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

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.

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.