*We gathered in a circle this Sunday, singing our favourite carols and sharing stories of memorable Christmases in our past. It was a rare privilege to hear each story and I am grateful for the opportunity. Here is the story I shared:
A Reflection on Christmas 1984
Shortly before Christmas 1984, as my husband and I realized that in a few short years, we might never be able to go `home’ for Christmas again, we agreed to make the long journey from Vancouver to Ft. Nelson – a distance of 1000 miles. In a few years we would both be ordained as United Church ministers and, well, local congregations seem to like their ministers around at Christmas time. We had a little boy – Aaron, three and a half years old, and our baby Miriam, 7 months old.
Wondering about venturing out on this cold and holy night?
The church will be warm, the songs will be mostly familiar, the story will be old, the retelling will be fresh, and the welcome will be genuine. We will end in candle-light – real candles or battery – operated. Your choice. Come for your own reasons, and find God at the center of it all. 7:00 PM Wednesday, Dec 24th.
We are delighted to welcome Georgia Elsie Marie Smith –t he youngest member of our congregation. Georgia was born on December 8th, a lovely daughter for Wayne and Amanda, and a little sister for Eldon and Owen. She attended worship at the ripe old age of six days. You are a blessing from God, little Georgia, and you are blessed by the love that surrounds you. Welcome to the world!
When my neighbour Joyce dropped by on Monday morning to congratulate me, I didn’t know what she was talking about for a moment. “Great to hear you are going to the Gordon Lightfoot concert,” she told me. I was truly delighted!
I had, the Friday before, plucked up my courage and phoned the CBC talk-back line, just in the nick of time, with a question for Gordon Lightfoot. The incentive – a chance to go to his concert in Kelowna, and ask the question personally. O.k., I didn’t actually get to ask him the question, perhaps someone came up with a better one, which I didn’t hear. Still, there was a pair of tickets with my name on them, Row N, seats 9 & 10.
Now, the LP I have called `Gord’s Gold’ from the 1970’s has a youngish, sandy haired, bearded man in his `prime’ on the front cover. How shall I put this… he doesn’t look much like that anymore. Gordon Lightfoot will turn 76 this month. His frame is very slender, his back a bit stooped, and he was fighting a stuffy head. I think we in the audience were sending up a collective silent prayer, `Please don’t keel over on the stage, Gordon.’
So, was I disappointed? Not in the least. Perhaps there was something about recognizing my own finitude and his that made this evening so precious. At one point, early in the show, when Mr. Lightfoot was struggling with something, a man called out from the darkened auditorium, “We love you, Gord.” Everyone spontaneously clapped. This iconic Canadian minstrel has given such a wealth of himself, through the weaving of story in lyric and tune, that the only response I could have was gratitude. I find myself still humming parts of `Rainy Day People’ and `The Wreak of the Edmond Fitzgerald.’
The question I posed for Gordon and would have loved to hear the answer to was, “Gordon, if you could sing one song to God, what would it be, and why would you choose it?” I may never know the answer to that question and that’s ok. It was blessing enough to be there.
It’s a question I can ask myself and a question I pose to you. If you are not a writer of songs, you can shift the question just a little – as you reflect on your life – what gift would you offer to God, and why would you choose it?
friends and neighbours enjoy a visit and delicious soup
Drop by Sicamous United Church on Saturday, October 18th from 11:30 AM to1:00 PM for delicious homemade soup, buns, coffee and goodies – compliments of the congregation. Enjoy the lunch, conversation with neighbours and friends and listen to some fine tunes. Jim, Wilma and Juanita will be playing up a storm. You may find yourself dancing! And of course, find some treasures in our Thrift Store.
Juanita with her lovely umbrella – so no one can rain on her parade !
Well, we did it! We had our Covenanting service on Sunday, October 5th at 3:00 PM, celebrating the promises we make to each other in ministry, between the congregation of Sicamous United Church, Rev. Juanita Austin and the Kamloops-Okanagan Presbytery. We had ministry personnel from Kamloops, Sorrento, and Salmon Arm present, as well as our own congregation and a lot of folks from Salmon Arm who came to honour our ministry together. The Black & Bluez Band provided awesome music, and various symbols of ministry were presented to Rev. Juanita, including some fun items from the Thrift Shop! Look for Juanita’s message “Making Honey’, under `Sermons’.
There will be a Covenanting service between Rev. Juanita, Sicamous United Church and Kamloops-Okanagan Presbytery on Sunday, October 5th at 3:00 PM at Sicamous United Church – 705 Trans Canada Frtg Road E. Sicamous. After a one year appointment, we’re declaring it a `Call’ – a longer relationship of ministry together. this is open to everyone so please come and join the celebration. The Black & Bluez band will be providing music, there will be a `mystery gift’ from the Thrift Shop, and refreshments to follow. A special welcome to all Thrift Shop volunteers and patrons.
In August, I found a letter on my desk. The return address said, Brooke Jackson Downs LLP (lawyers)
There’s just something about getting an unexpected letter from a lawyer that makes me uneasy, the smiley-face cartoon on the front not-withstanding.
However when I opened it, I understood the reason for the smiley-face. The envelope contained a copy of the Last Will and Testament of Edward Darznieks. Edward lived in Sicamous, loved his dogs, but kept very much to himself. Edward passed away in July. I had talked with him on the phone shortly before going to Ireland in June. Did he want me to visit, I asked. He thanked me for the offer, but said `No’. Andy was his United Church visitor and he was comfortable with that. But somewhere the United Church connection was important to him, because Edward left a gift of $20,000.00 to Sicamous United Church in his Will. It will likely take a couple years to settle the estate, but that gives us some time to decide how to best honour this gift.
Did you know that the Salvation Army and the SPCA gets a lot of money fromUnited Church people through their Wills? It’s because they ask, and we seldom do. But where there’s a Will, there’s a way to leave a legacy to the things that are important to you. So please consider leaving a gift to the United Church locally or nationally. It’s already in my will.
Rev. Juanita Austin
For information about legacy gifts, please contact Jane Harding, Financial Development Officer – Gift Planning at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Members and friends of Sicamous United Church
In the midst of this beautiful late summer season, I would like to bring you up to date on activities at Sicamous United Church.
The Thrift Shop had a very successful summer, with lots of sales, and thanks to the generosity of several households that are downsizing, we’ve had some big furniture items to share. We are indeed blessed to have so many hard working volunteers, and our dedicated manager, Linda. Thank you everyone who gives so generously of your time and energy to make this great ministry work. As you may know, through the Thrift Shop, we help out in emergency situations for local residents and transients, and 10 percent of our revenue supports the Sicamous community and beyond.
Sunday morning worship continues on a regular basis, and this fall we are focusing on Living with respect in Creation. I’m delighted to tell you that Amanda has started a little Sunday school and has wonderful craft ideas and programs for our youngest members. Jim and I have had two honourary grandchildren staying with us over the past two weeks and they really enjoy their adventures at church!
Some dates to watch for:
Sunday, October 5th 2014 at 3:00 PM there will be a Covenanting servicebetween Sicamous United Church, Rev. Juanita and Kamloops-Okanagan Presbytery. What’s a covenanting service and why should you be there? In the scriptures, we understand that our relationship with God and with each other is based on covenants – promises we make to one another about how we will live together in community. As a congregation, Sicamous United officially `called’ me to continue working with them last May – now we get to celebrate together, along with members of the Kamloops- Okanagan Presbytery – the regional body of the church.
Refreshments will be served afterward. So, please come and be a part of it, and encourage other church members, thrift Shop volunteers and friends to be here. The Black and Bluez band has kindly agreed to play – so the music will be grand!
Saturday, October 18th – Soup & Song from 12:00 noon to 1:00 PM
Again this year the congregation will be hosting the Thrift Shop volunteers and patrons to delicious home-made soup and buns, tea, coffee and cookies while Jim and I, and hopefully another guest musician offer some lunch music.
Sunday, November 9th at 7:00 PM we will be hosting a Fabulous Fashion Show, featuring treasures from our Thrift Shop. Thanks to Alice Duck for her willingness to do a lot of organizing for this event. There will be more details to follow, but we will likely be asking people to bring a non-perishable item for the Foodbank. Refreshments will be served and a special shopping opportunity will be available.
Other things to note:
The Prayer Tree – If you walk past the huge cedar tree in the back yard of the church you will see colourful strips of cloth hanging in its branches. The Judeo- Christian religion, at its best, recognizes the sacredness of all creation. “And God saw that it was good.” Genesis Chapter 1. This recognition and respect for creation is also a part of indigenous spirituality around the world, including Celtic and First Nations spirituality.
Following an ancient Celtic/Christian tradition, you are invited to take a strip of cloth, and add it to the tree as a symbol of your prayer – for yourself, for others, for the world. The strips of cloth are in a basket in the Thrift Shop during the week, or in the church on Sunday mornings.
A banner in the making – I had a brilliant thought about getting a great banner made for the big Climate Change march in Salmon Arm (September 20th) similar to the photo at the beginning of this letter. However, taking care of a three year old and five year old over the past few weeks has humbled me a bit and I haven’t even had time to sketch it out. I do have several people willing to work on this banner however, and I look forward to reporting on its progress.
Ireland? Wait, didn’t I go to Ireland way back in June? Yes I did, along with Jim and my Mom and daughter Miriam. We had a fabulous time, and I took many pictures. I will be preparing a photo presentation sometime over the next several months. I’ll let you know when it’s ready!
Sunday by Sunday and beyond – Our congregation is tiny and wonderful. I love to see everyone on a Sunday morning. Can’t make it out to church every Sunday? Check our website at www.sicamousunited.ca or Facebook page to see what is happening in this ministry that is ours together. If you would like to talk over anything with me, or just want a visit, please call me – 250-836-4390 at church, or home 250-832-6385, or email email@example.com
Our United Church Creed calls us to “live with respect in Creation.” As a species, we humans haven’t done a very good job of doing that. We can make personal commitments to change our energy use, our mode of transportation etc, but we also need to let our elected ledaers know we are very serious about this and want Canada to be at the forefront of positive environmental change. So, please come out from whereever you are in the Shuswap and join in the march and rally. Here are the details, thanks to Ann Morris, co-chair of the local Kairos folks – an international, ecumenical justice group.
Global Climate March – Saturday, September 20, at 1 pm,starting at Maguire Lake Park, ending at the Ross Street Plaza. Bring signs, banners, or come early (12:30 pm) and make your sign.
Government leaders from across the globe will be meeting in New York City onSeptember 23 for a one-day United Nations climate summit. The Climate March will take place in thousands of communities before this meeting to send out a massive, united call for climate justice and a strong climate treaty.
There are choices that need to be made if dangerous climate change is to be avoided in the 21st century. The evidence is clear: sticking to business as usual will lead to temperature rises of three to five degrees above pre-industrial levels. This will potentially lead to catastrophic effects on water resources and agricultural productivity, and accelerated sea level rise.
Avoiding this scenario means capping the temperature rise at a maximum two degrees above pre-industrial levels, a goal set by the UN and accepted by climate scientists as the target needed to avoid dangerous climate change. Hitting the two-degree target would require global emissions of greenhouse gases to fall by 40-70%. The International Energy Agency states that in order to do this, two thirds of the world’s available fossil fuels must stay in the ground.
While the Prime Minister touts the job-creating potential of investing in the tar sands, the reality is that six to eight times as many jobs would be created by investing in renewable energy and conservation programs. Moreover, redirecting government subsidies away from fossil fuels, collecting adequate royalties on their extraction, and taxing activities that emit GHGs would fight climate change and finance green alternatives at the same time. To those who say we can’t afford to battle climate change, we must reply that we cannot afford not to. Sustaining life on Earth depends on it.
The Salmon Arm Climate March is being organized by a group of concerned citizens.