The Revs. Smiths’ Message for January 17, 2021

Dear Friends,


O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for God’s steadfast love endures forever.

Psalm 136:1

If you read Psalm 136 from beginning to end, you will see that it has 26 verses, and that the second half of every verse reads, “for God’s steadfast love endures forever.” The psalm was probably originally read responsively in worship, and 26 times in a row, the congregation’s response was the same, “for God’s steadfast love endures forever.” Do you think the Psalmist is trying to get us to notice something?

To every statement about the wonder and beauty of creation, for every item in the litany of how God’s people were brought out of slavery and given a land of their own, in every challenge or uncertainty that confronts the people of God still, that confidence and faith are still secure, because the answer is still, “for God’s steadfast love endures forever.

Maybe it is meant to teach us that the beauty and wonder of the creation around is an instance of, and a pointer to, that steadfast love of God. Maybe it is meant to be a public acknowledgement that indeed, every human circumstance, every trial or tribulation that is our lot can be answered by the steadfast love of God. Maybe it is meant to call the forgetful to remember how history bears this truth out, that wherever and whenever the people were lost or hungry, or thirsty, or sick, or oppressed, invariably they were guided, fed, healed and set free, through the steadfast love of God which endures forever.

What with political tensions in our neighbours to the south, a pandemic whose hold on us only seems to get worse, and with the coldest days of winter still ahead, we may feel at the mercy of dark forces beyond our control. To our despair, the Psalmist would probably say, remember how God has been there for you in the past, and face your uncertain future with hope. And our response, with people of faith through all the ages, will be, “for God’s steadfast love endures forever.”

May that be our confidence, our hope and our joy.

In Christ,

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, January 16, 2021, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for January 10, 2021

Dear Friends,

The other day I was going for my walk down the PanAm path on the hydro corridor just west of our home. A man, walking his dog, was walking towards me, in my lane! I decided it was easier for me to move, so I moved over to the other side of the path. “Oh, the dog won’t hurt you.” said the man. “I’m not afraid of the dog.” was my reply. He laughed and said, “Yes, that is what things have come to these days, isn’t it?”

At the end of 2020, there were lots of lists around of lessons we are learning from the pandemic. One lesson common to many lists was the importance of connection, of community. That is such an integral part of our Christian faith. Luke, in the book of Acts, writes about how the early Christian community devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers, day by day, spending time together in the temple (Acts 2: 42–47).

“The Bread Cutter” (1933) by Swiss painter François Barraud (1899–1934); taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

As we look over the past few months, maintaining connections with one another has not always been easy. We can’t spend time together in the church building or visiting in our homes. That is what things have come to these days. But through phone calls, Tidbits, the website, the informal carol sing on Zoom last month, the novel methods of holding the Village Fair online and of distributing the Amnesty letters, and through prayer, we maintain our connection to one another.

And one of these days, as the vaccinations ramp up, we’ll be together — in person!

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, January 9, 2021, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for January 3, 2021

Dear Friends,

Minnie Louise Haskins was a British poet and academic in the field of sociology at the London School of Economics. In 1908 she published a book of poetry which includes a poem titled God Knows which begins with these lines:

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

In his Christmas message to the commonwealth in December of 1939, King George VI quoted these words. At a moment when the UK was facing the uncertainty of war, they became a rallying cry for the people of Britain, and gave them courage and hope for the dark days that lay ahead.

“The Adoration of the Magi” (1828) by Portuguese painter Domingos Sequeira (1768–1837); from the collection of the National Museum of Ancient Art, Lisbon; taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

As we celebrate New Years, many of us are more than ready to see the last of 2020, with the restrictions, the loneliness, and the losses that the pandemic brought to us. While there is the good news of vaccines which are finally available – for which we are very grateful – we know that there still lies before us a continuing need for vigilance to reduce the rates of infection. For the darkness and uncertainties that remain, it might be helpful to “put your hand into the Hand of God,” and enter with hope into the year that stretches out before us.

With best wishes for the new year,

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, January 2, 2021, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for December 27, 2020

Dear Friends,

Illustrated Ministry is once again providing weekly resources for us to help us reflect on our faith, particularly during this pandemic.  They are based on the weekly scripture readings.  This week’s resource can be found hereThe resource is based on the psalm for this week, Psalm 148.  As we use these resources in our own homes, may they help us stay connected.

“Wintry but seasonable a merrie Xmas to you all”, 1870 Christmas postcard; from the collection of the Toronto Public Library; taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

This is not really an interim moderator’s message — the awful poem from the other day will have to suffice for this week!

Happy Boxing Day.

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, December 26, 2020, edition of Tidbits.

New Community Mission and Outreach Fund created

The Mission and Outreach Committee is pleased to inform you about a new and exciting project at our church. Through no fault of their own, many people and their families are facing hardships and challenges this year. We have created the Community Mission and Outreach Fund for secular projects to address these hardships and challenges.

Mission Statement of the Fund

The Community Mission and Outreach Fund provides support for activities that restore human dignity, ease the pain of want, promote self-help and encourage community cooperation that benefits those most in need regardless of their race, gender or religion.

Overview of the Fund

  • The Mission and Outreach Committee will make recommendations to Session for the projects to be supported by the proceeds in the Fund, in a manner similar to how the Committee obtains approval for major mission and outreach fundraising projects
  • Proceeds in the Fund can be used to support GCPC-led outreach programs, provided the program is for the benefit of the broader community, and is not part of worship or religious programming.  For example, it could be used to offset expenses from the Meals Together program, particularly if the Meals Together program is offered more widely to the community.
  • While there is no specific time limit on using the money donated to the Fund, it will be put to regular use and not simply accumulated.
  • A report on the receipts and disbursements of the Fund will be prepared annually and included with the annual report of GCPC.  However, we can’t pull this off without your support and generosity. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this new Fund.

It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with. Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps.  We have had a contribution from a member of our Church and company at which he works that will match employee donations ($ for $). It would be a tremendous boost to receive other donations from people who work for a company that also has a donation matching program.

We hope that you can join us.

Mission and Outreach Committee

A version of this message first appeared in the Friday, December 18, 2020, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for December 20, 2020

Dear Friends,

The angel in the Christmas story spoke of a sign, something to indicate that God had finally acted to send the Messiah, a saviour who is Christ the Lord. “This will be a sign for you, you will find a child, wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”

What are the signs of Christ’s coming today? His continuing to change the hearts of people to live for him. His moving us to acts of generosity and compassion for those in need. Movements for peace and justice, truth and righteousness. The lifting of the spirits of the downcast, enfolding of the outsiders, feeding of the hungry, giving hope to the despairing.

“Mary and Joseph register as part of the Census of Quirinius“; early 14th century mosaic, based on Luke 2:1, in the Byzantine Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora, Istanbul; taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

Particularly this year, we might add the countless people whose selflessness and generosity are helping us all get through the pandemic — long-term care workers, health care workers in many roles, people providing the essential services that provide our needs, those who are reaching out to vulnerable people… the list goes on.

This will be a sign for you, that the spirit of God is moving in the hearts of God’s people and that people are responding to his call to discipleship and service. May we be able to see the signs of Christ’s coming this Christmas. And may we be a part of them — a sign to others that the Christ-child has been born in us, and that we have given him a place to rule in our hearts.

This Tidbits contains a link to our posting of this Sunday’s service to our website. We do plan to offer a Christmas Eve service as well — watch your inbox for a special Christmas Eve Tidbits link.

With wishes for a Christmas filled with joy and hope,

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

A version of this message first appeared in the Friday, December 18, 2020, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for December 13, 2020

Dear Friends,

Gaudete! Or as we say in English, Rejoice!

Lunchtime last Monday, when we heard on the news that the vaccine was on its way to us, pending approval by Health Canada, which was expected to come next week, all I could think of was “Thanks be to God.” Lunchtime last Wednesday, when we heard on the news that Health Canada had approved the first vaccine, it happened again. “Thanks be to God.”

Which reminds me – Why is the advent candle for the third Sunday in Advent, also known as Gaudete Sunday, pink?

Advent wreath with four violet and one rose candles, with three lit; taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

The change in colour signifies a change in mood. Up until this point in Advent the emphasis is on repentance, on preparation. But the time for the celebration of the birth of Christ is coming closer. And the mood starts to change to one of joy.

Gaudete Sunday announces this change with these traditional words: ‘Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice. Let your forbearance be known to all, for the Lord is near at hand; have no anxiety about anything, but in all things, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God’ (Philippians 4: 4-6) and ‘Lord, you have blessed your land; you have turned away the captivity of Jacob’ (Psalm 85:1). 

Blessings for Advent,

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

A version of this message first appeared in the Friday, December 11, 2020, edition of Tidbits.

Membership at Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church

There are two categories of those who regularly participate at GCPC: members and adherents. While there is no difference between the two categories in terms of pastoral care, inclusion in worship and activities, participation in the sacrament of Communion, etc. there are certain roles and duties that only members may carry out. These include serving as Elders and being able to vote to call a new minister — both situations which are upcoming in our church.
It should be noted that if you were baptized as an infant this does not “automatically” make you a member, nor does having been a member of another congregation in the past make you “automatically” a member at Guildwood. If you are unsure if you are currently a member at Guildwood, please contact the Clerk of Session, Bruce Morrison, at clerkofsession@guildwoodchurch.ca.

Membership is a very personal choice, and everyone in our community of faith is encouraged to consider membership as both an affirmation of your faith and showing support for our church. If you are not currently a member and would like to learn more about membership please reach out to Rev. Bob Smith or Rev. Helen Smith through the office. You may also consider this article from the Presbyterian Church in Canada that describes church membership in more detail.

Thank you for prayerfully considering becoming a member of our church.

A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, December 5, 2020, edition of Tidbits.

2021 Envelopes available for pickup from December 8

As the year end quickly approaches, it is time to pick up your 2021 offering envelopes. Due to the current lockdown in our region, the regular method for pick up has been adapted to ensure everyone’s safety. Offering envelopes are available at the church as of Tuesday, December 8, between 1:00 and 4:00 PM (Monday to Friday). Please contact the office to confirm when you are coming.

Wishing everyone a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season.

John Roblin, Envelope Secretary

A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, December 5, 2020, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for December 6, 2020

Dear Friends,

This Sunday, December 6, is the feast day of St. Nicholas, whom we now associate with Christmas. He was a 4th century bishop in Myra, in what is now Turkey. Known for his generosity and consideration of people in terrible circumstances, he is the patron saint of a long list of groups, including barrel makers, prisoners, children, brides, fishermen, pawn brokers and travellers.

“Two scenes from the life of Saint Nicholas”, panel from a triptych painted by Fra Angelico (c. 1395–1455), originally from the cathedral of San Domenico, Perugia; from the collection of the Vatican Museums; taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

Legends of his good deeds seem endless, and each of them seemed to add another group to the list of those who then claimed him as their saint. He provided bread for some hungry souls, and bakers were included. He is reported to have appeared to sailors, to guide them on storm-tossed seas, so then sailors joined in. And so on…

In many parts of the world, on Dec. 5, the eve of his feast day, children put their shoes just outside the front doors of their houses, and it is said that St. Nicholas comes during the night and fills the shoes with gifts such as sweets, chocolate coins, nuts and fruits to be enjoyed the next day. The Santa Claus that we have come to know developed out of the tradition of St. Nicholas, and our custom of hanging our stockings by the chimney with care on Christmas Eve may well be in homage to the shoes left by the door outside, both with great expectation of a kind visitor. And over time the notion of a caring, generous saint easily found a place in our celebration of the birth of the Saviour in Bethlehem, come to set his people free.

Grace and peace to you,

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, December 5, 2020, edition of Tidbits.