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.


We hold in prayer the families of Audrey Wratten (1935-2019) and Jane Gangin (1923-2019).

Pastor Beryl led a celebration of Audrey’s life at Urgel Bourgie (Feron’s) in LaSalle on Thursday, August 1st. Interment will be on August 8th at the Field of Honour in Pointe Claire. Audrey’s three children were baptized in Verdun United churches and her daughter Kim was married by Rev. Nerny, who also baptized her children.

Pastor Beryl will preside at the interment of Jane Gangin, mother of Carolyn Grant, this Saturday, August 3rd at Mount Royal Cemetery. Carolyn attends SouthWest United and is related by marriage to Helen Pantridge.

In darkness, there is light,
in sadness, there is hope,
In death there is light, and love, and life everlasting.

Can we ever go home again?

I have a favourite Bible: the Contemporary English Version.  It is ragged and torn, with many notations hand written on the pages over the years.  It was given to me by a beloved and active supporter of SWU – someone who, unfortunately, is no longer with us - Shirley Turner. I wonder if she knew when she gave it to me that it would travel to many places and yet find its way home again?

As I thought about my return to SWU after six years leading worship in different congregations, I remembered some words circled in that Bible and found in Matthew 8:  Jesus replied “Foxes have dens, and birds have nests.  But the Son of man doesn’t have a place to call his own.”  I wondered if Jesus was reminiscing about his home temple and thoughts of his life before he began his public ministry? You see, I too have sometimes asked myself if I had a church to really call my home? 

I have missed SWU and the community it serves.  SWU was where, at a somewhat “later” stage in life, I finally found the courage to fulfill my life long dream of serving.

SWU was the church family which supported me through my journey; first as a Licensed Lay Worship Leader in 2008 and then encouraged me in the discernment process towards my recognition as Designated Lay Minister which began in 2012 and ended in St. Andrews College in Saskatoon in 2016.

And now, Spirit has led me full circle: back to the place where it all began. Back to my “home” church.

Life is a journey with many stops and starts, leading us to places where we never imagined we would go. With faith, perseverance and, yes, a little luck, most of us  travel relatively unscathed, loving and being loved by those God places on the path with us, supporting and being supported by those who believe in us and whose beliefs we share.

I am truly blessed to be “coming home” to the church and community in which I lived until 2017.  With God, all things are possible and I embrace this opportunity to share the on-going journey with you. 

In humility, I give thanks and ask God’s blessing be upon us as we walk together to wherever Spirit may be leading us.


It Only Takes a Spark

What an incredible experience this Tuesday evening: the campfire lit at the end of a super soggy rain-filled day. Songs of praise, fun, belonging and joy. Deep laughter and exuberance. I was at the Camp d’Action Biblique near Richmond, QC feeling the vibes in chapel worship and then the campfire at United Spirit Camp Esprit Unie.

Wonderful moments. Incredible stories. Deep bonding.
There is a campfire song from my youth:

 It only takes a spark
to get a fire going,
and soon all those around
can warm up in its glowing:

That’s how it is with God’s love,
once you’ve experienced it:
You spread God’s love to everyone,
you want to pass it on.

(Kurt Kaiser, 1969, VU 289)


Have you heard the questions: where have our youth gone? Why are they not in church? Where is the next generation?

We all live the constant of change. Each generation can tell the following the things that evolved in machinery, food production, communication. In a lifetime there is so much that is different. We all have stories in our families of grandparents, great great Uncles and Aunts telling of the struggles of their youth, of the Great Depression or times of War. Remember the two dollar bill, the penny? I learned the internet and the power of smart phones as an adult; new generations learn this from birth.


Faith creates sparks and songs or rituals that are adapted for different ages. Faith lives church and hope around a United Spirit Camp Esprit Unie campfire where almost one hundred people: counsellors, adults, 66 children and youth sing a benediction. Do they see in the flames what Moses saw in the burning bush: the presence of the Holy, the Unexplainable, the Mystery of Life and Interconnectedness (Exodus 3)? Do they hear the voice of God, the great I AM, of Jesus and Spirit in the incarnation of faith in the lives of leaders giving the incalculable hours, talents and enthusiasm that lets camping happen? Do they feel the Spirit of celebration and belonging, the same that was present at their baptism years before? Camp experience is filled with the Holy, the Presence of Jesus and of Spirit!  Do our youth see, hear and feel? Yes they do!!!


I had the joy of being with the six Emmanuel campers: Logan, Nolan, Elisha, Beauty, Peter and Esther and also the great pleasure of affectionate hugs from both Georgia and Theo whom I knew at SouthWest. I took a selfie like Georgia did when she was baptised at age 16, including the circle of friends around the campfire. Can it get better than this?

This was lovely, simple, heartfelt and inspiring. I was blessed to be a part of these moments, as are these youth to be part of this transformational week.

Where are our youth?

Around the campfire bonding with God, Jesus and friends.

Where are they next week?

Telling the stories of this life-changing experience.

What will we do?

Listen to their joy, their songs and let the their sparks of enthusiasm ignite the flame within us and our communities of faith!

This is change church needs: letting our youth lead us into the bonding of the campfire and Spirit flame in our midst!  Flame that consumes the unnecessary and glows bright as a beacon for all to see. It only takes a spark: pass it on!


-Rev. David

Minister's Message: Mother's Day 2019

The prophet Hosea 11:3-4 describes God as a mother in these words:

“Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I who took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.”

We know what it feels like to be at the receiving end of care and affection. That tucking in of the blanket, the unexpected meal you did not have to cook, being picked up at the airport after a long trip, a touch, call, card or prayer shawl.

Signs of love, care and belonging.

My children were taught that Mother's Day included their Dad. That what Mom and Dad give to them comes from a parent's heart: loving as an act of the will, a sacrificial love, putting children's needs ahead of their own. In the United Church an attempt was made to replace Mother's Day and create a Family Sunday, a thanksgiving for all parents and individuals who show us such deep care. I like the idea but feel that emotional pull to name and even idealize motherhood. Between the ideals and reality is where most of us live.

I enjoy the words of this hymn:

God made from one blood all the families of earth// the intimate networks on whom we depend//
Through families we've tasted the values of trust and felt what it means to be loving and just.
Yet families have also betrayed their best goals, mistreating their members and bruising their souls.

(Thomas Troeger, 1988, VU#554).

We all need what goes beyond gender and biology, what is essential to every human being: to be loved unconditionally and to love.

Faith community can be this type of family, united by shared kindness and committed to the ideals of the Gospel and authentic relationships. As of our baptism our family name is: Christian. We are there for each other: brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, uncles, a circle of love and care.

May our Mothering God hold us, love us, care for us and be the Love that pushes us to live deep loving relationships!

Happy Mother's Day!

Bonne fête des Mères!


Rev. David

My Grandmothers and Mom are relationships that taught me much about life and faith, they are a precious inheritance. I found this prayer from an unnamed source that blesses all mothers, including mine, and share it with you:

Gracious God, we thank you for adopting us into your family through the miracle of your grace, and for calling us to be brothers and sisters to each other. Today, loving God, we pray for our mothers:

• who cared for us when we were helpless

• who comforted us when we were hurt

• whose love and care we often took for granted.

Today, mothering God, we pray for:

• those who are grieving the loss of their mother

• those who never knew their biological mother, and now yearn for her

• those who have experienced the wonder of an adopted mother's love

• those mothers and families separated by distance, war or conflict.

Lord, give them all a special blessing this Mother’s Day!




Minister's Message: Earthquakes

After the Sabbath, as Sunday morning was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. Suddenly there was a violent earthquake. the guards were so afraid that they trembled and became like dead men. The women left the (empty) tomb in a hurry, afraid and yet filled with joy. (Matthew 28: 1-8)

You can read the same story many times and yet hear something new depending on your personal circumstances. Spirit spoke to my reality through these words of the Gospel. The changes in my life these months are profound and disrupting every facet of my life. I was tempted to go back to my former Notre-Dame-de-Grâce residence this week to see the sprouting of 200++ tulips and daffodils in the front garden. I resisted the temptation, there is no going back. I look at the new property and the absence of plants, trees and shrubs and realize I have so much work to do. I am in between what was and what will be, feeling more tired than excited by the prospects.

What does Easter joy have to do with earthquakes?

Joy will come to Jesus’ disciples after the horror and anguish of his senseless death. It is born out of the disruption and seismic shift in the fabric of how one understands endings and new beginnings. Resurrection power explodes into the cemetery where Jesus lay, rolling the grave rock away, bringing life where there was death and hopelessness.

Earthquakes shake up, destroy, unearth, and realign boundaries. They force a new emerging earth, new maps and paths through destructive changes. They are horrible to experience yet can lead to rebuilding stronger buildings on the ruins, up to new safety standard codes.

Easter Earthquake: a shaking up? a new world? a realignment and relearning? Sounds like a revolution and feels scary and unappealing.

Faith calls me to a deep spiritual shakeup this Easter season where there is fear before joy, tears and loss before being found and of senseless loss before new life.

The earthquake of Easter calls me to trust God in the realignments I am presently experiencing, that this powerful life force of resurrection will bring beauty and joy.

So I pray:

God, shake me from my placidness and comfort.
Meet me in my darkness, chaos,
and in the changes I do not understand.

Lead me from fear through the earthquake of faith into new life and joy.
From deep within I call to you:
Be my resurrection earthquake.

 A blessed Easter season!

Rev. David


God of power, God of people,
you are the life of all that lives,
energy that fills the earth,
vitality that brings to birth,
impetus in making whole
whatever is bruised or broken.
In you we grow to know the truth
that sets all creation free.
You are the song the whole earth sings,
the promise liberation brings,
now and forever.

 (Celebrate God’s Presence, UCC, p.193)

Farewell to Rev. David

Rev. David Lefneski’s final Sunday service at SouthWest is on June 2nd at 10AM. All are invited to join the congregation in sending him off with the pot luck to end all pot lucks!

Rev. David has been in Verdun since 1998 when he took over as Minister of both Verdun United and Crawford Park United. He oversaw the amalgamation of those two congregations in 2007 and the transformation into SouthWest United. It was his vision that created and sustained SouthWest Mission for twelve years.

Rev. David has been a minister not just for his congregation but for the whole community. His vision for SouthWest was of a radical hospitality. When it came to baptisms, marriages, and celebrations of life, all were welcome. There was no judgment based on past religious affiliations or lack thereof. He actively sought ties with our Muslim and Sikh neighbours.

Rev. David will be missed by a broad range of people, some of whom never attended a service at Southwest United, but knew him as a partner in community organizing, as Padre to the Legion, or as a comforting presence in their time of grief . We hope as many of them as possible will come by the church on Sunday, June 2nd, to share our table and say goodbye and good luck to David.


Where?: Southwest United Church, 1445 Clemenceau, Verdun

When?: Sunday June 2nd, starting at 11:30AM

What should I bring?: your best dishes and your best wishes!

Minister's Message: Easter Joy

One: This is the day that God has made,

All: Let us rejoice and be glad in it! (Psalm 118: 24)

Over the last few Sundays, this Psalm has been read in worship. In it are the palm branches of Palm/Passion Sunday waved in praise to God (v. 27-28) and the affirmation of the rejected stone (Jesus) becoming God’s kingdom cornerstone (v. 22-23).

It affirms for all who would hear: 

Give thanks to the Lord, because God is good, 
God’s love endures for ever! (v. 1-4, 29).

This affirmation of love is one that I am grateful for. It is present in moments of joy but also in those times of loss, distress and fear. It weaves together our relationships, including our interconnected-ness with all of Creation. It speaks of love as greater than death, the heart of the message of Easter. 

In my imagination I hear the whisper of God in the coldness and darkness of the tomb early that Sunday morning: 

It is time. 
You did well my Son.
Come home!!

These last few weeks are very emotional for me as I live a profound personal goodbye to SouthWest: the final Good Friday service and community meal at the Mission, confirmation and Easter celebration, preparing to move the office to the church and transitioning programs to the local Community center. Twenty years have flown by and I live such profound gratitude for so many blessings and so much love. This love sustains me in these deep transitions. 

“This is the day that God has made” is not only for the joyful times. It resonates in the sadness of death, in the coldness of the tomb and the inevitable goodbyes that occur in our lives. It is an affirmation of a constant for us: that God is in our midst, that love is everlasting, that we are created to live in relationships and not in isolation. 

An Easter hymn says:

Because you live, O Christ, 
the garden of the world has come to flower,
the darkness of tomb is flooded with your resurrected power.
The stone has rolled away and death cannot imprison.
O sing this Easter Day, 
for Jesus Christ has risen, has risen, has risen!!

(Shirley Murray, 1984, VU 178)

I affirm love and wrap myself in its warmth like a hand stitched quilt, and am calmed and held in its grace. 

May the stone be rolled from our hearts, our anxieties and fears. 

May the whisper of God be life and hope to our lives. 

May God bless endings with new beginnings for this is the day that God has made. 

Rev. David