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

Palm/ Passion Sunday April 14

Worship this Sunday, led by Beryl Barraclough, will take us through the Passion story, from the Last Supper to the crucifixion and burial. Versions of the Passion can be found in all four Gospels, but this year we will be hearing readings from Luke.

 Volunteers are preparing a bake sale to take place directly after the service. There will also be sandwiches available to buy and raffle tickets for various prizes.

Beryl will also lead a Women’s Circle in the sanctuary at about 11:30.

Minister's Message: Learning How to Die

Holy Week begins this Monday and the darkest days of the Christian pilgrimage will begin. The Passion story is one of heaviness, betrayal, sacrifice and violence. The seven last words of Jesus spoken from the cross invite us into the intimacy of his last hours. They are a living testament to his life, faith, and the relationships that sustained him and speak to the complexity of believing even when senseless death makes a mockery of good people whose life was focused on selflessness and generosity. We cannot make sense of the senseless and need to accept that shadow, injustice and darkness are a part of living. Following Jesus into his last days and listening to his words from the cross may give us insight as to how we may both live and die.

The holy week hymn, Go to Dark Gethsemane (James Montgomery, 1820, VU 133) has this verse:

Calvary’s mournful mountain view;
there the Lord of glory see,
made a sacrifice for you,
 dying on the accursèd tree.
“It is finished,” hear his cry:
trust in Christ and learn to die.

 I have accompanied many people at their end of life. The idea that trusting Jesus helps me learn to die is one I like. As I hear his anguish, his letting go, his forgiveness and ultimate hope I want to both live and die in these values and faith Jesus inspires.

Read his last words in a moment of meditativeness.
Begin with a prayer:

Help me God to follow Jesus even to his death on a cross.
Teach me the meaning of living and dying in hope.
May I trust in Christ as I live into the darkness of death.

Pray for those who are experiencing violence, hatred and torture, for those who are dying alone and those who need hope and grace.

1. Luke 23:34: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
2. Luke 23:43: Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.
3. John 19:26–27: Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother
4. Matthew 27:46 & Mark 15:34 My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
5. John 19:28: I thirst.
6. John 19:30: It is finished. (From the Greek "Tetelestai" which is also translated "It is accomplished", or "It is complete".)
7.    Luke 23:46: Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.

 Let us listen to Jesus in his dying words.

Let us follow him into darkness and learn how to die.

 Rev. David


Minister's message: Couch Surfing Like Jesus

Where did Jesus sleep during his three year nomadic, public and prophetic ministry? The Gospels tell of his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus where he would stay when near Jerusalem. Did their hospitality include a guest bedroom or did they share a straw-filled mattress on the ground? I am thinking of accommodations as I no longer have a home in Montreal. I spent a night on my son’s Verdun couch this week. Although a bonding moment, it was not my bed! I walked to and from the Mission, a healthy choice, and lived from a small knapsack. The couch was a step up from an air mattress.  

Listen to this story of Jesus’ sleeping habits.

As they were walking along the road, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow You wherever You go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” Then He said to another man, “Follow Me.” The man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

(Luke 9: 57-59)

In another gospel, Jesus was sleeping in the hull of the boat when the storm came (Matthew 8: 23-27). He must have been tired and slept where, and as, able.

I imagine that Jesus knew what couch surfing was about as he had no place to call his own. Interesting to remember that when he responded to Spirit’s call, he gave up everything: home, address, carpentry career, family responsibilities… he became an itinerant preacher - staying where he was welcomed or under the open sky, living in the moment and with what he could carry. 

For someone who has a few thousand books this is a hard word to hear: How many books can I carry?

My mother and sister come to visit the new house today. Garden plans, the placing of quilts and the enjoying of this new space will be part of this weekend. My mother said that I am not downsizing but rather upsizing (like at McDonald’s?) and living in my dream house. It is true that I now enjoy an attached garage with an electric door opener and a central vac, just like my mom! (No competition there.) 

These are change-filled days with so much to do. 

Living the balance between Jesus’ call and the reality of our lives, in the preciousness of each moment life offers us, following as a disciple, willing to give up everything or at a minimum to not be consumed with possessions is our challenge. 

I enjoy the Iona Community song that says:

First-born of Mary, provocative preacher,
itinerant teacher, outsider’s choice;
Jesus inspires and disarms and confuses whoever he chooses to hear his voice.

 (John L. Bell, 1998, MV 110)

 I pray in this Lenten season to lessen my hold on things, to accept changes that, while challenging, are for my well-being.

I pray for those whose only option for sleeping is a couch, or under the open sky or in a refugee tent.

I pray to hear the call of Jesus to live life fully, to love deeply and to appreciate the travelling companions and hospitality offered along the way. 

I pray that Jesus inspires, disarms and confuses me.


 Rev. David


Moderator's Prayer: Counter Terror With God's Peace

Forty-nine people murdered.
More than forty others wounded.
In Christchurch.
At worship. 
At prayer.

Forty-nine people murdered.
More than forty others wounded.
For one reason:
because they were Muslim.

Forty-nine people murdered.
More than forty others wounded.
Hundreds grieving the death of family and friends.
Thousands even more afraid
for their loved ones and for themselves.

Forty-nine people murdered.
More than forty others wounded.
Because of fear, turned into rhetoric,
turned into anger, turned into
white supremacist hatred.

It is time to pray.
It is time to act.

It is time to stand, together,
to counter acts of hatred, 
large or small,
with acts of love;
to counter acts of hatred, 
wherever we encounter them,
with all that we have and all that we are;
to counter terror
with God's peace.


And my prayer, this day?
God... help us to do so.

—A prayer in response to the March 2019 New Zealand mosque attacks by the Right Rev. Richard Bott, originally posted on Facebook. Moderator Bott encourages the sharing of prayers he posts throughout his term.

Minister's Message: Hello and Good-bye?!

The first night in my new house was last Thursday. Compared to Montréal, it was very, very quiet, although a very empty house. I woke up at four o’clock when my hip hit the floor, the air mattress had lost its air, and had a blurry moment of: Where am I? What happened to my bed?

The Lenten journey is calling us. The ashes of anointing on Ash Wednesday, made from last year’s palms, will also be available at Emmanuel for the first Sunday of Lent. They speak of the cost of following Jesus on a journey that makes difficult decisions and ends in sacrifice and death.

These days I am very conscious of changes, transitions and endings.

I read my letter of resignation at SouthWest last Sunday, a deeply emotional experience. It was a goodbye after almost two decades of ministry, of shared journey, challenges and joys.

To quote my written words:

I have served Crawford Park and Verdun United Churches since the summer of 1999 and grown with you through many changes including the amalgamation of SouthWest and the beginning of SouthWest Mission in 2007.
The number of baptisms, weddings and funerals (which we call Celebrations of Life) are of historical record. The number of worship services, sermons and prayers? A lot, I would say.
As two decades come to a close and yet more changes lay ahead I discern some new challenges for me.

My years with you have been rooted in a generous gospel, one that reached into the wider community with radical hospitality, deep joy and inclusion.
SouthWest has transformed my life and I am grateful.
Thank you for the blessing that has been mine to serve you.

With love...

The very first hymn I sang in the Dunham United Church during my internship in 1998-1999 was VU 633. Its prayer language and hope touched me as I left the Presbyterian Church to join the United Church. It was also sung last Sunday at SouthWest.

Bless now, O God, the journey
that all your people make,
the path through noise and silence,
the way of give and take.
The trail is found in desert
and winds the mountain round,
then leads beside still waters,
the road where faith is found.
Bless sojourners and pilgrims
who share this winding way,
whose hope burns through the terrors,
whose love sustains the day.
We yearn for holy freedom
while often we are bound.
Together we are seeking
the road where faith is found.

(Sylvia Dunstan, 1989)

As the move continues forward slowly, and beds will make their way into freshly painted rooms, I am grateful for life and love. The next months before officially leaving SouthWest at the end of May will be emotional and busy.

As we together move into our Lenten journey we are ever surrounded by brothers and sisters in faith that are with us in all the challenges ahead.

We are rooted in faith, hope and love!

With love,

Rev. David

Minister's Message: The Lenten Journey / La route du Carême 2019

Throughout the Gospels we hear Jesus’ invitation: Follow me!

That call still resonates as Christians around the world prepare to experience the 40 days of Lent starting on Ash Wednesday. The scriptures in Lent invite us to reflexion, repentance and a fearlessness of an engaged faith in the everyday of life. (Please see the Lenten Covenant prepared By Darlene Halfyard).

Let's answer the call to follow that leads to some difficult places.

A powerful Holy Week hymn sings:

Go to dark Gethsemane
you that feel the tempter’s power; 
your Redeemer’s conflict see;
watch with him one bitter hour;

turn not from his grief away:
learn from him to watch and pray.
See him at the judgement hall,

beaten, bound, reviled, arraigned;
see him meekly bearing all;
love to all his soul sustained.

Shun not suffering, shame, or loss:
learn from Christ to bear the cross.

(James Montgomery, 1820, VU 133)

There is an unusual tradition in the Christian church of burning the palms of the previous years Palm Sunday, and by adding oil make an anointing paste. Those ashes, placed on our hands or forehead are a visual affirmation of our yes to Jesus’ call. Ashes symbolize mortality and need for grace. They remind us: You are going to die one day so live life preciously, passionately, with gratitude and thoughtfulness.

For me this is the core idea in John’s gospel (12: 24). I am telling you the truth, a grain of wheat remains no more than a single grain unless it is dropped into the ground and dies. If it dies, then it produces many grains. As we follow Jesus we learn how to live and how to die.

Let us learn at our Master's feet and follow where he leads us, together.

Suivons Jésus dans cette route de Carême, ensemble.

Rev. David

God our Creator,

you have formed us out of the dust of the earth.

May these ashes be to us

a sign of our mortality and penitence,

so that we may remember

that only by your gracious gift

are we given everlasting life;

through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen. (VU 106)

Prayer for the anointing at

Ash Wednesday (SouthWest, March 6, and communion Sunday at Emmanuel, March 10.)

Minister's Message: Being Born Again

I read the story of Jesus’ baptism at SouthWest’s monthly outreach services in the community this week where some 36 residents attended in three locations. When I left on vacation following Epiphany Sunday with the visit of the Magi at both Emmanuel and SouthWest, Jesus was still young. In a few days it will be Lent and I realized that I needed to hear a gospel story about choosing life before Jesus’ impending death.

 At the Jordan (Matthew 3: 13-17, Mark 1: 9-11, Luke 3: 21-23) Jesus asks his cousin John the Baptist to baptise him. John dresses weirdly, eats unusual foods, lives in the desert and preaches with that loud shouting voice like a televangelist, calling his listeners to profound life change. John immerses in water those willing to repent. Jesus is also baptised in the spirit of new life and profound change, and leaves behind his old ways. He rises, determined to live God’s way.

This is a powerful and dramatic moment and the beginning of his ministry. He leaves under the waters his responsibilities as the eldest son, his financial obligation for his mother and siblings. He puts away the work of carpenter whose skill he learned from his adoptive father Joseph. He will no longer have an address, or his own bed or home. He will be like a Buddhist monk begging with his bowl at the door, living off the generosity of others. His only focus will be to live God’s way of radical hospitality and inclusion that will shake up, as John did before him, the social and religious status quo. What an example!

We need the release and power that comes from letting go so new possibilities may emerge.

It is sad news to hear that the SouthWest Mission that for 12 years, and with the generosity of SouthWest congregation, has served the Verdun community out of its rented space in the Verdun Elementary School will close its doors at the end of the school year. The Breakfast Club, community meals, mini market and light filled space have blessed so many.

Sometimes the letting go of ministry, space, or downsizing is following Jesus’ example. As he let go in baptism waters: needs, other more earthly expectations, personal dreams; he trusted God, that one can only move forward into a different future when one emerges from the waters into new life.

Lent is around the corner, as is following Jesus into places of temptation, sorrow and death. For now, we let ourselves be led into the water, to a place of letting go and rising to new life by God’s Grace. To live new life and even profound changes, every day.

Rev. David

“When Jesus comes to be baptised,
he leaves the hidden years behind,
the years of safety and of peace,
to bear the sin of humankind.

The Spirit of the Lord comes down,
anoints the Christ to suffering,
to preach the word, to free the bound,
and to the mourner comfort bring.”

 (VU 100, Stanbrook Abby, 1974)

image: Baptism of Christ, by David Zelenka