Pastoral Letter for Ash Wednesday

Dear Sisters & Brothers in Christ,

As we enter into the season of Lent, traditionally a season of introspection and penitence, we are aware of the attention of our nation on the acquittal of Gerald Stanley in the shooting death of Colton Boushie.

We would like to invite the United Church in BC, its members and its congregations, to be prayerful during this season about the ways in which racism is internalized in us, and in our institutions (including the church) in Canada. We repent of misuse of power. We repent of the outflow of colonialism and the harm it has done to our relationships. The journey of reconciliation takes more than just a few years, and it certainly takes more than words… though words do have power to heal or hurt.

As many of us mark our foreheads with ashes today, let us remember we are unified in our humanity… we are dust, and to dust we shall return. Let us truly repent of those choices we have made that lack courage, and as we follow Jesus during the wilderness season of Lent, let us ask for his grace and humility in our relationships with one another. We can learn from one another’s wisdom. We can reject violence in all its forms, and commit again to the just, loving and peaceful way of Jesus’ life on this earth.

Together, let us renounce racism and violence, in our actions and in our lives, as we continue to follow Jesus and his vision of the reign of God. Let us recommit to humble listening for the Spirit of God to guide us in our paths, and to respectful relationships with one another despite differences. We are one in Christ, and let us cling to that unity in this time of struggle for justice in our nation.

Grace and peace,

Ray Jones, Co-chair of the Native Ministries Council of BC Conference, and Cari Copeman-Haynes, President of BC Conference

Cari Copeman-Haynes, President of BC Conference

Ray Jones, Co-chair of the Native Ministries Council of BC Conference

United Church Moderator’s Lenten Video Message

Seeing With the Eyes of Love

Moderator Jordan Cantwell invites us this Lenten season to take time each day to practice seeing ourselves as God sees us; not as perfect, but as beloved.  View her message here.

 

 

Transcript of video message:

The season of Lent is once again upon us, a time of year when we are invited to make space in our lives for reflection and self-examination, to draw closer to God.

Now, if you’re like me, self-examination can quickly turn into self-critique and even self-loathing. I have a tendency when I look closely at myself to zero on in on those things that I wish were different. I wish I was less judgmental, more patient, better at showing others that I care, less fearful. I find no shortage of things to feel shabby about.

But I don’t believe God wants us to feel bad about ourselves. There’s quite enough of that going around already, and there’s nothing life-giving about it. Nor do I believe that guilt helps us to feel closer to God—quite the opposite!

So what if, instead of finding fault with my imperfections, I practised greeting them with compassion? Instead of scolding myself for every shortcoming, I might acknowledge how hard it is to consistently be the kind, courageous, loving person I long to be.

Maybe if I am able to regard myself with the eyes of love rather than judgment it will be easier for me to trust in God’s grace and unconditional acceptance—something I find hard to do.

Perhaps as I learn to be patient and compassionate toward myself, I will have more patience and compassion for others as well.

This is my goal for this Lenten season: to take time each day to practise seeing myself as God sees me, not as perfect, but as beloved. And I invite you to join me in this endeavour. It isn’t easy—it really does take time and practice.

My prayer for you, and for myself, is that we may learn to see with the eyes of love and discover ourselves and our world transformed.

Lent Begins Wednesday, February 14th

Ash Wednesday Service

Wednesday, February 14th at 11:30 am
in the Church of St Paul, Barriere

The liturgical season of Lent precedes Easter.  It begins forty days before Easter excluding the six Sundays that occur prior to Easter Sunday in that Sundays are often considered to be “little” Easters.  The first day of Lent is Ash Wednesday.

The North Thompson Ecumenical Shared Ministry will hold an Ash Wednesday Service at 11:30 am on February 14th at the Church of St Paul in Barriere.  This service will include the Imposition of Ashes and Holy Communion.  Traditionally, the ashes are from burning the palms that were used on the preceding year’s Palm Sunday.  The ashes are most often placed in the sign of the cross on the forehead as a mark of repentance.

Lent is a time of reflection and penitence.  Some mark this season with specific spiritual practices such as having a daily devotional time, giving something up, abstaining from a particular activity, or taking on a new attitude or practice.  In some congregations, the “alleluias” are “put away” by selecting hymns that don’t include “alleluia”.

The liturgical colour of Lent is purple.  Linens (altar cloths) and hangings on pulpits and lecterns get changed to purple.  The stoles and vestments worn by clergy will have a purple background.  Banners will incorporate designs and motifs to remind people of Christ’s passion and that this time of reflection leads to the crucifixion of Jesus.

May all Lenten journeys be blessed!

Daily Lenten Devotions from Lutherans Connect

Being God’s Hands

February 14th to April 1st

Many of us desire to spend more time in spiritual practice than we do, but often find it challenging to make space for it in our lives. In Lent, we are especially encouraged to make sacrifices or ‘fasts’ to help draw us into the deeper meaning of the story of Jesus’ time in the wilderness.

In the spirit of our previous Lenten and Advent online devotional projects, Lutherans Connect invites you to make space for reflection every day. To assist you we will offer (in a daily blog that will be linked to Facebook and Twitter) a daily meditation, bringing together scripture readings, poetry, music and reflections, from a range of ecumenical traditions.

Our theme for this Lenten project comes from Psalm 90, which ends with a petition that God’s work may be manifest in us. “Let the favour of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands — O prosper the work of our hands.” How do we prosper the work of God’s hands with our own, in a world that seems more broken than ever? How has God equipped each of us to serve God’s world with our gifts and talents?

One part of our exploration will look at the occupations of Scripture. From the carpenters and stonecutters of the temple to the makers of bread and wine, how does the ‘work’ of people in the bible live in God’s world?

As well, we live in a time when we have become aware of the power of physical touch to both harm and heal. Another part of our exploration will look at the ways in which Jesus engaged others in his ministry. From the hemorrhaging woman to the blind man of Bethsaida how does Jesus act in respectful relationship to the bodies of others?

A final part of our exploration will see how the people of Scripture uphold and assist each other. What happens when we choose to live as the body of Christ, in love and service with our neighbours and the world?

Let’s find out together. Join us February 14th for forty-seven days of exploring God’s call to live faith in the world. (This year we will be going through Holy Week to Easter Sunday.) And may God’s nourishing love bless you this day and always.

~ from the Lutherans Connect facebook page

The devotions can be accessed from the Lutherans Connect facebook page or their blog.

‘Tis the Season of Meetings

Annual Congregational and Parish Meetings Coming Soon!

For our Parish, there is an additional season that happens within the time of the liturgical season of Epiphany and, this year because Easter is early, Lent.  The two congregations and the Parish all hold annual meetings.

Alleluia!!  The 2017 Annual Reports of the North Thompson Ecumenical Shared Ministry are now available.  They form the core of how we celebrate and reflect on the life and work of our two congregations and the Parish.  Thanks go to all those who wrote reports and prepared the financial statements and to Leslie Stirling who put the report package together and then printed and collated it.  Be sure to pick up a copy and bring it with you to your congregation and the parish meetings.

 

There will be three gatherings (note that food is always involved!):

  • The Trinity Shared Ministry congregation will meet on Sunday, January 28th following worship at Sandra’s.  A potluck lunch will follow the meeting.
  • The Church of St Paul congregation will meet on Sunday, February 4th after the service.  The meeting will be at the Church of St Paul following a potluck lunch.
  • The third gathering will be the third Annual Meeting of the entire North Thompson Ecumenical Shared Ministry or the Parish as we now call it.  In the past, only the North Thompson Pastoral Charge Board met to discuss the annual reports and to make plans for the coming year.  The NTESM Agreement that was signed September 24, 2015 and is now our primary governance document calls for an Annual Congregational Meeting of the entire NTESM.  This year’s meeting will be held at the Church of St Paul on Sunday, February 18th following a potluck lunch after the Church of St Paul’s service.  Hopefully, there will be a good turnout from both congregations!

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

“Your right hand, O Lord,
glorious in power”
(Exodus 15: 6)

January 18th – 25th

The theme for the 2018 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity comes to us from the Caribbean region: “Your right hand, O LORD, glorious in power” (Exodus 15:6).

The contemporary Caribbean is deeply marked by the dehumanizing project of colonial exploitation. In their aggressive pursuit of mercantile gains, the colonisers codified brutal systems which traded human beings and their forced labour.

Today, Caribbean Christians of many different traditions see the hand of God active in the ending of enslavement. It is a uniting experience of God’s saving action which brings freedom. The Caribbean ecumenical team chose the song of Moses and Miriam (Ex 15:1-21) — a song of triumph over oppression — as the motif of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

~ from the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2018 web page

 

Anglican Primate’s Christmas Letter

“But you, O Bethlehem”

~ by Fred Hiltz, Archbishop and Primate on December 20, 2017

At many Christmas Services, there is one carol that is sung by candlelight and most often it is “Silent Night! Holy Night!”  But this year I invite you to consider “O Little Town of Bethlehem”.

In the opening verse of this much loved carol, Phillips Brooks takes us to that “little town” of whom the Prophet had written,

“But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
And he shall stand and feed his flock
in the strength of the Lord,…
And they shall live secure,
For now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth;
and he shall be the one of peace.”
(Micah 5: 2, 4-5)

Brooks speaks of the town’s stillness and its undisturbed sleep above which “the silent stars go by”.  Then he speaks of the beauteous light that shines in its streets, as the birth of the Messiah becomes known.  As we hold our candle, and focus on this lovely text, we might think of how far a cry the Bethlehem of today is from the stillness and peace of which the carol speaks.  Stark images of the massive Separation Wall come to mind, as do images of the heavily guarded check point through which people must pass in and out of the city.  In many respects, Brooks’ words “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight” are a fitting commentary on the circumstances in which people live there.  They live with hope for the peace God intends, however elusive it may be, however challenging to negotiate and secure.  They live with fear that developments such as the world has witnessed in recent weeks will escalate political tensions in their city, in Jerusalem, Gaza, and throughout the Middle East.  So as we hold our candle and sing, we think of all those for whom this “little town” is home, all those who know its history and cling to its destiny in the sight of God.

In the next verse, we are taken right into the manger where “Christ is born of Mary”.  As we hold our candle we remember the song of the angels and the adoration of the Shepherds.  We remember the ancient Church of The Nativity to which thousands and thousands of pilgrims have flocked for centuries.  We think of all those who will gather in Manger Square this year awaiting greetings and messages from the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, attesting to the loving purposes of God in Christ.  So as we hold our candle, we pray for all for whom this “little town” is a point of departure or destination in pilgrimage, and for their safety and spiritual enrichment.

In the next verse, we are carried into the realms of heaven itself and then swiftly back down to earth again.  As we hold our candle, we are reminded of the mystery of the Incarnation.

“How silently, how silently,
the wondrous gift is given
as love imparts to human hearts
the blessings of God’s heaven!”

The words of the Prologue to John’s Gospel come to mind.  “And the Word was made flesh, and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)  His coming as someone once said is “disguised”.  It is quiet and kindly.  It befriends and redeems the world.  It reconciles us with God and with one another.  It sanctifies and makes holy our lives and our work.  As we hold our candle, we are blessed in hearing yet again this wonderful truth.

“Where meek souls will receive him,
still, the dear Christ enters in.”

That we be ready we pray (with our brothers and sisters in Ghana), “Oil the hinges on the doors of our hearts that they may swing gently and easily to welcome him.”

And what a lovely segue that is to the final verse of this carol.  It is a prayer to the Holy Child that he might indeed “be born in us” and “abide with us” all our days.  It is the prayer of all those who in every generation come to know and love Him.  It was the prayer of all those now numbered among “all ye citizens of heaven above”.  It was the prayer of our loved ones who are now in His nearer presence.  As we hold our candle and remember them, we pray for ourselves that we may embrace his Gospel of love for the world and endeavour to fashion our manner of living in accord with its truths and promises.

Well dear friends, I have made my case for choosing “O Little Town of Bethlehem” as the carol to be sung by candlelight this year.  If you take up my invitation, I hope your experience like mine, helps you to focus more closely on the text and the story it tells, and the reflections and prayers it summons out of you.

With blessings for a Holy and Peaceful Christmas,
Fred Hiltz, Archbishop and Primate

~ from the Anglican Church of Canada’s website

Watchers and Holy Ones

Daily Advent Devotions from Lutherans Connect

Angels in Adoration (detail) by Benozzo Gozzoli (Source: Wikimedia Commons http://bit.ly/2AfxaGE)

The following is how Lutherans Connect has described this year’s on-line Advent daily devotions:

Many of us wish we could spend more time in spiritual practice than we do, but often find it challenging to make space for it in the day-to-day challenges of our lives. During the weeks leading up to Christmas it can be especially difficult to imagine a peacefulness in which we can experience God’s presence.

In the spirit of our ongoing seasonal devotional projects, Lutherans Connect invites you to make space for reflection and prayer this Advent by joining us in daily online devotions. As we have done in the past, these daily meditations will bring together scripture readings, poetry, songs and reflections, from a wide range of ecumenical traditions.

Our theme this Advent is ‘watchers and holy ones’. Inspired by the encounter of Mary and Gabriel in Luke 1, we will follow the path of the divine beings who profoundly impact and alter the lives of key figures in Scripture. Known more popularly as ‘angels’, these heavenly messengers bring news, instruction or just accompaniment as an expression of being ‘watchful’, ’awake’ and very present to the dilemmas of the biblical figures they encounter. Is there a path from the wilderness experience of Hagar to that of the adult Jesus? How do divine beings help to shape the biblical story?

In addition, we will also explore the ‘watches of the night’ in Scripture. These watches, or units of time from dusk to dawn, derive from the military exercise of keeping guard in times of battle. In Mark 13 Jesus also uses them as a metaphor for how we can learn to wait for His coming again. In the story of the nativity, the image is transformed to foreshadow Jesus the Shepherd, as shepherds themselves keep watch by night. What does it mean to each of us to be awake and prepared for new life?

Join us daily from December 3rd to December 24th as we reflect together and anticipate a dawn of hope. And may you experience the peace of the coming Saviour this Advent and always!

The devotionals can be found on the Lutherans Connect blog post or their facebook page.  You can also ask to have the devotionals e-mailed to you by writing lutheransconnect@gmail.com.