Monday, August 14, 2017


This past week has been one of high tension.  Wildfires in the Interior of B.C. have blanketed this part of the province with smoke, a reminder of how quickly life can turn, putting our normally safe homes  in peril.
Media is full of stories about famine, floods, riots and a boat load of refugees being pushed into the sea.
In world affairs, two unpredictable leaders are "playing chicken" with nuclear bombs.
Anyone who isn't stressed, has his head in the sand.

And now it's Sunday.  At SPPC Rev. Irwin has returned from holiday.  Our friends are in the pew.  A man with a cheerful smile pours coffee.  There are cookies on the table.  Here, in the worship of God, I find sanctuary.  The minister preached on hope, using Psalm 13 as his text.

I came home and looked up a previous Bible Study, Praying the Psalms, by Juanita Ryan, and I found a lesson on Psalm 57, a prayer of distress.  At the time of writing, David had fled from King Saul and his 3000 men. In fear for his life, David hid in a cave and called out to God, "Be merciful to me . . . because I come to you for safety."  David goes on to detail the danger that surrounds him.  His enemies have spread a net to capture him, they have dug a pit where he might fall in.  His enemies have teeth like spears and arrows.  This is no pretty poem.  David is desperately afraid.  In his distress, he calls on God, confident that the Lord can and will protect him.  By the end of the Psalm, he says "I have complete confidence in God.  I will sing praises to him.  God's constant love reaches the heavens and His faithfulness touches the skies.

This morning's sermon, on Psalm 13 covered much the same material.  God is constant.  God loves us.  When we cry for help, God hears.   We will know trouble, it may endure for a time, but in the end we belong to God.  He will rescue us, just as he rescued David from the armies of King Saul.

When our world is in crisis, we can turn to God for courage.  We can pray to God for wisdom for our leaders.  We can trust God with our lives.

The Sunday service included "What a Friend we Have in Jesus," which includes the lines "are we weak and heavy-laden, cumbered with a load of care, . . . take it to the Lord in prayer.. .  In his arms He'll take and shield thee, Thou wilt find a solace there."

It's a lovely summer day here.  The sun is shining, there's a cool breeze.  I could have spent my Sunday morning at the beach, on the golf course, out in a sailboat or reading in the garden.  I'm so glad I went to church instead.  "Can we find a Friend so faithful, who will all our sorrows share?  Jesus knows our every weakness.  Take it to the Lord in prayer."

Monday, August 7, 2017

First Impressions

They say familiarity breeds contempt, it also breeds a type of blindness.  We become so used to a space or situation that we don't really see it with clarity.  We just see a familiar settinge and are content.  Since our church expects to welcome visitors each week, I thought I'd take a look at our place as though I'd never seen it before.

Entering through the front door, the visitor is met with a set of comfy chairs and a table.  Seems like a nice touch.  

This week there were fresh flowers in the narthex as well.  A sign we living in an area of gardens and gardeners. 

 The bulletin board, while not a work of art, is cheerful.  For the past couple of weeks, members of the congregation have been asked to draw an outline of their hands and add them to the collection.  I'm used to seeing this as a Sunday School project, but adults have entered into the game with enthusiasm.  The outline won't show that some hands are smooth and pale, while others are gnarled and freckled.  Maybe that's a good thing.  We have a display of willing hands, regardless of age or health or circumstances.

There's also a picture of Creative Play.  That's a weekly program held during the summer where children, our own and visitors, are invited to enjoy an activity, led by different members of the congregation.  The program gives parents a safe place for their children during the sermon time, and it gives Sunday School teachers an opportunity to enjoy the whole service uninterrupted.  This bunch looks like they had a good time.

On the opposite bulletin board are sign up sheets, for fellowship, for flowers, for greeters, for readers, for pray-ers and any other need that arises in the congregation.  Here is an opportunity for those hands on the other wall, to do something practical for the congregation.

After the busyness of the narthex, the visitor comes through the double doors of the sanctuary to find a serene room with the usual furnishings of a church -- pews, pulpit, choir loft -- and a bouquet of fresh flowers.
As a member, it is hard for me to see our building with the eyes of a stranger, but I hope the combination of activity and serenity is pleasing and a blessing to all who enter here.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Our guest speaker this morning was Alan Taylor, who spoke on "being a blessing."  We are the receivers of God's many blessings. So bountiful and faithful is our God that we often forget to even say thank you for His gifts.  Alan asked us to think, not about the blessings we receive, but how we can bless others in our lives, whether it is someone close to us or a casual acquaintance.  His example came from 2 Samuel 9, the story of David blessing Mephibosheth, the grandson of King Saul.  Remember, Saul tried to kill David.  Yet David chose to bestow a boon on Mephibosheth for the sake of his father, Jonathan, David's friend.
The photo above is an example of members of this congregation "being a blessing."

There is another story in my "blog ideas" folder that illustrates a similar point.  This was a children's story from a former minister at SPPC.

One Loving Heart

            We ought to see how each of us may best arouse others
             to love and active goodness.       Hebrews 10: 24

     Bright young men sometimes get into trouble. David Brainerd went to Yale. He was expelled in 1742 for criticizing the religion of one of his tutors. That helped him to become more serious and careful in future.
     “I longed to live for God and be devoted to Him. I wanted to wear out my life in His service and for His glory” he said.
     It didn’t take him long after leaving university to find out how to show his love for God and his fellowmen.
He became a missionary, and went to minister to the Indians of Massachusetts. His health was poor and he had to return to the home of his friend Jonathan Edwards. He died in 1747 - not yet 30 years old.
    Why speak about him? Turned out of university, short life, five years missionary service. 
    He wrote a diary which tells about his deep longing to do some work for God. It was published in 1749.
     It came into the hands of William Carey and helped him become the man he was - the first missionary to India [1793]. He translated the Bible into Indian languages, and formed a great college. He worked for 40 years in India.
     The diary also came into the hands of a brilliant student at Cambridge University called Henry Martyn. He wanted to be a missionary and faced problems before he finally sailed for India [1805]. He worked there preaching at first to the English as a chaplain but then, as he learned the language, he p
reached to anyone who would listen. He translated the Bible into Hindustani, Arabic and Persian. After seven years he succumbed to ill health and died.
    We can see from all of this how one life touches another. Brainerd lived only a short time but he stirred up other people to work for God. 
    The great revivalist, D.L.Moody said “It is better to set 10 men to work than to try to do the work of 10 men”

One loving heart sets another one on fire”

Monday, July 24, 2017

As a season's pass holder, I've been enjoying music at the Butchart Gardens this summer. It's a wonderful way to spend an evening, and a great chance to hear groups I wouldn't normally subscribe to.   So far, I've sampled jazz, classical, dixieland, blues, Celtic, folk, a boys choir, and country and western.  Still to come is the Victoria Symphony and a ballet company.  
In addition to the music, I enjoy the people --and dog-- watching. Little children love to run on the grass as darkness falls.  The dogs put their heads down and wait quietly.  I wonder sometimes if the music hurts their ears.  Everyone has extra coats and blankets, which they'll share with strangers.  When it rains, the Gardens hands out umbrellas. 
Rev. Irwin often reminds us that church should be a foretaste of heaven.  My evenings at the Butcharts remind me that God has blessed us in this world as well as giving us the promise of the world to come.

At church we're being treated to variety as well.  While Rev. Irwin is on holiday we're having four different guests fill the pulpit, each with his unique perspective on the gospel and the church.  
Last week it was Rev. Harold McNabb, a retired Presbyterian minister who has served in various communities in British Columbia, including West Shore Presbyterian and the Victoria Chinese Presbyterian Church.  He preached on hope.  At a time when mainline churches face declining membership, he reminded us that the church is the "Bride of Christ."  It cannot fail.  It may evolve, but it can not fail.

This Sunday, we heard from Pastor George Hodgson.  He served for many years at Friendship Community Church.  When he retired, he liked to say his job didn't change much, he just stopped being paid.  It's nice to know, as pulpit supply, he'll be getting a pay cheque.  Pastor George also led the service at SPH in the afternoon, since it was our turn, once again, to minister in that venue.

Next Sunday, we'll hear from Alan Taylor, a long-time elder at Saanichton Bible Fellowship.  I spoke with him about his background and learned he has always given of his time and talent to the church.  He earns a living as a painter.

Finally, on the last Sunday of Rev. Irwin's vacation, we'll have Rev. Noel Kinnon in the pulpit.  Rev. Kinnon is a former minister at SPPC and is frequently called upon to fill out pulpit.  We'll see him as an old friend.

The adage is, "a change is as good as a rest."  So, while our minister enjoys his well-earned rest, the congregation gets "a change."

Happy summer.

Monday, July 17, 2017


WWJD is a modern acronym for "What Would Jesus Do?"  A few years ago it was popular on bumper stickers, wrist bands and t-shirts.   On a recent trip to Newfoundland, I saw the evidence of that precept in action.

Sir Wilfred T. Grenfell, was born in England in 1865, son of a clergyman.   In the midst of his medical studies in 1885 and pondering what to do with his life, he stumbled into a tent meeting conducted by Dwight Lyman Moody and Ira David Sankey.  He was so moved by what he heard that he determined at once to devote his life to do "What Jesus would have done if he had been a doctor."   In consequence of that experience he joined the "Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen" and was eventually sent to Labrador as an experiment. 

Throughout the summer of 1893 he visited along the Labrador coast, where he discovered a population of about 30,000 souls without adequate food, clothing or medical treatment.  Working with the Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen, and eventually with the International Grenfell Association he laboured tirelessly to improve the lives of those people.  As he believed that most of the medical situations were a direct result of poverty, he enlarged his vision to include education, agriculture and industrial development as well as hospitals and nursing stations.  

In 1899 he acquired his first hospital ship, the Strathcona, donated by Sir Donald Smith of Canadian Pacific railway fame.  In 1901 the mission opened a year-round hospital at St. Anthony, followed by an orphanage in 1904, and a school in 1909.  
As well as tending to patients, Dr. Grenfell became increasingly involved in fund-raising. Other medical personnel were recruited to operate the facilities.

His energy and dedication attracted others to his cause, not the least of whom was his wife, Anna MacClanahan, a well-born and wealthy American.  The Grenfell Mission enjoyed the patronage of Nelson Rockefeller, King George V, Wm Lyon Mackenzie-King and Theodore Roosevelt, among others.

By the time of his retirement in 1932, the Grenfell Mission operated 6 hospitals, 7 nursing stations, 2 orphanages, 2 large schools, 14 industrial centres, and a cooperative lumber mill. An amazing testament to "what would Jesus do?"

Dr. Grenfell died in 1940.  His work was carried on by the Grenfell International Association for many years, but, eventually, funding modern medical care became too much for a private organization to manage. The hospitals, ships, medical equipment, etc. were handed over to the government of Newfoundland for the sum of $1.00. 

 The Grenfell Association remains active and awards grants to non-profit organizations for improving the health, education and social welfare of the people of coastal Labrador and Northern Newfoundland.

The next time you see the slogan "WWJD?" remember Sir Wilfred Grenfell and his legacy of service.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Picnic 2017

The church picnic this year did not have the sunny skies of previous picnics. 
Instead, according to Janet, "it was cold ( we reached 14 deg.) with a wet scotch mist. Some wrapped in blankets to keep warm while others played games. A time of good food, fun and warm  fellowship was had by all who attended."

I missed the picnic, as I was travelling in Newfoundland, but as I recall, June 18 was cold and wet there too.  We drove through fog, saw a moose, and watched the icebergs. 

Happy Summer!

Monday, July 3, 2017

School's Out

 Well, not school exactly, but the choir is enjoying that "end of term" feeling.  Although we love to sing, we're happy to be in a church choir, Thursday night practice is a joyful time and Sunday worship is made more meaningful with music, the members of the choir still need a break.  We're not on vacation until September.   
      There will be solos, duets, etc. over the summer so the congregation won't be deprived of a musical offering during the worship service, but as a group, we're having a little R&R.  To celebrate, we went out to dinner.  We chose the Chinese buffet since it's convenient, everyone can take whatever they like, and payment is uncomplicated.  Plus, we get to socialize a lot!
      Our ranks have been depleted this year, so anyone who thinks he/she "might" like to join the choir, please stop thinking about it and "just do it."  As a reward you get a great view of the congregation during service, you get to wear that lovely polyester robe, and sit close to the preacher during the sermon.  You also get to watch Larry making faces.   And . . . you get to go to all our parties.
  Happy summer everyone, especially the choir.  See you all in September.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Life Explored

This week is the last session of "Life Explored," our current study, and the end of Wednesday Bible Study for this term.
Life Explored has been a fun program, using video and small group discussion exclusively.  Since the morning session has been divided in two, I've missed seeing the whole gang, but having more time for the small group has allowed a new perspective on how we hear and understand the message of the lessons.
Life Explored is available on-line for home study at, so if you weren't able to attend the Wednesday session, you can do a self-directed study of the same material.  Also, SPPC now owns the videos so anyone can borrow them and run a Bible study at home with friends and colleagues, or with only one curious friend who wonders why you "waste" you time on church and "all that stuff."
We'll start a new study in the Fall.  Meantime, enjoy your summer, fill it with rest and renewal and enjoy God's wonderful creation.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Fathers and Faith

 Compared to Mother's Day, Father's Day gets short shrift in the Presbyterian Church in Canada.  In the secular world retailers are keen to capitalise on any occasion to boost sales, but the real heart-rending advertising usually focuses on mothers, while dads are portrayed as needing a new lawnmower or a tie.  
    The trend toward inclusive language has also been hard on the word father in our liturgy.

    But on this day, father's get the spotlight.  The NIV Bible uses the word father 692 times in the Old Testament and 390 times in the New.  The basis of our faith reminds us over and over that God is our Heavenly Father, the one to whom we look for protection, provision, compassion, judgement, discipline, mercy and unfailing love.

     One of our choir anthems includes the lines:
And for those special moments, those times when we recall
A father’s guiding presence, a mother’s gentle call,
The laughter and the singing, the teaching of your way,
The quiet times together that taught us how to pray.

A reminder of the importance of father's in family life.

     Hymn writers too pay homage to God, the Father.  One of my favourites is This Is My Father's World.  Perhaps because I grew up in the country the images of rustling grass, carolling birds, lily white, rocks and trees, skies and seas, resonate deep in my soul. This hymn is a wonderful hymn of praise to the Creator Father.

Another of my choices is Dear Lord and Father of Mankind. The first verse speaks to our need to repent, but the following lines assure us of God, the Father as our refuge in a turbulent world.  One of the great blessings of my life was "home."  Without question, if life got too hard, I could go home and be enfolded in the love and security and acceptance of family.  This hymn promises that all people, regardless of their earthly family, have this same, safe refuge with our Father in Heaven.

One last example from my personal favourites is Great is Thy Faithfulness.  Here we are reminded of the steadfastness of our Father.  He "changest not." His compassion never fails.  Through all the seasons of life He offers His presence to "to cheer and to guide."  All our needs are taken care of by our Father's provision.

    To all the fathers out there, some with a new tie, blessings on you and may you remember that you have a perfect role model described in the pages of the Bible, in the poetry of hymns and in the love that surrounds you and keeps you in His care forever and ever.


Monday, June 12, 2017

Season Wind Up

This week the Parking Lot Club wound up activities for the summer with a special feast. 

Fast hockey 

And a water balloon fight.                                                        
We had an exciting first year for this program.  As with anything new there was some trial and error, but over all, everyone had a good time and everyone was well fed.  
Watch for our re-opening in the fall.  

Monday, June 5, 2017

Strength Together

On this Pentecost Sunday, the bulletin contained two independent announcements that emphasise our unity in fellowship.  The flowers were in celebration of a fifth birthday.  A little further down the list was a notice of a 100th birthday.  Few organizations in the secular world would have members at both ends of the age spectrum.  Our inclusivity of all who believe is one of the great strengths of the church.  A point underlined by the reading from Acts 2 "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."

I won't try to repeat the sermon here, but I do have a children's story from an anonymous source that illustrates the same point.

The preacher, holding ten to twenty pencils bound with a rubber band, asks the children, "Why do we go to church?"  
He then explains that we go to church to have fellowship with other Christians. Nations are strong because their many people are bonded together.We need to care for one another, love one another
And it is the same in the church. We come together each Sunday, and during the week we support one another, encourage and pray for one another.
Take a pencil - can you break it?
                         two pencils?
                        three pencils?

The more pencils there are together the harder it is to break them.
The same is true for us as Christians. The more we band together the stronger we are. When we group together, share with on another, we find it much easier to live as Christians.  The world today makes it difficult to be Christian, that is why it is so important for us to get together as we do in church.

Happy birthday to all who celebrate this week, old, young, and in-between.  Your Christian family rejoices with you, prays for you, and stands together to keep you strong.

Monday, May 29, 2017

When Morning Gilds the Skies

We don't often sing the hymn, "When Morning Gilds the Skies," but after our incessantly gloomy winter and spring, now that the sunshine has finally arrived, I find myself humming this old favourite.

When morning gilds the skies, My heart awaking cries,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Alike at work and prayer, To Jesus I repair:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

To God, the Word, on high, The host of angels cry,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Let mortals, to, up-raise, Their voice in hymns of praise;
May Jesus Christ by praised!

Let earth's wide circle round In joyful notes resound,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Let earth and sea and sky, From depth to height, reply,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Be this, while life is mine, My canticle divine,
May Jesus Christ be prised!
Be this the eternal song, Through all the ages on,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

The hymn is similar to many of the psalms with its constant refrain of praise.  It is also reminiscent of  the opening of Psalm 19, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the skies proclaim the work of His hands."  
In the letter to the Romans, Paul states "Since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities -- his eternal power and divine nature -- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, that that people are without excuse."
In the first stanza we see the rising sun and give praise.  We move through the day at work or prayer and give praise.  Angels and mortals all give praise.  The whole earth, from depth to height give praise.  Finally, the poet invokes the praise of Christ in eternity.

Translated from the German by Edward Caswall, it began appearing in hymnbooks in 1854. Distinguished English poet and translator Robert Bridges amended the translation in 1899, noting that  “It is of great merit, and I have tried to give a better version of it than the current one, keeping the original metre, preserving the first lines of the old translation, since it is by them that the hymn is known.” The hymn's popularity grew to a high point in the 1980's. I remember singing it in elementary school -- back when the school day began with a Bible reading, the Lord's prayer, a hymn and the national anthem. 

The tune, “Laudes Domini”, was composed by Joseph Barnby (1838-1896), an English organist and choirmaster who was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1892.  The soaring melody mimics the rising of the sun and demands the worshipper to stand straight and praise with conviction.

Enjoy the sunshine, and don't forget to praise Jesus Christ in the morning and in the evening and in all phases of your day.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Busy Day

Last Wednesday was a busy day at SPPC.  Presbytery met. We started a new Bible Study.  We got a new piano.  All in the same day.

Presbytery will have it's own report, but I can tell you the Bible Study was well-attended and interesting.  Rev. Irwin is using a different format this time, we're all in small groups all the time and he leads each one.  We watch a short video, prepared by the Christianity Explored Ministries, then reply to an open-ended question like "What's the best gift God could give you?"  There is no "right" answer but the question provides a jumping-off place for discussion. Another short video presentation, then more discussion, this time using Biblical texts to explore the role of God in our lives.  The study is very different format from what we've done before, but change is good.  Right?

The new piano arrived during Bible Study.  I heard the delivery people playing scales while we looked at Psalm 19.  Later I took the opportunity to try it out myself.  Here's a picture.  Isn't it pretty?

The baby grand is a gift from a generous donor and will enhance our music program.  The most obvious difference is that the music director now faces the choir.  If you've ever sung in a group you know how important that is.  For years the choir has tried to impart a uniform, choral presentation while looking at the director's back!

The piano has a lovely tone which the congregation will surely enjoy, especially once it has been tuned and overhauled. That will be in about a month's time when the instrument has had time to settle into its new environment. 

The upright piano has been moved from the sanctuary to the Ross lounge, so it is still in service to our congregation.  The smaller piano is in the hall for now.  Being on a good trolley means it can be easily moved from one location to another as the need arises.

A grand piano in the sanctuary opens up more opportunities for music in worship and in concert.  An exciting development for our congregation.  Many thanks to our anonymous benefactor.

Monday, May 15, 2017


Lots of things to share on this week's blog.  We're starting a new Bible Study for one.  It is called Life Explored and was developed by the same team that presented Christianity Explored, a study done at this church some time ago.  Life Explored uses the Bible story of creation, fall, redemption, new creation to illuminate modern life.
The format is a bit different this time.  The lesson begins with a video presentation, then a time of discussion.  The morning session has been divided in two so that we'll work more in small groups. You can choose either 9:15 am, or 10:30 am, or 7:00 pm. 

Last week's celebration of Irwin's ten years with our congregation inspired a lot of pictures!  I'm sharing some more here.

If you were there, you should be here!

Finally, Bette Dempster of our congregation celebrated her 100th birthday with cake and a visit from some SPPC friends. 

Thanks to Russell and Norma for sharing photographs.