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 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.

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.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for September 6, 2020

Dear Friends, 

The days of summer are drawing to a close.  Oh yes, mentally we can tell ourselves that we have three more weeks, but emotionally we know better.

“Stacks of Wheat (End of Summer)” (1890–1891) by French painter Claude Monet (1840–1926); from the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago; taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

Summer ends with Labour Day Weekend, the Air Show at the Ex, and the first day of school.

Now, as has been the case for the last six months, we know things are a little different this year. No Ex, no Air Show, and school openings have been delayed a week. We move into the fall, some with a bit of apprehension, some with more than a bit of stress with regard to the uncertainties of the future and most of us wishing the threat of Covid-19 was long behind us.

As we mourn the end of summer and as we anxiously anticipate returning to something that is not the norm as usual, we pass on to you this quote that a good friend sent to us this week:

God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grains to give bread, broken bread to give strength.

Vance Havner, quoted by The Contemplative Monk

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

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

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for August 30, 2020

Dear Friends;

After five months of not seeing one another for worship as a congregation, we have now been back together for two Sundays, and while it has been a smaller congregation than we have been accustomed to, those who have been there seemed to appreciate it very much. 

There is a different feel to it — not being able to sing out the hymns feels wrong somehow, and the smaller group leaves a little too much elbow room.  But it has been wonderful to reconnect after being apart so long, and we have appreciated the enthusiastic spirit in the sanctuary that comes from being truly together as a community of faith. 

People in pews standing at a church service with outstretched arms miming hugs
Mimed congregational hugs in progress on August 16, 2020

The group hug (at a distance!) on our first morning back was something to behold.

Great care has been given to help us make this step safely, and we appreciate very much the work of the session committee of Bruce Morrison, Cindy Similas, and Craig and Karen Siddall, together with the church staff, for all the precautions that they have put in place.  Their work, and the cooperation of all in attendance, have helped make all of us feel confident that we are indeed safe. 

If you are comfortable with all these precautions, we would love to see you, and if not, we plan to continue for now to provide online and delivered printed worship resources for you to use in your homes.

Wherever we are, and whatever form our worship takes, we are one body in Christ, bound to one another in the faith and fellowship that we share.

Grace and peace to you all,

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

This message first appeared in the August 29, 2020, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for August 16, 2020

We can remember well the shock in mid-March when the government announcement was made that school kids, who were already on their spring break, would have that break extended two more weeks because of COVID-19. If we had not yet realized the profound effect the pandemic would have on us all, that may have been the wake-up call.

Here we are five months later, and those school children have yet to see the inside of one of their classrooms. And with the planned opening of schools just three weeks away, many are wondering what that will look like, and whether it will happen at all.

As anxious as we all are to return to some kind of “normal”, it seems that the angst around this issue is palpable. With our granddaughter ready to start junior kindergarten, and our older son an elementary school music teacher, the questions hit close to home for us. How big will class sizes be? Will masks be required? What will the schedule look like? What safeguards will be in place for students, teachers and staff? Will I want my children to be there at all? And what about daycare if children are not in school?

The matter touches the lives of so many of us, and the complexity and enormity of the decisions that need to be made are overwhelming.

“The Great Commission”, based on Matthew 28:16–20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (emphasis added). Parchment ca. 1010 by a master of the Reichenau Abbey School; from the collection of the Bavarian State Library, Munich; taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

What can we do as people of faith?

  • We could start by trying to make the best decisions we can with the information we have
  • We can remember that God has promised to be with us, and that through the most barren of deserts, and darkest of valleys, the witness of the people of God is that God is faithful
  • We can reach out to one another to help, support and hold others around us, and if we are in need, not to be afraid to ask for help.
  • We can pray for all who are touched by this crisis – government leaders, school boards, administrators, school teachers and other staff, students, parents and their families… all of us – that we would be well, and that through collaboration and support we will get through this together.

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

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

This message first appeared in the August 15, 2020, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for August 9, 2020

It is an idea born out of fear, anxiety and disease.

When Covid 19 hit, Renfrew County started up VTS — Virtual Triage System, where paramedics go into the homes of those without family doctors, those who have difficulty getting to the doctor, and/or do not want to sit in waiting rooms, or those who don’t need or want an Emergency Room visit. The paramedics provide a friendly face to those who live alone. They take blood for testing, administer shots and just generally check up on people. The authorities, imagining new ways to care for people at home so that they can recover at home, are calling it a better way to deliver healthcare.

“Calling of the Apostles” (1481), fresco at the Sistine Chapel by Italian painter Domenico Ghirlandaio (1448–1494); taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

In the church, are we also learning new, better, ways of doing things? Can some work be handled quite easily over a ZOOM meeting? Probably, although we still miss the fellowship of meeting in person.

What are we learning about using technology to reach beyond our borders, to learn of life from others beyond our borders? Are we discovering creative ideas for worship? What are we learning about the importance of keeping in touch and about ways we can do that, in a world of physical distancing? What have we learned about what is important to hang on to, and what can we let go – at least for now?

As this peculiar time continues on and on, God grant us inquisitive spirits, open to new ways of following Jesus and participating in the work of God’s kingdom.

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

This message first appeared in the August 8, 2020, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for August 2, 2020

Major League Baseball has finally started up and the first pitch thrown, about four months late.

The Blue Jays’ home field this season is in Buffalo.  And worst of all, they lost their season opener.  What is wrong with this picture?

As Hamlet said, “the times are out of joint.”

There is a lot that feels out of joint these days, and it goes far deeper than baseball.  There is our isolation in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly difficult for the church where so much focus is placed on the community of faith.

There is our impatience regarding when we will be given the green light to move back toward “normal,” along with our fear that the loosening of restrictions will bring on a second wave, threatening us or our loved ones.  It can leave us wondering:  Where do we go? What can we do?

I have always loved the hope and confidence of Isaiah 40:31:

“Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

It’s not easy to wait, but pausing, reflecting, focussing on God and the Word, can give us some perspective, remind us of how God has guided us in the past, and assure us that we are not alone as we move through these out-of-joint times. May the peace of God be with you.

Rev. Bob Smith

This message first appeared in the August 1, 2020, edition of Tidbits.