Change of date for information night at St John’s. If you are interested in a trip to Italy from May 9-23 2016 come and join us for an information evening at St John the Evangelist Church 3428 Portage Rd. Niagara Falls starting at 6:30 – 7:30 on November the 23rd…. Our travel agent will be here with us to answer questions and to take registrations. Please call the church office to let us know you are coming. 905-354-1227
As we approach Thanksgiving Weekend I would like to invite you to our Celebration of Thanksgiving on the 11th of October when we will be celebrating God’s blessings in our personal lives as well as in the life of our community of St John’s.
I confess that I have mixed emotions each year as this special holiday approaches. There are feelings of delight in the gifts of the land – in the beautiful, fresh squash and apples and potatoes and carrots that are graciously given by God and brought in by farmers and workers. There is joy in those familiar hymns that announce our Creator’s blessing:
For the fruits of all creation, thanks be to God; for the gifts to every nation, thanks be to God; for the ploughing, sowing, reaping, silent growth while we are sleeping, future’s needs in earth’s safe-keeping, thanks be to God.
On the other hand, however, there are feelings of regret over the world’s indifference to the land and to the rhythm of the seasons. The smell and feel of rich soil is for most of us only a distant memory. The produce in our grocery stores flies across continents and time zones in defiance of the earth’s rhythms. Our turkeys are never a family bird, tended and fed and then brought to table as an answer to careful and loving labour. In other words our delight in the harvest is often, today, merely delight at a distance.
I don’t highlight these mixed emotions, these tensions, in order to find a quick fix, but simply to remind us how things are. And, perhaps, to ignite a longing for a simpler way of life that would bring us, body and soul, closer to God’s creation – recognizing, as Norman Wirzba has said, that “the more we appreciate and engage creation in its depth and variety, the greater, and the more spontaneous and natural, will be our gratitude and praise.”
As those who walk in the way of the ancient Hebrew people, and who walk in the way of the risen Christ, Thanksgiving pushes our thinking beyond creation and harvest. It moves us, through a general attitude of thankfulness, to giving. The hymn-writer, again, gets it right:
In the just reward of labour, God’s will is done; in the help we give our neighbour, God’s will is done; in our world-wide task of caring for the hungry and despairing, in the harvests we are sharing, God’s will be done.
The many ways we, here at St John’s, have been working to see God’s will be done have been at times scary and perhaps hard as well as exciting, inspiring and enriching. Just to remind you of some of the work we have undertaken since last December I thought it would be good to make a list. First and foremost on our list was to get our finances back on track, then to look at our endeavours at outreach…after looking at some of the programs we are already involved with like; Out of the Cold, St George’s Breakfast Program, Project Share, the Soup Truck, PWRDF, Bethlehem Housing, Water Walkers United, Niagara Support Services, and the Water Project we thought about how we could increase our visibility in the community thus came the birth of our Community BBQ. And what a time we had! It was a time of opening our minds, hearts, and arms as well as our doors to anyone who wished to come to join us. The Spirit is certainly alive and well in our midst and I am sure was felt by everyone at our first annual BBQ!!! The kids had a blast, the adults had as much fun, I am sure, and the people who came out to volunteer, it seemed to me, had the most fun of all. Thanks be to God for everyone who participated in ANY way. Like I said you are all stars!
We have been so blessed here at St John’s. We have amazing wardens in Karen James, Lil Booth, Gary Jenkinson and Pat Olson, we have Kim Martignago who keeps the office running, we have a very supportive Parish Council, we have incredible volunteers who help with everything from worship, working with and teaching our children, Val and our Choir who make a joyful noise unto the Lord, greeters, sides people, people who do flowers, cleaning, catering to funeral receptions, planning events, then working at those events, finances, making calls, changing the sign and all you who worship with us and support our community in many other ways to numerous to mention. Many hands make light work. If you are interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities just give us a call. All are welcome! It is in giving that we receive.
Enclosed with this Thanksgiving letter, you will find a special offering envelope. As you give something extra this season, your gift will not only support our parish but will also support the work of St. John’s in the wider community as we proclaim God’s loving action in the world. Giving is not just a matter of finances; it is also a spiritual matter. Giving is an act of thanksgiving to God for the many blessings we each can name in our own lives, and in those blessings we celebrate together as the community of St John’s.
Yours in Christ
P.S. If you have had the opportunity to see our refreshed Russell Room please take a peek. A huge thank you to the donors who made it all possible.
A Choice Calling for Discipline – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey
When we look critically at the many thoughts and feelings that fill our minds and hearts, we may come to the horrifying discovery that we often choose death instead of life, curse instead of blessing. Jealousy, envy, anger, resentment, greed, lust, vindictiveness, revenge, hatred … they all float in that large reservoir of our inner life. Often we take them for granted and allow them to be there a…nd do their destructive work.
But God asks us to choose life and to choose blessing. This choice requires an immense inner discipline. It requires a great attentiveness to the death-forces within us and a great commitment to let the forces of life come to dominate our thoughts and feelings. We cannot always do this alone; often we need a caring guide or a loving community to support us. But it is important that we both make the inner effort and seek the support we need from others to help us choose life.
– Henri J. M. Nouwen
Question of the Week: Q. How do you pick the readings for each Sunday?
I’m happy to say that I don’t. In the Anglican tradition, we get to share — with Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Orthodox, some United, Methodist and Presbyterian churches — in a wonderful thing called The Lectionary. The Lectionary sets the readings Sunday by Sunday on a three year cycle. That means that every Sunday of the year, there is a reading from the Old Testament, a psalm, a New Testament passage, and a Gospel selection that are assigned. This Lectionary is ancient, dating back (at least in skeletal form) to the 4th century of the Christian church.
There are a number of things about the Lectionary that are incredibly beneficial to a worshipping community:
-Over the course of three years, we hear most of our New Testament and large portions of the Old Testament. Because of the three year cycle, if we are regular participants in worship, we will become familiar with our Scriptures over time, while still having enough variety that the readings can sound new and fresh to us when we do hear them. Right now, we are in Year B of the Lectionary. Year A focuses on the Gospel of Matthew, Year B on the Gospel of Mark (and to some extent, John), Year C on the Gospel of Luke.
-For a preacher, having a Starting Point is important. I can look up the readings for that Sunday and allow them, through the week, to do what Scripture is supposed to do for us, that is live. I can read the texts and listen through the week to the conversations, memories, current events that surround me, that interact with the texts, and out of that I can hope to capture something of where I hear the Spirit speaking to us in This Time and This Place.
-The Lectionary protects you from hearing only what the preacher thinks is important about the Bible or what the preacher likes to talk about. The preacher is asked to be responsive even to parts of the Bible that he/she might otherwise avoid, find uninspiring or challenging.
-The readings are reflective of the seasons of the church year, and therefore, they help us, along with all of the other symbols we use in the church, to appreciate the different emotions, flavours and themes that move through the year, to connect us to the passage of time and the natural seasons in God’s creation.
-Because on every Sunday, literally millions of people will listen to, and reflect on, the same readings, the Lectionary also connects us to the reality that we are part of a universal and global church, spanning time and space. So many of you name this reality as one of the more powerful parts of your experience of what it is to be an Anglican Christian.
Ultimately, I invite you to discover how The Lectionary is meaningful to you. Because you know that these readings were not selected by me in order to teach you something, you can instead open yourself to wondering how God is speaking to you Today, Here and Now, through the holy words of Scripture.
Greetings St John’s on this hot and steamy day. Hope you are keeping “cool”.
One of the great things about vacation – apart from sun, delicious food, relaxation and an opportunity to see and do things which are outside of normal routines – is, for me, going on-line and reading updates of what parish members are doing and where their journeys are taking them during this summer.
I am looking forward to taking some time off to rejuvenate and part of that time will be spent at Sacred Circle in Port Elgin which is a gathering of Indigenous Anglicans from across Canada where we will study, pray and worship together for a whole week. Please make the most of your vacation time and remember to note the unplanned places that God’s grace and blessing break in.
This past Sunday brought us some challenging readings, particularly the first reading, which details some horrendous behaviour on the part of King David. It can be surprising to discover just how flawed our supposed heroes of faith actually are. Perhaps it is misleading to think of them as heroes. Rather, they are people who are spectacularly human and yet who come to experience the power of God at work in their lives.
I chose to focus on the Gospel of Jesus feeding the five thousand and talked about where we see God breaking into our community of St John’s in diverse ways with the visit from the Water Walkers and our opportunity to serve them. You can hear my homily on our website or on our Facebook page.
I hope that this e-mail similarly finds you able to enjoy some of the blessings afforded by this warm weather and your (hopefully lighter!) summer schedules.
Oh yes and don’t forget to take your pictures with Flat Jesus and forward them to us! I will do the same!
One Hundred and fifty Thank Yous: Update
We have now received 5 responses to our request for people to increase their giving’s. We have asked every household in our congregation to prayerfully consider their financial gift to St. John’s, to give thoughtfully and generously, and to consider an added gift as circumstances allow. The “150 Thank Yous” message reminds us that if many do a little, or more specifically, if everyone gives as they can, our ministry will be abundantly and richly resourced.
Things to note!
Western Canada Wildfires: Please continue to pray for people in Western Canada. As of yesterday, the CBC reports that there are 98 first still burning in Saskatchewan alone. “So far there have been 646 forest fires in the north, compared to 235 the same time last year.” Various parts of BC are on stage three water restrictions because it is so dry. Please pray for the safety of those fighting the fires and assisting people. Pray for comfort, strength, and patience in a difficult and anxiety-filled situation. Pray for more rain to bring relief from the fires and drought conditions. If you would like to donate through the PWRDF, who has provided an initial grant of $15,000 in relief funds for the Saskatchewan wildfires, you can do that online here. http://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/the-primates-world-relief-and-development-fund-pwrdf/
From Bethlehem Housing: http://bethlehemhousing.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Annual-Report-2014-2015-WEB2.pdf?utm_source=Bethlehem+News&utm_campaign=d62c063472-Bethlehem_News_July_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c9c7a93c04-d62c063472-108273469
I am struck by how sharing our weakness and difficulties is more nourishing to others than sharing our qualities and successes. There is a fundamental tendency to become discouraged in community. We either believe that others are better than we are, or they don’t have to cope with the same problems. The discovery that we are all in the same boat and all have the same fears and weariness, can help us to continue. People are nourished by humility, because humility is truth.
Jean Vanier, Community and Growth, p. 185
On June 3rd we celebrated the Feast of the Holy Trinity. Who came up with this teaching and why?
In more recent years, the Trinitarian proclamation has fallen into disfavour because of a reading of history that tells us that it was a group of male bishops in the early 4th century who took Jesus’ teachings of love and turned them into this big complicated articulation of faith with which we’ve been burdened ever since. Critics of this Christian teaching will note that the word ‘trinity’ never once appears in the Bible and claim, therefore, that it was a later addition to the faith.
In fact, what this criticisms misses is critically important. First of all, although the teaching does seem complicated, it is ultimately based on the experience of regular men and women of faith. It is an experience that might not be named at ‘Trinity’ in the Bible, but is consistently visible throughout our Sacred Story, and continues to be visible through the centuries up into our lives today. The experience is this:
-That relationship is at the heart of who God is.
-That God can be understood as operating in three distinct ways – God the Source of all being, God who we meet in one another, God who moves within each of us drawing us into relationship with one another and with God. These distinct activities or ‘persons’ of God are described in many different ways: God above us, God beside us, God within us; God the one who offers Self in love, God who receives that love, God who is Love; Father, Son, Holy Spirit; Parent, Child, Bond of Love; Source, Word, Spirit.
Secondly, a closer reading of church history actually blows apart any simplistic conclusions. The doctrine of the Trinity was not made up and then implemented by a group of male bishops. It took over eighty years of conversation, study of Scripture, and the development of the church community (the WHOLE church community, made up primarily of ordinary men and women over the course of several generations, not bishops) to agree on articulating their experience of God as holding three distinct identities, while moving and working and acting and loving for a common, unified purpose. Again, it was because of experience, the lived experience of real men and women, that turned the words and teachings we celebrate today into part of the backbone of the Christian faith.
Today, we give thanks for the witness of those early Christians. It is the witness that God was at work in the world through Jesus. It is the witness of the ‘overwhelming presence’ of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit wasn’t just letting them remember and venerate and worship Jesus. The Holy Spirit was making them BE Jesus! We give thanks for this witness, and we are invited, this weekend once again to look for our own witness, where this teaching, this insight, this faith passed down to us, connects with our own experience, our own lives, our own relationship with God and one another.
Communities as a Sign of Peace
Today, as never before, we need communities of welcome; communities that are a sign of peace in a world of war. There is no point in praying for peace in the Middle East, for example, if we are not peace-makers in our own community; if we are not forgiving those in our community who have hurt us or with whom we find it difficult to live. Young people, as well those who are older, are sensitive to this vision of peace. It must continually be announced so that hearts and minds are nourished.
Jean Vanier, Community and Growth, p. 177
It is after all about love!
We hear much about the love of God but what do we really believe God’s love is like. Is it the kind of love that says we will love you if you think like us, or if you dress like us, or if you believe like us-if you are just like us?
When I think about the love of God I can’t help but think of my grandmother. For me, when I was growing up, she was the one person in the world who really understood what God’s love was. She mirrored that love in h…er own life on a daily basis and gram or Mary Maracle really knew how to spread the love of God in many, many ways.
If anyone in the community was in need she was there, even though she didn’t have an abundance to share she always had an abundance of love. She never turned anyone away. If someone needed food she shared what she had, if they needed a place to stay they had that also, if someone needed money, if she had it they did too! I remember someone saying that when she journeyed on her purse was full of IOU’s…generous to a fault?
I never remember my grandmother saying anything bad about anyone…”if you can’t say something good it is better to not say anything at all”…she excepted people for who they were without any expectations other than they be honest with her.
So what do you think God’s love is like? A loving mother, father, aunt or uncle, grandparent? I believe God’s love is like all of these and more. When we hear we are to live in God’s love it goes far beyond anything we can even imagine.
God’s love is unconditional…we are loved by God for who we are and we are called to love others in that same way.
Now is this always easy? Of course not but who ever said life was going to be easy?
It saddens me to think of how many people in the world are not loved or feel unloved when we have so much love to give. To me this should be the easiest task we are called to by God. We can love simply because we were first loved. Loved so much that Jesus died for us that we may have eternal life! There is no love like that of someone who would lay down their lives for us and all we are called to do is love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves!
Just some ramblings from Canon Val…in God’s love.
When should a person be baptized? As an adult or as a baby?
In some church backgrounds, it is taught that the baptism of babies ‘doesn’t count.’ There are some denominations that, in fact, will insist on re-baptizing believers as adults, when the person can make the choice for him- or herself. It makes logical sense. How can a baby make a promise to follow Jesus? Understand what it is to accept and grow into a relationship with God? There is a whole movement of Christian history – reflected today in particular Christian denominations – that reacted against infant baptism as superstitious and inappropriate church teaching.
And yet, in the Anglican tradition (as well as the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Orthodox, United, and Presbyterian traditions), we continue to baptize babies. We continue to baptize babies, and we teach that there is One Baptism, that regardless of where, when, or under what circumstances you were baptized, that baptism is valid. Why? When it makes no logical sense?
Because our relationship with God actually isn’t about logical sense. Baptism is not about our understanding enough to be ‘ready’ for a relationship with God. It isn’t a graduation ceremony, where we have achieved certain requirements that validate us for the Body of Christ. Baptism is first, foremost, and ultimately about grace, about gift. Specifically God’s gift to us, the gift of God’s self, God’s love, God’s relationship. No strings attached. It is about a human recognition of the covenant that God makes with each and every one of us, of God’s faithfulness to us, whether or not we deserve it, whether or not we understand it. We continue to practice infant baptism because in this sacrament (an outward sign of an invisible gift) all of us are reminded most clearly of God’s unconditional love and acceptance of us. Although this baby has never done a single thing to earn a place in the community of people who are committed to walking together in the way of Jesus, they are welcomed, accepted, validated, valued, and joined to us, nonetheless.
So the question “ when should a person be baptized”? We, in the Anglican Church, baptize our children as babies but also baptize anyone who has not been baptized but has decided they wish to become part of the body of Christ in the Church. It was actually quite emotional for me to baptize my first great granddaughter and her daddy at the same. Her daddy Jay choose to share his gifts and his life with the Christian community, for himself as an adult at the same time we baptized their first child!