Minister's Message: New Year's 2019

Dear Emmanuel and SouthWest,

As this year draws to a close we remember 2018 in which there have been joys, sorrows, growth, learnings and many challenges. There are memories we would rather forget and others we will treasure. We have lived a myriad of emotions, both tender and pain-filled, and journeyed through changes as brothers and sisters of Jesus.

In my youth there was a church tradition of a New Year’s Watchnight service organized so that at midnight we were gathered around the communion table. Prayer, hymns, testimonies and quiet time were always part of this service; I found it a precious experience.

It is my hope that you will find a quiet reflective moment at the beginning of 2019. One of your resolutions may be about the reading of the Bible. Personally I have grown in faith through the regular reading and meditation of the scriptures. Apart from our public worship there is a more personal worship experience that includes two essential daily disciplines:  prayer and Bible reading.

Some helpful scriptures for a New Year’s reflection are:

Psalm 23, 90, 126, Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8, Matthew 5: 3-12 (and the verses following that are the Sermon on the Mount.)

The Bible Society offers us a gift: readings from the Bible for everyday, based on the Sunday Lectionary Readings. They are available online in English and French
( or in paper version at the (Mission) Church.

I am on vacation from January 14 to February 14 and travelling in Peru. I will hold you everyday in my heart and prayers as you hold me in yours.

A blessed New Year,

Rev. David


Go into this New Year: dance, laugh, sing, and create,
risk, explore, discover, and love.
believe, hope, struggle, and remember:
We go with the assurance of your love, O God.
Thanks be to God!


New Year Prayers:

 Holy God, as we enter this new year,
we thank you for your presence with us
in all the years of our lives.
We have known joy, and also sorrow,
success and failure,
and through it all, you have been with us—
the companion of all our journeys.
Much of life is fleeting
and so we thank you for things that endure:
the love of faithful friends,
wisdom gained from experience,
the reliability of nature,
and your steadfast love.
We thank you for this new year which awaits us;
take us by the hand, and lead us on.



 O God,
presider over the affairs of persons and nations,
move us to thanksgiving,
not because of what we have, but because of whose we are;
not because of present blessing,
but because of your continuing providence;
not because of the moment,
but because of the eternity of salvation.
Let our thanksgiving be expressed
not only in feasting, but in sharing;
not only in passive enjoyment, but in active service;
not only in annual observance, but in daily attitude.
And because your concern for wholesome living
embraces every person upon the earth,
we pray for ourselves and for others  (our personal and world requests). . .

In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.


-          Taken from Celebrate God’s Presence, United Church of Canada


Minister's Message: The Journey to Bethlehem

One of Isaiah’s prophecies is reframed in Luke’s gospel and relates to the ministry of John the Baptist, the messenger of Messiah:

Get the road ready for the Lord, make a straight way for him to travel!
Every valley must be lifted up, every hill and mountain levelled off.
The winding roads must be made straight
and the rough roads must be made smooth
. (Luke 3: 4-5, Isaiah 40: 3-5).

This text makes me think of the incredible travels that people in Israel must have experienced as everyone had to return to their hometown for the population census demanded by Rome. Taxes would be based on its recorded numbers. Winding roads made straight would greatly alleviate travel times. So many more travelers than just Mary and Joseph were flooding the roads. No wonder there was no room for them in the small village of Bethlehem.

The journey from Mary’s hometown of Nazareth to Joseph’s birthplace in Bethlehem is some 157 km and could have taken 8-10 long days of walking. And although the Christian church celebrates the birth in December it is more likely that this journey occurred in the oppressive heat of July or August for a birth in September. A scary journey for a young pregnant woman and her betrothed.

They say you can never really go back home once you leave. I experience this when visiting my Mother and siblings in Ontario. The neighbourhood of my youth has changed so much. In fact life reminds us that change is like a river flowing and constantly moving.

The journey to Bethlehem, that of the shepherds, the magi, traveling to the Temple in Jerusalem, to Egypt as refugees and later to Nazareth: there is much movement behind the stories of Christmas.

My home of 23 years has sold. Despite my impatience it has happened at a good time.

There is much to do before I leave on vacation January 14. And much reorganization, packing as well as confirming a purchase and an eventual move. I enter into this Christmas differently as it will be my last in this house. Many have moved before me and many will in this new year 2019. Change is the constant and resistance is not helpful. When it is time, it is the time.

It was the time for Jesus’ birth, and everything aligned for this Miracle Child, even the stars.

Thank you for your prayers and support these last weeks. The sale of my house opens up new possibilities: a different kind of journey and different future, a new garden and home. I live this change with gratitude and trust that everything works together for the best.

May the God who watched over Mary and Joseph on their journey and who aligned the time and season perfectly, lead each of us to Bethlehem and new birth.

And this blessing:

May the eagerness of the shepherds
the joy of the angels,
the perseverance of the Magi,
the faithfulness of Joseph and Mary,
and the peace of the Christ child,
be yours this Christmas! (Celebrate God’s Presence)

Que ce Noël soit pour chacun de nous, 
un occasion d’aller
au-delà de la simple raison et de nous émerveiller;
de laisser notre äme accepter le miracle, même sans le comprendre,
et de nous abandonner totalement au pouvoir 
du Bébé de Bethléem!

A blessed Christmas, Un Noël béni.

Rev. David

Minister's Message: When nothing remains the same: Thou remainest!

You, Master, started it all,
laid earth's foundations,
then crafted the stars in the sky.
Earth and sky will wear out, but not you;
they become threadbare like an old coat;
You'll fold them up like a worn-out cloak,
and lay them away on the shelf.
But you'll stay the same, year after year;
you'll never fade, you'll never wear out.

(Hebrews 1: 10-12, The Message)


I write this blog post to both SouthWest and Emmanuel. In the new reality of sharing my ministry I am experiencing the challenges of reconfiguring time, energy, priorities and being in two very different locations. I am also trusting the new application on my phone called Waze that guides me through the ever changing configurations of traffic jams, bridge closures and rush hour. I am learning to trust that this app can see things that I cannot, from satellite and other unseen locations. It certainly demands me to trust that “it” will get me through to where I need to be.

I need to trust God in the midst of reconfigured ministry, to believe that living one day at a time leads me forward. And that God is worthy of my trust, even when I cannot see a final outcome.

To get to the South Shore from my home in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce adds that extra time that makes what could be an hour commute between SouthWest and Emmanuel into much more. Into the changing realities of life and ministry I have put my house on the market and imagine a relocation outside of the metropolitan area of Montreal where I have lived for some forty years. I am both nervous and excited. I need to better navigate between two locations. And make a choice for my future years.

In the King James Bible that my father read diligently every day, the core text from Hebrews reads:

They shall perish, they shall all wax old
as doth a garment, but thou remainest

I love that affirmation of faith.

One of the strong hymns of my youth is the classic Welsh one, familiar in music and speaking to my spirit in the midst of more life changes. It tells of journey and of pilgrimage and roots me in the faith of my ancestors.

      Guide me, O thou great Jehovah,
      pilgrim through this barren land.
      I am weak, but thou art mighty,
      hold me with thy powerful hand.
      Bread of heaven, bread of heaven,
      feed me till I want no more,
      feed me till I want no more.

      Open now the crystal fountain,
      whence the healing stream doth flow;
      let the fire and cloudy pillar
      lead me all my journey through.
      Strong deliverer, strong deliverer,
      be thou still my strength and shield,
      be thou still my strength and shield.

(VU # 651, William Williams, 1745)

Guide-moi, Berger fidèle,
en ce monde pèlerin,
prends à toi mon cœur rebelle,
guide-moi, sois mon soutien,
pain de vie, pain de vie,
de ta grâce nourris-moi,
de ta grâce nourris-moi.

Christ, tu es la source vive
des biens les plus précieux;
fais que pour toi seul je vive,
guide-moi du haut des cieux;
viens, protège, viens protège,
sois mon roc, mon bouclier,
sois mon roc, mon bouclier.


I’m going to supper with my sons to talk about a changing landscape of relocation and giving up a house and neighbourhood they have known for 23 years. I anticipate hearing from them: Make the best choice for you, you have our love and support, we will visit you no matter where you live Dad. And I anticipate the same sentiment between us as we individually and collectively discern future steps and decisions.

God is our bedrock,

                        our foundation,

                                    our hope.

Even when all changes: Thou remainest!


Rev. David



Women's Circle

SouthWest held its first women's circle On Sunday October 14 with 9 women in attendance.

Thank-you Beryl for your prayerful leadership, honesty and integrity.

There is something profoundly powerful in a group of women sitting in a circle. 

It is:
– A sacred space honoring the uniqueness of each individual
– a place where everyone is equal
– a safe space where you can speak from your heart
– Listening is directed to both individuals who are speaking and the themes, connections, wisdom & energy that is emerging within the context created
– a container that can hold diverse perspectives
– a space for those who identify as women to tell  stories, talk about roles, gifts, concerns & visions.

Our next Women's circle will be held on Sunday November 11 at 11:45am at SouthWest United Church 1445 Clemenceau avenue Verdun.


Minister's Message: All Saints Memorial Celebration


 Annual All Saints Memorial Celebration
at SouthWest United Church, 1445 Clemenceau, Verdun
November 4th, 2018


I heard a voice saying,
“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord   
for they rest from their labours.”   

-       Revelation 14:13

The changing of colours of the fall foliage is spectacular. Leaves are at their most vibrant just before they die and fall to the earth to compost into the soil that will nurture future growth. We know this cycle of endings and new beginnings. We celebrate a hope rooted in Christian faith that death does not have the final word, that there is a rest from labours for those who have died. God holds them close in grace and we in a holy remembrance in our hearts.

 We gather to remember the “brilliant colours” of our loved ones at our All Saints Communion Memorial Tribute on November 4th. Memorial gifts received before the 27th will be included in our printed insert. E-mail or call the office so that we can remember all our loved ones during the service.

 Although we do not not ask for money for funerals, our tradition is the receiving of offerings “in loving memory” to the Memorial Fund. All gifts given to the Fund are gratefully acknowledged and a receipt given for tax purposes. If you have already offered a gift his year, thank you.

 The fall colours, so beautiful and so fleeting, mirror the cycle of our lives and the challenge of our grief, which is to remember, to treasure, and also to let go.


When we are living, it is in Christ Jesus,
and when we’re dying, it is in the Lord.
Both in our living and in our dying,
We belong to God, we belong to God.

                                                     (Voices United, 581)

We hope you can join us at Sunday worship on November 4th at 10 a.m.

Rev. David Lefneski

Dennis Brown, Clerk of Session




Minister's Message: Promises of Life

I journey with many people who stand within the seasons of their lives to speak publicly words of promise. At SouthWest there are four weddings within four weeks. (September 22, Greta Evaristo and Jean-David Mukuna, Lindsay Wight and Alexandre Filip; and on October 13 Lisette Carrier and William Parent, Catrina Mendicino and Philippe Perron).
In each celebration there were personalised vows expressing the life journey that brought the couple to a ceremony of commitment, family, and a clear sounding ‘till death do us part’ love.

In a funeral last week for one of God’s saints, what we often call a celebration of life, words of remembrance were passionately spoken. Through tears and stories, hymns and prayers the resonance of love vibrated deeply. That ‘till death do us part’ love was tangible and powerful. It reminded me of a phrase from Song of Songs, ‘Love is as powerful as death’. (8: 6b-7).

 As parents prepare for upcoming baptisms at both Emmanuel and SouthWest we talk together about a love for their child that draws from deep within parental love. It is rooted in promise and unconditional love.

Our promises model how God has loved us and shown us the depth and breadth of relationship rooted in faith and covenant. Hear this wonderful affirmation of God’s promise in Isaiah (43: 1b-5a):

I have called you by name - you are mine.
When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you...
When you pass through fire, you will not be burnt...
You are precious to me, I love you...
Do not be afraid, I am with you.

 When I hear parents, godparents, family and congregation speaking words of commitment at a child’s baptism, when couples stand before each other and promise love and fidelity, when family and friends speak of a loved one now deceased I feel the energy and passion of words that speak a deep truth: it is the resonance of love’s promises that hold us throughout our lives.

Promises root us every day of our lives, they hold us precious, they remind us that we are not alone. They are part of the rituals that mark the seasons of life with care, community and layers of affection that are the safety net and glue for each generation.

I remember a hymn of my youth with these words:

Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life.
Let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words of life.

It is how I hear and celebrate the sustaining promises of our lives and relationships:

Words of life, ‘till death do us part’.


Rev. David

Minister's Message: Staying the Course

I now live in between two places of ministry and find myself attempting to adapt to new realities. I need to always have that emergency bag with me - tooth brush, razor - and find my way into a new rhythm as we all do in changes within our lives. I have been thinking of this verse:

So let us not become tired of doing good: for if we do not give up, the time will come when we will reap the harvest. (Galatians 6: 9)

There is a lesson in the story of the tortoise and the hare. One was fast and could have easily won, had he not been overly confident and rested during the race. The other just kept plodding along, straight past the finish line. I want to be the plodder, the stick-to-the-path racer, and make it to the finishing line.
Paul writes to a small faith community to not get tired of doing good. When you look for clear results you may not see them in the immediate but if you persist you will reap a harvest.
I see harvest all around me in the Townships with stalls filled with fresh produce from the field. I see the seeds of ministry in Emmanuel and SouthWest and know that we need to not be weary in adjusting to new challenges and to stay the course. Plodders! Not discouraged! And focused on harvest, on the fruit of what we hope for.

The following words are often sung to the tune of Finlandia by Jean Sibelius:

Be still my soul, the Lord is on thy side, bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Trust in your God, your Saviour and your guide, 
who through all changes faithful will remain.
Be still me soul, your best, your heavenly friend
through stormy ways leads to a peaceful end.
(VU 652, Katharina von Schlegel)

These words root me In the soil of hope and faith.
Stay the course through times of change. Keep on plodding on the path of life. And do good, always, with a generous spirit knowing that God sustains us and strengthens us.

Rev. David

Click below to hear Libera Boys Choir sing the hymn referenced above.

SouthWest and Emmanuel United Linked in Body, Mind and Spirit

SouthWest United and  Emmanuel United Church in Cowansville linked in Body, Mind and Spirit through Rev. David

This is it: SouthWest and Emmanuel United have officially been approved by Quebec Presbytery and are experiencing half-time ministry.

On Sunday September 16th, SouthWest was blessed to have former congregant, choir member, Verdunite and now licensed lay leader Beryl Barraclough leading worship (Beryl is currently at Kanesatake United in Oka). Bells and whistles were blown in Beryl’s honor as the school alarms rang unprovoked prior to worship but immediately stopped at 11:15 worship time! Beryl will continue to lead SouthWest in worship, with support from the worship team, the second Sunday of the month.

Beryl Barraclough

Beryl Barraclough

Meanwhile, Rev. David gave his first sermon on Sunday, September 16th as the minister for Emmanuel United Church in Cowansville. Louise Smith of EU wrote the following article that appeared in the Sherbrooke Record:

"After nearly a two year search, the Emmanuel United Congregation was very happy with the choice made. Rev. David has an easy going, gregarious style, that warms the heart and makes each person he speaks to feel special and connected to the collective spiritual entity that makes church a living experience.


Rev. David has been a minister in the SouthWest United Church in Verdun for twenty years. They are going to a half-time ministry and so Emmanuel was blessed to get an experienced minister to have as their half-time minister. Rev. David is fully bilingual, energetic, involved in community services, and he made a good impression during his first official Sunday. "

Minister's Message: Faith leads us into new ways of being

[This month, Rev. David began splitting his time between SouthWest and Emmanuel United (Cowansville Area Pastoral Charge.)]

I knew ministry would be different at Emmanuel when I got lost heading for a meeting with the Worship/Pastoral care/Christian education team.

I took a wrong turn and ended up passing the Cowansville Institution; then I saw soldiers in full military gear doing maneuvers at the side of the road. And at the end of the day, as I followed my Waze app, I encountered three horses riding on the country road just in front of my car. Prison, soldiers and horses, on the same day. You are not in Verdun anymore, Reverend!!

Last Sunday SouthWest adapted to road work at the church and worshipped at the Mission. I had arrived early for another meeting and was present when the Metro Group gathered. They extended a welcome to their open meeting, and I attended my first ever AA group. They appreciated our letting them keep their regular 10h00 time and helped set up the chairs for our 11h15 service, and even left their coffee and milk for our use.

Faith keeps us looking at what can emerge when we move forward and adapt to changing realities. Faith reminds that when we choose life there will be challenges and joys, new friends and new possibilities. Faith sits us down unexpectedly in another group’s meeting and prays with them the Lord’s Prayer.

I am reminded of these words:

Faith, while trees are still in blossom, plans the pickling of the fruit;
Faith can feel the thrill of harvest when the buds begin to sprout.
Long before the rains were coming, Noah went and built an ark.
Abraham, the lonely migrant, saw the light beyond the dark.

Faith believes that God is faithful: God will be what God will be!
Faith accepts the call, responding, “I am willing, Lord, send me.”

(Voices United 643, Anders Frostenson, 1960)

I prayed with brothers and sisters last Sunday this prayer (this is its original version) written by a Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr.

May it be our prayer:

God, give us grace to accept with serenity, the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

Mon Dieu, donne-moi la sérénité d’accepter le choses que je ne peux changer,
le courage de changer les choses que je peux,
et la sagesse d’en connaître la différence

We say/Nous disons: Amen.

Rev. David