A clarion call for Christian unity: Sizzling Summer Service 11

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Heavenly Highlands area churches gathered Sunday for the far more-sizzling-than-usual service in Head Lake Park. With the humidex making temps feel near 40, the park still overflowed with cheerful local Christians fellowshipping, listening raptly, singing joyfully, praying… and yes, sweating … together.

Dana McMahon presents kids with a capsulized gospel … full of questions and most interesting answers

Dana McMahon presents kids with a capsulized gospel … full of questions and most interesting answers

Paul Graham of Lakeside Church greeted the crowd and opened in prayer, and soon entertaining Harry Morgan of the United Church had everyone laughing and singing along with accompanying musicians from various churches.

Bev Hicks of Northland Faith Church read the scripture for the day, Mark 9:33-41.

The McClure family enjoying the pre-sermon sizzle

The McClure family enjoying the pre-sermon sizzle

Ken McClure, brand-new priest of St. George’s and St. Margaret’s, got to deliver his very first sermon ‘up here’ in what he called, “the beautiful tapestry all around.”  He, his wife Becca and their young son Jack have only been in Haliburton for a week or so but cannot get over the marvels of nature around them. An astonishing tapestry, he said, “which you people here have all seen since Moses was in hot pants.” With that, he had the crowd.

He said he felt privileged to be able to address the topic of unity in such a setting.

“Look around you!” He encouraged all to stand and take a 360-degree gaze around them at both the scenery and the Christians of various stripes. “This is it!”

He wove aspects of the day’s readings into his talk. Jesus words reminding us that ‘to be greatest you must be least,’ and ‘if you love me you must love each other,’ underline the absolute necessity of unity.

Drawing on the words of Jesus in Mark 9: 38-39, Ken reminded listeners of the importance of recognizing the works others do for Jesus and in His name, without focussing on whether they do it your or your group’s way.

We are the Body of Christ, made up of diverse parts being true to themselves, but acting in conjunction … in unity … with others. We need to recognize differences and different approaches as part of unity in diversity 

Staying hydrated

Staying hydrated

Raising his right hand, he held out his thumb and mentioned how our thumb helps us get a grip on things. He then raised and pointed with his index finger, demonstrating its ability to do just that.

“Then, we have our ring finger. It allows us to express our emotions, express our love. We have our middle finger which expresses a rather different kind of emotion. Don’t use that one,” he advised to a chorus of chuckles.

Christopher Greaves, former St. George's and St. Margaret's rector, makes his usual and most welcome guest appearance

Christopher Greaves, former St. George's and St. Margaret's rector, makes his usual and most welcome guest appearance

“Each of them has their own goal, their own purpose, their own ideas, their own ambitions and if they all acted independently they'd just be like this all the time.” He demonstrated by flailing his hand about. “They’d be like a flapper, a flipper for the water I suppose. They wouldn’t get anything done, would they? It’s when they’re working together that the fullness of my created potential comes to be.”

Clearly, the work we do together is an acknowledgment of the Body.  As the Body of Christ, WE embody the Kingdom

“We are one in the ONE!” he concluded to applause.

Sandy Stevens of the Lighthouse Church prayed powerfully over many aspects of life in the community as the service wound down for another year.

A Christian leader's call for social justice

An Open Letter to Laurie Scott
Member of Ontario Provincial Parliament
Minister of Labour

Dear Laurie:

We last met at St George’s, Haliburton. I officiated at a funeral that you attended, and we spoke briefly after the service. Thank you for coming to support the family at that time.

I write to you today because I am becoming more distressed at each announcement from your government. Last night I read that you are abandoning the basic income pilot project. During the election campaign you promised to keep that project. You must know that it has been tried before in Canada, in Dauphin, Manitoba, and currently elsewhere in the world. Some of the benefits from the Dauphin experiment were a drop of 8.5% in hospital visits, an increase in high school graduations, and an increase in time mothers were able to spend with their babies. Those are all benefits dear to the Conservative agenda.

You are also reducing the increase in welfare payments to 1.5%, a reduction from the 3% that welfare recipients had been promised. Since the most recent cost of living figures indicate an increase of 2.5%, this is effectively a decrease in income for the poorest in our society of 1%.

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Both of these changes that you are bringing into force will help to reduce the taxes on the wealthiest people in our society, at the cost of food and housing for the poorest. I am disturbed that our provincial government is willing to call upon the poorest to sacrifice for the richest.

I said above that I am becoming more distressed at each announcement. This is not simply because each announcement dismantles another part of our society. It is also because it indicates a frightening trend.  It brings back painful memories of when Mike Harris closed 28 hospitals and fired 6,000 nurses. I saw firsthand in my parish some of the other pain his health care system changes affected. His government brought in a means test for patients on oxygen. What he didn’t realize was that patients with lung conditions would meet the requirements for oxygen, since the removal of oxygen immediately caused stress, whereas heart patients would not meet the threshold of the test because the effects of reduced oxygen on heart patients is cumulative, taking days to produce enough stress to endanger a patient. I buried some of the people who did not meet Mike Harris’s requirements.

So, it does get personal for me when I see our government removing programs and social supports without taking the time to think and plan. Why remove what is working before you have even a hint of what might replace it?

It is the action without thought that scares me the most. We have watched tragedy after tragedy unfold in the United States under Donald Trump, and (Ontario Premier) Doug Ford seems to be heading in the same direction. 
Please, Laurie, take a stand to protect the most vulnerable in our province, and do your best to reign in Doug Ford’s plan of demolition.

Faithfully yours,

The Rev. Canon Dr. David G. Barker
West Guilford, Ontario

Letter of introduction from the Rev. Ken McClure

To the congregations of St. George's and St. Margaret's and all the people of the parish of Haliburton: peace and love in Jesus Christ!

By the good grace of our Lord, our bishop, and the wardens of the parish I will have the pleasure of being your new priest! My family—my wife Becca, my son Jack and I—look forward to meeting each and every one of you, and while there will be time to flush out more about who we are as a family, I’d like to let you know a little bit about who I am.

I am a graduate of the George Brown Theatre School and spent almost ten years as a professional stage actor, performing in (mostly) musicals across the country. Upon leaving the world of performing, I spent a year teaching English in Guangzhou, China before returning home and pursuing an honors degree in Classical Studies from York University. Most recently, I completed my Masters of Divinity from Trinity College, University of Toronto.

I do a fair bit of writing for pleasure and have an ever-expanding selection of rosaries and chaplets I have beaded over the years. I'm an avid reader, particularly of 1st century Roman literature, works on American history (particularly material concerning the founders, and the Watergate era), and comic books. I'm a movie buff (particularly superhero and horror films), and love the nerdiest of TV (Star Trek, particularly DS9, and anything by either Joss Whedon or Aaron Sorkin). I enjoy fishing, swimming, and camping, and the only sport I follow is politics.

Most importantly, I come to you as a deep lover of scripture, music, and stories, and can't wait to share each of these things with you: to live the scripture with you, to make music together, and to share stories while creating new ones. 

I can't wait to walk with you, listening for where the prophetic call of the Spirit is crying out in our community, leading us to pursue justice and provide comfort and relief. 

I can't wait to gather together as one, to share in the body and blood of our Lord. Please know that until we meet in August you are all in my prayers, along with the prayers of thanksgiving I offer for this tremendous honor and privilege.

May the Peace of Christ be with you all!
Ken+

How can we pray for healing?

Is there a pattern to prayer that works? Is there a way that we can be sure God will answer? What if we pray and our prayers are not answered? How do we find faith? How can we believe?

In a sermon both brilliant and comforting,  David Barker reflects on Mark 5: 21-43 where Jesus heals a woman in the crowd who touched the hem of his garment, and later the daughter of Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue. 

Including stories of those praying in our own time—and the mysterious answers or seeming non-answers—David wrestles with some of our most difficult questions about prayer and faith.

Atheists are right: Christianity sounds absurd

By Darren Wilson*

Think about it. Christians believe in a man who lived more than 2,000 years ago in a series of backwater towns in the Middle East, was killed by some religious zealots, magically rose from the dead three days later, after which he floated up into the sky and disappeared, thus becoming the invisible man we now believe in and pin all our hopes on. On top of that, we believe in other unseen beings—angels and demons—who are all around, helping or hindering. Meanwhile, another invisible spirit (the Holy Spirit) is constantly at work behind the scenes around the earth, keeping the whole thing straight and intervening whenever possible.

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When put that way, even I think it sounds crazy. I consider myself a fairly intelligent person. I’m a former university professor, an author of two books, and I’ve become something of a spokesperson not just for the existence of God through my films but for the idea that this invisible God is alive and well and doing amazing things in our world today. How then can I, as a rational, intelligent human being, actually believe in an invisible man and spirits?

I ask this question because it seems that lately a good number of people have been coming out and saying that no, they don’t believe this nonsense anymore. Former Christians seem to be taking a long hard look at what they once believed, and are finding the courage to step forward and voice their opinion: that they think it’s all nuts. I have a feeling they aren’t alone in their struggles with belief, and the reasons for this crisis of faith are surely varied and compelling. But like everyone, at the end of the day I am only truly responsible for myself, and I wanted to step forward and try to explain why I will continue to believe in an invisible God-man, no matter what.

For a good portion of my life, I lived a kind of Christianity that I have a sneaking suspicion most people do as well. It was built around a set of pre-informed beliefs and its orbit was made up almost exclusively with well-meaning principles—all of which were gleaned from the Bible and were designed to both make my life better and make me into a relatively nice person. Jesus was the centerpiece, of course, but He was more of a benevolent, distant brother figure. God was relatively silent on most things—and always loomed large in my ‘Be good or else!’ mentality. The Holy Spirit was like smoke, a guiding force if you will, but one that was totally unknowable.

This was Christianity, for sure, but it was a neutered one. I simply had to believe the right things, be a good person, and not do too much bad stuff. If I did make mistakes, I had to make sure I said I was sorry, otherwise a kind of logjam of sin would start to build up, which was not good.

When your life revolves around trying to ‘be good,’ there comes a point when it all just feels fake and forced. I mean, if Jesus is real, shouldn’t my life be different? Shouldn’t I have this peace He kept talking about inside me? Should I really have to try this hard to change my behavior? And after a while, when principles are all that generally guide you, it just becomes too much and you wind up doing the Christian thing simply because you think you should and because that’s what you’ve always done.

Darren Wilson on location in Jerusalem

Darren Wilson on location in Jerusalem

But then something happened, and this is where everything changed for me. I experienced God. I am a rational person and not prone to manic episodes, hallucinations, or strange behavior. I’ve never done drugs a day in my life. I don’t ‘feel’ things spiritually, have never been ‘slain in the spirit,’ and I’ve never even spoken in tongues. But while making these films of mine, I experienced the reality and presence of God. I felt Him inside me and around me. My behavior changed, I felt peace for the first time, and my Christian walk was no longer about following principles, but about following a Person. And yes, that Person was invisible.

How do you explain experiencing God to someone who has never experienced Him themselves? It’s a lot like trying to explain love to someone who has never been in love. They can be surrounded by people in love, can see how strange it makes people behave, can understand the concept of love. They can even see the dangers of falling in love with that person over this person, but unless you’ve actually fallen in love with someone, you’ll never be able to understand the feeling it gives you or the certainty that you are, in fact, in love, and that it is very, very real.

So it is no surprise to me that, for example, a pastor who decides to ‘take a year off from God’ comes out the other side as an atheist. Honestly, it would be impossible for me to take even a week off from God, because I have experienced Him firsthand. I know He’s there, I can’t ignore Him. No one who actually experiences God will ever deny His existence. For instance, for my new film, Holy Ghost Reborn, I filmed a ministry in Colorado that provides prayer and teaching almost exclusively to military personnel. Most of the participants go into this 3 day intensive as either atheists or nominal believers at best. All of them—a full 100%—come out of these 3 days believing in Jesus. Why? Because they just experienced Him for themselves. And you can’t deny something that you have actually experienced. My guess is that the vast majority of people who have turned their hearts from God never actually experienced Him in the first place. They may have heard and believed, but the reality of His presence never took root because believing something logically is not the same as experiencing it relationally.

Yes, believing in someone who is invisible seems, on the surface, a little crazy. But just as Billy Graham once pointed out, we believe in the wind not because we can see it, but because we can see the effects of it. We can feel it on our faces, see it whipping through tree branches. I believe in an invisible God not because I can see Him, but because I can see the effect of Him on my life, and on countless lives around the world. I can feel Him inside me, around me, even working through me.

I’m not sure people leaving the faith is an assault on Christianity as much as it is simply showing the danger of building faith on principles instead of relationship. As good and as important as principles are, nothing will ever compare to the vibrant, healthy, Biblical relationship that we were all created for with a God who is more real and more alive than many of us realize.

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*Darren Wilson is the Founder and CEO of WP Films, a media company with the mission to ask questions about God that no one else will. He has traveled the world since 2006 creating various feature-length documentaries, including Finger of God, Furious Love, Father of Lights, Holy Ghost and Holy Ghost Reborn. He has also written several books, including Filming God and Finding God in the Bible. The company now also has an online channel called WP TV.

Journey with Jesus begins as Middle Eastern women visit London

Perhaps you’ve heard of the highly effective Jesus Film, first released in 1979. Those behind the project explain they have always and ever been about one thing: everyone seeing Jesus. Teams visit areas all over the world, sharing the ‘greatest story ever told’ in more than 1,400 languages. They report that more than 490 million people have come to Jesus after watching their films.

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A project team member recently shared a wonderful story that began on a recent Jesus Film mission trip to London. 

While walking through a beautiful rose garden in Hyde Park, this fellow and his team talked and prayed about whom they should approach. Who was waiting to hear the good news?

As they prepared to sit down on the grass, a group of young Middle Eastern women not far away suddenly motioned to them to come and share their park bench. As if that weren’t surprising enough, it turned out the women were visiting from the very country the team had just been talking about ... a country the team ‘reporter’ had never ever met anyone from in England.

God was so clearly guiding and working through all of them. You can read the whole story here … a story which continues months later when the team member visits the Middle Eastern country and re-encounters one of the young woman. God's ways never cease to amaze!

A miracle meeting with Middle-Eastern Muslim women in London — The Jesus Film Project

Anglican Alliance launches Freedom Year, a global focus on anti-slavery initiatives

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The Anglican Alliance, which helps coordinate Anglican churches and agencies to work for a world free of poverty and injustice, has launched Freedom Year, a year-long focus on anti-slavery initiatives.

“Human trafficking is a grave crime against humanity,” Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby reminds us.”It is a form of modern-day slavery and a profound violation of the intrinsic dignity of human beings. This outrage should concern each one of us, because what affects one part of humanity affects us all.

“If we are to combat this evil then we must work together to prevent the crime, support the survivors and prosecute the criminals. The knowledge that churches have of their local communities puts them on the frontline in this campaign.”

It happens abroad we know, and even in many communities close to home. We must pray for change, learn more about human trafficking and modern slavery in the world today, and take action to end it.

A Freedom Year booklet, available here, contains monthly themes and activities to “help us to take action, and encourage us join the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery, both locally and globally,” the Alliance says.

Welcome to Father David Barker

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Please join us in welcoming interim priest-in-charge the Reverend Canon Dr. David Barker.  He has already been a cherished member of St. George’s for a number of years, serving in the choir and often ‘doing services’ when former priest-in-charge Anne was away.

Fr. David was ordained in 1970 and has served as Assistant Curate at St. Wilfrid’s, Islington (1975); Incumbent in the Parish of Minden (1977); the Parish of Washago (1980); St. Mark’s, Midland (1985); St. Timothy’s, North Toronto (1998); and St. Simon-the-Apostle, Toronto (2007). In 2012 he, with his wife Shirley, retired to West Guilford. He served as interim priest-in-charge of the Parish of Bobcaygeon, Dunsford and Burnt River in 2016 and 2017.

David graduated from the University of Toronto in 1972 with a Bachelor of Arts, and in 1975 from Trinity College with a Master of Divinity. In 1995 Seabury-Western Theological Seminary awarded him a Doctor of Ministry (in Preaching) and in 2003 Archbishop Terence Finlay appointed him Canon of St. James’ Cathedral.

We have started a page where you can link to his sermons on YouTube, with his first and second talks already up!

Anne Moore’s final service in the parish packed with people, God stories, wonder, laughter and tears

Sunday proved a heart- and spirit-warming service for the church full of people from St. George’s and St. Margaret’s (and visitors from elsewhere) for Pastor Anne’s final service in the parish.

Anne recounted her own Christian history—from her christening as a child through her conversion as a young woman, her call to ordained ministry while both studying and serving in the Canadian Armed Forces reserves, and on into the fulfilment and wonder she has found helping others grow closer to God. As, she says, she has grown throughout her time of serving God and others.

“It has been a privilege to be with people in both the best and worst of times,” she explained, with tears in her eyes. She then launched into what she believes are the five basic directions in our human journeys. 

The first is inward … as we receive God’s love, His word, and meditate on scripture. 

The second is a reaching outward, as we do our best to share, serve, love and help correct the wrongs in the world around us.

The third direction in our journey is upward. We gather together to gaze upward and praise God, pray, worship and study. As a fourth direction, we look toward God’s people down here on earth: we do what He enables and calls us to do to build communities of loving believers.

Finally, there is the onward journey. Each of us will go forward and onward in different directions, as God leads and directs.

“Since this is my last time to share some good news,” she announced, “I will.” She then quoted both Old and New Testament scriptures on the necessity of using our own voices, inner or outer, to call on the Lord for salvation.

“And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved,” we read in Joel 2:32. Then, in the New Testament we have one of the most famous verses on evangelism in scripture. “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 9-10).

Anne then urged all those who had never made a full commitment to Jesus to do so. It basically comes down to ‘sorry, please and thank-you’, she said. She then led those who wanted to share in resurrection life to follow her in prayer with: “I’m sorry for the life I have lived, the sins I have committed. Please, Jesus, come into my heart and life. Thank you!” 

Before communion, several in the congregation shared their own ‘God Sightings’ from the week—an important part of most services. The initiative encourages people to pay more attention to the movements of God in their daily lives, note when they feel His Presence or see Him working, write it down, and then share it with the church family. Testimonies contain tremendous power to encourage and bless others. Eyes of faith can often reveal what is beneath and beyond the reality that we see.

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Several stood to tell of God working in the lives of their families and friends. Organist and choir director Bill Gliddon shared a wonderful story of what happened a few nights before Christmas when he had been working late in his ‘upper room’ in the church.

He heard the church door bell ring, and went down to find the father of the Syrian refugee family living next door, standing there with a plate of warm Syrian delicacies. The Muslim man had noticed a light in the choir room above, knew Bill must be there late, and came to offer some sustenance. (You can read an informative story from the Haliburton Echo about the family here: Welcoming the Wisos: How a small committee brought a community together).

Please pray for the Wiso family as they continue to settle into their new lives in Canada.

Please also pray for Anne as she moves forward and onward, for David Barker, interim priest-in-charge, and for the process of finding a new priest.

Advent Letter

by Anne Moore

Dear Friends,

How time flies! Is it really Advent, the season of waiting and preparing for Christmas, already? There is so much to do at this time of year: decorating and baking (well, not me actually!), visiting and feasting, choosing just the right gifts and wondering what gifts might be received.

In the midst of this flurry of activity, and, generally, numerous flurries of snow(!),  simple questions might pop into our heads: ‘Is this what it’s all about?’ or, ‘Is there something more?’ or even, ‘Have I gotten something wrong here?’ Perhaps, after the food is eaten and the gifts unwrapped, you ask yourself, ‘Is there a gift out there somewhere that would really satisfy me?’ If we are honest with ourselves, that is what we want in life—something that can meet our needs, help us with our problems and decisions, bring comfort, happiness, peace.

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The good news is that there is such a gift. It is custom-made just for you and is given by someone who knows exactly what you need right now. It gives you more than anything money can buy. And it comes from someone special, who knows you and loves you deeply, and who wants only the best for you.

Does that sound like a great gift? Does it sound too good to be true?  I assure you that it is true because I received that gift 39 years ago. God, who created each one of us, who loves each one of us individually, perfectly, and without any conditions attached, sent His only Son, Jesus, to live as an ordinary human being on earth. We celebrate His birth at Christmas.

‘So what?’ some may ask. In the Bible there are four different writers’ interpretations about Jesus’ life. We call those stories the gospels, which translates to, 'good news.’ Matthew and Luke probably heard the stories second-hand; Mark and John told their own stories. They all wrote about what Jesus said and did, what He was like, and how He died. That’s all fairly normal for a biography. What is not normal is they went on to tell how He was alive after He died! The event which Christians call the resurrection changed the world, the course of history, and can also change us if we accept the gift He offers.

Jesus is God’s gift to us. As the Son of God, He can give us freedom from our fears and worries, forgiveness of our past, healing of our bodies, minds, and relationships, and the assurance of God’s unconditional love for us. We can be free, safe, and fully alive like never before. We don’t need to do anything special to receive this Gift from God; we don’t have to be good (God isn’t like Santa); we simply have to accept this Gift. Unwrapping it involves learning about Jesus and learning how to follow Him. We call that ‘church,’ which is hanging out with a bunch of people who are also in various stages of their learning.

As we learn to trust Jesus we will come to the point where we want to give Him a gift—that gift is our lives as obedient followers.

I pray for each of you as you begin, and continue, following our Saviour whose birth we are about to celebrate.