The Revs. Smiths’ Message for July 5, 2020

With the arrival of some really lovely weather, and turning the calendar over to July, it really feels like summer is here.

If you’re a student, this year it doesn’t bring the usual relief of a break from school, and the holiday might not feel like much of a change.

If you’re a parent who has been balancing work and child care, it might feel like just two more months of the same old thing.

But we hope the nicer weather, and maybe some summer travel or recreational activities bring something of a change and a break for us all.

The word recreation, we might remember, offers us some help in what we might plan for and expect from a holiday season. “Re-creation” suggests being “remade”, “renewed”, even “reborn”, with all the connotations that brings to mind from Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3.

Two seated figures of Christ and Nicodemus at a small table illuminated by a single candle, with a boy standing behind them holding a book
Jesus Christ and Nicodemus” (between 1640 and 1650) by Dutch painter Matthias Stom (c. 1600–1652), from the collection of the Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt, taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

A time of recreation then means not just packing in as many activities as we can, or rushing from one special activity to the next in a frantic desire to make the most of our time off. It means making it a time of renewal, of being restored in body, mind and spirit. It will mean including times of rest and reflection, time to take stock of ourselves and our relationships with family, friends and with God. It can mean taking the time to embrace the creation itself, and the wonder and beauty of this great gift God has given us.

Regardless of what your plans are this summer, we wish for you a time of true recreation. And that the end of summer might even bring us opportunities to return from our pandemic exile and draw closer to one another once again.

We live in hope.

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

This message first appeared in the July 3, 2020, edition of Tidbits.

Celebrating 60 Years – A Brief History

On December 6, 1959, the first service of worship of the newly formed Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church was held in a portable classroom of Guildwood Public School. The congregation was officially erected on April 24, 1960. The building we worship in, completed in 1964 at a cost of $127,200.00, was dedicated on December 18, 1964; an addition was built in 1990. The story is often told of how the congregation, singing “Onward Christian Soldiers”, marched from Guildwood Public School the morning of July 28, 1963 for the sod-turning at the corner of Livingston Road and Guildwood Parkway!

celebratory banner affixed to the outside windows of at the front entrance to a church
50th anniversary banner unveiled in January 2010

Since the church’s beginnings, we have been served by 8 different ministers, 8 interim moderators, 15 clerks of Session, 17 organists or combinations of musicians, 19 Christian Education Coordinators. A long history of faithfulness and dedication. One of the charter members of the new congregation, Sandra (Skeet) Robertson, still worships with us and can be counted among the most faithful and dedicated.

Over the 60 years, the congregation has faced many difficult situations and trying times, but with faith and hard work, we continue to overcome and thrive. And oh, what fun we’ve had!

We chose as the motto of our 50th Anniversary celebrations, “Looking back with thanksgiving; looking forward with faith”. May those words give us courage and hope as we move ahead.

This article by Bonnie Horton was first published in the June 19, 2020, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for June 28, 2020

Summer is here!

Mary Oliver has a wonderful poem, The Summer Day, that ends with “Tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

The Landmannalaugar area in summer, as seen from Laugavegur hiking trail, Iceland. Image: author Petr Brož/Chmee2; license Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported; taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

In whatever we plan to do with this gift from God, this gift of life on this earth, while it is ours, the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 16: 13, 14 charges us to stand firm in our faith, to let all that we do be done in love.

Tasman Jude is a reggae band from, of all places, Grande Prairie, Alberta. Hear the words of their song, Every Breath: “Live each day like it’s your last — Every breath is a second chance — to fill your hearts with love — on earth as it is above.” Or listen to it on YouTube.

And let all that you do be done in love.

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

This message first appeared in the June 27, 2020, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for June 21, 2020

This week, with the gradual lifting of Covid-19 restrictions, our 4-year old granddaughter, Ellie came for a sleep-over party. We were looking forward to this as much as she was, but of course it took a lot of energy on our part to keep up with her. Her tireless ability to try new things and to explore new adventures are a delight to watch, and to try to keep up with.

Sunrise in Pieniny mountains, Poland. Image: Author – Pudelek. License – Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International. Photo taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

First thing in the morning she was there. Ellie woke us at 6:15. She came running into our room, pulled back the blinds to let in the bright morning sun shine in, and said, “Grandma, Grandpa, you’ve got to get up! The whole day is here!”

How can you resist that? Her joy, her enthusiasm and her wonder, were infectious. In a time when racial tensions have boiled over, and when a virus now seems to define our lives in terms of where we cannot go and what we cannot do, what a wonderful moment of grace we were given — the reminder that a whole new day stretched out before us, a gift from God filled with opportunities to discover grace and blessing in our lives, and to bring to it the best of who we are.

Yes, we are going through unprecedented and challenging times that can be draining and uncertain. But thank God for the delightful reminder of the wonderful opportunities and possibilities that come to us all, renewed every day. “This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us be glad and rejoice in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

With every good wish for your new days.

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

This message first appeared in the June 19, 2020, edition of Tidbits.

Message from Session about re-opening GCPC

Logo of the church with silhouette of the building, name and address in text

In light of the Province of Ontario’s guidance that places of worship can re-open, the Session has met and decided that:

  • we should target Sunday, August 16 at 10:00 am for a return to in-person worship;
  • we should establish safety guidelines with respect to worship that will likely include: capacity restrictions, physical distancing, a requirement to wear masks, no group singing (including no choir), no children’s program, no nursery and no fellowship/coffee hour;
  • these guidelines will be in accordance with public health advice as well as recommendations from the Presbyterian Church in Canada;
  • a sub-committee of Session has been established to put the appropriate guidelines in place, and communicate them to the congregation;
  • the health and safety of members of our community of faith is paramount: those who do not feel comfortable attending in-person worship should not feel obligated to do so, and it is our intention to continue to provide on-line worship resources each Sunday, including prayers, sermons, and musical selections;
  • as well, circumstances may change between now and August 16. The Session will determine if changes to these plans need to be made based on current conditions;
  • feedback from all members of our community of faith is most welcome as we navigate our re-opening.  Please feel free to share your comments with Bruce Morrison, Clerk of Session, at clerkofsession AT guildwoodchurch.ca.

We look forward to resuming our in-person worship. May God bless you and your families as we continue to weather the present situation, and grant us guidance and wisdom as we anticipate re-opening.

This message first appeared in the June 13, 2020, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for June 14, 2020

According to the first book of Samuel, chapter 16, when King Saul was feeling down, he would call on David to play the harp for him. Saul found that this relieved his pain and helped him feel better.

King David Playing the Harp – modello (detail); by Peter Paul Rubens, from the collection of the Barnes Foundation, courtesy the Wikimedia Commons.

The 17th century poet, William Congreve, wrote that music has charms to soothe a savage breast.

Music has great power to move us. Were we not excited when Rachelle offered the Widor piece on Easter Sunday in the worship resources (available on our YouTube channel)? And she has continued to minister to us through music posted each week on the website.

Three months plus into the pandemic, is there a particular piece of music that has helped you cope? One that lifts your spirits or gives you peace? Or makes you smile? There is Diana Ross & the Supremes with “Someday We’ll be Together”. Perhaps it is Sonny & Cher’s, “I Got You Babe”, that song that woke up Bill Murray same day after same day after same day after same day in the movie Groundhog Day. In our house as we work on the worship resources we often think of that chap in “Eleanor Rigby”, “Father Mackenzie, writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear. No one comes near.”

On a more serious note, we have recently discovered Canadian Gordon Lightfoot’s “My Love Colours Outside The Lines”, about doing things differently.

So can we come up with a GCPC Pandemic Playlist? Let us know what you would put on the list, and we will publish the list in a couple of weeks on Tidbits. Maybe someday we can have a Pandemic Playlist concert. Just send an email to the Tidbits editor using the email address tidbits AT guildwoodchurch.ca to give your suggestion.

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

This message first appeared in the June 13, 2020, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for June 7, 2020

Our pandemic lock-down is about three months long at this point.

Over that time we have become accustomed to the daily press conferences by the Prime Minister and Premier, and daily counts of jobs lost, new infections recorded, and deaths due to the virus. The numbers are staggering, and even if we remain healthy, the impact on the lives of all of us is significant. It becomes a different thing altogether if it is ourselves, a family member or friend who is infected, or someone whom we know who has died. That makes it all so much more personal.

Image credit: Author Sneha ss. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Courtesy the Wikimedia Commons.

You will be aware how distressing this virus has been in long-term care institutions, and we were struck this week to learn that Extendicare Guildwood, a neighbour of ours in Guildwood — scarcely a five-minute walk from the church — has been particularly devastated by it. Over half of the residents there have been found to have contracted the virus, 40 have died, and infections amongst staff have made the delivery of care difficult. These are our neighbours, friends, and family.

The Session is sending a letter of support to Extendicare, and we invite you to join with us in a prayer that God would be with them through all that they are going through:

Gracious and loving God, we pray for the residents, their families, and the staff of Extendicare Guildwood, that you would be present to them in the ordeal that they are going through and your peace would surround them.

For the residents, we pray for your healing and support, that they would be renewed in body and spirit, and that all their needs would be met.

For their families, we pray your peace and consolation, that you would be present to answer their fear and concern, and that they would be given hope in the assurance that you will hold their loved ones in your love.

And for the staff, we give thanks for their commitment to the care of the residents, and pray for their health, renewal and continued dedication to their work in the face of the ravages of the pandemic.

God of hope, we know that you have promised to be with your people in the darkest of the valleys through which we must travel.

Hold in your love the people of Extendicare Guildwood that they may find hope and healing in this assurance, and be given strength for their trials.

It is in the name of Jesus that we ask these things. Amen.

Wishing you all of God’s richest blessings,

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

This message first appeared in the June 6, 2020, edition of Tidbits.

Introducing… Compassion Camp!

At this time of year we are usually getting ready for our annual Vacation Bible Camp. But this year has been anything but usual. These past few months have been stressful for everyone, including our children, who have been dealing with a lot of change and disappointment over missed experiences—including VBC.

In this strange and uncertain time, GCPC is offering an alternative to our traditional VBC—a digital and downloadable package of resources from Illustrated Ministry designed to help you create a simple and fun VBC experience at home!

The Family Pack includes:

  • five bible stories with short reflections;
  • scripts for a brief gathering and closing times;
  • discussion starters;
  • ideas for simple activities and crafts using common office and art supplies you may already have at home;
  • printable art pages;
  • lyrics and chords for songs.

You have control over your own schedule, and can decide which activities you want to do, in your way, at your own pace.

Compassion Camp has inclusive language and theology, and is appropriate for children from kindergarten through grade five.

There is no cost for the resource. This is our gift to you.

All you need to do is let us know if you would like to receive the materials. Please contact the office and ask to be added to the mailing list. The materials should be available around the beginning of June.

This announcement from Christian Education Coordinator Laura Alary first appeared in the Tidbits of May 29, 2020.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for May 31, 2020

Seven weeks after Passover, our Jewish sisters and brothers celebrate the Feast of Weeks.  They celebrate the first fruits of the wheat harvest and God giving the law to Moses and the Israelites at biblical Mount Sinai.

On the 50th day, (in the Greek language, the Pentecost day), they party. And in one particular year, the Holy Spirit showed up for the celebration in very dramatic fashion, with fire, and wind, and lots of different languages being spoken.

A Scarlet Macaw at the Fort Worth Zoo. Image by Travis Isaacs; license CC BY 2.0 Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic; from the WIkimedia Commons.

We like to follow Unvirtuous Abbey on Twitter. The by-line is “Digital Monks Praying Pop Culture Prayers. Holier than thou but not by much.” It can border on the sacrilegious, but often makes us think about faith and often makes us laugh. When Unvirtuous Abbey wants to illustrate the Holy Spirit, it uses birds. There is an eagle, taking off in flight, with the caption, “She’s just heard. She’s on her way.” There is a little brown sparrow, feeding her young, with the caption “Actual photo of the Holy Spirit caring for her children”. And an all-white East African Crowned Crane, with a rather stern look on her face, striding with purpose across the beach,– “Actual photo of the Holy Spirit. She’s on Her way. You know full well what you did.”

And perhaps my favourite, a bright blue, green, yellow, red parrot, “Actual photo of the Holy Spirit reminding you to let your true colours shine through…That’s why She loves you. So don’t be afraid.”

The next time you hear a bird, on your walk, or out your window, think of it as the Holy Spirit, dropping by to say hello.

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

Originally posted in the May 29, 2020, edition of Tidbits.

Stewardship Letter from the Session of GCPC

Logo of the church with silhouette of the building, name and address in text

Dear Friends:

I write this on the weekend of our congregation’s 60th anniversary; a time when celebration and joy should prevail. Instead our life routines have been upended and our movements restricted, our ability to be with friends and relatives prevented. It is hard to find an anchor to cling to in these uncertain circumstances.

And yet… Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church continues to be a rock in our lives. True, we cannot worship and gather together as we normally do, but the grace of God and the efforts of many, many people have helped to ensure that our church continues to provide hope, companionship, community, and the message of Jesus Christ.

In accordance with directions from public health authorities, we cancelled all in-person church gatherings including Sunday worship as of March 18. A very dedicated and talented team has stepped forward in the interim to help continue the work of our church. Our gratitude is owed to:

  • Our interim moderators — Reverends Helen and Bob Smith — who certainly were not expecting to help us navigate a pandemic, and who have stepped forward with great dedication to provide us with weekly worship materials — messages, prayers, sermons and inspirational theological meditations.
  • Our digital team — Robert Quickert our webmaster (and choral amen vocalist), and Carolyn Glasgow, our Tidbits editor — have led the rapid evolution of our online presence and digital worship resources, with everything from weekly inspirational messages to navigating the minutiæ of web-based music rights licensing.
  • Our Music Director — Rachelle Risling — who continues to provide wonderfully talented musical selections for worship recorded both from her home studio as well as in a physically-distanced situation with our church organ and piano.
  • Our Christian Education Coordinator — Laura Alary — whose online stories bring comfort to both children and adults during these difficult times.
  • Our Office Administrator — Lisa Milroy — who visits the church every day to collect the mail, answer voicemail messages, and has coordinated (solo) a serious clean-up of the office and other areas of the church.
  • Our Caretaker — Wayne McDowell — who provides regular checks on our building and continues to keep it clean and ready to welcome us in person once again.
  • The Care Team — which has made it a priority to reach out to everyone in our church family to stay connected and who continue to provide pastoral care to those in need.
  • Our Minister Search Committee — which has been meeting diligently via Zoom to evaluate a strong list of potential candidates for our vacancy. I look forward to updating you on their efforts to find our next minister.
  • Many, many others — such as volunteers who have organized a clean up at the church, who deliver hard-copies of weekly worship materials to those without digital access, the Prayer Chain for its ongoing devotion to the prayers and concerns of our congregation, the Finance & Maintenance team which continues to ensure that our financial affairs are in order and our bills are being paid.

The physical distancing and social restrictions that we are experiencing are extremely difficult, and I am sensitive to those who have been negatively affected by the pandemic in terms of lost jobs, illness, inability to connect with family, and general disruption to life’s routines. My prayer is that you will be comforted and be given hope.

Please do not forget that even with our building quiet, we continue to have obligations to pay. I encourage you, as you are able, to make an offering to the church, which you can do online at on our website — www.guildwoodchurch.ca — or by envelope. Envelopes can be left at the church (please, don’t leave cash), or call the church office 416-261-4037 and someone will pick up your offering.

I look forward to being able to see all of you at church as soon as circumstances permit us to gather safely. Our website and the Tidbits e-newsletter will be updated to provide any information regarding the resumption of in-person worship.

May you, your families and loved ones be blessed by the deep peace of Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the ongoing community of the Holy Spirit.

In His Service,

Bruce Morrison – Clerk of Session