Monday, June 29, 2015

Year of Mission

Watermelon sculpture
Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian Church has always supported mission work in one form or other.  Our annual budget includes a line dedicated to PWS&D.  Our Sunday School supports a foster child, we sponsor the warm toes project for Our Place and members of the congregation have donated hundreds and hundreds of items to the Compassionate Warehouse, just to name a few of our outreach endeavours.

  While all of those projects have continued quietly in the background, this year specific mission projects have been in the forefront of our collective conscience.  Just last month we had Rev. Joey Cho from Cedar Tree ministry speak to us about his work among First Nations in Cowichan.   Earlier in June, Rick Wismer brought us an update on the Blue Bus ministry.  But our biggest event this year has been the mission trip to the Dominican Republic.  
     Many individuals donated personally to this undertaking, but as a congregation we started fund-raising with a strawberry social last July.  We collected bottles all fall and winter, held a concert, gave a dinner and participated in an auction in support of our DR team.            We prayed for them, held a commissioning service for them and welcomed them back with grateful hearts on their return.  On Friday, June 26 there was a DR night with pot luck dinner and a final presentation from our team.  
    Max presented a slide show of the highlights of his trip.

   Then invited us all to sample the Dominican Republic dishes prepared for us.  Although our team ate a lot of white bread and peanut butter sandwiches while they were away, the dinner they laid on for us was much more interesting -- plantain casserole, potato salad made with beets and lots of fruit. 

    According the Max, the rule on the mission was to try everything so we all tried the exotic foods and found them very tasty.

 Linda Cliff gave an excellent presentation on how to sponsor a student in the DR.  It can be done, collectively or individually, there is tax receipt, and you choose the student you wish to support.  The amount of sponsorships varies from about $20.00/ month to over $100.00 depending on the student, the school they attend and their grade level.  See next week's blog for complete details. 

   The experience of being missionaries certainly had a profound effect on the individuals who went.  But what has it meant for us as a church?  How has this "year of mission" changed us?  

   I believe the massive effort put into fund-raising for a hands-on mission has drawn members of the congregation closer together. Common cause tends to bring focus.

   I believe the success of the mission has given our congregation courage.  The financial hurdles looked immense when we began, but they were met and surpassed ahead of schedule.  Next time we're handed a challenge we'll feel more confident in our ability to meet it.

  I believe our youth have shown themselves to be capable, responsible and committed to God's work in a way we've not witnessed before.  

  I believe the DR mission has opened us to new possibilities, encouraged us to think big and joined us in a unique way with other mission-minded Christians on the Peninsula and in the greater world.

   What about you?  Has the year of mission affected the way you think about SPPC?

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Picnic

The church picnic marks the end of the Sunday School for the summer.  And the end of the school year, means we have a graduation ceremony. Having reached the age of ten and been a faithful attender at Sunday School, Peter was the proud recipient of a Bible on Sunday morning.
Peter's presentation Bible
 Then it was off to the picnic.

And what's a picnic without races?

Losers and winners got wet.
Three legged race

Water balloon toss.

An impromptu race.

   Before we celebrate the end of school, it is usual to write an exam on the year's work.  Since this blog would never set an exam for anyone, I'm grateful to Rebekah and Benjamin for sharing their impressions of this year's work in the intermediate class.

This year we have worked on three different books.  We started the year by finishing a workbook on Jonah.  Once we had finished that, we moved onto a book called God, Up Close and Personal.  It is a book on writing journal entries and studying passages.  In this book we studied Philippians.  For the last part of the year, we have been doing a workbook on Esther and standing up against peer pressure.  I feel like I have learned a lot and will continue to use my knowledge of the Bible and what I learned throughout the summer.
                                                                      by Rebekah 

  At the beginning of the year we finished our work book on the book of Jonah.  After we had finished, we had a workbook called God, Up Close and
Personal In which we read Philippians and Ephesians and learned about the whole armour of God.  Later on in the year we started a workbook in which we are reading the book of Esther and learning what to do with peer pressures.                             by Benjamin

 There was a penalty for taking out Abigail.  Every race needs an unexpected obstacle.

 We had a great day.  My thanks to Rebekah and Benjamin and I hope all the Sunday School teachers and all the Sunday School students have a wonderful summer. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Big Blue Bus

We had a visit from Rick Wismer and his BIG Blue Bus last week. What an amazing story he has to tell.  He started with Youth for Christ ministry nearly 20 years ago and joined the Refuge bus ministry a couple of years after that.  The idea of a bus grew out of the need to go where the people are rather than wait for the people to come to us.   As the Great Commission says, we are to go to all nations. 
   Early in the bus ministry, workers found where kids hung around a street corner with nothing to do but get into trouble.  That's the corner where the Refuge bus showed up, offering a positive alternative.  Over time it became clear that the blue bus had a special ministry for First Nations youth.  Now, at the invitation of the band leaders, Rick takes his bus to Tseycum, Tsawout, the Esquimalt Nation, Scia’new (Beecher Bay) and T'Sou-ke. 

    We began with a formal presentation during the worship time. 
Rick told us about the programs the bus ministry offers, namely, sports, snacks, games and fellowship, always mindful of what the particular host band council has agreed to.
    Given the recent release of the Truth and Reconciliation Report, Rick's visit was a timely reminder of the strained relations between the church and Indigenous peoples.  On one reserve, the chief had a bad experience with the church, but another member of the council had a good experience.  At her instigation, the band council has invited Rick and his bus so that the children will have a "positive Interaction", but he's not to preach Christianity or tell Bible stories. It is a fine line to walk, but, as Rick says, God opens doors.

   For those who like bus statistics, the Big Blue Bus is on hydraulics so it can be raised or lowered just like city buses to allow ease of people getting off and on.  That feature is also useful going over bad roads.
 Inside there are thirty seats so Rick can take kids on a trip.  There is also space at the back for meeting and it's loaded with video games.  I don't know if any of the congregation took up the invitation to try them out.

    SPPC has been a long-time supporter of the Blue Bus.  Rick thanked us for our gifts and urged the congregation to continue to pray for his ministry, to donate and to volunteer as we are able.

   In our usual SPPC style, we ended the morning with lunch!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Stained Glass Windows

For centuries, stained glass windows have been the hallmark of church buildings.  The great cathedrals of Europe commissioned large, elaborate designs usually depicting a Bible story.  Smaller country churches settled for more modest displays but still considered stained glass an essential part of church architecture.

   There are many reasons stained glass was favoured in churches. In the first place, it is beautiful.  Daylight filtered through stained glass creates a sense of peace and holiness, encouraging worshippers to pray and meditate.   Images of Jesus or the saints offer consolation to those who grieve or fret. Soft colours create an oasis of calm for those beset by worry.
  Stained glass is also used to instruct.  In mediaeval times most parishioners could not read.  The Biblical scenes represented in the stained glass were an excellent teaching tool.  Even today, images of Bible stories can help children learn and remember.

   After the Reformation, the sermon took on a central role in Sunday service.   Sermons that could go on for one or two hours! Preachers worried that the attention of the worshipper might wander.  A scene in a stained glass window would remind the congregant to focus his attention on worship.
 Our congregation opted not to put coloured windows in the sanctuary.  We are located in a beautiful wooded site and the scene outside our windows is quiet, peaceful and filled with the beauty of God's creation.  Still, last Sunday, during the hymn before the sermon, we had a graphic illustration of one purpose of stained glass. While singing fervently "All Hail the Power of Jesus Name," the entire congregation lost its focus -- or changed its focus.  Every head turned to the left, every glance rested on the velvet-covered antlers of a young buck grazing happily on the shrubbery by the Garden of Remembrance.  
    Instead of preparing their hearts and minds to attend to the message of the sermon, our congregation broke into broad smiles while feasting their eyes on one of God's creatures.  

    So who is to say whether coloured or clear glass is the best for a church sanctuary?  I love the play of light and colour through a beautiful stained-glass window, but I also revel in the glories of Creation, including horned, furred and feathered things.  Which one brings me closer to God?  Hard to say.

Monday, June 1, 2015


by Alice Valdal

  Last week's Bible study began with the question "when have you been deceived by someone? "  So we all started the day by dredging up old hurts and disappointments.  Downer!
   Being a sunny-side-of-the-street  person, I wondered what would happen if we asked a different question.  "When have you been encouraged by someone?"  Just asking the question lifts our spirits.  We've moved from pain and disillusionment to joy and hope. 
  We remember a teacher who said you can do anything if you set your mind to it.  Or the camp counsellor who encouraged us to become leaders.  Or the coach who set high standards then helped us to meet them.
   Those are the people we like to remember.  Those are the people we wish to emulate.

   Scripture exhorts us to encourage one another. Over and over Paul stresses the need for Christians to share each others trials and to boost each others spirits.  1 Thessalonians 5:11Ephesians 4:29,  Philippians 4:8,
  1 Corinthians 14:31 Thessalonians 4:18, Romans 15 
  Of course Jesus and the Holy Spirit are our greatest encouragers, John 16:33,   John 14:16. 
But the Bible gives us many examples of mortal men who used their power to help others along the road.
  Moses encouraged Joshua to take command of the Isrealite armies and lead them into the Promised Land. 
  Andrew encouraged his brother, Peter, to come to Jesus.
  Mordecai the Jew in the reign of Esther encouraged all his fellow Jews.
  Jonathan, son of Saul, encouraged David when Saul sought to kill him.
  The Apostle Barnabas is a prime example of one who encourages. Even his name means  “Son of Encouragement” or “ Son of Exhortation” Acts 4:36
   Encouragement from Barnabas took three forms.  First he shared.  At Pentecost we find him selling his land in order to give the proceeds to the newly formed church.

Second he reconciled.  When Saul of Tarsus, persecutor of Christians converted and became the great apostle Paul, it was Barnabas who welcomed him into the Christian community.  Acts 9: 26-30 when others held back.
   Finally we see Barnabas as a mentor, not only to Paul, but to John Mark.  Acts 12:25.  When Paul and Mark had a falling out, it was Barnabas who brought about a reconciliation.  John Mark became a loyal apostle and the first writer of the Gospel. Acts 15: 37

   So, for the purposes of our Bible Study, we needed to recall deceivers in our lives, but as followers of Christ, let us be like Barnabas, an encourager, mentor, friend, peace-maker.  The world will be better for it.