Monday, December 11, 2017

Christmas and Food

In my world, Christmas is associated with lots of company and feasting.  It seems my church, Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian, shares that culture.  We have cookies with coffee hour after service every Sunday. 

On Monday, the Sunshine lunch bore a Christmas theme and special goodies for the season.  This is a wonderful ministry in our church, designed to give those who are single, whether by choice or through bereavement, an opportunity to share a meal together.  One of the great, hidden sorrows of our culture is loneliness.  The Sunshine lunch is a great antidote.  Rides are provided for those who no longer drive.  Thank you to the faithful crew of volunteers who cater this event.

On Sunday afternoon, there was a Christmas tea.  This is part of the fundraising drive for the Mission to the Dominican Republic in the spring.
  This time the volunteers served high tea, complete with three tier serving dishes and fine china.  Who needs the Empress when we can enjoy such festivities at home?  And the money raised goes to a good cause.  

Next Sunday, Dec. 17, we'll participate in another favourite tradition, carol singing.  Come and bring your friends, lift your voices and sing out the joy of Christmas.  The music starts at 2:00 pm and we promise not to keep you for more than an hour.  There will be hot apple cider and shortbread afterwards, if you wish to linger.  So there we are, back to festive goodies, again. 

Many bemoan the extra calories consumed over the Christmas season and gyms are full of those with good intentions at the beginning of January.  But I make no apology for associating special foods the the celebration of Christmas.  After all, food unites and strengthens a community, providing a common identity among those gathered at the table.  Good food is best enjoyed as a shared experience, its the social glue that binds families and friends and, yes, strangers together in a common event.  Even Christ spent his last moments with the disciples sharing a common meal, on the special occasion of Passover.
So eat heartily, sing lustily and give thanks for the privilege of sharing food and fellowship.


Monday, December 4, 2017

December brings a full calendar of special activities around Christmas at SPPC.  This coming Sunday, Dec. 10 at 3:00 pm the Mission Team to the Dominican Republic is hosting a Christmas tea.  This is a fundraiser for the House Upon the Rock Mission, the group that hosts our team of volunteers in the DR.  
The organizers assure me there will be plenty of food, enough that you won't have to cook Sunday dinner afterward.  There is also some lively entertainment planned, so it will be a fun time.  Plan to invite your friends, make up a table of eight, and kick off your Christmas socializing.  The cost is $22.00 per person and all proceeds after expenses will go toward sponsoring our mission team.

    Speaking of Christmas entertaining, Linda has offered to manage a bottle drive over the next few months, with most of the proceeds going toward the DR mission.  So, bring those empties to the church and put your refund to good use.

   On the fund-raising topic, we are pleased to report that over $500.00 was raised with the dessert and soup sales.

  'Tis the season when many feel overwhelmed with busyness -- shopping, baking, wrapping, decorating -- but remember the small child, born in a manger.  Angels sang His birth, but there was no room at the inn.  Wise men brought costly gifts, but Herod sought to kill Him.  As we rejoice with friends and family, sharing love with those closest to us, remember that Jesus instructed His followers to care for the poor and the hungry and the thirsty and the stranger and the naked and the prisoner -- "Inasmuch as ye have tone it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."  Matt 25:40 (KJV)

Monday, November 27, 2017

What's Happening?

There were no big events at the church this past week, but over the past little while, there have been a number of small things worth celebrating. 

  • We have two new members in the choir.  Ruth sings tenor and Diane is an alto.  We are delighted to welcome them.  The alto and tenor parts have been underpowered for some time.  It is wonderful to hear those inner voices rounding out the sound of the choir.

  • There has been birthday cake. 

  • We're gearing up to send another team to the Dominican Republic.  There was a silent auction last Saturday and Soup and pie orders were delivered after worship this Sunday

  • SPPC led the worship service at Saanich Peninsula Hospital on Sunday. 

  • Today a group is meeting at the church to start on Christmas decorations.  Yes, already!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Teddy Bear Love

If love were measured in teddy bears, our Hazel would be overflowing. For the past many years she has knit these toys of comfort for children in troubled parts of the world.  To date, she has completed more than 1700 or them.
If she ever considered slowing down, she can't.  Her sister sent her 72 balls of yarn from the UK.  No quitting until they are all used up.

Hazel began with a pattern from Melody--the lady responsible for getting this congregations knitting cotton squares at Friendship Coffee.  SPPC has sent thousands of those squares to third world countries.  For Hazel, the teddy bears proved to be her passion.  

The bears are completely knitted, including the eyes and buttons on the overalls.  Hazel reminded me that sew-on ornaments can be pulled off and become a choking hazard for very young children.  So, her creations are not only charming and cuddly.  They are safe as well.

She can knit one a day.  When the knitting is complete, she sets them aside for stuffing at a later date.  Blanche "finds" the stuffing and passes it on.  Hazel says she wouldn't be able to contribute all those teddies if it weren't for Blanche supplying the stuffing.
  And speaking of Blanche, she can't even count the dozens of shortbread cookies she has made for the church, but we all recognize her offering on the dessert table.

   Blanche has been baking since she was 4.

   Back to the teddy bears.  When Hazel has completed a goodly number, they are packed into a Compassionate Warehouse container and sent into the world to bring smiles to needy children. Then she settles down to knit up the next batch.
   For a change of pace, she once knitted up a complete Nativity Scene, but usually her needles are busy with teddy bears.
To see Hazel in action, come to Friendship Coffee in the lounge at 10:00 am on the second and fourth Thursday of the month.  You'll meet Hazel and Blanche and a whole bunch of knitters and talkers.  They'll welcome you in, offer you a cup of coffee and maybe share a pattern or two.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Never Forgotten

With Remembrance Day just passed, I want to share with you this story from one of our congregation.  Andy Wallace was Gladys' father, and one of the thousands of Canadians who fought in "The War to End All Wars," WWI.  He saw action at Vimy Ridge.  When the battle ended, Andy, a carpenter by trade, worked on a large wooden cross to commemorate the dead of the 44th Canadian Infantry.  Just three weeks after the victory, Andy's cross was raised on the crest of the ridge. 
He might even be one of the soldiers in this photograph.  He and Sapper McIver created the huge wooden cross from 8x8 inch oak logs within range of the enemy's guns.  Other members of the section mixed the concrete. In a letter, a fellow veteran, A.C. King wrote to Andy, "Here is a picture of the cross.  It doesn't look so big but, boy, oh boy, that concrete took some mixing."

The cross was twelve to fourteen feet high and about six feet wide.  It was held together by wooden dowels and had no inscription on the carving itself.  There was a copper plate in the stepped concrete base that reads:
 to the memory of the officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the 44th Canadian Infantry who fell in the attacks on Vimy Ridge, the Triangle, and La Coulotte in April, May and June of 1917.
The monument was originally erected on Vimy Ridge, France by the 44th Battalion in 1917. In 1924,it was moved to its present location in Vimy Ridge Memorial Park on Portage Avenue in Winnipeg by members of the 44th Battalion Association and next of kin. Plaques on the sides of the monument listed those in the 44th Battalion who had lost their lives during the Vimy Ridge battle. Dedicated in June 1926, it was restored by the Department of Veterans Affairs in June 1967 and by the City of Winnipeg in October 1992.

The iconic Vimy Memorial that now stands on the ridge has eclipsed the battlefield monuments in the public imagination, but those rough crosses, built by fellow soldiers in the midst of battle truly bear the "blood, sweat and tears," of our military.

Thanks to Gladys for sharing her story, and thanks to Andy Wallace for his service to Canada. 
Andrew Wallace 44th Regiment, Canadian Infantry

Monday, November 6, 2017

Happy Feet

Lots of us like to go barefoot in warm weather, but when the temperature dips, a pair of warm socks makes us warm and cozy, ready to snuggle down for the cold months.  Apart from the comfort aspect of socks, they fulfil other functions. Sock manufacturers cite the following:

  • Terry cushion sole for added comfort and shock absorption.
  • Accepted by the Canadian Podiatric Medical Association
  • Ultra-Fresh treatment to resist the growth of odour causing bacteria.
  • Non-binding cuff for free circulation. 
  • Soft non-binding cotton terry cuff for support and added comfort. 
  • Smooth toe seam. 
  • it’s a lot easier to keep your feet healthy, than to fix them once they start to hurt.
Most of us take socks for granted.  We might spend some time pondering the colour and style but the "if" of socks is not a problem.  Except, for some, it is. 
Members of our community who live on the street don't care about colour and pattern so much.  They just want their feet to be warm and dry.
Enter, warm-toes.  For the month of October, SPPC has been collecting new socks, stuffing them with small toiletries and filling baskets and bags with the result.  On Sunday, those offerings were dedicated to God and the service of our neighbours.  This week they'll be delivered to The Mustard Seed for distribution.
Next time you snuggle your toes in a pair of soft, warm, everyday socks, count your blessings and give thanks.  

Monday, October 30, 2017

Reformation Sunday

This Sunday marked the official 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation, sort of.  The actual anniversary is Oct. 31, but that's a Tuesday--will we see trick-or-treaters dressed as a monk on Hallowe'en?--, so we marked the day on Sunday. 
One of our members, Barb, added this plaque to our bulletin board in honour of the occasion.  Nice work, Barb!

You may recognize the titles of Rev. Irwin's last four sermons in the titles depicted on the "door."  This Sunday was "Glory of God Alone."  He began his sermon by quoting from the shorter catechism, from the Westminster Confession of Faith.
Q. 1. What is the chief end of man? A. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

A short answer to the "why am I here" question that plagues some of us from time to time.  We are here to glorify God, plain and simple.  Our modern culture is more inclined to glorify Man than God, but that's not what scripture commands.  
This catechism was developed for the Presbyterian church, but since it relies on scripture, I'm sure Martin Luther would approve it. After all, he wagered his life on the authority of Scripture, over the authority of the church.

The Reformation is an enormous subject, much too large for this blog.  I've touched on a few highlights in the past couple of weeks, but you might like to watch this documentary from PBS for a more extensive course.

Meantime, Barb's "door" is a good summary of Luther's main arguments.