The Revs. Smiths’ Message for October 25, 2020

Dear Friends,

October 31, 503 years ago, Martin Luther nailed his criticisms of the church of the day and propositions for its renewal to the door of Wittenberg cathedral. And thus began what we know of as the reformation of the church. John Calvin, from Geneva, was a second generation leader of the Reformation, born about a quarter century after Luther. It is Calvin’s work and leadership in Geneva that enabled the Reformed tradition to spread worldwide. Of all the reformers, his teaching is reflected in shape and teachings of the Presbyterian Church in Canada.

Portrait of John Calvin” (16th century) by Titian (1490–1576); from the collection of the United Protestant Church of France; taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

Calvin gave a central place to scripture but he was not a literalist. He believed that through the reading of scripture and its explication in a sermon, the Holy Spirit can help us hear God’s for us, in our time and place. The Bible is a means for us to receive that living Word, a set of texts that speak anew to every generation.

Our Church History Professor at Knox College, Dr. Allan Farris, described the church with the expression “Reformed, yet always reforming” or “Reformed, yet always being reformed”.

In these days of isolation, distancing, with no end in sight, may we hear and heed what reforming word the Spirit is saying to the church.

Grace and peace to you,

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, October 24, 2020, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for October 18, 2020

Dear Friends,

Who could escape the sobering news of continuingly rising figures of COVID-19 infection, and the nagging sense we all seem to be getting that this will get worse before it gets better, and will be with us for some time to come.  While it is hard at times to sense, one thing we can lean on is the assurance that God is with us in all that we have to endure.

(Part of the) Fishermen’s Window, St Margaret’s Church, Barking, London, England, with a quotation from Psalm 107. Photo by Mike Quinn.  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic. Image taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

Psalm 107 is a psalm of thanksgiving, but actually says more about depths of the human experience as a context where that divine presence is known.  This psalm declares confidence in a God who supplies what the people need, but every line stresses that this blessing comes to them when they are in a time of hardship.  It is a song sung through tears.  It speaks of the people being in trouble, wandering in a desert wasteland, not able to find their way, hungry and thirsty.  And by grace, God hears their cries, sees their need, and provides for them.

This psalm exposes the lie of thinking that people of faith don’t suffer, and that if they have faith, and obey, and follow the way, they will be protected, immune from trouble.  Thank God psalms like this are there in Scripture.  Because of writing like this when those troubles come – wherever they come from – and whatever sort of difficulty we find ourselves in – through our tears we can read these words and be reassured.  At a time when it counts maybe more than it ever did, they remind us that the gospel is about redemption and renewal, about reclaiming the things that are lost, about being helped to our feet again, about being led back home from exile, and about being welcomed at God’s table.

Thanks be to God.

Grace and peace to you,

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, October 17, 2020, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for October 11, 2020

Dear Friends, Thanksgiving can’t come too soon!

We have to limit the number of people with whom we celebrate. The numbers of COVID cases are still up there. This has gone on a lot longer than we wanted it to go on and that can get us all down.

“The Healing of Ten Lepers” (between 1886 and 1894) by French painter James Tissot (1836–1902); from the collection of the Brooklyn Museum; taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

But did you know that thanksgiving can be an antidote?

Think of the 10 lepers in Luke 17. Jesus made them all clean. But the one who returned to say thank you — Jesus goes on to say that he was made well, he was made whole. John Buchanan, former pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago, and editor and publisher of The Christian Century writes:

“It may be that grateful people take better care of themselves, but there is evidence that gratitude alone is a stress reducer, that grateful people are more hopeful, and that there are links between gratitude and the immune system. So your mother was right when she made you call your grandmother and thank her for the birthday card.”

Here is a link to some antidotal Thanksgiving activities (a PDF download) for this weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving!

May God’s grace and peace be with us all. 

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, October 10, 2020, edition of Tidbits.

The Village Fair goes virtual for 2020!

Poster announcing GCPC Village Fair 2020
Village Fair Poster Final Version rev00 PNG Snip 2

We’re going virtual this year! Every Monday morning for seven weeks starting this Monday, October 12, 2020, a different selection of items will be offered for sale on our website (for example, awesome crocheted Star Wars figures to add to or start a collection).

Weekly items are sold on a first come, first served basis and are picked up at the church the following Saturday, between 10 AM and 12 PM. We will be accepting exact cash only to limit physical contact. Proceeds support the ongoing charitable work of the church.

It all starts at the main webpage of the Village Fair 2020.

Copy of our poster

You can get your own PDF copy of the event poster on our website. Please share, or print and post!

Have any items?

Saving items for the Village Fair? Contact Sandra Robertson at villagefair2020@guildwoodchurch.ca. Note that this year, we cannot accept books, tapes, CDs, children’s toys, or jewellery. We will ask for baking as needed.

A version of this post first appeared in the October 10 edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for October 4, 2020

Dear Friends,

We remember well the first week or two of our Covid-19 restrictions back in March, and the unthinkable announcement from the premier that the schools’ Spring Break would be extended by two weeks. Who would have predicted that we would still be dealing with it in the fall, and in fact that it is increasing? As we write this, Ontario is recording its highest Covid-19 infection rate since it first hit us, and the premier has confirmed that we are definitely into a second wave.

“Autumn Foliage” (1915) by Canadian painter Tom Thomson (1877–1917); from the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario; taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

It looks like we are in this for the long haul, and we thought it might be helpful to share with you a message that we saw on a sign in a neighbour’s garden while on our daily walk. We all know the list of Covid questions. How about adding these ones?

Daily Social Isolation Questions
  1. What am I grateful for today?
  2. Who am I checking in on today?
  3. What expectations of “normal” am I letting go of today?
  4. How am I getting outside today?
  5. How am I moving my body today?
  6. What beauty am I cultivation or inviting in today?

Stay the course.

May God’s grace and peace be with us all.

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

A version of this message first appeared in the Friday, October 2, 2020, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for September 27, 2020

Dear Friends,

Last week our Jewish friends and neighbours celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of their New Year. There were celebrations, somewhat limited due to Covid-19, as they gave thanks for the blessings of a year ended and looked forward in faith to the one that lies ahead. We came across a prayer that Danya Ruttenberg, an American rabbi and author, sent out to her people for Rosh Hoshana that speaks to that moment of remembering and hope. We thought we might borrow it for how it also speaks to the turmoil and uncertainty in which we all find ourselves.

The Feast of Trumpets” (Hasidic Jews performing tashlikh on Rosh Hashanah), painting from 1884 by Polish artist Aleksander Gierymski (1850–1901); from the collection of the National Museum, Warsaw; taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

May this be a year

  • of health
  • of safety
  • of caring
  • of connection
  • of justice
  • of democracy
  • of righteous action
  • of inspiration
  • of creativity
  • of truth
  • of solidarity
  • of generosity
  • of hope
  • of joy
  • of love
  • of honouring the light in one another.

May God’s grace and peace be with us all.

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for September 20, 2020

Dear Friends, The children, youth and teachers are back to their studies, whether in person or online. Uncertainties about class sizes, bussing and protocols fill the air. Days are getting shorter and colder and we know that our backyard or park visit days are numbered. And the numbers testing positive for COVID-19 are rising. All of this can be discouraging and stressful.

“The Playground” (first half of 19th century) by Swiss painter Jacques-Laurent Agasse (1767–1849); from the collection of the Kunst Museum Winterthur, Winterthur, Switzerland; taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

When David’s first wife berated him for leaping and dancing before the ark of the Lord, David responds that it was the right thing to do, considering all God had done for him. “Therefore will I play before the Lord,” he tells her. (2 Samuel 6: 14-21)

When God talks about renewing Jerusalem he describes its future glory by saying “And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets.” (Zechariah 8:5)

When the Psalmist praises God’s creative power he talks of the great and wide sea, and all the creatures in it, and he makes special mention of Leviathan, “Whom,” as he says, “thou hast made to play therein” (Psalm 104:25-26).
The king, the children, the whale, are not being productive as we, with our protestant work ethic, understand that word. They are just playing, letting themselves go and having a great time.

In these stressful, and sometimes discouraging times, don’t forget to play. It’s Biblical.

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

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

Preach for the Call Update

Due to circumstances beyond our control, we are not able to proceed with the planned activities with our Candidate this weekend, September 26 and 27.   

The Saturday Question and Answer Session is cancelled, as is the congregational meeting that was planned for Sunday.  We will have a regular worship service on Sunday at 11 am, led by the Rev. Helen Smith.

Given the circumstances, the search process for a new minister at Guildwood is on indefinite hold.  We will keep you informed as things develop, and will continue under the leadership and guidance of the Revs. Bob and Helen Smith.

A reminder that it is still important to keep the Candidate’s name confidential.  

A version of this message first appeared in the September 21, 2020, edition of Tidbits.

Letter about our preach for the call weekend September 26–27

Please see this update that was published on September 22, 2020.

September 8, 2020

Dear Friends:

We are delighted to let you know that the Session has extended an invitation to the our preferred candidate (“Our Candidate”) to preach for the call to be Minister at Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church.  Our Candidate was the unanimous recommendation of the Search Committee after considering over 25 potential applicants from across Canada and overseas.

Preaching for the call will involve Our Candidate leading worship on Sunday, September 27, at 11:00 AM, a service which will also be simulcast on-line via streaming media. On Saturday, September 26, at 2 PM, Our Candidate will take part in a simultaneous in-person and virtual (the latter via Zoom video conferencing) question and answer session that will allow members of our community of faith to interact with her.

Following the service on Sunday, September 27, there will be a simultaneous in-person and virtual (the latter again via Zoom video conferencing) meeting of the congregation to vote on whether or not to extend the call to Our Candidate.  Assuming the meeting votes in favour of extending a call, members and adherents will be asked to sign a list signifying their agreement with the call.

In order to maintain current distancing requirements, in-person attendance at the question and answer session on September 26 and the worship service and congregational meeting on September 27 must be restricted.  If you wish to attend either of those functions, you must RSVP to Office Administrator Lisa Milroy at the church office by telephone at 416-261-4037 (office hours 12:30–4:30 PM, Monday–Friday) or by email. Only those who have been confirmed by the office in advance will be allowed to enter the church for those two functions.

The Q&A session, worship service and congregational meeting as noted all will be available on-line for those not able to attend in person.  Details on connecting will be provided via our e-mail newsletter Tidbits the week prior.  If you do not currently subscribe to Tidbits, please sign up.

For the question and answer session we are asking that you submit questions for Our Candidate in advance; they can be communicated through Lisa at the church office, or by emailing them (if emailing, use the special email address set up for the purpose in the preceding link; click or use “call@guildwoodchurch.ca”). There will not be an opportunity to present questions in-person; please make sure your questions are submitted in advance.

These events mark significant progress in our search for a new minister, and your participation in the process is vital.  Please participate as you are able, and pray for Our Candidate, for our community of faith, for our Search Committee and our Session as we make these decisions.

In the continuing uncertainty in which we are living, let us accept God’s guidance, wisdom and peace through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Bob and Helen

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith – Interim Moderators

A version of this letter first appeared in the September 11, 2020 edition of Tidbits.