Monday, March 26, 2012

Lenten Devotional

    The word lent comes from a twelfth century Old English word meaning spring.  Since our March lion shows no signs of turning to a spring lamb, it could be difficult to consider lent to mean spring this year, but there is another meaning, dating from the fourteenth century, referring to the forty days before Easter.   Even then the term is confusing because the forty days does not include Sundays.
     What is not confusing, is the devotional series held at 9:00 am weekday mornings in the sanctuary at SPPC.  The devotional time is very informal, two or three or six or eight or ten people gather to read from the Gospel of Matthew and the commentary in "The Story of the Cross" by Rev. Dr. Cecil Kirk.
      Lent has been less celebrated in the reformed and evangelical churches than in the "high" churches in Canada, but there is a growing observance of the season among protestants, and rightly so.  The death and resurrection of Jesus lies at the very heart of our faith.  What better way to prepare for Easter than by setting aside forty days for prayer, reflection, study, or other spiritual discipline?

      In checking the etymology of lent, I stumbled upon the expression lenten-faced, meaning lean and dismal.  The reference was dated in the sixteenth century and no doubt refers to a time woshippers were expected to be sober, sombre, and scowling, particularly during the time of lent.   Then is not now.  The folk who gather for a time of devotion at SPPC follow the account of Jesus' arrest, trial and crucifixion with sorrow and gratitude, not with frowns and scolding.
       Even the full title of Dr. Kirk's study, "A Series of Daily bible Readings for Lent and Easter," reminds us that we know the rest of the story.  Lent is a period of preparation, not an end in itself.  Our season of darkness ends at the cross, then bursts into light with the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord. 
      We follow Christ to the cross, but we also follow the women to the tomb and find the stone is rolled away, we hear the angel proclaim that Jesus is risen and we are with them when they meet the risen Lord.  With the disciples we receive the great commission to "Go and make disciples of all nations," and the reassurance that "lo, I am with you always, even unto the ends of the earth."

For other Holy Week and Easter services check the church calendar

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Friendship and More

For seventeen years Brian and Melody McQuitty, pictured on the left, have operated the Friendship Coffee gathering on the second and fourth Thursday of the month at SPPC.  They have made countless pots of coffee, supplied a boatload of goodies, and welcomed newcomers and oldtimers alike to share a chat and a few laughs.  After all this time, they have decided to step aside.  Fortunately, Brian and Vivian Lawrence, pictured on the right, have taken up the mantel and Friendship Coffee will continue as before.
    I say fortunately, because this is one of those quiet ministries which fulfills a major role in our congregation.  One cannot overstate the importance of fellowship at SPPC.  Whether it is our demographic, our location, or some other reason, our members feel the need to gather together.  Friendship coffee provides companionship for those who are lonely, respite for those who are burdened, and a welcome for those who are strangers. 
      At one time Melody and Brian suggested the Friendship Coffee take a summer break.  They were quickly voted down.    
    While it is not a Presbyterian tenet that men and women should gather separately, Friendship coffee seems to divide into two groups.  Men talking about whatever men talk about and women chatting and knitting.  Melody must have learned her Sunday School lessons well, " In Works of Labour or of Skill I would be busy too: For Satan finds some mischief still for idle Hands to do."  I. Watts, for she has persuaded, taught, cajoled, nagged, . . . until nearly all the women knit while enjoying their coffee.  The products are often cotton dish clothes, which are delivered to the Compassionate Warehouse, for distribution in Africa.  These cotton squares, when washed and dried in the sun, are sterile enough to be used in surgery, where hospital supplies are sparse.  SPPC has sent thousands and thousands of them to needy villages via the McQuitty's and the Compassionate Warehouse.
   Those who aren't making cotton squares, are often knitting teddy bears.  Lois Shold has made 1000 of them herself, Hazel Taylor, 1300.  Again these are distributed through the Compassionate Warehouse wherever children are in need of a smile and a cuddle.  The output from our congregation is amazing.  Every three or four weeks Brian and Melody stuff their car with donated goods and head for the warehouse in Esquimalt.  
   There is also a saucer beside the coffee pot, to collect loonies and toonies.  Over time these donations add up and are given to PWS&D.
      We are grateful to the McQuitty's for their dedication and service and thankful to the Lawrence's who saw a need and stepped in to fill it.  Here's to Thursday mornings and a cup of coffee among friends.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Foster Child

   About ten months ago SPPC was assigned a foster child from Pakistan.  She lives in the Chakwal district, about 100 km south of Islamabad.
   Our foster child is fortunate in that she attends a school in her home town and will have the opportunity to attend a college for women there as well.  In Pakistan over 60 million girls do not have the opportunity to attend school.  70% of women and girls live in extreme poverty and are much more likely to be malnourished than males.
  Our foster child is 12 years old, lives in a brick house wth a reed roof about one kilometer from a well that supplies clean drinking water.  She has five brothers and a younger sister.  The family is Muslim and their language is Punjabi.
   Last fall the children at SPPC wrote to her, discussing their favourite foods.  Here is her reply (translated.)
   Hello, I am fine, and hope that you will be fine also.  I was glad to read your letter.  Greetings to all of you.  To Benjamin:  I was glad to read your letter.  I hope that you will be fine also.  I would like to eat pizza.  I like music.  To Norma:  I was glad to read your letter.  You pray for my health and happiness.  I was glad to see your picture.  You all sit together.  You all are sweet.  I would like to go to school.  I am fond of studies.  To Megan:  I was glad to read your letter.  My best friend's name is Hania.  Her house is near to my house.  It's winter season here.  I would love to eat dry fruit.  To Rebekah:  I was glad to read your letter.  I was happy that you remembered me.  It's winter season here.  I would like to eat dry fruits in winter.  I like music.  Good-bye
 Following Irwin's children's time with the tulips, the senior class at SPPC decided to write to our Pakistani friend and include drawings of tulips.

   "It's a small world" is synonymous with Disneyland, but the love and care of a Christian community can encompass our vast planet and make it a small world too.   Thanks to the teachers and children of our Sunday School for their ministry.

With thanks to Norma Scott and Diane Cunningham.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Men's Breakfast

The Men's Breaakfast is one of the oldest fellowship programs at SPPC.  It was begun at least twenty-four years ago, while the congregation was meeting in space rented from the Seventh Day Adventist Church.  It fell under the auspices of "Congregational Life," a committee of Session with the mandate to promote fellowship within the congregation. 
     At the time there was a very active ladies group, but nothing specifically for men.  Since it's a well-known fact that men like to eat, a Men's Breakfast seemed the perfect solution.   The number of men attending averages 15 a month, although a personal invitation will induce more men to give the gathering a try.

   Bill Stewart, pictured here, is the third convenor of the program.  He's been cooking breakfast at the church on the last Saturday of the month for years.  He keeps the menu simple, does the shopping and keeps the coffee hot.  He also oversees the clean up, where everyone pitches in.  George Allen is faithful with the dishwasher.  The men I interviewed took pains to point out that the kitchen is cleaner when they leave than when they come in.  Since I have no evidence to the contrary, I took their word for it.

   As well as breakfast and comradeship, the men have enjoyed guest speakers ranging from football players discussing religion in professional sport to police officers presenting defensive driving techniques, particularly for seniors.

   Bill is stepping down from his position.  He says that after many years in a job, people become stale.  It's time for a fresh approach, but he is as committed as ever to the need for the Men's Breakfast and similar programs.  For some members of our congregation, this is their only social network.  It provides that vital human connection so necessary in a society where many are lonely and isolated.  Even members of the congregation who can no longer attend Sunday services, are able to attend Men's Breakfast, since Bill and others arrange to pick them up and take them home.
      Romans 12;13 reminds us to show hospitality.  Thanks Bill, for all your years of invitation and service and showing forth hospitality.