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

Minister's Message: Revealing What is Hidden

In the metro heading home I looked around and saw that everyone was using their cell phones, either for emails, texting, games or music. Younger, older, students, teachers, people of all cultures: all with their heads lowered. There were no exceptions!
People appeared tuned out of their immediate surroundings and tuned into other places via the internet. As for me? I looked up, observed this reality and returned to my draft blog post (on my device)!
Remember the buzz a few years ago, that the internet would bring us together? It has, all around the world, but not necessarily to those who are next to us on the metro, bus or even our neighbours next door. Like most things, there is an up side and a down side.

The gospel of Luke (8: 16-18) has the following words of Jesus:

‘No one lights a lamp and covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he sets it on a lampstand, so those who enter can see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, and nothing concealed that will not be known and illuminated. Pay attention, therefore, to how you listen. Whoever has will be given more, but whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken away from him.’

As a community of faith we are all about relationships. With God, through Jesus, with ourselves and others. We are lamps uncovered, not hidden, shining into various situations and lives. It is light that reveals what is concealed and illuminates hearts and minds with grace and hope. At the core of this text is an exhortation as to how we listen and observe.
My experience in the metro is repeated daily for all of us whether in our primary relationships, at the grocery store or when out for a walk. There is less engagement with people; cell phones lower our eyes and we protect ourselves from others. It is a great challenge to look people in the eyes and be present to them as light, in a common humanity and with openness. If we cannot find the way of being light inviting others in relationship then even what we have may be taken from us. For as followers of Jesus we are called in a fundamental and basic way to listen and observe, engage and share, and in seeking authentic relationships to be a compassionate presence to others. What a challenge this has been and remains for all of us.
Risking being light in the metro means lifting my head, putting away my cell phone, and at a minimum, holding in prayer the needs of those surrounding me.
My human gaze, my smile, my openness to engage are conduits of light. 
Are you nervous yet? I am.
Following Jesus is for those courageous disciples who want to live the intersection of faith and everyday life. If there is hope for ‘church’ it is in seeking out and living human contact in the every day. It is in sharing the story of faith.

Bless O God, our human regard, our eyes with compassion and our hearts with the willingness to be present to those lives intersecting with us everyday. 
Grant us courage to be present to others and ourselves.

Rev. David

Minister's message: Remembering Together

It is one of the things best done in community. Whether a celebration of life service, a candle lighting or gentle prayer, we remember those who die. We pause to give thanks for life, always, and believe that life is sacred both at birth and at death.
Faith expresses itself often through music. One of my favorite hymns was written by Nathalie Sleeth (Voices United 703):

In the bulb, there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
in cocoons, a hidden promise; butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there's a spring that waits to be,
unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

My Mom made a stole filled with images of life, death and rising again: the sun awakening our gardens in the spring, the transformation of caterpillars, the resiliency of nature. I wear it with gratitude and pride. Hope roots our celebrations. Death does not have the final word. Paul wrote: "If Christ has not been raised from death, then you have nothing to believe.//But the truth is that Christ has been raised from death as the guarantee that those who sleep in death will also be raised." (1 Corinthians 15: 14, 20). This is our hope.
Over the weekend we remembered together,
Ruth Davie Harrison in a celebration of life at l’Actuelle Funeral home;
John Whitehead in the lighting of a Memorial Candle during Sunday worship by his family;
Baby Noah William Durocher McKeirnon in the presence of those who loved him.
We express our condolences to all families in their time of loss.
We root ourselves in hope and affirm that in the bulb there is a flower!

Rev. David

Un bour-geon cache u-ne ro-se; un pé-pin donne un pom-mier;
les co-cons mé-ta-mor-pho-sent, les pa-pil-lons co-lo-rés !
Dans l’hi-ver et ses froi-du-res dé-jà se tient le prin-temps:
se ré-vè-lent tes pro-mes-ses, Dieu, si mer-veil-leu-se-ment.

Singing Through Changes

There is a song in my heart in the midst of changes that both myself and SouthWest are facing as of September, 2018.

One more step along the world I go, one more step along the world I go,
from the old things to the new, keep me travelling along with you.
Round the corner of the world I turn, more and more about the world I learn,
all the new things that I see you’ll be looking at along with me.

We sang this song in the closing service of Verdun United Church in 2007 as SouthWest was named through an amalgamation with Crawford Park.

We sang it with hope, faith and a willingness to face an uncertain future.

We sang it in our new reality of two locations for our ministry: one in Crawford Park and the other in Verdun Elementary School.

We will sing it again on September 9, 2018 as we begin worshiping for two months during roadwork on Clémenceau at the Mission (11h15 service time).

From full to half time is a lot of change, for myself and everyone.

Reorganising how worship, pastoral care (Intouch) and the life of our faith community prepares for a different future than the one we have known these last eleven years needs much determination and courage.

How do I respond to these changes? I can long for the past, bemoan our circumstances, be critical, or just hide my head in the sand.

I choose to sing my faith and root myself in God’s faithfulness experienced over the last 19 years of ministry with the United Church in Verdun. I choose to believe that God is in our midst as the ground shifts under our feet and we face yet more decisions about our future. I choose to serve Jesus through generous love, service, celebration and seeking justice here where we live. I choose life and song!

As I prepare for a different and emerging model of shared time with its inherent challenges, I imagine how we will be ‘church’ together, both here at SouthWest and at Emmanuel in Cowansville. There are so many things to sort out and it will take time, patience, graciousness and lots of grace for this to work.

Jesus said to his disciples as he commissioned them to be his presence in the world: ‘I will be with you always, to the end of the age!’ (Matthew 28:20b).

I live in this promise, and sing:

Give me courage when the world is rough, keep me loving though the world is tough,
leap and sing in all I do, keep me travelling along with you.

And it’s from the old I travel to the new, keep me travelling along with you! 

(Sydney Carter, 1971, Voices United 639).

Your Minister,

Rev. David

An Emerging Model: Sharing our Minister

On July 15, 2018 SouthWest Congregation gave its approval for a half-time minister. Rev. David accepted this decision which offers the gift of time (financially) for SouthWest to discern thoughtfully and faithfully its future as a worshipping congregation within the community.

On August 19, 2018 Emmanuel United in Cowansville voted unanimously for a half-time minister, and agreed to call Rev. David to their congregation.

This is our new reality, actions, and a state of being. SouthWest and Emmanuel United are linked with a half-time minister each, sharing a ministry with a spirit of generosity. A small team from SouthWest and Emmanuel "broke bread" and drafted an overview of 2018-2019.

On the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month, Rev. David will lead us in worship at SouthWest. (Exceptionally, this September he will be present on September 9 and September 23). During the week, Rev. David will be formally available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to SouthWest; Thursdays and Fridays at Emmanuel. The remaining Sundays each month will be led by our worship team and other sources within our community.

The priorities for his time are worship, pastoral care and preparing the way for a more independent Mission.

SouthWest executive, worship and Intouch teams are meeting to establish structure, responsibility and accountability with our Minister in his half-time role, and to understand what sharing our Minister with Emmanuel United means locally, within our community and Presbytery.

Our vulnerabilities are not weaknesses but powerful reminders to keep our hearts and minds open to the reality that we are all in this together. We are in movement towards a redefined future.
Yes, with a generosity of spirit and open-heartedness that flows freely and touches anyone who can feel it.
Not manipulative
No strings attached.
Gospel filled.

- Darlene Halfyard, Chair of SouthWest Council

Minister's Message: Bearing Fruit

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit--fruit that will last--and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. (John 15:16)

It is the season when we look to the fields and gardens for harvest. The seeds were planted many months ago and we worried over the heat and lack of water. But now we are entering the time when local produce will fill grocery shelves and even our own Mini Market.
When I graduated in 1981 from Eastern Pentecostal Bible College in Peterborough, Ontario a theme verse was chosen for our class, John 15:16. It says that we have been chosen to bear fruit, lasting fruit, that will benefit the world. Our purpose is woven to God’s love and generous giving, in the same way as Jesus was sent into the world we are called and sent to be agents of change. It sounds simple and outward looking. But my experience is that Christians seem more self focused and interested in inviting the world into their churches, cathedrals and places of worship than being a harvest in the world, accessible for those who need us wherever they are found.
I walked in Pte Claire Village recently and visited the historic Paroisse St. Joachim on the waterfront. As you leave the church you face a golden statue of Jesus blessing you. I liked that Jesus was outside the church and that his blessing was to be on ministry of Christians to the world outside of church.
We are a harvest bearing fruit that so many need, signs of hope, love, generosity and life.
As Jesus was sent we are also sent, into the world.
Enjoy the harvest this summer and be the harvest for people around you.

Rev. David


Worship to be Relocated in September

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. A time to be born, a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.

You may have heard words similar to these in a song recorded by Pete Seeger in the 1950s, but they are originally from Ecclesiastes 3 in the King James Bible. This is SouthWest’s season to pluck up and be planted, re-potted, prepare for the seasonal change.

We will be exploring new directions and transformations, relocations and rethinking worship and ministry. Our culture is shifting.
The roads are definitely shifting! 
To reach a shifting culture, the way we see Church needs to change rapidly!

We don’t need to change the message of love of life, grace, faith, integrity and hope, just the method!

With road construction to begin shortly on Clemenceau severely limiting access to the church for about 2 months, this is our opportunity; so SouthWest is shifting temporarily its worship time, place, and ministry.

As of Sunday September 9:

11:15am Worship
(Doors open at 11:00am)
at SouthWest Mission
631 Melrose avenue

Light lunch fellowship to follow!

Carpooling is encouraged.
Taxi sharing too (taxi-chits will be available)

Yes it is:


BUT it is also

Renewing the spirit
A vision of body, mind and spirit.

What will it look like?! Whatever we choose it to be!

Proverbs 29:18 (KJV)reads,

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

Darlene  Halfyard,
Chair of council


Minister's Message: Cornerstones

Cornerstones: the symbols and realities of faith!

Last week, I walked by the the former Verdun United Church that was sold in 2007 to the Buddhist Benevolence Association. It has since been resold to another Temple and continues to be used for worship. It is no longer ours; we have moved into a new reality of worship and ministry over the last 11 years. I paused and looked at the cornerstone: 


That memorial stone is still there and remains a witness to the work of our forefathers and mothers who built that building, worshipped and lived their faith. There are many local cornerstones of our history: Chalmers (Church Ave), St Lawrence (LaSalle), Eglise Béthanie (Wellington), St Paul (Cote St Paul) and Crawford Park now SouthWest.

When Jesus said: I am the bread of life, the bread that God gives is he who comes from heaven and gives life (John 6: 33,35) he invited people hearing him to go from the Manna they received in the desert to hearing him, God’s Son, as living bread. It is not an easy thing to see beyond the symbols to a living faith that leads us from our past histories into an ongoing and living relationship.

 The old Verdun United building still stands at 650 Woodland ave.

The old Verdun United building still stands at 650 Woodland ave.

When some bemoan the state of the church, the changes to our institutions or losses we experience I look not to the brick and mortar of buildings but rather a living Christ inviting us to journey together in faith.

I look from the cornerstones of our history to the one who is the Cornerstone of our faith, Jesus Christ. (see Acts 4: 1-10, 1 Peter 2: 4-8, Romans 9:33).

Samuel Stone wrote a hymn in 1866, The Church's One Foundation, that Laurence Stookey adapted in 1983. It affirms that faith is what remains always vibrant, alive and moving forward through the ages. Faith roots us in the changes of addresses or buildings.

The Church's one foundation is Jesus Christ our Lord,
We are his new creation, by water and the Word.
From heaven he came and sought us, that we might ever be
his living servant people, by his own death set free.

et en français:

L'église universelle a pour roc Jésus Christ;
elle est l'oeuvre nouvelle que sa parole fit.
Habitant le ciel même, il vint se l'attacher,
et, par un don suprême,mourut pour la sauver!

Blessings on each us in a growing, sustaining faith.

Rev. David

Passages: Joyce Healy


HEALY, Joyce (nee Tainsh) 1932 - 2018
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Joyce at the age of 86, peacefully, with family by her side. Wife of the late Gerry Healy, she will be missed by her children Julie, Michael and Dawn (Gareth), her brother Bill (Nora), sister Heather (late Stan) and sisters-in-law Tippy (late Jimmy), Noreen, Jeanine (late Jimmy) and many nieces and nephews.
The family welcomes family and friends for visitation on Thursday, August 9, 2018 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., at : Yves Légaré Lasalle, 7200 Boul. Newman, LaSalle, H8N 1X2.
A celebration of Joyce's life will be held on Friday, August 10, 2018 at 11:00 a.m. at SouthWest United Church, 1445, Rue Clémenceau,Verdun ,Qc with a reception to follow.
The family would like to extend their gratitude to the doctors and nurses at the Lachine Hospital for their wonderful support and care. A donation to  SouthWest United Memorial Fund would be appreciated.

Footnote: Joyce was the secretary at Verdun Elementary School for some 10 years and started the clothing room there which for the last ten years has been run by SouthWest Mission.

Minister's Message: Summertime

For some the summer starts when you can take walks in the coolness of the evening at the end of day. Or when the first produce is ready from your garden. It could be the great variety of birds at your backyard feeder.
My favorite summer hymn is:

For the fruit of all creation, thanks be to God.
For the gifts to every nation, thanks be to God.
For the ploughing, sowing, reaping, silent growth while we are sleeping,
Future needs in earth’s safe-keeping, thanks be to God.

                                                                     (Fred Pratt Green, 1970, VU 227)

The image of silent growth reminds us of all the many things that happen behind the scenes that give life taste: from the cooking in the kitchen, the weeding of the garden, the laundry hanging on the clothesline. That work brings a satisfaction of produce, meals, fresh clothes. It is the hard work that lets us sit at the table and enjoy the sharing and blessing together.
And at the meal we say: thanks be to God.



Rev. David