Ministry Team Messages
February 21st, 2020
The Season of Epiphany is closing and Lent is about to begin. A time of lengthening days, the return of life after the hibernation and rest of winter. It is a time to fast and pray. In our church year, we tell the story of Jesus’ teaching, promises and courage as he makes his way to Jerusalem for a final confrontation with those who seek to destroy him. This is a season that asks us to summon our courage and strength.
To that end, it is with incredible gratitude that I can tell you that the Pacific Spirit United Church Survivor’s Manual is now here, and ready to be picked up on Sunday or Wednesday. It is a booklet of daily reflections, stories and prayers for the 40 days of Lent. The stories have come from people in the congregation, speaking about what they have learned from life and faith by facing important challenges. As I read the finished copy, I am inspired and lifted up by the depth and wisdom of the people in this church. They sit beside us, work with us and for us in all kinds of capacities, and carry their own personal share of struggle, resilience and hope. We are profoundly blessed. Please pick up a “Survivor’s Manual” and give it to yourself as a gift this season.
And secondly, an invitation to join others in life-giving conversations about death.:
If I Should Die Before I Wake:
Time and place:
Sundays in the Lounge: 1:00-2:30 February 23, March 8, 15, 22, 29, April 5
Wednesdays in the Lounge: 4:00-5:30 February 26, March 4, 11, 18, 25 and
Week 1: Our experiences of being Accompanied by Death: When and How do we speak of death? Cultural messages. Starting a “book of the dead.”
Week 2: What does it mean to “get your affairs in order?” Understanding my own grieving and what others may experience when I die. What practical, personal and legal preparations would I like to make? Decluttering.
Week 3: Making a “Heart Will”. A legacy of yourself for others. Who and what matters most to you in this life? Thinking about writing or leaving messages to others and future generations about what is important to you.
Week 4: Honouring the Body What do I imagine, want for after-death care, good-bye rituals and services, how my body will be cared for. Budget and values.
Week 5: Is there such a thing as a “Good Death?” When I think of the process and possibility of death, what can make it better? Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) “Courageous conversations” with family members. Mending broken ties. Dying broke? Four Healing phrases: “I love you. Thank you. I forgive you. Please forgive me.”
Week 6: Spiritual Strengths for us to Share What is the hope of our faith? What do we know to be true? Is it possible to leave fear behind? The place of God, prayer, poetry, loved ones, solitude and song.
Lots of deep things to consider in this season And fine companions for the journey. May God bless us in this season of strengthening.
For the ministry team.
February 14th, 2020
Someone at Bible Study suggested it might just boost Sunday attendance if I let everyone know, ahead of time, what subjects would be covered in the upcoming scripture passages. I am thinking that this week, however, such foreknowledge might just drive people to stay home and watch a nice, comforting re-run of “Leave it to Beaver”, or a lovely romance movie broadcast especially for Valentine’s Day weekend. At the other end of the spectrum, while perhaps not quite qualifying as “a text of terror”, is the section we will read from the gospel of Matthew which has some pretty harsh words for us. It makes me think that Jesus never heard the old adage that my mother loved to repeat to me: “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”.
It is always a question for me how much, in our church life together, we should steer clear of the hard topics, and how much we should take them on head-on! Last week I made reference to the “comfortable pew” (an oxymoron, if ever there was one!) and the church’s desire to be a place that does not add to the discomfort, hardships or fear that people already experience in the world. I also know that sometimes staying quiet about particular issues or heartaches only magnifies the inner angst.
So… this week we will be examining some of the not-so-pretty parts of our own human nature, and the manner in which these things can get in the way of right relationships. You are invited to join in this examination… but NO pressure to do so!
Blessings to you for this weekend, wherever and however you spend it,
Maggie, for the Ministry Team
February 7th, 2020
“Cautionary Communion Concerns”
Way back when, during the early days of concerns about the spread of the AIDS virus, there was much talk in liturgical circles about the possibility of making people sick through sharing a common cup at communion. I remember my liturgy class professor (an Anglican by denomination) entirely impressing us by saying that he had decided he would be the last one to receive from the cup, boldly putting himself at risk for the sake of participating in Christ’s sacrament! What seemed impressive at the time, now seems a little foolish-sounding… or at least a little melodramatic.
All news and health reports-to-date say that the risk for British Columbians of contracting the Wuhan coronavirus are extremely low. We believe these reports… AND we know that people are feeling nervous and concerned. We have decided to “err on the side of caution” and not offer the sacrament of communion this coming Sunday (as was planned on our worship schedule). We have also suspended the serving of communion at our Wednesday Table worship for at least a few weeks. It is not so much that we fear spreading disease as it is that we fear spreading fear. We considered moving to using individual cups but determined that, for now, the best course of action was not to include communion as part of our worship services.
It has been spiritually nurturing for me to be part of a faith community in which the sacrament is regularly offered each week. Growing up in the United Church of the 60’s and 70’s, I experienced communion four times a year (and not until I was confirmed!), so it has felt like joy and privilege and holy abundance to offer and receive the sacred sharing in communion week by week. I will miss it… and I hope and trust it will not be long until we can re-institute it as part of our weekly practice on Wednesdays and our monthly practice on Sundays.
Meanwhile, there are many other aspects of worship which can nurture us individually and as a community. We don’t always want to provide worshipers with an entirely “comfortable pew”, but neither do we want to have people coming to worship feeling nervous and fearful. We pray that we might be enabled to strike a good and healthy balance - employing reasonable, cautionary measures without giving way to unfounded panic.
We add our prayers to the many around the world for the patients and families that have been affected by the coronavirus. We pray for healthcare workers, and for policy makers working to contain the spread of the virus. We pray for those who are separated from loved ones, and those who are feeling afraid. We pray we will respond to the many issues of our times in ways that are fueled not by fear, but by love.
Maggie, for the Ministry Team
January 31st, 2020
This coming Sunday Vancouver School of Theology is sending out staff and students into the community to share, not only the faith we have in common, but the support we have for VST. It is one of a number of schools which train people for professional ministry in the United Church of Canada. It also offers classes for others interested in lifelong learning. Many people in our Pacific Spirit congregation have benefitted from taking classes at VST as well as having ministers who have been educated there.
On February 2, we are happy to welcome Harry Maier into our midst. He is the Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Studies at the school and is preaching on “The Beatitudes in times of Crisis”. He is also going to make himself available after church at 11:30 to meet in the lounge with others who might like to talk further about our faith in our current context. We are calling it “the place of Jesus in times of angst.” We hope that you are able to come and share with one of the fine scholars who is in our midst.
The second thing I wanted to draw to your attention is that the following week, February 9, Shaughnessy Heights United Church is welcoming the Vancouver Opera who is putting on a special presentation in worship of The Flight of the Hummingbird. It is the musical story of a little hummingbird trying to address a big problem. It connects to the importance of climate action. This production is based on a south American native story that found its way north to become one of the well known stories of the Haida people. While we will still be having worship at Pacific Spirit that week, we are encouraging people to consider joining with Shaughnessy, one of our Summer Spirit congregation partners in this unique worship experience.
This feels like one of those times that we are reminded of the wider church that is a gift to all: those from away who come to us with a message, and those who have a message and invite us to travel. We are reminded that the church is connected to us all across the city and around the world. What rich opportunities are ours, to grow and share in faith.
For the ministry team…
January 24th, 2020
What a great and holy spirit of celebration and farewell was in our midst last weekend! There were highs and lows, laughs and tears, disappointments and pleasant surprises – much like any other weekend – but somehow an air of holy cooperation surrounded it all. Many people reported feeling blessed by our time together, even amidst deep sadness, as we said farewell to the church property at 24th Avenue.
My colleague, Deborah Laing, said that she witnessed moments of serendipity – like the German speakers just happening to sit side by side, and being able to converse. I witnessed many moments of connection between people that perhaps had not connected before. These took place during the touring of the building, the eating together, the creating of the mandala, the worshipping and working together. Both Deborah and I were impressed as we witnessed three of our younger Pneuma choir members gathered at the Lunar New Year celebrations, spontaneously (and raucously) singing together “One Step He Leads”. Thank you to all who made our celebrations possible!
Thank you also to all those who made Herculean efforts to get all our goods and chattels moved over to the 45th Avenue property. There will, no doubt, be a time of “settling in” as we all learn where things are situated, find out exactly what has been brought over and where it is now! Also, all our church-affiliated programs and events and all our user groups will now be at the 45th Avenue site, and that might mean a bit more learning how to accommodate different groups (not to mention accommodating needs for storage space!)
May God bless us all as we continue this work of accommodation and growing in unity, so that we might better witness to the world of God’s all-encompassing, unifying love!
Blessings, Maggie for the Ministry Team
January 3rd, 2020
Even though, by our “Christian Calendar”, the new year started with Advent 1 at the beginning of December, most of our lives are still ruled by the secular calendar which turned over two short days ago. So, as is people’s wont at this time of year, I am doing some reflecting on the year that has gone by, and some looking ahead to the year that is to come. As I do this reflecting, I find that it is not so much the momentous, “big picture” things that influence the life of our faith community, as it is the quiet, “behind-the-scenes” gestures of kindness and caring that really matter.
Some things that have brought joy to my heart, and hope for the future are:
-the Third Place coffee conversations and community that is developing on Tuesday mornings
-new friendships growing across “heritage congregation” lines
-some congregation members joining together with wider community members to see how we can participate in “drawing down” our carbon emissions and in greening our earth
-warmth and extra-special effort to welcome newcomers shown by our greeters (of the official and non-official varieties)
-individuals reporting how beautiful, meaningful and helpful was a healing touch treatment offered and received
-many of our Youth moving through stages of faith and understanding, and through different ways of being involved in the life of our community
-people spontaneously “pitching in” – not because they have been assigned by some committee but because they care about this community and our efforts to show God’s love in the world.
I believe that the coming year will call us again to think about our vision for the future and, of course, what that means for how we continue to steward and develop our properties. What I really hope is that how we deal with our bricks and mortar might always be at the service of developing our life in Christ with one another and sharing God’s love with a hurting world.
Blessings for the coming year,
Maggie, for the Ministry Team
December 28th, 2019
Christmas Greetings Continue
Merry (Happy) Fourth day of Christmas!
Nothing cheers the heart of a preacher more than to hear that people are having continuing conversations about something said in a sermon! (I never mind if people take issue with something I have said, as long as the subject matter gets people thinking and talking.)
Such was the almost off-hand comment about whether and why we say Merry Christmas or Happy Christmas… it led to several folks connecting with neighbours and friends about their preferred greetings at this time of year and what we are really hoping and wishing for folks when we exchange such greetings.
It also put me in mind of yet another mentor-minister of mine who used to insist on wishing people “Merry Incarnation”. He said that for him the oh-so-important message of Christmas was all about God being with us in the form of a baby boy, leading to God sharing every bit of what it means to be human. He also said he loved to greet people in such a way because it often made people stop, and question, and engage in meaningful exchanges beyond a momentary greeting.
I hope and pray your Christmas day and this continuing season of Christmas will include meetings and greetings with others that lead to meaningful exchanges.
Thank you to all who made our Christmas Eve services so meaningful with such a beautiful, holy spirit of joy in our midst as we gathered in the light of Christ.
December 20th, 2019
As we come to the end of Advent, we continue to receive pictures from members of the congregation who have given accommodation (Las Posadas) to the figures of Mary, Joseph and their donkey. They have been treated to meals, coffee, stories, playtime and excellent company as they have made their way through the congregation. The tradition of finding lodging for the parents of Jesus is about 400 years old in Mexico, and about 4 weeks old in our church. So it came with some snags, confusion, occasional frustration, and people wondering what on earth we are supposed to be doing. Isn’t that true of anything new in life?
The Advent season is about spiritual preparation as we wait and watch for the signs that God is doing something new on earth…that God is doing something new in us.
In the 5th chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he reminds the new church that when we are joined to Christ, we become new people. We become people who spread the message of forgiveness, and peace. Not just by talking about it, but by living it. Here is a little practice that you might like to try as you think about God doing something new in you…new in the world.
Sunday morning, December 22 begins the time when days get longer and light starts coming back into the world. Before you come to church on Sunday morning, get up in the dark. Make yourself your coffee or tea or whatever way you start the morning. Sit yourself by a window in the dark, and wait for the light to come. It should be there around 8:06 a.m. Don’t read, don’t check your messages, don’t listen to music. Just wait for the light to come and think about what it might mean for you to be a new person with a message of peace and forgiveness.
If you like, here are a few words from a Buddhist practice called the “Loving Kindness” meditation. It asks that you start the blessing with yourself and then offer it to others: spread it out each time you say it, travelling to family, friends, acquaintances, and eventually those you have a lot of trouble liking. (May you live with ease etc.)
May I live with ease, may I be happy, may I be free from pain
May I be safe, may I be healthy, may I live with happiness
May my life be filled with happiness, health and well-being.
(then repeat it for others as you bring them to mind)
May the blessings of Advent make us new in Christ…forgiving, peaceful and filled with the spirit of a loving God as we come into the light of Christ.
(for the Ministry Team)