Ministry

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.

Beryl

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)

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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.

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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!!!

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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!

Alléluia!

-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, aunts...in 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!

 

Amen.

 

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.

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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 

Easter material for families/ feuillet pour familles à Pâques

The story of Easter – Luke 24

After Jesus’ death, early on Sunday morning, the women who had followed him went to the tomb carrying the spices they had prepared… But, O surprise! the tomb was empty!!!

The body of the Lord Jesus wasn’t there anymore.

Le récit de Pâques – Luc 24

Tôt le dimanche matin, après la mort de Jésus, les femmes qui l’avaient suivi se sont rendues au tombeau en apportant des huiles parfumée. Mais, ô surprise! Le tombeau était vide !!!!

Minister's Message: Easter Life

The Greening of the Earth and our Spirits 

Christ is risen! Alleluia, He is risen indeed!

'Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome...ran from the tomb, distressed and afraid. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.'  Mark 16: 1-8

One could say it is slow in coming each year, the interplay between the ending of winter and the arrival of spring. More sunshine, then cold, gardens starting to sprout then wind and snow. Back and forth like a tug of war. 

The resurrection story in Mark's gospel is profoundly human. It is not the full blown Easter joy of the other Gospels but rather the slow greening of the spirit. It is a story of encounter with the emptiness of both the tomb and the spirit. 

The women who go to the tomb find it empty, hear the angelic proclamation “he is not here, he is risen,” then run away 'distressed and terrified!' And instead of sharing joy they say nothing to anyone because of their fear. 

This is not the more regimented religious version that accommodates the need for full-on certainty and explanation: the one that goes so quickly from death on the cross to resurrection joy and leaves one with whiplash. 

There is progression in the greening of the spirit just like in the greening of the earth. There is room for fear, distress and disbelief. There is not always an immediate turn around, but the slow converting to the light of each place in our hearts, minds and spirit. Resurrection may be an immediate moment but letting the stone be rolled away from my heart takes time. 


When our hearts are wintry, grieving or in pain,
your touch can call us back to life again,
fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
love is come again, like wheat arising green. 

(VU 186, John Crum, 1928, to the tune of Noël Nouvelet.)


May I let the Resurrected One touch my fears, questions and distress. As the earth is renewed this springtime may I be slowly greened in my faith. 

Let the greening begin in me o God! 


A blessed Easter to all of you. 


Rev. David 

Message du Pasteur: Pâques

Joyeuses Pâques!!

En cette fête de Pâques - la fête de la renouvellement de nos esprits et de la terre - nous sortons de l’hiver avec un profond besoin de crier: Alléluia !! Pendant le carême, nous avons suivi les traces de Jésus sur un chemin qui mène à travers le désert, chemin qui implique des sacrifices et des choix difficiles à comprendre pour nous qui vivons en 2019. Une nouvelle vie vient après la souffrance, la joie après la longue nuit de larmes, la résurrection après la croix. Il y a la célébration, mais seulement à la suite de périodes durs.

Que Pâques soit remplie de vie, de joie et de résurrection dans vos cœurs et vos relations, et à travers vous, qu’elle brille dans les dures réalités des gens qui vous entourent. Quand on vous dit: Christ est ressuscité, criez: Alléluia !!

Pasteur David

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