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

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