mobility issues” at one time or another. I remember experiencing this in a small way when I had babies in strollers. I see my mother dealing with it as her joints give way.

The federal government recently passed Bill C-81, known as the Accessible Canada Act. It mandates full accessibility in all federal government departments and agencies, wherever they are in the country. It also applies to the federally regulated private sector, including the transportation sector, broadcasting and telecommunications services, and the banking and financial sectors. Bill C-21 was created in consultation with Canadians with disabilities and is supported by the Rick Hansen Foundation and many advocates for people with disabilities. Hopefully it will inspire the provinces and more of the private sector to follow suit.

Here is the article by Pat Elson:

I have a new perspective on life.

While I am waiting for two hip replacements, my mobility is decreasing – in direct proportion to the increase in chronic pain I am managing. These two factors, along with the long wait for joint replacement in the Ontario health care system, have come together in a perfect storm and for the first time in my life I find myself living with a chronic disability.

What I have to say will not be news for those who have lived with this for much longer than I have. And eventually I have every hope that I will be able to return to a reasonably active lifestyle. In the meantime this is what I have learned and what I hope I will remember as I look at the buildings, streets, and surroundings that make up the communities I live, work, and play in.

I look at accessibility from a new perspective. I look at the incline of ramps – not just whether there is a ramp –and the availability of handrails. I look at the height and number of steps. I look at how many people are heading in and out of buildings and whether, given the number of people, I can reach a handrail. I look at whether a bench is available along a walking route and what height it might be. Sometimes what I see means I can’t get into a particular building or space even when that building is labelled “accessible.”

I look at public transit differently. I consider whether I will be able to get a seat or not. I consider whether I can wait for transit sitting down or if I need to stand. I consider whether I can reach an escalator or elevator. The failure of any of those factors mean that more often than not I can’t use public transit.

I look at social and public events with a new eye. Will there be places to sit? If there is food, am I expected to carry it myself? Even more awkward if there a drink I would need to carry! And is it just the people I hang out with – or what is it with the social stand up? Standing for any period of time and my joints lock up, making it not only painful to stand but to move again. So I am careful what social events I go to.

What have I learned with this new perspective? I have learned:

  • I am really bad at asking for help, but I am the only one who can tell people when I can’t manage something.

  • I have learned that while offers of help may come from the most unexpected of people, many are not good at offering help.

  • I have learned that carrying a sign of mobility challenge – like a cane – may get me the help I need, but trying to cope without it is a recipe for disaster.

  • The word “accessible” attached to a building, place, or event does not necessarily mean I can access something.

  • My life and activities are becoming more defined by what I can’t do than by what I want to do.

I hope what I have learned stays with me and those spaces and people I can influence will benefit. I hope I will be readier to see when helping others is needed and to ask for help more often. I will use my new eyes to look at venues and occasions to create places and spaces that don’t have to be reviewed for accessibility, because it is a matter of course that they are. Isn’t that what accessibility really means? That no one has to think twice about getting somewhere because they just can.

— Pat Elson is Team Lead for The United Church of Canada’s People in Partnership program.