Monday, November 17, 2014

The Shepherd's Way

by Alice Valdal

      Redundancy is often considered in a negative light but when it comes to communication, redundancy can be a good thing.  Apparently humans aren't very good at taking in new information so they need to receive it in many forms, hence, redundancy.
   At SPPC, this blog is one form of communication, the weekly bulletin is another, as are announcements from the pulpit but this week I draw your attention to our church newsletter, "The Shepherd's Way."
  Blanche Richer, ably assisted by husband Bill, is our editor and I asked her a few questions about how she came to that position.  Here's what she had to say.

   We have been doing "The Shepherd's Way" for seven years, since Easter 2006.  I love to write and it seems to come naturally to me.  When we attended Trinity Presbyterian Church, I edited their magazine, "A Joyful Noise," for ten years and Bill did the cover pictures and all the illustrations.  Then we transferred to Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian Church and I really missed having a regular deadline, for I thought that all the work and effort of producing a worthwhile magazine really kept my mind active.  So, when Beulah asked me if I would do a magazine for SPPC, she said that I could think about it for a few days.
   "I'll give you my answer right now," I replied.  "Yes, I will do it."

  Q.How many issues per year?
   A.  There are four issues:  Easter, Summer, Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

    Q. What is your background re newsletters?
    A. When I was much younger, many years ago, I wrote short stories and articles for publication in English magazines.  I have always been a reader and I like to be surrounded by books.

    Q. What is the most difficult and the most satisfying aspect of putting together the newsletter.
    A.  "The Shepherd's Way" has developed into a certain pattern with regular features such as cover, back page, minister's pages, cartoons, etc. and when I gather all the stories, articles, items, news and ideas from the congregation, each new piece just seems to fall into place.  But I sometimes have to juggle quite a bit.
    Finally, I number the pages (by hand) and then take them to Staples to be printed.  But my most satisfying moment is when I hold the first new copy 'hot off the press.'  Then home for a cup of tea.
   Q. Bill creates wonderful illustrations for the magazine.  Has he illustrated other publications?
    A.Bill comes from Guernsey and has drawn since he was able to hold a pencil.  Before he came to Canada, he studied drawing, pen and ink and painting which included oils and water colour, landscapes and ships and seascapes.  He has illustrated several books, including Lanterns and Shadows, an anthology by a group of Oak Bay authorsand articles in newspapers and magazines.

  Q.  Do you mind if I mention you are both senior citizens?
   A.Neither of us minds being called a Senior. (On Jan. 22 next year, I'll be 90.)  I don't feel old.  

Thanks Blanche, for answering my questions and for your faithful service, along with Bill, to SPPC.  "The Shepherd's Way," is enjoyed by everyone in our congregation.  It gets taken home and read and reread, then handed on to friends and family, a tribute to your diligence and your talent.

Monday, November 10, 2014

O God Our Help


 The hymn, "O God Our Help in Ages Past recommended   by the Royal Canadian Legion among others, is so strongly associated with Remembrance Day it is difficult to think of it in any other context.   Yet as a paraphrase of Psalm 90, it has its roots in the time of Moses, (some commentators believe Moses wrote the words).  Whoever the author was, the fact remains that the psalm recalls a time when the Israelites were homeless, when their lives were uncertain and their future unknown.  No wonder they responded to the assurance that God is eternal, that he holds our lives in his hands, that He controls time.   
    Small wonder that those sentiments resonate still with people caught up in war and its aftermath, for those who sorrow and for those who fear.  God is eternal.  God is our home.

  1. O God, our help in ages past,
    Our hope for years to come,
    Our shelter from the stormy blast,
    And our eternal home.
  2. Under the shadow of Thy throne
    Thy saints have dwelt secure;
    Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
    And our defense is sure.
  3. Before the hills in order stood,
    Or earth received her frame,
    From everlasting Thou art God,
    To endless years the same.
  4. Thy Word commands our flesh to dust,
    “Return, ye sons of men”:
    All nations rose from earth at first,
    And turn to earth again.
  5. A thousand ages in Thy sight
    Are like an evening gone;
    Short as the watch that ends the night
    Before the rising sun.
  6. The busy tribes of flesh and blood,
    With all their lives and cares,
    Are carried downwards by the flood,
    And lost in foll’wing years.
  7. Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
    Bears all its sons away;
    They fly, forgotten, as a dream
    Dies at the op’ning day.
  8. Like flow’ry fields the nations stand
    Pleased with the morning light;
    The flow’rs beneath the mower’s hand
    Lie with’ring ere ’tis night.
  9. O God, our help in ages past,
    Our hope for years to come,
    Be Thou our guard while troubles last,
    And our eternal home.
verses in italics are omitted in most hymnals

Here are Dr. Cecil Kirk's notes on this most beloved hymn.

Scripture Reading Psalm 90

            Isaac Watts is rightly regarded as the pioneer of English hymnody.  He perceived what was truly needed and provided it.  In more than six hundred hymns, Watts stressed the reality of faith and hope.  He emphasized the majesty and sovereignty of God and promoted the Church’s mission to the whole world.

            This hymn, considered to be one of the grandest in the English language, is really a paraphrase of Psalm 90.  The psalm itself has a recurring penitent note but Watts has cast the hymn as one of assurance and hope.  Of the nine original verses three have been dropped in most hymn books.

            Watts entitled the hymn “Man frail and God eternal”, a theme that runs through all the verses.  The psalm begins by focusing our gaze on the everlasting God who is the creator of the universe (Ps. 90. 1-2) and then on the transitory nature of human life (Ps. 90.3).  Human life is frail, mortal.  Human beings are born to die.  The psalmist likens his life to a passing dream and to the grass of the field which flourishes in the morning but by evening has withered away (Ps. 90. 5-6).  It is hardly surprising then that he admonishes us to “number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90. 12).

            By way of contrast with the brevity and uncertainty of human life, Watts writes of the eternity of God.  He is “from everlasting . . to endless years the same”.  Time is meaningless as far as God is concerned (Ps. 90. 4).  Not so with men and women whose allotted life span soon passes (Ps. 90. 10) and the years are gone.  This is the thought expressed in the fifth stanza of the hymn where the “sons” referred to are not our sons but the sons of time, the days and weeks and years of the past.  It is these that are forgotten and pass into history as new events and new tasks demand our attention.

            It was about 1714 that this hymn was written, a time when Britain was facing a political crisis over the question of the Protestant succession as Queen Anne approached death.  Watts wrote to allay the fears and forebodings of many people.  From the very beginning there is a strong affirmation of faith in the eternal God and his sufficiency in every time of need.  The words of the hymn point us away from ourselves to fix our confidence and attention on God who is able to take care of all our fears.  Just as he has provided help for us in the past, whether as individuals or as a nation, so we can depend on his unfailing goodness to enable us to face the perils of the future.  The help we have already received is a pledge that he will not fail us in the years to come.  He is faithful and dependable.

            And, finally, God is our home, our spiritual home.  Without him we are aimless wanderers with “no abiding place”.  In him, and in him alone, we rest secure. 

Monday, November 3, 2014


The Variety Show and dinner came off with flying colours on Saturday night.  Special thanks to organizers, Diane and Darlene, to the kitchen staff and the serving staff, and all the other helpers.  You did us proud.  Comments on the food were all positive, even somewhat surprised. :-)  Visitors hadn't expected such high quality.

     This was a new venture for our congregation, inviting community based acts to come and share their talent with us.  We are most grateful to Tricky Magic, the Craig Henderson Trio, Tristan Thompson and the Canadian College of the Performing Arts as well as surprise guest, Art Pruce for donating their time and talent.  Michael Denton was emcee extraordinaire!  Of course, it was all in a good cause and raised $2000.00 for the mission trip to the Dominican Republic.  Well done everyone, and thanks to our friends and neighbours for their support.

    If you missed the Variety Show, here is a list of other fund-raising events you might like to attend.  

Silent Auction

    On Nov. 22, at Friendship Community Church 7820 C. Saanich Rd.
    There is still time to donate something.  Use your imagination.  I know our own Bill Richer has donated a framed, original drawing.  There are golf lessons on offer and lots of "treasure" baskets.  If you've nothing to put in the auction, you can always be a buyer!  Come and enjoy what promises to be a fun evening, and you just might find that perfect gift.

Bake Sale

   On December 14, after service, the Sunday School is running a bake sale.  Proceeds go to the mission fund and goodies go into your larder.

Bottle Drive

  We will continue to have our bin in the Narthex for refundables to be dropped off. Thanks!
We will hold another community bottle drive on the first Saturday after the Christmas and New Year’s celebrations! We are thinking that people will be happy to unload their refundables after lots of company and celebrating!. We can use helpers for this in the areas of sorting, driving to collect, making coffee and hot chocolate for those working, and light lunch to keep us going.  Truly committed bottle drivers are out scouring the ditches too.

Bridge Luncheon

   In February we'll host a Bridge Luncheon.  This popular card game never goes out of favour so buy your tickets early to ensure your place at the table.  Or get together some friends and make up a foursome.

   Lots of opportunity to support youth initiative and to have fun at the same time.