Monday, February 12, 2018

Special Music for Good Friday


   
As a special service for Good Friday, Larry and the choir are rehearsing The Crucifixion by Sir John Stainer. The work is new to us but is a staple of the church choir repertoire. Of course, in Stainer's time church choirs were bigger so we're working to augment our forces for this presentation.

Extra singers are invited to the first hour of rehearsal on Thursday nights to practice, and will perform with us on Good Friday morning. There is still time for more singers to join. If you're looking for a short-term musical commitment, come talk to Larry on Sunday or call the church office, 250 656-2241.

The Crucifixion is scored for tenor and baritone soloists, mixed choir, and organ, although our performance may include a string quartet. Like Bach's great St. Matthew Passion, the Crucifixion, includes choruses, chorales, recitatives and arias.

Stainer never claimed the designation, "oratorio" for his work. Instead, he titled it "a meditation," and intended it to form an integral part of the Anglican service. He even wrote several simple hymns so that the congregation can join in the singing.

The Rev. William Sparrow-Simpson, compiled the libretto for the work, alternating between Biblical narrative and newly composed poetry expressing the Christian's response to the events of Good Friday.

Critical opinion of The Crucifixion is varied. At its first performance it was well-received, then fell out of favour as being "Victorian sentimentality." Nevertheless, the work continues to be performed in the present day, and, 118 years after the composer's death, musical scholars recognize the enduring value of some of the movements, especially the unaccompanied setting of ‘God so loved the world.’ Of the five hymns composed for congregational participation Cross of Jesus must be counted amongst the finest of all hymn-tunes.

While The Crucifixion, is not in the same league as Bach's monumental Passions, or Handel's Messiah, let us remember that Stainer never set out to rival those works. Rather, his intention was to provide a Passiontide cantata that was within the scope of most parish choirs. Perhaps that modest ambition has contributed to the works enduring place in sacred music. Church choirs can sing it, and they do, year after year.

This year you can hear it at 10:00am on Friday, March 30, at SPPC.












Monday, February 5, 2018

Amazing Grace - Book Report



Book review by Linda Cliff

What’s so Amazing About Grace was written in 1997 by Philip Yancey.  The book examines grace in Christianity, a central theme in the bible but often absent in the Christian church, which seems to focus on immorality rather than forgiveness.   Yancey tells a convincing story of how the world has a difficult time identifying Christians with grace.

The book is easy to read as Yancey uses personal stories, Bible stories and accounts from history to reveal what the Bible teaches us about grace.  The book is divided into four parts.  Each part begins with an illustrative story of grace and how it is revealed by Christians and the church.  
    The author argues that many of the activities carried out by the church (social justice, community service) have secular counterparts but only the Church can offer grace- as it comes from God.   Yancey gives examples of  ungrace in the Evangelical churches of America, he talks of the rule bound legalistic lives of Christians that can effectively shut out sinners.  
     He talked about racism and how he was taught within his own congregation that people of colour were not welcome in the church building or programs He then explored this belief that he himself held and by looking at the life led by Jesus he came to understand that  many of the practices of Christians were about ungrace.  

    At times I found that many of the historical references in the book seemed out of date as the world was very different in 1997.  
    The last part of the book was titled “Grace Notes for a Deaf World” and looked at the evangelical church in America and how there has been an increasing involvement in government.  When I read this section I found that if  looked at what he was saying through the lens of the current political climate in the United States, I was able to understand  the support given to the current president by some evangelical Christians. 

This book was well received by both the secular and Christian readers.  It is a book that will have you look at your prejudices through the eyes of grace.   A few years back there was a movement that asked you to think “what would Jesus have done” before you did or said something.  I found that reading this book has done the same for me.    I recommend What’s so Amazing About Grace as another avenue to explore the message of the gospels. It is available in our church library.

 Side Note: As a Birthday present for Alice, the editor of this Blog, I promised 12 book reviews. This is the first and I am looking for other books to read.  If you have suggestions please let us know and I will add them to my reading list. 


 Editor's Note:  A great birthday present.  Thank you, Linda.


Monday, January 29, 2018

Loneliness


   
Birthday celebration for Blanche at Friendship Coffee
The CBC news recently report that parliament in the UK has appointed a "Minister for Loneliness," following the report of the Jo Cox Commission that nine million people in the realm suffer from loneliness. 

     It may seems odd that a government tasked with national defence, public education, hospitals, roads, railways and a myriad of other large portfolios, would concern itself with the individual well-being of a few misfits in society.  Except, the number is in the millions and they aren't misfits or misanthropes.
   The elderly make up a good portion of the lonely. They've attended the funerals of most of their friends.  Their families have grown and left home.  Neighbours have moved to other parts of the country.  Gradually a senior's social circle shrinks to nothing.
    But seniors aren't the only ones at risk of loneliness. Teenagers who feel they don't fit in at school; university students who hide in a dorm room rather than face the sense of isolation they feel in the classroom; new parents overwhelmed with the needs of a baby and the loss of the work environment; empty-nesters; the unemployed; the disabled.  The face of loneliness is as varied as all of society.
    The growing phenomenon of loneliness has reached epidemic proportions on a global scale.  Experts believe it is responsible for as many deaths as obesity or smoking.  It has also been linked to increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. 

     The "cure" for loneliness lies in many areas--reconnect with nature, find a hobby, get a pet-- to name a few, but the most obvious solution is to connect with caring, engaged people.  That's where a congregation is your greatest resource. At SPPC we have whole committees devoted to ministering to the lonely.  We have hospital visitors, in-home visitors, prayer chain, Sunshine lunch, volunteer drivers, Bible Study, grief and loss support group, Friendship coffee--the list goes on.  
    Our church is open to the community in all these areas, but often people think our compassion is reserved for members of the congregation.  Not so.  To address this misconception, we are reaching out and advertising some regular events, offering a refuge for the lonely around us.

    The slogan attached to our mission statement includes, "a warm welcome awaits you."  The statement is true.  If you're feeling lonely, or even if you're not. come join us, for coffee, for worship, for study, and for friendship.


   







Monday, January 22, 2018

Holy, Holy, Holy


Bible Study resumes at SPPC this week, with a video series by R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God.  

If you've attended previous Bible studies, you've heard Rev. Irwin on this subject before.  Holy, holy, holy, is the Jewish form of superlative. In scripture, only God is designated as holy, holy, holy.  As the hymn says, "there is none beside Thee."  The holiness of God is central to our faith and our understanding. But just what does the term "holy" mean?  A dictionary definition says

  • specially recognized as or declared sacred by religious use or authority; consecrated:
  • exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness.
  • morally and spiritually excellent

 But these definitions fall short of capturing the holiness of God.  The first example suggests that human institutions declare a thing holy.  But God was holy before that. The second and third meanings convey an element of comparison.  But none is comparable to God.

Dr. R.C. Sproul says, “The holiness of God affects every aspect of our lives—economics, politics, athletics, romance—everything with which we are involved.”
I look forward to some lively discussion around the topic in the coming weeks.  
All are welcome to attend the study sessions. I've gone to Bible Study for several years now.  At first I was reluctant -- expecting to be bored by a stodgy lecture--but now I'm eager for each new session to begin.  The format is discussion more than lecture.  The people are friendly and willing to listen.  The coffee is hot and the goodies are plentiful.
If you've been thinking of trying Bible study but haven't gotten there yet, why not try this one?  A video series is a change of pace.  It's not a long study--like Revelations!--and it's still too cold to garden.

  Classes are held at the church at 9:30am and 7:00pm on Wednesdays.







Monday, January 15, 2018

Seen Around

First of all, I'd like to say thank you to everyone who sang happy birthday to me last Sunday. and to those who organized a cake and all who came to wish me well following the service.  Reaching a milestone birthday is somewhat startling, since I feel the same this week as I did the week before.  Always good to remember "our times are in his hands."


I was looking over our church calendar and noticed "pastoral office hours" on Thursday and Friday mornings.  Apparently this designation has been there for a while, but it was the first time I noticed it.  I asked Rev. Irwin for details, and he said those were "interrupt-able" hours when he would be in the church.  So, if you want a quick word with the minister, Thursday and Friday mornings is a good time for it.  Of course, if you want a longer word, you can always make an appointment.

At SPPC we've always taken the duty of hospitality to heart.  We are a welcoming church.  This term we've tried to extend our welcome by placing notices in the Peninsula News Review inviting newcomers to Friendship Coffee and to choir practice.  We'll do the same for bible Study when the new session starts later this month.  We're also placing a sandwich board at the driveway to invite passersby to come in and try those activities.  Of course, members of the congregation are always welcome --and encouraged-- to come for coffee or to join the choir.

Jeremiah 29:11

Monday, January 8, 2018

Gifts

With the celebration of Epiphany on January 6, the twelve days of Christmas comes to a close.  Time to put away the decorations, take out the tree, catalogue the gifts and write thank-you notes. I generally let my new gifts sit under the tree from Christmas to New Year's--a highly effective method of procrastination-- but now comes the time for decision.  
Some of the gifts were edible so that makes life easy.  In fact, most of the chocolate is already consumed.  Apparently those gifts will be stored on the hips for some time to come.  
Candles have been lit and allowed to burn down.  
Socks!  This was the year of socks in my house.  I received several pair and I gave away a number.  Ever notice how gift ideas come in waves?  Anyway, I've cleared out worn out hosiery in my top drawer and found space for my many new socks.
Top of my wish list every year is books.  There was a stack of new ones under the tree, proof that Santa does read those letters. I'll have no trouble finding a place for new books on my shelves.
  Among the new volumes was Jan Karon's latest Mitford book, To Be Where You Are.  I've mentioned this author before.  We have a number of her Mitford books in our library.  She hasn't published anything new for a while, so I was glad to find the cast of Mitford characters back in their charmingly eccentric lives between the covers of a book.  
   There was a new, hand-made tree ornament.  I've quite a collection of those little gems now, some made by the donor, some purchased at a bazaar and wrapped up for me.  Each year I take out my mementos and remember the friend to gave it.  There is room in my Christmas storage boxes for such tokens of friendship.
   I'm happy to report I received no "practical" gifts like mixing bowls, or vacuum cleaners or toaster ovens.  Those are essential items for a household, and I'm happy to have them -- just not as gifts to me.  They are gifts to the kitchen!  
   One friend replaced a broken teacup in my good china.  I took that as a very personal and thoughtful present.  There's room for it in the china cupboard.
  So, I've done pretty well at finding space for my gifts.  But there is one more, one we all received,the most precious gift of all, Jesus, Emmanuel, God with Us. Comforter, Wonderful Counsellor, The Mighty God.  No trouble finding a place for Him.  Our hearts were designed to hold the Saviour.

   Happy New Year, Happy Epiphany, 

Monday, January 1, 2018

A Month of Sundays

The rules of the calendar meant that Christmas Day and New Year's Day fell on Monday this year, which meant Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve were on Sundays.  That unusual chronology proved awkward for me.  I felt like we had three Sundays in one week.  I had to keep looking at my appointment calendar to verify what day of the week we were really on and if I had commitments for that time.  Having a newly retired husband didn't help. Every day has seemed like Saturday since he went on permanent vacation.  I told my friend, that December had felt like a month of Sundays.

Then I looked up "month of Sundays."  As we all know, it denotes a very long time--about 30 weeks if you want to be literal about it.  One definition suggests that "a month of Sundays" means not only a long time, but a leisurely time, since Western culture still regards Sunday as a day off from our usual hustle and bustle.  Another entry suggests the expression, first recorded in 1832, was used to denote a long, dreary time, since no one was supposed to have fun on Sundays.  No games, no books but the Bible, no movies, no dances, in extreme cases, no visitors.
Given what happened in December at SPPC, we did not have a month of Sundays. We were neither idle nor dreary, what with a Christmas tea on Sunday, a carol-sing on Sunday, a recipe book to purchase, decorations to put up, a Sunshine lunch, fund-raisers, and three church services in a day and a half.  

All of this reminds me that calendars are a man-made invention.  Our western calendar has been through many versions from the mere counting of days, to the Julian calendar used by the Romans and the Gregorian calendar that we use today.
Then there are calendars from other cultures.  The Jewish calendar, the Chinese calendar (where the year is now 4715) and the Muslim calendar to name just a few.  The Mayan calendar is a 52 year cycle in which no two days have the same name. Makes my obsession with weekends a little ridiculous.

Of course, we have a guide for time.  It's found in Genesis 1:1-5 God created light and dark.  He called the light day and the dark night. 
Or Psalm 90:4 ESV For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.
Or Psalm 90:2 ESV Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
Or Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV  For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. 
Or Hebrews 13:8 ESV 
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Or 2 Peter 3:8-9 ESV 
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

With the coming of the new year we'll all be rushing out to buy a calendar or two.  Good to remember that man's many calendars may keep us on schedule for a year, but they do not set God's plans.  Those are eternal.