Ministry

Beryl's Blog: Flora and Fauna Sunday

Then God said, "Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them"; and it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. - Genesis 1:11-12 

This Sunday marks our second Sunday in creation and, once again, I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some thoughts from Seasons of The Spirit.  “This world is a fragile thing.  In the song The Stories of the Street, Leonard Cohen wrote We are so small between the stars, yet so large against the sky.  Such a truth reminds us that we can feel at one moment large and important, and at another small and insignificant”.

 This week, our Scripture readings challenge us to see ourselves as a part of God’s created world, as part of the fauna, dependent on the flora, or this amazing thing we call the world.

We will be encouraged to ask ourselves some hard questions:  Where do we fit in?  How does the things we do – and think – and say – affect the world around us?

In our inflated sense of self-importance, it is hard to see that Creator God has things in hand - if only we would get out of the way and recognize that God’s plans for the universe are better than ours!

Some sobering and humbling thoughts as we watch the ice caps melt and the rain forests burn.

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 Please join us for worship this Sunday.

Beryl


Beryl's Blog: The Wonders of Creation

This coming Sunday, September 8th, we will begin the Seasons of Creation in our worship cycle and, over the next four Sundays, we will celebrate Creator’s wondrous gifts to us.

Our first Sunday in Creation is Ocean Sunday and hereunder I share with you a quote from Seasons of the Spirit, a United Church worship resource.

“The vastness of the ocean is the stuff of poets and paint­ers; it is a reality, too. The five oceans of our planet cover over 70% of the surface. Waves pound relent­lessly on shores of every continent as if the land were a mere interruption of the ebb and flow of the water. The oceans are a source of life for all things; the smallest (plankton) and lar­gest (whales) creatures in the world live there. The fascina­tion that humans have with the ocean perhaps mirrors the fascination with the Creator: a sense of familiarity with a few aspects, a brief encounter here and there; enough to know that there is far more we may never grasp or understand”.

As we become more consciously aware of the damage humanity is causing to this wonderful world and as we see more and more images of the plastic and waste which is being dumped into our oceans, jeopardizing its very existence and harming and killing God’s creatures, I am reminded of these words from Psalm 95:5-6 

The sea that he made belongs to him, along with the dry land that his hands formed. Come! Let us worship and bow down; let us kneel in the presence of the Lord, who made us.

 Please join us for worship this Sunday.  Creation needs you!

-Beryl

Beryl's Blog: Gratitude

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Gratitude begins deep within the heart.

It flows outward and it touches all aspects of our days and our living.

As Christians, we are encouraged to cultivate an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness, regardless of life circumstances.

It is not unreasonable to believe that thankfulness and gratitude are good for the human soul and our ability to get along with others; in fact, I would go so far as to suggest that gratitude promotes good manners, makes it easier to sustain old relationships while building new ones, improves our physical and psychological health and, perhaps, might even help you sleep better.

Gratitude should permeate every aspect of our lives.  In fact, many people keep gratitude journals and, at the end of each day, write one thing they are thankful for.  At the end of 365 days, they are amazed to see how many awesome times they were filled with gratitude.

If you are out of the habit of living with gratitude, perhaps it is time to get back into spiritual shape. Every morning, as soon as the alarm goes off, make a habit of thanking Creator God for a new day and asking for guidance as you face the challenges in the hours ahead.

Diana Butler Bass (an American historian of Christianity and a leading voice in progressive Christianity) states “Gratitude is the capacity to stare doubt, loss, chaos and despair right in the eye and say “I am still here”.

Creator wants each of us to reach the potential we were designed for, to live full, happy and productive lives. Gratitude can be a stepping stone to walking that journey.

As the writer of Psalm 118: 24 said “This is the day that the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

I say, Amen.

Beryl

Beryl's Blog: The Most Wonderful Time

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

That T.V. commercial is filling the air again.  It is back to school time.

Most children have had their fill of summer.  They have played with their friends, filled their days with swimming and bike riding, soccer, tennis and family vacations close to home and even abroad. They are suntanned, healthy and well fed. But, even though most of them would not admit it, they are bored and ready for something new. 

For other children, going back to school is a blessing.  They have missed the breakfast and lunch programs which sustained them from September to June.  They have been left to care for and amuse themselves while parents have been working or just not home.  There has been little structure and little joy in their summer time.  Returning to school will bring some sort of stability back into their lives.

As we think about the children who will be boarding buses, riding bikes or walking to their places of education, I would invite each of us to hold them in spirit and pray for their safety throughout the months to come.

Creator God,

Bless all students as they begin another year of school.

Give them peace when they feel nervous, focus when they feel distracted and energy when they feel tired.

Open their minds to the lessons they will need to learn, both in and outside the classroom.

Help them make friends that build one another up, and be a friend to those who need someone to stand with them.

Guide them in making good choices as they grow in wisdom and maturity.

Be ever present with them in the classroom, on the school bus, on the playground and at home.

And, bless them with teachers who fill the classroom with an atmosphere of care and mutual respect. 

Empower administrators and teachers to react with patience and understanding towards all students as they help grow pupils in both knowledge and character.

Help parents encourage their children and understand the challenges and fear of failure that can come with each new year.

Help them have realistic expectations for their sons and daughters that are neither unreachable nor unchallenging.

May they know and feel your loving care in all they do.  Amen.

Beryl

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”.

Beryl

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. 

Beryl


A new perspective on accessibility

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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.



Passages

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.

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

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