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. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Reformation Hymn

In the month of October SPPC has been paying special attention to the Protestant Reformation, sparked by Martin Luther, when he nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenburg in 1517.  This act of defiance set off one of the most dramatic and far-reaching upheavals in history, touching on every aspect of life in Western Europe, and hence, North America.  The monolith that was the church in Rome, was shaken and splintered.  Luther's "sola" theology,
  • by faith alone.
  • by Scripture alone.
  • through Christ alone.
  • by grace alone.
  • glory to God alone,
stood against many of the practices of the Roman Catholic Church.  By challenging the pope, Luther opened the floodgates to political, social and theological revolution.

There were other Reformers, Erasmus, Zwingli, Calvin, Knox, Melnachthon to name a few.  Although they had theological differences on the Eucharist, the doctrine of predestination, and the sacraments among other things, all stood firm on Luther's basic tenet, of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Luther was wise enough to know that music was a powerful tool for teaching scripture and theology.  Thus he penned many a hymn.  One of the best known is A Mighty Fortress is Our God.  Here is what Dr. C.J. Kirk had to say on this great statement of faith.

Of all Martin Luther's hymns this is by far the best known.  It was written in 1529 during a climax in Luther's struggle against the Roman church.  That year the Reichstag met at Speier and the Roman Catholic majority ordered that their worship should be permitted in all the German principalities from which it had been excluded by Princes sympathetic to Lutheran teaching, and that prelates and religious orders should be restored to their former properties and revenues.  The Lutheran princes entered a formal "protest" because of which the Lutheran movement became known as "Protest-ant".  In this dark hour Luther wrote his call to battle in this hymn which Heine called "the Marseillaise of the Reformation."
In his struggle Luther felt that he had one helper, God, against all the "mortal ills" prevailing against the reform of the Church.  What were those ills?  They were social as well as spiritual: the hopeless poverty of the peasant, the ignorance of the people, the oppressive powers of barbarous laws, the abuses of the priests and the wealth of the hierarchy.  These are attributed to "our ancient foe", the devil: but he is seen as incarnate in the worldly Pope Clement VII and the intriguing Emperor, Charles V.  All these constitute a triangle of hate and power the like of which the world has not seen the equal.
Such odds might daunt even the boldest but for one thing.  Our trust is in a spiritual leader, Jesus Christ.  He is given the title which the ancient Israelites delighted to give to Jehovah.  He is the "Lord Sabaoth," the "Lord of hosts," the commander of the hosts of heaven.  Here we have a truly Protestant theology.  Our confidence of salvation is not placed in an infallible Church with its sacraments, its relics and its traditions, but in an unconquerable Man who is clothed with the power and authority of God himself.  He remains the same "from age to age" and we know that "He must win the battle."
In that battle Luther saw himself in conflict with the devil, "the prince of darkness grim." with all his supernatural power and cunning.  Against such a foe, human weapons simply could not prevail.  If we confide in our own strength, then all "our striving would be losing" and well we know it.  "And though this world, with devils filled should threaten to undo us" remind us of Luther's defiant comment on his way to the Diet of Worms:  "though there were as many devils in Worms as there are tiles on the roofs, I will go nevertheless."  "One little word shall fell him" and that little word is "the Name that is above every name." (Phil. 2: 9-10).
The final verse is the very essence of Luther's religious belief.  There is personal contact with God, the source of all spiritual power, through the divine Saviour and the indwelling spirit.  The Spirit imparts his beautiful gifts to us (Gal.5:22).  Of what value are earthly things when compared with such priceless treasures?  These things are the symbols and seals of a kingdom that abides forever.  The promise of these gifts comes to us through the inspired word of God, the holy Scriptures, and that was Luther's most trusted weapon.
These words are a witness to the uplifting and sustaining power of the faith of the man who wrote them and these same words continue to be an inspiration to God's people in every crisis of life. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Many Gifts

This weekend we were blessed at SPPC with many gifts, but one spirit.

On Saturday night fifty to sixty people gathered for a late Thanksgiving feast.  Felicity and her friends prepared a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, mashed potatoes, yam casserole, dressing, gravy, green vegetable medley, and cranberry salad.  Followed by pumpkin tars with whipped cream, or apple crumble.  The dinner was sponsored by the Parking Lot Club and was a treat for us all.  More importantly it was an opportunity for members of the congregation to meet and mingle with families whose children come to the Parking Lot Club on Thursday afternoons.  SPPC likes to practice fellowship around a common meal, and in doing so we follow the practice of the early church.  A wonderful way to welcome others into our fellowship.

Then, on Sunday afternoon, a similar number of people had the pleasure of hearing the McKenna String Quintet in concert.  This remarkable family of five, talented siblings has been in Victoria for the past few weeks, studying with various teachers, including the LaFayette String Quartet.  During that time, they have attended Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian Church, much to our delight.
Their concert opened with Mozart's String Quintet in D Major, K.593.  
This was followed by a vocal duet, Al Shlosh D'varim arr. Allen Naplan and performed by Minja and Marja McKenna.  The piece is based on Jewish morality laws, translated to mean: "The world is sustained by three things: by truth, by justice, and by peace."  The number was a surprising and lovely addition to the concert.

Following intermission the quintet, slightly rearranged, played Vaughn Williams' lush and romantic "Phantasy Quintet."  I overheard someone remark that it sounded Irish, perhaps that's why the family chose it.  Their father's background is Irish.

We then had another vocal piece, this time with all five of the performers singing. Esto les Digo by Kinley Lange is based on Matthew 18:20  "Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I also in the midst of them."  

The concert concluded with Boccherini's "String Quintet in C Major," Op. 42 No.2, a lively and engaging finish to the afternoon.
Except it wasn't really the end, the quintet treated us to an encore, a vocal arrangement of "Loch Lomond."

We had a truly remarkable weekend at the church, because so many were willing to share their gifts in the Spirit of Christ.  Thank you to everyone.  To the McKenna's we wish you well as you return home to Calgary, and on your musical journey.  
To everyone who helped, set-up, cooked, took-down, offered the hand of friendship and prayed for the success of both endeavours, thank you.  God bless us, everyone.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Thanksgiving Sunday

Happy Thanksgiving!  
Canadian thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays.  What joy to celebrate the harvest, to bring in the sheaves, to see the granaries full and the preserve shelves sagging under the weight of summer's goodness.

This year, my harvest wasn't that good. And I've heard the same story from others.  A cold, wet spring knocked the blossoms off the fruit trees.  The rain kept the bees away.  Then hot, dry weather and smoky skies stunted the growth of many vegetables, particularly zucchini, in August.  Can you imagine a gardener asking for zucchini?  Usually we're trying desperately to give them away!
But even with a poor year, the table at the church is filled with the fruits of the earth.

Still, the disappointment with my own crops made me think about other times and other places.  In our world, we don't fear famine.  We can always buy what we need, even if we can't grow it.  But the people of Israel knew famine, it's what sent them into Egypt, and slavery. 
 People in parts of Africa and Asia are starving today, sometimes because of warfare, sometimes because of failed crops.
 On this thanksgiving weekend, when most of us sit down to too much food, let us be grateful for the feast before us and remember those in need.  
A gift to PWS&D reflects our love for God's people everywhere.  Closer to home, there's a box in the narthex for the food bank.

Thanks to all who brought offerings for the table at church, including Heritage Acres. Enjoy the feast and family and friends.  Rejoice in the goodness of God's world.  "Come Ye Thankful People Come!"