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A home for things I write

20190515_185448My first mystery novel, The Book of Answers, made the short-list for The Unhanged Arthur Ellis, an award for unpublished crime fiction. The annual competition is sponsored by Dundurn Press and CrimeWriters of Canada. On May 23, my wife and I attended a banquet at Toronto’s Arts and Letters Club, where I had the honour of meeting other authors who were nominated, as well as a number of editors, publishers, and authors. It was great fun!

The winning manuscript in my category, the Unhanged Arthur Award for best unpublished crime novel, was The Scarlet Cross, by Liv McFarlane. You can learn more about Liv at her website: https://livmcfarlane.com/

I look forward to reading The Scarlet Cross, and the work of the other nominees:

  • Hypnotizing Lions by Jim Bottomley
  • Omand’s Creek by Don Macdonald
  • One for the Raven by Heather McLeod

 

That the manuscript of my first ever novel was even considered for such an honour, has inspired me to improve my online presence. This site is a re-tooling of my old “Sharing Bread Along The Way” blog, along with old material from “The Fifth Page”, which is where I used to post what didn’t make it into my sermons, which are always a maximum of 4 pages. (I now call them “learning times”, to reflect the truth that I am still learning as I go.)

I am a minister in The United Church of Canada, currently serving the congregation and wider community of Harrow, in beautiful Essex County, Ontario. In the words of Max Marshall, a singer-songwriter from Harrow, it’s a “bread-basket town” in “fruit-stand land”. You should also check out Max, he’s great! 

https://www.maxmarshall.org/about

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Worship for June 28, 2020

link to June 28, 2020 worship video

 

My good friend, the Rev. Jennifer Potter is a self-described “United Church girl at heart”, and also an ordained minister in the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. She and her husband, the Rev. Dr. Shannon Potter serve at Evangel Pentecostal Church in Oakville.

Jennifer is one of the most spirited people I know, and was an obvious choice when I thought about who to interview in this Pentecost Season.

This week’s worship video includes my reading of a selection from the Letter to the Romans, my conversation with Jennifer, announcements, a pastoral prayer, and a video clip of Jeff and Bill Gorick singing together, from a worship service from January.

We continue to hold in prayer the family and friends of Lucille Craig, Nelda Vollans, and Bill Gorick.

Some special things coming up:

Sunday, June 28, 1 pm. Black Lives Matter peaceful protest at the corner of King and Queen in Harrow.

Monday-Tuesday June 29-30 9 am to 4:30 pm. Sorting and re-packing donated food from the June 27 Miracle. Come to the front entrance of the Harrow Arena. Volunteers can give as much time as they are able. Everyone needs a mask. You may want to bring a magnifying glass to help read expiry dates on food.

Wednesday, July 1, 10 am Canada Day Drive-in Community Worship Service in the parking lot of the Harrow Soccer Complex. Hosted by Harrow United Church and the Harrow Ministerial Association. We are accepting donations of food and cleaning supplies for the Harrow Food Bank.

To keep everyone safe, we will follow 3 rules:

  1. You must stay in your vehicle.
  2. Vehicles will be parked in every second parking spot.
  3. The fieldhouse bathrooms will not be available.

Join us for a simple and brief service to give thanks for our country, and to pray for its well-being, and for God’s help in making it even better in the future.

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Worship for June 21, 2020

Link to the Facebook page for Justin’s church

 

Justin and Krista WeberJustin Weber is the pastor at Honey Creek-New Providence Friends Church, in New Providence, Iowa. That’s a long way from Harrow! Over 30 years ago, Justin and I were classmates at the Earlham School of Religion (ESR), a seminary in the Quaker tradition.

Quakers have been around since the 1650’s, and though they are relatively small in numbers, their impact on the world has been extraordinary. Quakers were very involved in the Underground Railroad, which was the route followed by escaped slaves seeking freedom and new life. Quakers have always had a strong social justice witness, rooted in their belief that each person bears something of the light of Christ within them.

I spoke recently with Justin, over ZOOM, and with his permission and encouragement, recorded almost 2 hours of video. I have edited that great, and wide-ranging  conversation, and included some highlights in this week’s worship video.

Justin is recovering after spending close to 60 days in hospital. He was “patient zero” in that local health care system- their very first COVID-19 patient. He is still recovering from that ordeal. I am grateful for his friendship, and his ongoing recovery. Justin is married to Krista, and they have two adult children, Jonathon and Rachel,  who are home with them now, weathering the storm of the pandemic. Justin is also a small-business owner. He runs an antique store in Eldora, Iowa, called “The Pickin’ Preacher”.

link to the Pickin’ Preacher Facebook Page

Early in our conversation, Justin reflected on his experience as a long journey, and mentioned the Exodus, the movement of the Israelite people from bondage and oppression under their Egyptian task-masters, through the wilderness, to the promised land. It is often easier for us to see God with us in the rear-view mirror, once we are looking back on where we have been.

Link to Announcements and Worship Video for June 21, 2020

I chose this reading from Deuteronomy, which contains a ritual prayer of thanks, that recounts God’s good works in the history of Israel:

Deuteronomy 26:1-11 (New International Version)

 When you have entered the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it,  take some of the first fruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the Lord your God is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name  and say to the priest in office at the time, “I declare today to the Lord your God that I have come to the land the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.”  The priest shall take the basket from your hands and set it down in front of the altar of the Lord your God.  Then you shall declare before the Lord your God: “My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous.  But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, subjecting us to harsh labor. Then we cried out to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey;  and now I bring the first fruits of the soil that you, Lord, have given me.” Place the basket before the Lord your God and bow down before him.  Then you and the Levites and the foreigners residing among you shall rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household.

The conversation with Justin wandered almost as much as the track taken by the Israelites seeking the Promised Land! We talked about a lot of things- and I had to find a way to distill something resembling a sermon from our discussions. One section that did not, sadly, make the cut, was when I asked Justin for his prayer intentions. We were talking just a few days after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Justin expressed deep concern for the racial injustices underlying that tragedy, and spoke about the need for followers of Jesus to be “salt and light” in the world.

Link to Justin’s Prayer Request

Here are the Pastoral Prayers for this week, including prayers for Father’s Day. On the video, the prayers are followed by a clip of Justin Weber singing the Lord’s Prayer.

Today’s Pastoral Prayer is based on one offered at the Antler River Watershed Regional Office of the United Church of Canada

Loving God;

COVID-19 has infiltrated every part of our daily lives.
Family relations have been altered;
Education and employment has moved to our homes, or been put on hold; recreational and travel possibilities are limited.
The daily news is a whirlwind of statistics and new ‘best practices’.

Measures to slow the spread of the virus have left us cut off from those in long term care, and in hospital.
Around the world, people have died, some without the comfort of loved ones at their bedside.

We pause to remember all that has been lost to COVID-19.

(pause)

Some changes have been positive.
Less commuting is reducing emissions and air pollution.
Families are baking and crafting and doing puzzles together.
Friends are more intentional about checking in on one another.
Neighbours are sharing what they have.
We are less inclined to take simple comforts for granted.
We pause to give thanks for the ways we continue to be blessed.

(pause)

While many of us stay safe in our homes, many others are asked to sacrifice much to keep our systems functioning.
Some, because of what they do, and some simply because of who they are, work tirelessly at keeping supplies on store shelves, caring for vulnerable members of our communities, and raising morale.
With hearts full of gratitude, we remember the helpers:

Those who bring us food – the farmers and farm workers, the bakers and butchers, the burger flippers and coffee makers, the packers and shippers at warehouses, the truckers.
Those who work in the markets and grocery stores – cleaners, shelf stockers, and cashiers
Those who deliver our food, mail, and online goods

Those who share food with neighbours in need
Staff and volunteers who create safe spaces in shelters and community centres
Worker in group homes and community residences.

Retreat centres and camps who have offered sanctuary to arriving migrant workers.
Mask, scrub cap, and gown sewers working to make our communities safer

Worship leaders finding ways to connect, create meaning, celebrate, and provide care.
Funeral directors walking with grieving families

Parents and guardians caring for children, and adult children caring for parents
Teachers and those in ministry with children and youth

The children and youth who have had give up time with friends, birthday parties, and team sports to help flatten the curve

Healthcare workers in institutions and homes – respiratory therapists, nurses, doctors, pharmacists, PSWs, radiologists, technicians, dieticians, midwives, doulas, environmental service workers, porters, physical and occupational therapists.
First responders – firefighters, police, paramedics, 911 operators
Lab techs and clinicians processing tests, isolating antibodies, searching for answers

Those who pick up and haul, and sort our recycling and household waste.

Those who maintain our phone and internet, water, sewage and electrical infrastructure

Artists and entertainers sharing their talents to bring joy.

Journalists, videographers, reporters, and photographers who bring news.

Decision makers – politicians, medical officers, policy writers who shape our response to problems.

We place all these named, and those whose names are written on our hearts, in your loving hands, God.

We pray also for those we know who are having a difficult time: Bill Gorick, who asks for our prayers as he lives with cancer.  We also pray for Gloria, who is taking care of him at home, their family, and all those involved in Bill’s care.

We pray for Nelda Vollans, who is in palliative care at Iler Lodge in Essex, and for her family and caregivers.

We pray for Bruce Woodiwiss, Leyland McLean, Richard Herniman, and Robert Herniman.

I also ask for continued prayers for my friend Justin, and all those who have been directly touched by the COVID-19 virus.

We pray for the congregation of Harrow United Church, and all other faith communities who are discovering new ways to live out their mission in these strange times.

This is also a day when we remember our fathers. Those who were present with us, and those who were not. Those who are still with us, and those who have died. Those who blessed us with good memories and wisdom, and those who left other legacies. We pray for all those who wished to be fathers, and were unable. We pray for those who feel overwhelmed, and who need support in the task of being a father.  We make all of our prayers in the name of Jesus, who had the blessing of an earthly father, and who taught us to think of God as a loving parent. Amen

It is perhaps fitting that we end our video today with my friend Pastor Justin Weber singing the Lord’s Prayer. Justin is father to two grown children, back living with him and his wife Krista during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

 

 

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Worship for June 7, 2020

Rainbow

Link to Worship Video for June 7, 2020

Link to announcements video for June 7, 2020

link to ShoeBox Sunday School video for June 7, 2020

This weekend’s worship video begins with a great piece from the Harrow United Church Senior Choir. The rest of the service is titled “From our Ark to Yours”, and features contributions from all of us living in our little ark, waiting for the current floods and storms to subside. Joel Woods did one of the readings, and Naomi tells the Noah story from a children’s bible. Joel and Naomi also offered their version of “Arky Arky”, a song they both sang, and led, often, in Sunday School at church camp. Rev. Lexie Chamberlain and Rev. Darrow Woods both contribute sermons, and Darrow also offers pastoral prayers. The video ends this week with greetings to the Harrow community from a few folks Darrow had virtual coffee with this week.

Scripture Reading:

Noah’s story spans four chapters of the Book of Genesis. Here are excerpts from the paraphrase called The Message.

Noah was a good man, a man of integrity in his community. Noah walked with God. Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

The Earth had become a sewer; there was violence everywhere. God took one look and saw how bad it was, everyone corrupt and corrupting—life itself corrupt to the core.

God said to Noah, “It’s all over. It’s the end of the human race. The violence is everywhere; I’m making a clean sweep.

“Build yourself a ship.”

“I’m going to bring a flood on the Earth that will destroy everything alive under Heaven”.

Noah did everything God commanded him to do.

All the underground springs erupted and all the windows of Heaven were thrown open. Rain poured for forty days and forty nights.

Noah and his sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth, accompanied by his wife and his sons’ wives, boarded the ship. And with them every kind of wild and domestic animal, right down to all the kinds of creatures that crawl and all kinds of birds and anything that flies. They came to Noah and to the ship in pairs—everything and anything that had the breath of life in it, male and female of every creature came just as God had commanded Noah. Then God shut the door behind him.

The flood continued forty days and the waters rose and lifted the ship high over the Earth. The waters kept rising, the flood deepened on the Earth, the ship floated on the surface. The flood got worse until all the highest mountains were covered—the high-water mark reached twenty feet above the crest of the mountains. Everything died. Only Noah and his company on the ship lived.

The floodwaters took over for 150 days.

The ship landed on the Ararat mountain range. The water kept going down until the tenth month. On the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains came into view. After forty days Noah opened the window.

He sent out a raven; it flew back and forth waiting for the floodwaters to dry up. Then he sent a dove to check on the flood conditions, but it couldn’t even find a place to perch—water still covered the Earth. Noah reached out and caught it, brought it back into the ship.

He waited seven more days and sent out the dove again. It came back in the evening with a freshly picked olive leaf in its beak. Noah knew that the flood was about finished.

He waited another seven days and sent the dove out a third time. This time it didn’t come back.  The flood had dried up. Noah opened the hatch of the ship and saw dry ground.

Noah disembarked with his sons and wife and his sons’ wives. Then all the animals, crawling creatures, birds—every creature on the face of the Earth—left the ship family by family.

Noah built an altar to God. He selected clean animals and birds from every species and offered them as burnt offerings on the altar. God smelled the sweet fragrance and thought to himself, “I’ll never again curse the ground because of people. I know they have this bent toward evil from an early age, but I’ll never again kill off everything living as I’ve just done.

Then God spoke to Noah and his sons: “I’m setting up my covenant with you including your children who will come after you, along with everything alive around you—birds, farm animals, wild animals—that came out of the ship with you. I’m setting up my covenant with you that never again will everything living be destroyed by floodwaters; no, never again will a flood destroy the Earth.”

“This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and everything living around you and everyone living after you. I’m putting my rainbow in the clouds, a sign of the covenant between me and the Earth.”

May these words be a blessing to us, as we seek to experience the presence of God in each day.

 

Rev. Lexie’s Learning Time:

When we were expecting our first child, we did many of the things new parents do.  We went to prenatal classes, we read the book, “What to expect when you’re expecting.” And we prepared the nursery.   We painted the nursery and put a boarder around the room.  We went with a Noah’s ark boarder.  It had caricature pictures of animals all smiling floating safely inside an ark.  We ordered a Noah’s ark crib set.  It had a picture of Noah and the animals, all of them looking happy and peaceful.  Surely, the not an accurate representation of someone who has been feeling confined in a small space for a long period of time!  In the top right corner of the baby quilt was a picture of a dove flying toward the ark with an olive twig in its beak, a rainbow hung in the other corner.  This was the age of bumper pads, so of course we tied the pads on to the sides of the crib, wanting to do everything possible to make this a welcoming, loving, safe place for our little one.

I am not sure exactly what prompted us to go with the Noah’s ark theme.  Being a clergy couple, it may not surprising that Bible stories carry quite a bit of importance within our lives.   We are not Bible thumpers.  We don’t go to our churches carrying our Bibles with us.  I don’t think we even have any pictures of ourselves holding a Bible.  The stories within the Bible run deep within us.  They were stories we had learned as children; they were stories that tickled our imaginations.  We don’t read them as factual stories of history, but rather we read them as stories which contain a sacred truth.  They are stories that invite us to think, to reflect upon life.  They were stories we hoped to share with our children.

The Noah’s ark story is a great Bible story.  It’s a rise and shine and give God the glory, glory and “Everything is hunky dory, dory” kind of a story.  Except for the fact that it’s not.

There is a dark underside to the Noah’s ark story. Noah floating safely on the ark is a wonderful bright and cheery scene.  The rest of the world, according to this story, however, would have been flooded, animals and people would have drowned.   This is the part of the story we do not teach in Sunday school.  This is the part of the story we do not like to shed light upon.  But many of our stories have shadowed sides.  People drowning in poverty, in hunger, in debt, in alcoholism.  Cultures drowning, gasping out for air, for hope, for comfort that a mamma is supposed to bring.

Oh, there is a dark underside to many of our human stories and for a long time, no one wanted to talk about it.  We would rather not focus on that part of the story.

Two weeks ago, we caught a glimpse of the dark underside of racism which is prevalent within the American society when police officers held down George Floyd and killed him.   This despicable act has helped to point out the racism that runs deep within the American culture.  But we would be naive to think that it only exists in the United States.  Racism runs deep within our culture as well.   Some of you may not want to admit it.  Some of you may not want to see it.  But if you have talked to any of our black colleagues, if you have listened to our first nations brothers and sisters then you would have heard their stories.  Life has not been fair.  Workplaces have not been fair.  Churches have not been fair.

The fact that this past week, the president of the United States of America stood in front of a Episcopalian church with a Bible in hand for a photo op makes it appear that he knows all too well that some Christians, some churches, will use the ‘word of the Lord’ to support their bigoted, racist thoughts.  This president appears to know the Bible has power and authority, but he does not seem to understand the power and authority that it calls its people to!  This is the Bible that has prophets speaking to crowds saying you are called to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God.  This is the Bible that has the stories of Jesus, a leader who walked with migrant fishermen and taught them to share with others.  Jesus was the kind of person who reached out to people of different cultures and traditions, the woman at the well, the Syrophoenician woman.  He told stories that broke down barriers of race such as the story of the good Samaritan.  Jesus was person, who when facing opposition to his words of justice, did not hide.  He did not hunker down, or bunker down, but rather he stood with dignity knowing that he was showing a way of love and peace to those who were watching.  The Bible is a powerful book.  If you read the Bible and only see a Jesus who supports you and your ways, then perhaps you are not seeing the whole picture.  Jesus story challenges us and inspires us.

The Bible is an ancient collection of books.  It was written by people trying to make sense of their world and where God was active within their world.  The story of Noah’s ark is a story of a world in chaos.  The ancient story writers understood chaos.  They, like us, knew there were bad things that happened within their world.  They knew there were times when they needed to change things and start again.  The prophets warned communities that things need to change.  Sometimes we need to have a fresh start.

That’s what the story of Noah’s ark says to me.  It is a story of a fresh start.  It is a story that teaches us there are some things that need to be washed away.  Things such as injustice, racial profiling, homophobia, arrogance, ignorance, narcissism, greed.

Do I think there was a flood that covered the whole wide world?  No.  Do I think there was a time when ancient story tellers decided that the world needed to hear a story about a new beginning?  Indeed, I do!  I think the ancient people needed to hear a story about hope, about how the chaos and negative of the world could be changed…can be changed.  Those writers understood the importance of teaching a story of hope……because when the world is a mess, when the world is dark and scary and dangerous, we need to hear stories of hope.  Love is the ark that can save us.  Justice needs to float high on the tides of change.  We need to make this world a safe place for everyone.  We need to speak to injustice.  We need to stand with and for those who are hurt and hurting.  WE need to offer olive branches of hope.  When we talk to our children, or our grandchildren, we need to teach them to love and care for everyone.  When we look at our school curriculum and Sunday school curriculum we need to see where our biases are being supported.  If all the children in the pictures are white, if Jesus is white, it we only tell the Caucasian side of the story, then we are not getting the whole story!

I had such hopes and dreams for our little girl when she was born into the world. Today, our baby is 21, and she teaches me about systemic racism.  She, and her younger brother are opening my eyes to ways in which my traditional ways of thinking, need to be challenged and need to change.  We cannot protect them from the harsh realities of life.  They need to know the whole story, so they can learn and so our society can grow.  I can not ignore the whole story.  As a parent, as a Christian, I need to learn and grow.  Times have changed in this last week….and yet for some families, times have not changed.  For black families, for families of colour, for first nations families, some things have not changed.  We need to be doing better.  We need a new start.  Dear Lord, start with me.  Amen

Darrow’s Learning Time for June 7, 2020

A man named Noah, who had three sons, was faithful, and respected in his community, lived in a time when the world was going to hell in a hand basket. One translation says the Earth had become a sewer, with violence everywhere. Sounds like things haven’t changed much. The story says God wanted to make a clean sweep, and start over.

Every feel like that? That maybe you have made such a mess of things, that you need a do over? Ever say exactly the wrong thing, and hurt someone, make them very upset, and wish you could hit a button like on a video game, and start again fresh? I was talking to a friend this week who lives in the American mid-west. He and his family are a safe distance from the big protests and scary street scenes, but even so, he expressed deep sorrow, despair for his country, and wondered what it take to make a clean, fresh start.

Ever get into a situation, and say or do something,, and realize it was a huge error, and you never should have gone that way? You might be filled with sorrow, regret, frustration, feelings of helplessness. Even anger. The story suggests God felt this way about the whole world.

This speaks volumes about how God was viewed, in the time this story began to be told. This version of God could be very judgmental, run out of patience- and act rashly. God could look at the whole planet, with all its beauty and complexity and say, “I’m going to scrap it and start again.” This sounds like a little kid having a temper tantrum, pushing away all the blocks because the tower fell down.

I have to tell you I expect more of God than that! I expect God to be ever-loving, ever kind, ever compassionate, to never give up, and always see the potential for good, even when I can’t. The picture of God in this story is more like me on a bad day, than the God Jesus told us about, and showed us.

But back to the story.  God told Noah to build a boat. A big boat. Because a flood was coming that would cover the whole world, and wash away, drown, wipe out, kill, every living thing not on the boat when the waters rose. Noah and his family were to gather 2 of every kind of living creature, along with enough food and water to keep themselves, and all the creatures alive.

This is another place the story leads to troubling questions, especially for those of us raised to believe that everything in the Bible is exactly, literally true. Every living creature? Really? Even wombats and water buffalos and Canada geese and Amazonian tree frogs that never lived in the Middle East, where Noah built his boat?

Noah and sons would need a fleet to carry the millions of species with which we share the planet. There are 270 species of turtles, tortoises and terrapins alone, and more than 900 thousand species of insects. We have all these beautiful fossil records of dinosaurs, some of whom were bigger than boats. Wow, God created a lot!

If we sail too far along the course of questions like “how could they gather 2 of each”, and “how could they house them”, we are sunk, or at least the story sinks, under the weight of impossibility.

Unless of course, a story can be a vessel to carry truth, even if it does not describe things that actually happened. Most of us would admit the story of Santa Claus flying around the world on Christmas Eve carries some valuable truth, along with the sleigh-full of presents even after we find out it isn’t exactly, totally true!

Can the Noah story carry truth, even if the boat could not carry all 11 species of skunks, 15 species of hedge hogs, and all the sub-species of caribou, 2 of which are now extinct? Santa’s reindeer are actually caribou, by the way.

I think it can, and does. Underground springs, and the windows of the heavens opened, and waters flooded the earth for forty days, destroying all living things, except the fish and other water creatures, who are never mentioned.

Noah and his family, and their incredible zoo, floated above the watery graves of all the people, and all the plants, and animals. We may feel these days like we can relate to this family, stuck together, with no way to get out. A lot of us have been spending more time in close quarters with our loved ones than we are used to.

The world outside the ark, with deep waters and raging storms and nowhere safe to land, was a scary place. If we watch the news, or look at too much social media, we may feel that way about the world around us. We are glad to be safe in the ark, and we look forward to when we can safely leave.

The story says Noah and his families floated around aimlessly for 150 days before running aground on a mountain. And then the waters went down. Where did the water go? That makes me scratch my head. When I pull the plug on the kitchen sink or the bath tub, the water runs down the drain. If the whole earth was flooded, to where could all the water drain?

We know the part about Noah sending out a raven, and then a dove, and realizing the flood was about done when the dove returned with the olive sprig in its beak. Seven days later Noah sent the dove out again, and the bird never returned. Noah opened the hatch and saw dry land.

Noah and his family left the ark, along with all the animals they’d tended. Noah built an altar, and chose animals and birds from every species, killed them, and burned them as sacrifices on the altar. I don’t remember that part from Sunday School! I am sure I would have wondered, “Why take care of the animals for so long, and then kill them?”

But in the story, Noah’s sacrifice of the animals had an incredible effect. God smelled the sweet fragrance of the fire at the altar and said, “I’ll never again curse the ground because of people. I know they have this bent toward evil from an early age, but I’ll never again kill off everything living as I’ve just done.  For as long as Earth lasts,  planting and harvest, cold and heat, Summer and winter, day and night will never stop.”

The story says God set up a covenant with Noah and his descendants, and promised to never, ever do it again, and put the rainbow in the sky as a sign of that covenant, that promise between the Creator, and all of creation.

So do we think this a story about God changing God’s mind? Or maybe, just maybe, is it a story meant to change our minds, open our hearts about God, and how God actually loves us?

This is a story with a rainbow at the end to remind us after every storm, that God never gave up on us. God is always with us, even in the midst of the storms.

It’s June, and we are at the beginning of Pride Month. I love that the rainbow flag has been adopted by folks who proudly say they are worth loving, even some folks gave up on them. I am grateful the world is catching up, and realizing that every person is a child of God, and absolutely loveable for who they are. Human ideas have always been smaller, more limited than God’s amazing love, and we have a lot of room to grow.

I think the Bible is many things, and one of its most important functions is to trace the evolution of our human ideas about God.  We can move from fearing a God who would destroy everything if we didn’t offer the right kind of sacrifice, to trusting a God who loves us, and who will be with us through our best times, and in the moments we wish we never had to face.

I believe God did not change God’s mind. God was always, always about the love, and it just seems to take us humans a while to figure it out, to trust that it is so. God loves us, and will never give up on us, even in the times we might be tempted to give up on ourselves. Amen

Pastoral Prayer

God of life and death and new life, of beginnings and middles and endings, and new beginnings, of now, and of then, and of always. Thank you for being with us, in the midst of it all.

There are many these days, who are feeling confined, as if they were on a journey with no end, floating on a sea of uncertainty, and not knowing when they can get off the boat, or what the world will be like, once the flood waters have receded.

Be with all those who are living with anxiety in these confusing times. We pray especially for families for which life was already difficult. We pray for those who struggle to make ends meet day to day, week to week. We pray for those dealing with health challenges, with issues of dependency and addiction. We pray for those who struggle with depression, and other mental health concerns.

We pray for those who are living with illness, with grief, with loneliness, with despair. We pray for those who are dying, and we give thanks that it is possible to learn, with help, to live well, and to die well.

We pray for all those working hard, in these unusual times, inside and outside the home.We pray for those who are juggling too many tasks, those having to learn new skills quickly, and those extending themselves to help family members and neighbours with the every day efforts to get by.

We pray for our leaders and policy makers, our front line workers, and ourselves.

We pray for with concern, and with hope, for the ways the poison of racism is coming to the forefront, in our lives, in the news, and in public conversation.

We pray for all those who have been hurt, and for those who currently live in fear. We pray that all humans can learn to value all other humans, as beautiful, wondrous gifts. We pray that we can work together to make our communities, our families, our institutions, ourselves, more open-hearted and open-minded.

We pray with thanks for those who feel the call to put themselves out there for peaceful protests. We pray with gratitude for the majority of law enforcement officials, who work for the good of their community, and do not act out of malice or hatred.

We pray for needed change in the hearts of those who have been raised to see people, and the world through the lens of colour and race. We pray that this healing growth begin, and continue, in each of us.

We pray for Harrow United Church, the community it serves, its members, friends, and its leaders. We pray that we will find our way through the challenges of the present time, so that we can thrive, even as we discover new ways to share God’s message of love and hope in the world.

We pray for all those we know, and the many we don’t yet know, who are in search of meaning, and joy, and community, and friendship.

We give thanks, and we pray for those offer themselves as caregivers and helpers for those who are unwell, and those who live with mental illness.

We pray for all who are hungry for hope. We pray for those who sometimes feel they are in way over their heads in deep water. Be with them, and lead us to become more aware of those around us, who we may be able help, in small ways, and in bigger ways.

We make our prayers as followers of Jesus, who gave us a good way to pray, the Lord’s Prayer:

The Lord’s Prayer (together)

Our Father, who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name,

thy kingdom come,

thy will be done,

on earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

And forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil:

For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory

forever and ever. Amen

Announcements for June 7, 2020

On Friday we had our third successful Drive Thru Food Drive Drive for Windsor’s Downtown Mission. We are grateful to the newspapers and other media outlets who have responded to our press releases, and helped publicize the event.

The food and other donations were delivered the same day, to help the front-line efforts of the Mission, who serve some of the most vulnerable people in our area.

Thank you to all the kind people who made donations, and to the volunteers who helped collect them.

 Thank you to Dennis Graham, John Woodbridge, Larry Anderson, and the Virtual Choir, for all the work they do to make these worship resources possible. Our May 31 worship service was read 239 times, and viewed 154 times.

 Rev. Darrow will be on vacation from June 8 to the 14. Next week’s worship will be a very special presentation of music that inspires faith.

ShoeBox Sunday School, led by Naomi Woods, has 27 children registered. There are online classes at 9:30 am and 10:30 am each Sunday morning, using materials delivered to households in, you guessed it, ShoeBoxes! We also make a YouTube video available each weekend for our youngest students.

We have reached out to the ShoeBox households to ask how the lessons have been going for the students, and to get a sense of what to do this summer.  In “normal” times we would have planned a picnic to conclude Sunday School in mid-June. These don’t seem like normal times.

Last week’s Worship Video included a conversation between Darrow and the Rev. Robin Sherman, the minister of Tecumseh United. Darrow has recorded a few other conversations with colleagues, including one with Justin Weber, the pastor of Honey-New Providence Friends Church in Iowa. Justin was recently released from hospital after 57 days, and is recovering, and living with the aftermath of COVID-19. Darrow will edit the hour and a half conversation, and likely make it part of the worship video for June 21. These conversations are part of the “Spirited People” series for the season of Pentecost.

 

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Harrow United Church Worship for May 31, 2020 (Pentecost)

Link to this week’s worship video

link to our announcements video for May 31, 2020

gimmick pictureThe video opens with a great version of “Lean on Me” by Harrow’s own boy band, “Gimmick”: Greg Iler, Barry Mannell, Jeff Csikasz, and Jeff Gorick. We are so fortunate to have each of them as members and leaders in Harrow United Church.

 

 

May 31 is Pentecost Sunday. It’s the beginning of a new season on the liturgical calendar, and it is often celebrated as the “birthday” of the Christian church. The story from Acts 2 describes a moment in which a group of Jesus’ close friends and disciples have an experience of meeting the Holy Spirit, that fires them up to share the Good News of God’s love.

Here are the scripture readings for today:

John 20:19-23
20:19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”

20:20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

20:21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

20:22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

20:23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Acts 2:1-21
2:1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.

2:2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.

2:3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.

2:4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

2:5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.

2:6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.

2:7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?

2:8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?

2:9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,

2:10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,

2:11 Cretans and Arabs–in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”

2:12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”

2:13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

2:14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.

2:15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.

2:16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

2:17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.

2:18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.

2:19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.

2:20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.

2:21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13
12:3b No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.

12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;

12:5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord;

12:6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.

12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

12:8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,

12:9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,

12:10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

12:11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

12:13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

This week, the Harrow News will publish my newest pastoral message. I did something a little different this time- an exercise of imagination. What if one of the writers of the New Testament Epistles wrote a letter to the faithful in Harrow? 

To the people of Harrow, and surrounding communities, and all others created, loved, and blessed by God: Grace and peace to you. It seems such a long time since we have seen each other face to face!

I give thanks for the multitude of ways you are blessed, and in turn, offer numerous blessings to others, especially those in need.

We face many challenges. Much we take for granted has been disrupted. Your sadness over your losses is real, but do not allow your grief, your frustration to justify abandoning the efforts to keep the most vulnerable among us safe.

As Paul, our brother in faith once wrote, “I have the right to do anything,” you say- but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”- but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”

I appeal to you to live out of a spirit of hope, and generosity, even in these trying times. Resist the temptation to follow the counsel of the loudest, the most extreme, those who care ultimately only for themselves. Resist also the temptation to grasp on to quick and simple solutions to complex problems. Avoid the trap of the “blame game”.

Place your real faith, your confidence in God, the Creator of the Universe, as revealed to us in love. Let “Jesus-like” love, that places the well-being of others before our own, guide and inspire us. This love is it’s own reward, and is most pleasing to God.

I continue to pray for those who have suffered the loss of loved ones, and were denied, by current circumstances, the consolation of the community gathered around them for a funeral. Our hearts are with them.

Pray for your elected officials, and those appointed to preserve the common good. We may not all be called to serve in positions of power and authority, but each of us, each day, can be kind. We can be unselfish. Let us not squander these opportunities, but instead, actively seek ways to be of help, and to show support to those who place themselves at risk on our behalf.

Some of you have asked, “How do we continue in the life of faith, when we no longer gather on the Lord’s Day? Are we not instructed to worship and pray together? Are we not to be devoted to  breaking the bread and sharing the cup?”

The way of faith, revealed to us in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, is often difficult, but only becomes impossible when we attempt it without God.  God is always prepared to help us. God is always with us, even, and especially in these times when we cannot be with each other.

The people of the Way, followers of Jesus, grew as a movement long before we had the resources to build meeting places, which became our places of worship. In the earliest days, the homes of believers were the places in which faith was shared, taught, and lived.

You are not alone in your struggles, your questions, your anxieties for the present, and the future. We are all joined, united by God’s Spirit, who prays with and for us, often in sighs too deep for words, and with the wisdom of the One who truly knows us, for they were present as all things were created.

Do not abandon the ways of God, for God has surely not abandoned us. We share in the promise of God’s love, which is deeper, wider, higher, more encompassing than any of the things which frighten or threaten us. There is more to us than our fear, and there is more to our existence than the present situation.

You are God’s beloved. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. Amen

That “Epistle” was an experiment. The Learning Time for this week was another! There is no transcript, because instead of a prepared message, the Learning Time is a video of a conversation I had with the Rev. Robin Sherman, who is the minister at Tecumseh United Church. Robin and I have been friends for years, and it was a true delight to interview her, as part of my Pentecost Season series on “Spirited People”.

Here are my pastoral prayers for this day:

God of Creation, God who sent us Jesus, God who accompanies and guides us as the Spirit;

In this season of Pentecost we give thanks for the promise you have given, through the millenia, through the prophets, through the communities of faith, and in the hearts of those who seek to follow Jesus, that You are always with us. Your Spirit is wild, untamed, and not bound by the walls of certain buildings, or even by our sometimes small, and limited imaginations. You are so much more, and so much more available to us than we think. This is such a good thing, especially now, much of what we have come to expect from our church community is not possible. We miss getting together in the same physical space. We miss each other’s faces, and voices, and presence, not delivered on some little screen. We miss working together. We miss singing together, praying together, having conversation together after a worship service.

We worry about those who are even more isolated than usual, because of the pandemic precautions we are observing. We pray for those who spend all or most of their days and nights within the same four walls, in rooms that can feel very small. We remember those who have suffered losses recently, especially those who were also denied the possibility of all things we normally do, to honour a life, and mourn a death.

We pray for those who are sick. There are those who require elective surgeries and other procedures, who are now waiting to hear when they can be scheduled. There are those who need to see their dentist, their counselor, their therapist, or other specialist.

We pray for those who rely upon twelve step programs and other support groups, to help them in their struggles with addiction and co-dependency.

We pray for those who do not feel safe in their homes.

We pray for those who are feeling sad, lonely, dispirited. We pray they will know that despite the physical separations we are experiencing, that they are not totally alone. God is with each of us.

We pray for those who continue their efforts on the front lines. Paramedics and firefighters and police officers. Personal support workers, and nurses, social workers, medical technicians and physicians. Researchers and clinicians. Administrators and security staff. Maintenance workers whose jobs have never been so obviously essential.

We pray for our civic leaders, elected and appointed officials at all levels of government.

We pray that in these times of heightened anxiety and worry, that we will all be guided by compassion and decency. We pray that this time of crisis we can remember to be our best selves, and to expect the same from our decision-makers and public servants.

We pray with gratitude for the members of the Canadian Armed Forces, who are being called upon in these times to do work that is literally changing and saving lives.

We pray for the well being of the residents and staff of all long term care facilities, homes for the aged, and rehabilitation hospitals.

We pray for those who are compelled by circumstances to return to work, even though they are unsure about their safety. We pray for those whose jobs are in question. We pray for business owners and managers who are trying to navigate in this challenged economy.

In this Pentecost season, which in part is a celebration of the miracle that people from different places and varied backgrounds can, with the Spirit’s help, grow to understand each other- our prayers also include the lament that in recent days, stories have been appearing that remind us of the tragic evils of racism, and assumed white privilege. We pray for the family and friends of George Floyd, the man killed this week in Minneapolis while being subdued by a police officer.

We pray for all people of colour who live with the consciousness that too often there seems to be a different set of rules and laws for some. We pray with thanks for the courage and grace of Christian Cooper, the young man who survived a very real threat in New York’s Central Park, and who lived to accept the apology of the woman who tried to convince the police that an African American man was prepared to harm her.

We pray for a spirit of reconciliation and harmony, and justice.

We pray for the leaders of Harrow United Church, and the people we serve in Jesus’ name. Help us to find our way into this new time. There are questions about how to continue our ministries, and how to raise the funds we need to support them.

We pray for Rev. Robin Sherman, and the leaders and members of Tecumseh United Church, and the people they serve. Help her, and other faith leaders, to trust that the faithful work they do is sufficient and important.

We pray for all the faith communities, service groups, social agencies businesses, levels of government and public service who are striving to be of help. We pray for the Harrow Food Bank, and the Windsor Downtown Mission, and the people they endeavour to assist.

We make these prayers as followers of Jesus, who taught us to pray in this way:

The Lord’s Prayer: (together)

Our Father, who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name,

thy kingdom come,

thy will be done,

on earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

And forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil:

For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory

forever and ever. Amen

The worship video ends this week with a powerful rendition of “We Are Not Alone”, from a recording of the Senior Choir from 2006.

Announcements for May 31, 2020

The big winner in the HUC online pub style trivia night, with a score of 69 out of a possible 80 points, was the “J-Squared” team of Janet and John Woodbridge. A donation of $69 will be made to the church’s general fund, in celebration.

 On Friday, June 5, from 10 am until noon there will be a Drive Thru Food Drive Drive at Harrow United Church, 45 Munger Street East, Harrow. We are collecting donations for Windsor’s Downtown Mission.

Drive up, pop your trunk and we will safely lift the food out of your vehicle, and into our pickup truck! Our volunteers will wear masks and keep a safe social distance.

The Mission has an urgent need for:

Canned fruit/vegetables/meats/protein

Cereal boxes and granola/protein bars

Fruit cups and Mr. Noodles

Gloves, masks, cleaning supplies, disinfectant wipes

We will also be accepting cash and cheques made out to Windsor’s Downtown Mission.

This will be Harrow United Church’s third Drive Thru Food Drive to benefit the Mission. Last time we collected over 800 pounds of food, which was delivered the same day, to help the front-line efforts of the Mission, who serve some of the most vulnerable people in our area.

If you’d like to volunteer to help on that day, email us at harrow_united@hotmail.com

Coffee with Rev. Darrow! 10:30 am this coming Thursday morning, June 4. Email him at revdww@gmail.com for your ZOOM invitation.

Do you know of someone who is sick, in need of food or other necessities, or could just use a pastoral phone call? Contact Rev. Darrow at revdww@gmail.com

The Official Board will meet by conference call on Tuesday evening, 7 pm, on June 3.

Thank you to Dennis Graham, John Woodbridge, Larry Anderson, and the Virtual Choir, for all the work they do to make these worship resources possible. Our May 24 worship service was read 163 times, and viewed 123 times.

The “opening theme” for our latest worship videos is a piece for guitar composed and played by the mult-talented Joel Woods, who also appears in the videos for our youngest ShoeBox Sunday School students.

ShoeBox Sunday School, led by Naomi Woods, has 27 children registered. There are online classes at 9:30 am and 10:30 am each Sunday morning, using materials delivered to households in, you guessed it, ShoeBoxes!

If you know of children who would like to be part of ShoeBox Sunday School, please let us know.

 

 

 

 

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Harrow United Church Worship for May 24, 2020

Link to May 24, 2020 worship video

link to ShoeBox Sunday School video for May 24, 2020

link to announcements video for May 24, 2020

HUC logo color FINAL@2x

Introduction to today’s readings from Scripture

First we will hear the story of the end of the earthly ministry of a prophet of Ancient Israel, Elijah, which includes a moment at which he passes on the mantle of responsibility to his protégé’ Elisha. There are echoes of that story, in the two separate accounts we will hear from the New Testament, about the departure of the Risen Christ, as experienced by a group of Jesus’ disciples.

2 Kings 2:1-13

When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.”

But Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.

The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?”

“Yes, I know,” Elisha replied, “so be quiet.”

Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here, Elisha; the Lord has sent me to Jericho.”

And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went to Jericho.

The company of the prophets at Jericho went up to Elisha and asked him, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?”

“Yes, I know,” he replied, “so be quiet.”

Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.”

And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them walked on.

Fifty men from the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?”

“Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.

10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.”

11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.

13 Elisha then picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 He took the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and struck the water with it. “Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.

Luke 24:45-53

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

 

Acts 1:1-10

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.”

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Learning Time: “Now What?”

(Begins with a short clip from a movie)

That’s the end of Mary Poppins, the magical nanny worked wonders with the Banks family, helping parents and children re-discover their love for each other. Have you ever thought about Mary Poppins as a kind of Jesus figure? She left the Banks family, and her other friends behind, as she ascended into the London sky, high above the kites. She left something of her spirit, with them.

All our scripture stories for today are goodbye stories.

Elisha was a student of Elijah, a prophet of ancient Israel. Prophets were a bit like travelling monks, who taught about God, settled religious disputes, and reminded the people of Israel they were meant to follow God’s ways. Some, like Elijah, seemed to have special abilities, to heal people, to help them, and do things that looked like magic.

When Elisha learned his teacher was to leave him, he asked for “a double portion of his spirit”. He wanted Elijah’s blessing, and the assurance God would still be with him.

Elijah was known as a miracle worker. When he needed to cross the Jordan River, he took off his cloak, also called a mantle, rolled it up, and struck the water. The river divided, allowing them to walk across a dry bed. Which brings to mind another story, about Moses.

When Moses led the Israelites out of slavery, they were pursued by Egyptian soldiers, who sought to return them to forced labour. Moses held up his staff, and the waters of the Red Sea parted. The escaped slaves walked across the dry sea bed. When they were safe on the other side, the waters crashed back down, washing away the chariots, horses, and the Pharoah’s army. That began the Israelites’ long trek across a wilderness to find a new life.

After 40 years in the wilderness, the Israelites were about to cross the Jordan River, to enter the Promised Land for the first time. Moses stood at the edge of the water and told the Israelites he would not be joining them. He appointed Joshua as his successor, and gave him, and the people his blessing, before he died.

Powerful symbols from these stories have made their way into our culture. We talk about dying as “crossing over”. In the old days, a groom might carry the bride over a threshold, through a doorway, to symbolize the transition from one way of being, to another. In literature, crossing a body of water is often a symbol of a new start. In movies, the beginning of a hero’s travels will often include crossing a bridge. It’s a visual symbol of moving from the old life, to the new. Often it’s an act of courage, just to make the crossing. A bridge over troubled water. Sometimes it’s a fresh start.

We use water when we baptize people. Water has the power of life and death. We can’t live without it. We use it to clean, to refresh ourselves. We splash our faces at the beginning of a new day. Tears stream down our faces when someone we love dies.

I’ve been talking this weekend with my friend Margaret, who is recovering from the very recent ordeal of losing her husband to cancer. It all happened so quickly. Just when she was absorbing the news that he was very ill, they learned things were progressing much quicker than expected, and within just a few weeks, Don had died.

Margaret is doing the best she knows how, with help, to carry on. She has two new grandbabies, her career, good friends, and lots to keep her busy. She told me this morning that weekends are the hardest, that being alone in her house is still very difficult, and that right now, she cannot imagine ever being happy again.

We do not always welcome change, and we certainly do not relish loss. It is painful when loved ones die- even when death is also a release from terrible suffering and hardship.

Elisha faced not only the death of his friend, but the end of his time as a student of holy ways. With the death of his mentor, he also pondered the burden of carrying on Elijah’s prophetic work.

Elisha watched as Elijah was carried off to heaven in a chariot of fire, pulled by horses of fire. We have no earthly idea what that means, but Elijah was gone. All that was left behind was his cloak, which Elisha picked up. The cloak, or mantle became a symbol of leadership and mission, like a superhero putting on their cape before going on duty. The last image in this story is of Elisha taking the cloak, and striking the water, and once again crossing the dry river bed of the Jordan.

We also heard two versions of the story of Jesus’ last earthly day.  As Moses did not enter the promised land, Jesus would not physically be with the disciples as they moved on. Jesus said that they would be clothed with power from on high. That’s like the cloak, or mantle, Elisha inherited from his teacher.

In the ascension story from the Book of Acts, after Jesus disappeared into the sky, the disciples suddenly saw two men dressed in white standing beside them. The strangers asked, “why do you stand here looking into the sky?”

That sounds like the story in Luke’s Gospel of the first Easter morning, “very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.  They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.  In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

The story of Jesus’ Ascension, his saying goodbye to earthly life, has all the mystery and wonder of his Resurrection. Jesus passed from one way of being into another. We don’t necessarily understand it any better than his first followers did.

Jesus’ disciples, like Elisha, and any of us might rather time stand still, and things not change, and they need not face losing someone they love and rely upon. We might prefer to freeze time at a perfect moment, before the sad things happen.

The hope, and the comfort in these stories is there is life beyond grief, and loss and change. God does not abandon us, when we cross a bridge, move to a new place, begin a new chapter.

Before Jesus left the disciples, he promised they would not be alone. He passed on the mantle, the cloak of leadership, and said they would receive power of the Holy Spirit. We will hear about that next Sunday, as we celebrate Pentecost. It’s a day we remember we are never alone, because God’s Spirit is with us, always. Amen

I have sometimes talked about holy whispers, invitations from the Spirit to step outside of our comfort zone, and do something that is needed in the world. I encourage you to begin each day with a prayer, asking God what you should do today. The idea is to open our hearts, and imaginations to the possibility that God is with us, and has things for us to do, that perhaps no one else can do.

God may be waiting to guide you, perhaps take you across a bridge, into new territory.  I heard a great story this week, about someone from the congregation who did just that. I’ve asked Laura George to share her story with you.

(The video includes Laura’s story.)

Pastoral Prayers for May 24, 2020

Loving God;

Today we listened to the story of Jesus’ Ascension. Once more, he said goodbye to his closest friends, and to his earthly life. He left them with work to do. They were sent out into the world to make new disciples, to offer care, to baptize, to welcome new followers into the fold. We also heard about Elisha, left behind by his mentor, Elijah, to go back out into the world, and carry on.

God, how do we carry on, after loss, while we are in grief? We need the assurance that you are with us, as we dare to move towards a new reality, one that we were not asking for, one that we may not be ready to fully embrace.

Our world is in the midst of a big change. Many of us are leading daily lives that are very different from what we knew, just a few weeks ago. For some, the changes are less obvious.

We don’t know what the new life, the new world will be like. We don’t know how we are going do things we once took for granted.

We may feel, at times, like Elijah, like Jesus’ friends, wondering if we have been left to our own devices and desires, and not knowing if we have it in us, to make our way in this strange new territory.

Help us wake up to the realization that it has always been this way. Things are always changing, and you are always with us. Help us to realize that you are ever-present, and always ready to fill us with the love, the courage, the energy, the passion to live, even through the weird and confusing seasons of life.

Help us to quiet ourselves, so that we are able grow in our awareness of you in our midst,  in this shared worship time, and in the rest of our week.

Help us to grow in the desire to be faithful people,

to love in your name, to put you first in our lives,

to continue to learn and grow,

to take risks and make sacrifices to serve your people,

to call out for justice and mercy in the world,

and to pour our lives out in love, in response to your love for us.

 

We pray for all those, who like ourselves,

Have big questions about Jesus, and faith, and the workings of the universe.

 

We pray for those who are having an especially hard time these days. Those who have suffered recent loss. Those who are very sick. Those who are lonely, and isolated.

We pray for those who are caught in the traps of addiction, and despair, and co-dependence.

We pray for those who need encouragement and help to begin the work of changing their lives.

We pray for those who are aging, those who are chronically ill, those who are in pain.

We pray for those who are depressed, and those who care for the afflicted.

We pray for those who are on the front-lines of the efforts to care for those touched by the coronavirus, and for those who are working to keep us safe, and warm, and well-fed.

We pray for victims of violence, and those subject to terrorism in many parts of the world.

We pray for those who do not have what they need to live,

and for those who cannot seem to live without things they don’t actually need.

We pray for those who are unemployed,

and for those who work too hard, and for those who work,

and still do not have what they need to sustain the lives of those in their care.

We pray for our congregation, and all those who now join us for weekly worship and prayer, over the internet, in this unusual time.

Help us remember who we have been,

give thanks for who we are,

and be open to who you would have us be.

We make these spoken prayers, and the unspoken ones in our hearts, in Jesus name,

and we continue in prayer using the words Jesus taught:

The Lord’s Prayer: (together)

Our Father, who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name,

thy kingdom come,

thy will be done,

on earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

And forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil:

For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory

forever and ever. Amen

 Over the past few weeks I have talked about Justin Weber, a man I knew during my time at the Earlham School of Religion, a Quaker seminary. Justin is the pastor of a Quaker meeting, or congregation, in Iowa. I have kept up with the story of his entrance into hospital as the first COVID-19 patient in his area, his days in an induced coma, the long weeks of recovery, and finally, this week, his release from the hospital. I want to share with you now some video shot by a local television station, of Justin’s farewell to the hospital staff who cared for him, and nursed him back to health, for 57 days.

 

At the end of the video, Justin, who loves to sing, leads a powerful rendition of the doxology. Let that be our blessing today, as we end this time of worship.

 

Announcements:

New time for coffee with Rev. Darrow! 10:30 am this coming Thursday morning, May 28. Email him at revdww@gmail.com for your ZOOM invitation.

Do you know of someone who is sick, in need of food or other necessities, or could just use a pastoral phone call? Contact Rev. Darrow at revdww@gmail.com

Harrow United Church will hold another Drive Thru Food Drive, from 10 am-12 noon, on Friday, June 5. If you’d like to volunteer to help on that day, email us at harrow_united@hotmail.com

The Official Board will meet by conference call on Tuesday evening, 7 pm, on June 3.

Online Bible Study continues each Wednesday morning, starting at 10:30 am.

To join the class, email us at revdww@gmail.com for a ZOOM invitation.

Thank you to Dennis Graham, John Woodbridge, Larry Anderson, and the Virtual Choir, for all the work they do to make these worship resources possible. Our May 17 worship service was read a staggering 216 times, and viewed 81 times.

The “opening theme” for our latest worship videos is a piece for guitar composed and played by the mult-talented Joel Woods, who also appears in the videos for our youngest ShoeBox Sunday School students.

ShoeBox Sunday School, led by Naomi Woods, has 27 children registered. There are online classes at 9:30 am and 10:30 am each Sunday morning, using materials delivered to households in, you guessed it, ShoeBoxes!

If you know of children who would like to be part of ShoeBox Sunday School, please let us know.

Harrow United Church is definitely not part of the group of Ontario churches pressuring Premier Ford and his cabinet to allow them to re-open their buildings for worship services. In fact, not one United Church congregation has signed on to support this effort. The leadership of the United Church of Canada, at a national and regional level, supports making these decisions based on science, and the best advice of public health officials. Check out Rev. Darrow’s article on this topic, in this week’s issue of the Harrow News.

Today’s worship service re-purposed videos of the Ascension Sunday Service from June 2, 2019. We thought it might do our hearts good to see the inside of the sanctuary, filled with life.

 

 

 

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Worship for May 17, 2020

We have learned that hundreds of people are accessing our worship resource each week. We would love to know more about you, and if there are ways we can be of help to you. Please fill in as many of the info boxes as you wish, and click on the “submit” button to send it to us. We will keep all your responses confidential, and will not use your email address in annoying ways!

Link to ShoeBox Video for May 17, 2020

Link to Worship Video for May 17, 2020

Link to announcements for May 17, 2020

We had help this week with our worship service from the members of the online confirmation class, who did the readings for the video.

united church of canada crestWe began most of our online confirmation classes by reading or hearing “A New Creed”. It was on page 6 of our confirmation resource, called Jesus 24/7. This creed, or statement of faith has been part of the life of the United Church of Canada since 1968. In 1998, a line was added to indicate that we are called to live with respect in creation, an idea that seems even more important these days.

A New Creed

We are not alone,

we live in God’s world.

We believe in God:

who has created and is creating,

who has come in Jesus,

the Word made flesh,

to reconcile and make new,

who works in us and others

by the Spirit.

We trust in God.

We are called to be the Church:

to celebrate God’s presence,

to live with respect in Creation,

to love and serve others,

to seek justice and resist evil,

to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,

our judge and our hope.

In life, in death, in life beyond death,

God is with us.

We are not alone.

Thanks be to God.  

First Scripture reading for today:

This is a reading from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, which contains stories about the adventures of Paul, and other early missionaries, as they brought the message about the Jesus Way of living, to people in countries in the Middle East, and Europe. Saint Paul was a convert to the Jesus Way who had once persecuted those who strayed from the Jewish faith. In our reading from the version of the Bible called the message, we hear him speaking in a town square in Athens, to people who have not yet heard of Jesus.

areopagus

The above photo is the place outside of modern Athens identified as the location, in ancient times, of the Areopagus.

Acts 17:22-31 The Message (MSG)

So Paul took his stand in the open space at the Areopagus and laid it out for them. “It is plain to see that you Athenians take your religion seriously. When I arrived here the other day, I was fascinated with all the shrines I came across. And then I found one inscribed, to the god nobody knows. I’m here to introduce you to this God so you can worship intelligently, know who you’re dealing with.

“The God who made the world and everything in it, this Master of sky and land, doesn’t live in custom-made shrines or need the human race to run errands for him, as if he couldn’t take care of himself. He makes the creatures; the creatures don’t make him. Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn’t play hide-and-seek with us. He’s not remote; he’s near. We live and move in him, can’t get away from him! One of your poets said it well: ‘We’re the God-created.’ Well, if we are the God-created, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to think we could hire a sculptor to chisel a god out of stone for us, does it?

“God overlooks it as long as you don’t know any better—but that time is past. The unknown is now known, and he’s calling for a radical life-change. He has set a day when the entire human race will be judged and everything set right. And he has already appointed the judge, confirming him before everyone by raising him from the dead.”

May God bless us, and helps us find hope and meaning in this story.

Second Scripture Reading for Today:

Our Second reading is taken from the 14th chapter of the Gospel of John, which scholars believe was written down at least 90 years after the earthly life of Jesus. The editor who gathered and arranged the stories may have included this passage to be of help to people who were trying to understand a new way of thinking about God at work in the world. People spoke about seeing God in the life and the words of Jesus, and in the Creator of the World, the one Jesus taught them to call Father. In this passage, Jesus introduces a third way of talking about God, as a “friend, or the Spirit of Truth”. Followers of Jesus have puzzled ever since about how to think of God as a Trinity- one God, with at least 3 different names, and ways of relating to us.

“If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you. I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can’t take him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see him, doesn’t know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you!

“I will not leave you orphaned. I’m coming back. In just a little while the world will no longer see me, but you’re going to see me because I am alive and you’re about to come alive. At that moment you will know absolutely that I’m in my Father, and you’re in me, and I’m in you.

“The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that’s who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself plain to him.”

We pray that God the Creator, God the Spirit, and God we meet in Jesus, will be with us, and help us to grow in understanding. Amen

 

Learning Time for May 17, 2020

At the beginning of the Jesus movement, the first missionaries told people they met, who were fellow Jews, that Jesus was this remarkable person who encouraged them to think about God not as a forbidding judge with an endless list of rules, but as a gracious, loving parent. Jesus taught them they could call the creator of the universe Abba, which in Aramaic means “Daddy”. Jesus spoke kindly, and looked upon people with the eyes of love, and when they were near him, they felt God was with them.

The Jesus movement grew, and soon there were hundreds, thousands of people who’d met Jesus, or heard him speak, or heard someone who knew Jesus talk about him, and the effect he had on them.  That’s how it worked during the earthly life of Jesus.

Today we heard a reading from John’s Gospel, which scholars believe was first composed anywhere from 90 to 110 years after the earthly life of Jesus. It was written to bring the Good News to a community of people who never had the chance to meet Jesus in the flesh.

I think that when the writer put the Gospel of John together, they were working as a good preacher. They gathered stories about Jesus,  and told them in such a way that they would help their own small faith community- these folks who had never met Jesus in person, but who longed to feel connected to him, and his message about God’s love.

90 years before, Jesus had burst upon the scene. He gathered a following, and told them about a new way of living, and about a kingdom of God that would never end. But it all ground to a halt when was arrested, tried, and sentenced to death. People who knew him watched him die, and helped to bury him. That was a tragic, sudden end to the Jesus Way.

Just as his closest friends were coming to terms with his death, and they sunk into the depths of sadness, they began to hear that he had been resurrected- he was back. Some of Jesus friends met him again, talked with him, even ate a meal with him. It must have warmed their hearts, and given them hope. But, Jesus said he couldn’t stay. He had to leave. How could what he started carry on without him?

That would have been hard enough for the original disciples to comprehend. The people for whom the Gospel of John was written were 2 or 3 generations removed from those times. They only had the stories.  They did not have the benefit, the blessing of seeing Jesus in the flesh. How could they connect with him, and his message?

John told them about the Last Supper, in which Jesus made a series of short speeches to his closest friends, which scholars now call the Farewell Discourses. In the portion we heard today, Jesus seemed to talk about things that hadn’t yet happened. He talked about leaving, and returning, before he’d gone anywhere. I wonder if the gospel writer included these words to encourage the people in his own faith community, to help them see how they could be part of what Jesus had started, even though he was not physically with them. He quoted Jesus as saying,

“I will not leave you orphaned. I’m coming back. In just a little while the world will no longer see me, but you’re going to see me because I am alive and you’re about to come alive. At that moment you will know absolutely that I’m in my Father, and you’re in me, and I’m in you.”

Jesus seemed to say that even after he was gone, he’d make sure the God he called Father would still be present with his friends. There were two parts to being aware of God’s presence. The first part was Jesus’ commandment to keep on loving each other as he had loved them. The second part was a promise that God would send another Friend, who would always be with them, called the Spirit of Truth.

This short passage laid the foundation for the development of ideas about the Trinity, which two hundred years later became an official church teaching. The doctrine of the Trinity describes God as three persons in one.

God the Creator, who Jesus called Father. Jesus, the Son, in whom God shone so brightly, and the Spirit, who is with us, guides us, and bridges the gap between us and God, and us and other people.

When we talked about the Trinity in Bible Study this week, one person said they think of the Spirit as love. I do too. I think of love as a force in the universe, that begins with God, and flows through everything, including you and me, and connects all things. We are always in the midst of, surrounded by, immersed in, God’s love.

The Spirit connects us, and inspires and empowers us to keep on loving each other. In this strange time of isolation, when we are unable to sit around a table and share a meal with people we long to see, unable to gather as a faith community in one place, it seems important to remember, that we are always connected, and we are always surrounded by God’s love.

Saint Paul was an early missionary of the Jesus Way. He travelled to Athens, the intellectual and cultural centre of Ancient Greece, where he met and talked to people who were not Jewish, and who had never heard of Jesus. He looked for a way to share the basic message of his faith.

Athens was home to a large number of temples and gathering places, for many kinds of religions, and schools of philosophy. In his wanderings around the city, Paul noticed a shrine dedicated to “The God Nobody Knows”, an invisible god.

When Paul had the opportunity to speak at the Areopagus, a kind of open-air meeting place, where philosophers gathered for deep thought and discussion, he said,

“The God who made the world and everything in it, this Master of sky and land, doesn’t live in custom-made shrines or need the human race to run errands for him, as if he couldn’t take care of himself. He makes the creatures; the creatures don’t make him. Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn’t play hide-and-seek with us. He’s not remote; he’s near. We live and move in him, can’t get away from him!”

Another translation says it this way. “God is the one in whom we live and move and have our being.”

In the times we feel alone, it is good to remember that God is with us. When we grieve because we can’t gather with people we’d love be with, it is good to remember that on a deeper, spiritual level, we are all connected- we are all part of something bigger than us.

We are always with God. We are surrounded, immersed in God, wherever we are. Thanks be to God for that. Amen

 

Pastoral Prayer

Today I’d like us to take a silent moment to remember those who are very ill, those who are dying, their families, and those who care for them. How unfathomably sad it is, to consider the situation of those who die alone, and those who find themselves grieving, under strange conditions, in these strange times.

 

Lord, have mercy.

 

I’d like to continue in prayer with a prayer of thanks for Health Workers:

Holy One,

We give thanks for those who care for the sick at this difficult time.

For diligent family practitioners and experienced specialists,

we thank you.

For care-full nursing staff

We thank you.

For cheerful housekeeping workers,

We thank you.

For attentive care aides,

We thank you.

For skilled X-Ray Technicians,

We thank you.

For administrators and support staff,

We thank you.

Holy One, we know that in hospitals and care homes,

in emergency rooms and in intensive care units,

the work of healing is dangerous and challenging,

and we thank you for those willing to serve.

(time of silent reflection)

We acknowledge the sacrifice and continual pressure that is

the lot of those who care,

and we thank you for work they do for us, and for the communities to which we belong.

Holy One,

May your Love sustain them, your Peace surround them

and your Holy Spirit inspire them through the most challenging times,

Amen

 

I offer thanks for the recovery experienced by my former classmate, the Rev. Justin Weber, who pastors a Quaker congregation called  Honey Creek-New Providence Friends Church Waterloo, Iowa. He also runs an antique business called “The Pickin’ Preacher”.

Justin Weber photo

We continue now with the words of the Lord’s Prayer.

 

The Lord’s Prayer: (together)

Our Father, who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name,

thy kingdom come,

thy will be done,

on earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

And forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil:

For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory

forever and ever. Amen

 I pray that in your coming week you have moments of joy, and peace. I pray that you continue to know that you are blessed, and that you find opportunities to be a blessing to other people, in Jesus’ name. Amen

Link to Announcements on Video

Announcements for May 17, 2020

Something new! Join Rev. Darrow for coffee time, 10:30 am this coming Tuesday morning, May 19. Email him at revdww@gmail.com for your ZOOM invitation.

Are you game for online Trivia? Rev. Darrow will host a Pub-Style Trivia quiz, with questions of local interest, most written by members of Harrow United Church. You are responsible for your own snacks and other refreshments! Next Saturday night, May 23, starting at 7:30 pm. Send an email to revdww@gmail.com to register your team. Pick a team name, for extra points.

Do you know of someone who is sick, in need of food or other necessities, or could just use a pastoral phone call? Contact Rev. Darrow at revdww@gmail.com

Harrow United Church will hold another Drive Thru Food Drive, from 10 am-12 noon, on Friday, June 5. If you’d like to volunteer to help on that day, email us at harrow_united@hotmail.com

The Official Board will meet by conference call on Tuesday evening, 7 pm, on June 3.

Online Bible Study continues each Wednesday morning, starting at 10:30 am. This coming week we will talk about the story of the Ascension, the final moment in Jesus’ earthly ministry, as described in Luke 24:40-53, and Acts 1:1-11. It has interesting parallels with a story about Elijah, found in 2 Kings 2:1-13. To join the class, email us at revdww@gmail.com for a ZOOM invitation.

Thank you to Dennis Graham, John Woodbridge, Larry Anderson, and the Virtual Choir, for all the work they do to make these worship resources possible. Our May 10 worship service was read 156 times, and viewed 92 times.

ShoeBox Sunday School, led by Naomi Woods, has 27 children registered. There are online classes at 9:30 am and 10:30 am each Sunday morning, using materials delivered to households in, you guessed it, ShoeBoxes!

The video we posted last week on YouTube for the youngest children has been viewed 13 times. (We hear that some of the kids like to watch it more than once.)

If you know of children who would like to be part of ShoeBox Sunday School, please let us know.

Harrow United Church is definitely not part of the group of Ontario churches pressuring Premier Ford and his cabinet to allow them to re-open their buildings for worship services. In fact, not one United Church congregation has signed on to support this effort. The leadership of the United Church of Canada, at a national and regional level, supports making these decisions based on science, and the best advice of public health officials.

We have concluded the online Confirmation Class. Rev. Darrow asked the members of the class to help with the readings for today’s worship service. Thank you to Keira, Ben, Lilia and Lauren.

Welcome to our brothers and sisters in faith from Essex United Church. Rev. Darrow is the pastoral charge supervisor for their congregation while they are in search of a minister, and attends their board meetings.  Rev. Lexie Chamberlain was doing Sunday Supply at Essex before the coronavirus changed things. Last week, Essex United gave Rev. Darrow room in their weekly newsletter for an invitation to join us in our online worship.

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Writing during this pandemic

cropped-finalist-sticker-a.pngJust over a year ago I experienced the rush of excitement that came with having my first novel, “The Book of Answers” included on the short list for the “Unhanged Arthur”. It’s a prize for unpublished crime novels, co-sponsored by Dundurn Press and Crime Writers of Canada.

Link to announcement of nominations

20190523_192551I had a great time at the awards banquet. It was held in the banquet hall of Toronto’s historic Arts and Letters Club, which felt a lot like Hogwarts.

I was not at all shocked when another book, The Scarlet Cross, by Liv McFarlane won the award. For me, it was more than enough to make the move from the “long list” of ten, to the “short list” of five authors from across Canada whose work was considered for this honour.

It did come as a surprise that all five finalist’s works were to be read by the acquisitions team at Dundurn. They are a Canadian publishing house with an impressive list of books and authors.

I have had good, and useful feedback on my first serious effort, and I continue to learn the craft. My writing mentor said most first novels don’t end up being published. I am okay with that, and have moved on to work on a second story, tentatively called “The Book of Secrets”. It involves some of the characters from the first novel.

The editors at Dundurn might not be waiting with anticipation, but I look forward to sending them the new one to consider, when the time comes. (I just checked their website, and Dundurn is not currently inviting new submissions, so I guess there’s no great hurry!)

As  one of my fellow nominees, Heather McLeod noted recently, fiction writers in this strange time have to contend creatively with the pandemic. Do they set their story before COVID-19, during, or after?

For me, it seems too soon to write about life after COVID-19.  I have seen new micro-fiction set “during”, which captures some of the mood, and the questions of this time.

My first novel was set roughly in modern day. (Which was pre-COVID-19) That was the plan with my current effort, but I have found it hard to make the mental leap back into a world (even a fictional one) in which people are not worried about physical distancing and quarantines.

It’s the same problem I watching tv shows and movies, unless they are clearly historical pieces. What are they doing on that crowded street?

I do want to get back to the work (play) of writing about my protagonist, Tom Book, and his family and friends (and enemies). Whenever I do make the dive into the part of my brain where imaginary world lives, it’s still an interesting place to be.

 

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Worship for Sunday, May 10, 2020

Link to Worship Video for May 10, 2020

Link to ShoeBox Sunday School for May 10, 2020

We are so pleased, and amazed at the number of “views” we are getting each week for our worship videos. Please take a moment and and type in your answers to these questions, and then click the submit button to send them to us. We will keep your responses confidential. All the fields are “optional”, which means you can leave some blank if you choose!

 

Learning Time for May 10, 2020:  “The House of Love”

Lexie and I were out walking at about 8:30 one morning this week. It was cool, and there was a brisk wind, but the sun shone bright on Kingsville’s quiet streets. As we turned a corner, something did not look quite right.  A little girl, perhaps 3 or 4 years old, her long blonde hair wild and loose, and wearing what looked like a long pyjama top, or t-shirt, ran barefoot up the sidewalk, chasing after a taller, darker haired version of herself. We guessed they were sisters.

Looking up and down the street we saw no adult with these little ones. The smaller girl fell further behind her sister, who I’d estimate was maybe 6 years old. There were other people on the street. A woman crossed the road to ask if the kids were with us. We spotted another neighbour with a cellphone at her ear, and wondered if she was calling the police.

We couldn’t be sure, so we dialed 911, and Lexie told the dispatcher what we were seeing. The older girl had gone around a corner, and was now out of sight. The little one turned back toward us. It seemed like she’d given up on catching her sister.

As Lexie spoke to the dispatcher, a taxi van with a local name painted on the back pulled up close to the lone little girl, and the driver’s side power door opened. The girl looked towards the van. We were too far away to hear the words exchanged. The little one got in, and van the door powered shut. The taxi van turned the corner, in the direction we’d seen the older girl go.

Moments later, the van appeared a few houses behind us, having made a loop around the block, and pulled into a driveway. The van backed out, rolled down the street, and parked in another driveway.

By then, the police had arrived. Lexie was still on the phone with the dispatcher, who’d had a colleague contact the taxi company. It was confirmed the driver knew the girls, and had brought them home. We continued our walk, trusting the officer in the cruiser, now parked in front of that house, would sort things out.

We live in this strange time in which home has become, for many of us, our total geography. I talk with people who look at the same walls, the same few rooms, the exact same yard, day after day. Some folks still go to work, and some get out for groceries. Children are out of school, and can’t have play-dates. They’ve not been able to use parks or playgrounds.

I can totally understand the girls wanting to slip out the front door, and run down the street. Lexie and I go for walks, partly for exercise, but also for a change of scenery. I hope the little girls were just out for an around the block adventure.  I pray all they were running from was the feeling of being stuck inside the same walls. I worry there might be something more. It still bothers me that no parent appeared on the street, wondering where their girls had gone.

It’s Mother’s Day weekend. There is a tendency at this time of year to glorify, and mythologize the role mothers play in our world. It sometimes seems motivated by guilt. Our society takes the hard work, the sacrifice, the difficulties mothers face, for granted, and once a year, we have this day.

This year has become even more challenging, especially for mothers of school age kids. Some are doing their own paid jobs from home, while also juggling home schooling, meal planning and prep, the regular chores, and trying to keep everyone in the house healthy, entertained, and in positive humour. I don’t mean to suggest their partners are not on board. In many houses, it’s a team effort. Even so, many mothers have a lot to deal with.

Add in worries about money, and job loss, and the economic down-turn, the health and well-being of friends and relatives we can’t visit, the anxiety caused by neighbours and others who ignore social distancing rules, and it’s just a hard, hard time. We turn on the news, or read posts on social media, and a lot of what we see and hear doesn’t help.

mother's day adOur church put an ad in the Happy Mother’s Day section of the Harrow News, that says “God Bless All the Moms” Especially the Front-Line Workers and those now working even harder running home schools, on top of everything!”

Happy Mother’s Day. There was a movement a few years ago to re-brand Mother’s Day as Christian Family Sunday. Churches like to try to take secular, worldly occasions, and appropriate for our own purposes.

When the Christian missionaries moved into Europe they saw that local folks had a big rowdy Winter Solstice festival near the end of the year. It went by different local names, but was basically rooted in the anxiety that as the days got shorter and shorter, the nights longer and longer, the sun might disappear altogether, and never return.

The early church did not like all the risqué end of the world partying, or the folk magic practiced in efforts to entice the sun to return. The church tried and failed to stamp out the parties. In its wisdom, the church baptized and converted the festivals into a celebration of the birth of Jesus, and Christmas in December became a thing.

How do we celebrate Mother’s Day, when sometimes it feels like we are like those scared tribes of Europe seeing glimpses of the end of the world?

Both scriptures today make use of the image of a house. At a time of great anxiety for the disciples, just hours before Jesus was arrested, he shared a meal with his friends, that we call the last supper. Jesus knew his inner circle was worried, and wondering what was ahead for them. Jesus talked about how God would always be there for them, and how nothing that happened in this world, in this life, could separate them from God, and God’s love. Jesus talked about a dwelling place where there was room enough for them all. In the King James Version, it says, “In my Father’s house are many mansions”, which conveys the extraordinary lavishness of this promise.

first century palestinian houseIn the part of the world where Jesus and his followers lived, most people lived in simple, four-walled structures, about 24 feet square. Within those tiny homes would be space for a whole family to do their cooking and eating, sleeping, and also to stable their animals. The idea of a house big enough for all God’s children, would be almost unimaginable to Jesus’ friends- but also, an ultimate symbol of generosity, hospitality, and love. A great big house of love.

Today we also heard a reading from the first letter of John, written to followers of Jesus who were living in hard times. Their Jewish neighbours saw them as heretics who’d wandered from the true faith. The Roman colonizers persecuted them for failing to follow the official state religions, and call the emperor their Lord. There was disagreement amongst the Jesus followers, disputes about theology that threatened to divide their community.

To help them in their troubles, the writer of 1st John reminded his people that although no one has ever seen God, ever, if we love each other, God dwells deeply within us, and God’s love becomes complete in us. The Greek word for love in his passage is “Agape”, the highest form of love. This is love that is prepared to sacrifice for the good of others. Love that puts personal comfort, desire, pride, ego aside, in favour of what is best for someone else.

The writer went on to say, “God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear.”

There is so much in those words for us. We need our homes to be safe places, from which no one feels the need to run away. We need to be good to each other, patient with each other, in these tough and confusing times. We need to be good to the moms, not just this weekend, but all the time.

There are still things happening in the world, over which we have little or no control. Like those folks in ancient European tribes, we are hoping and praying, and holding on for the end of the dark times, for the sun to return. The best antidote we have against fear- is love. Love that is selfless, and self-giving, that concerns itself most with how others are doing. We need for love to have the run of our house. Amen

Prayers for May 10, 2020

In addition to our ongoing prayers for all those affected by the pandemic, today is a day to offer special prayers:

God of Love, on this day set aside to honor and remember mothers, we give you thanks for our mothers. We are grateful you chose to give us life through them, and that they received the gift of life from you, and gave it to us. Thank you for the sacrifices they made in carrying us and giving us birth.

We thank you for the women who raised us. Whether birth mother, adopted mother, older sister, aunt, grandmother, stepmother or someone else, we thank you for those women who held us and fed us, who cared for us and kissed away our pain. We pray that our lives may reflect the love they showed us, and that they would be pleased to be called our mothers.

We pray for mothers whose children are grown.

We pray for new mothers experiencing changes they could not predict.

We pray for pregnant women who are anticipating motherhood.

We pray for mothers who face the demands of single parenthood.

We pray for mothers who enjoy financial abundance.

We pray for mothers who are raising their children in poverty.

We pray for mothers who are doing their best to love their children, and care for them, in these current strange times.

We pray for step-mothers.

We pray for mothers who are separated from their children.

We pray for mothers who gave up their children for adoption.

We pray for adoptive mothers.

We pray for children and mothers for whom family relationships have been challenging, difficult, or even unworkable.

We pray for girls and women who think about being mothers.

We pray for women who desperately want, or wanted, to be mothers.

We pray for all women who have assumed the mother’s role in a child’s life.

We pray for those who grieve the loss of their mother.

Grant them hope in the Easter story of life and death and life beyond death.

Grant them comfort that all those who have live died are held safely God’s loving embrace, in that house with many rooms.

We offer our prayers in the name of Mary’s son, Jesus, and we continue with the prayer he taught:

The Lord’s Prayer: (spoken together)

Our Father, who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name,

thy kingdom come,

thy will be done,

on earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

And forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil:

For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory

forever and ever. Amen

 

Announcements for May 10, 2020

Happy Mother’s Day! Even under our current conditions, we hope and pray that every mother knows they are appreciated, remembered and loved.

The Board decided to schedule another Drive Thru Food Drive, which will happen from 10 am-12 noon, on Friday, June 5.

Thank you to Dennis Graham, John Woodbridge, Larry Anderson, and the Virtual Choir, for all the work they do to make these worship resources possible.

Here are some statistics from www.revdarrow.com where we post the printed version, and a link to the Youtube-hosted video of our weekend worship resource:

March 22 230 views

March 29 142 views

(April 5) Palm Sunday 293 views

Good Friday 235 views

(April 12) Easter Sunday 254 views

April 19  112 views  (YouTube counted 90 views of the video)

April 26 170 views   (YouTube counted 127 views of the video)

May 3 124 views     (YouTube counted 101 views of the video)

It appears that about 20% of those who use our worship resource read the print version of the service, and do not click to watch the video.

We have had people looking at our worship resource from twenty countries, including Canada, U.S., India, Singapore, Japan, China, the U.K., the Philippines, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Ireland, France, Australia, South Africa, Germany, Romania, Kenya, Argentina and Russia.

In March, our top three countries were Canada, the United States, and India. In April, our top three countries were Canada, the United States and Singapore. So far in May, the top three are Canada, the United Kingdom, and a tie between the United States and Germany.

 

 

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An update about our Worship Videos

At Harrow United Church, we’ve been providing an online worship resource since the first week we closed the church building and cancelled regular services. These videos take hours of work to produce, and we are grateful to Dennis Graham, John Woodbridge and Larry Anderson, as well as the members of our Virtual Choir, and those who contribute their talents as scripture readers, and guest musicians.

We have not “graduated” from a pre-recorded worship resource to live-streaming. There are two basic issues. One is that we don’t have all the technology we need to do livestreaming well. Our cameras and video equipment in the sanctuary are quite old, and operate on the analog system. (All the video we are currently making available is “shot” using tablets or smart-phones.)

The other issue is how to do livestreaming, while maintaining safe physical distancing, and also produce a worship resource that is helpful and interesting. (I have seen a few livestreams that just feel sad, because what you watch is a couple folks standing around in an echo-y, empty sanctuary.)

Here are some statistics from www.revdarrow.com where I post the printed version, and a link to the Youtube-hosted video of our weekend worship resource:

March 22 230 views

March 29 142 views

(April 5) Palm Sunday 293 views

Good Friday 235 views

(April 12) Easter Sunday 254 views

April 19  112 views  (YouTube counted 90 views of the video)

April 26 170 views   (YouTube counted 127 views of the video)

May 3 124 views     (YouTube counted 101 views of the video)

It appears that about 20% of those who use our worship resource read the print version of the service, and do not click to watch the video.

When I post the worship services to my blog, they are also appear as an article on Linked In. I also post them on my personal Facebook, and the church Facebook page.

We have had people looking at our worship resource from twenty countries, including Canada, U.S., India, Singapore, Japan, China, the U.K., the Philippines, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Ireland, France, Australia, South Africa, Germany, Romania, Kenya, Argentina and Russia.

In March, our top three countries were Canada, the United States, and India. In April, our top three countries were Canada, the United States and Singapore. So far in May, the top three are Canada, the United Kingdom, and a tie between the United States and Germany.

 

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Worship for May 3, 2020

Click the link to watch the worship video:   Worship for May 3, 2020

The video opens with a celebratory announcement about our successful food drive, followed by our Virtual Choir singing the 23rd Psalm.

Scripture for this day, was read on the video by Gloria Gorick:

Let us open our hearts, and still our busy minds, and allow space in our lives for the Word of God.

 Our first reading for today is from the 10th chapter in the Gospel of John. We hear Jesus describe compare himself to the faithful shepherd who knows, cares for, and protects the sheep of their flock. We reminded not to fall for the lure or false promises of those who may not have our best interests at heart.

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”  Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Our second reading for today, from the New Revised Standard Version, is perhaps the most well known, and cherished of the psalms. The 23rd Psalm reminds of God’s promise to always watch over us, and guide us, and hold us safe. It affirms the words found in our United Church creed, that in life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us, and we are not alone.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.

 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.

God’s Word is food and drink to hungry and thirsty souls. We give thanks that God has prepared a table for us.

Learning Time: The Good Shepherd

Most of us are safe, thank God, and sheltered, and fed and watered. Most of us know where our loved ones are, and that they are okay. I say most of us, because I know, from talking with people in our own community, and in our circles of family and friends, that not everyone is safe, and sheltered, and fed and watered. Not everyone knows where their loved ones are, or if they are okay. There are people who do not have it as a good as most of us.

Part of what makes this current pandemic different, from the background misery and despair, and hunger, and pain, and death suffered by so many in our world, every day, is that this one, COVID-19 is touching our lives. Many of those becoming ill, and many of those who have died, have been ordinary people, like most of us.

We are used to the privileges of safety and security, the luxuries of running water and safe warm homes, and a steady food supply, and being able go where we want, when we want, and being able to buy what we want, when we want it.  We are not used to being told to stay home, or to waiting in line to pick up staple items at the grocery store , or wondering if we will be able to buy everything we need, or want.

Most of us have been pretty comfortable, and have been sheltered, insulated, protected from the un-official pandemics that kill far more people, and rarely make the front page of the newspaper. There are other, far more prevalent, and far more dangerous causes of violence and suffering, and death out there. Greed. Selfishness. Racism. Hatred. Elitism. The mistaken belief that certain people are entitled to a good life, a great life, no matter the cost, or the consequences to others.

It is terrible, and massively frightening that there is, as yet, no proven cure for COVID-19. But in a way, it is more terrifying, and humbling, that 21,000 people die every day from hunger, which is something for which we do have a cure, and most of us don’t lose sleep over that.  We have somehow accepted that this just the way it is.

Having the tools to make the world a better, safer, more humane, and just place, is only part of the challenge. There must also be the political will, the deep desire, to place the good of others before our own comfort and privilege.

Today we heard Gloria Gorick read two very well known pieces of scripture, that both use the image of a shepherd.

We often hear Psalm 23, at funerals, where the words “The Lord is my shepherd” speak to our hearts as a very personal hope, and promise. At a funeral we often think first about the person who has died, and pray they are safe with God. We may also think of ourselves, and our other, living, close family and friends, and hope and pray that God is also with us.

If I am being totally honest, in a moment like that, at the graveside of a loved one, or at their death-bed, my focus is quite narrow- I am primarily thinking about my own cares. I want the Lord to be “my” shepherd, and take care of me, and mine.

In the other reading, from John’s Gospel, we get a glimpse of what  it would be like to be the shepherd. The shepherd is the one for whom the gate is opened. The shepherd calls each member of the flock by name, and leads them out. The shepherd goes ahead of the flock, and they follow.

This passage is about the shepherd’s relationship, not just with each sheep, but with the whole flock. The Lord is not just my shepherd, but our shepherd, and it’s a big flock. This shepherd has come for all of us, not just the people like me, or the ones I like.

There is an image that has been haunting me. I spoke about it with the Bible Study group on Wednesday, and some of them had also seen it on Facebook, or in the news. It is of a protester in Tennessee, at one of those rallies at which people are pushing for the lifting of restrictions on movement, on gathering, and on working. They want to go back to work, and for the economy to start up again and recover.

wolf in sheeps clothingThe protester in the Facebook picture is wearing a mask over most of their face, that makes them look more like a bandit than someone following health protocols. They are also holding up a sign that says, “Sacrifice the Weak, Re-Open Tennessee”. Every time that picture pops up on my Facebook, I leave a comment that says, “We are all weak.”

I am grateful to live where we do, and to have a system of government that is trying to help people through this time, and make it possible for folks to stay home and limit the spread of the virus. I wonder what it would be like to live in the Southern U.S., where poverty is widespread, and millions live without health insurance, and where governments have not stepped up to replace lost income. But even so… “Sacrifice the Weak, Re-Open Tennessee”.

I know there have been similar protests as close as the Michigan state capitol in Lansing, and at Queen’s Park in Toronto. Premier Ford pointed out the protesters  standing not far from where health care workers going to the big Toronto hospitals had to walk every day, to carry on trying to save lives.

Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

 The shepherd we follow has come for all of us sheep, and makes no distinctions between the strong and weak, those who contribute to the economy, and those who do not.

In this Gospel passage, Jesus also describes himself as the gate. This a great metaphor. A gate keeps the sheep together, inside the pen. The gate is also a barrier, to keep out those who would come to steal and kill and destroy.

This is not just a literal story. It is a parable that offers the reminder that our souls, our spirits, need protection against the forces, the influences, that might otherwise steal in, and take advantage of our anxiety, our fear for ourselves, and for our loved ones. We need an antidote for greed, for selfishness, for a narrowing of compassion.

The best antidote, the real cure for the infections of greed, selfishness, is love. To love like Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who wants us to have life, and life in abundance. We can administer this cure ourselves, by loving others in God’s name. There is nothing like focusing on the needs of someone else, to break the spell of feeling sorry for myself.

I had a great time on Friday morning, with Vivienne and Lauren and Ben Wood, and Jeff Csikasz,, helping collect food and money donations at our Drive Thru Food Drive for Windsor’s Downtown Mission. We added in all the remaining food in the church’s food cupboard, from earlier Sunday morning donations, to the food that people brought on Friday, and piled it in the back of Jeff Csikasz’s truck. He drove to the mission with over 800 pounds of food, to help some of the most at-risk people in our area. We thanked every person who came by with donations, and most of them thanked us, and told us they were happy to help.

If I become a hoarder, of food, or toilet paper, or compassion, there will never be enough for me, to make me feel safe and happy. Even though life is harder than I am used to it being, if I live out of gratitude for the life God gives each of us, and share as I am able, and reach out to care for others- I can celebrate, and experience abundant life, and be grateful for the joy in small moments. Amen

Pastoral Prayer:

God, you are our Shepherd, and the creator of everything we truly need.

You made this world in which we live, and you fill it with good things.

We give thanks for fresh air, for bright spring days, for clean water, and good food to eat.

We give thanks for the generosity and kindness we experience.

We give thanks for opportunities to pass that kindess and generosity along.

God, You are a source of comfort and peace in the most trying times.

You are the shepherd of all those who feel lost, or sad, or sick, or lonely.

You are the shepherd all those who are dying, and all those who are grieving.

We pray for those in your flock who are feeling the sadness of loss. We remember today especially the family of Mary Defour. Be with them, and surround them with your love.

You give us places and times of calm, to be still.

Help us to use those moments to count our blessings, and to live with gratitude.

We give thanks for the life of Mary Defour, and all she has meant to us.

As we think of family and friends and neighbours close to where we live, we also take time to remember those in other places, who are facing hardship, and loss, and grief. We continue to pray for the people of Nova Scotia.

We pray for the members of the Canadian Forces, for those killed in the helicopter crash, and those who are still missing. We remember their comrades, those involved in the search. We remember their families, and friends.

Guide, us, good shepherd, in the times we feel like we are in a strange land, that we do not recognize.

We pray for all those who are on the front lines in our collective efforts to protect ourselves, our families, our neighbours, our country, from the spread of COVID-19. We pray for health care workers, and clinical researchers. We pray for leaders and officials at all levels of government. We pray for those making business decisions that effect the delivery of goods and services. We pray for farmers, and agricultural workers.

We pray for ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things, in this strange time, so that most of us can lead healthy and safe lives.

We pray for our faith community, Harrow United Church, and all other churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, prayer groups, meditation circles- all the gatherings, many of which have moved online, but who persist in their sincere efforts to bring people together, to share inspiration and hope, and to brighten the lives of others.

We make our prayers as followers of Jesus. Amen

Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer:

Today I want to end this time of prayer with a video clip of my former classmate, Justin Weber. Justin is the pastor of a Quaker congregation in Iowa. We knew each other in the late 1980’s, and travelled together on a mission trip to Belize. A few weeks ago I asked for prayers for Justin and his family, because I learned through mutual friends that Justin was very sick with COVID-19. At that time he was on a ventilator, and in intensive care. I get daily reports about how he is doing, and read yesterday that he is out of the ICU, off the ventilator, off the COVID floor of the hospital, and now able to sit up in bed, and according to his wife, who video-chats with him, he is in good humour.

The video we will watch is of Justin singing the Lord’s Prayer as part of a worship service in his congregation about a year ago.

As we pray with him, let us remember all those directly affected by the virus. Those we know, and those we do not know.

Some announcements for this week:

Our hearts and prayers are with Camiel Defour and his family, as they come to terms with the death of Mary Defour. There will be a service to celebrate her life at a later date.

ShoeBox Sunday School is going very well! We have about 25 students registered. Naomi Woods appears in a YouTube video for the youngest students, and is online with 4-7 years old at 10 am, and with the 8 years and older group at 11 am, on Sundays. This week, Naomi’s brother, Joel Woods, appears in the YouTube video as a musical guest. Parents who want their kids to join in the fun, and learning, can contact us at harrow_united@hotmail.com

The official board will meet this coming Tuesday evening by Conference Call. The work of the church continues, even in, and perhaps especially in, these strange times.

The Harrow News is doing great work, to support and inform the community. Please consider renewing your subscription for another year, even if you are all paid up! Natalie and her staff have given space to local churches for messages from the pastors, and have also promoted our Drive Thru Food Drives for Windsor’s Downtown Mission.

Wednesday morning Bible Study with Rev. Darrow meets at 10:30 am, in your house, and in the homes of all the other participants, via ZOOM. If you would like to join in, send a request for a link to Darrow at revdww@gmail.com

jeff and groceries for the missionOur Drive Thru Food Drive for Windsor’s Downtown Mission was a great success! Vivienne, Lauren and Ben Wood volunteered to help load Jeff Csikasz’s truck. We included all the food left in the church from our Sunday morning collections, and that was over 300 pounds! Many people came by on Friday morning, with food, clothing, cash, and cheques made out to the Mission. By noon, there was over 800 pounds of food in the back of Jeff’s truck, and some in the cab behind him. Thank you to Jeff for driving that load into Windsor, and dropping it off where it can do so much good.