Love, Service, Spirituality

2017 01-23

Presteign-Woodbine and Leaside United Churches Coming Together!

We have a spent a fabulous January together getting to know each other.  We all look forward to continued relationship building through activities over the next exciting months of coming together!

Field Trip to a Rock Eucharist

A very warm welcome was waiting for us at The Church of the Redeemer’s Rock Eucharist. The music was fabulous! Our youth were really surprised to see a real band with electric guitars and drums. The sermon was interesting and the minister wore NO SHOES which was sort of weird but also kind of cool. We liked the way the priest talked about the lyrics during his sermon. Biggest difference noted was the use of real wine out of a silver goblet and that there were kneeling benches (which weren’t used during this service).

2017 01-20

Emily’s Weekday Wonderings January 20, 2017

The ABCs of Christmas Continue…

(part 3)

Another set of questions from the 7pm Christmas Eve service (the ABCs of Christmas, where Q stands for Questions) related to the role of faith in our culture today – here is a sampling:

How can we make the story more alive for our non-religious family in today’s world?

Why do so many people only come to church at Christmas?

Why does the world today tolerate hatred and poverty and not accept the love shown by Christ?

It is an easy temptation to think that the lack of interest in church attendance is a very recent phenomenon. We have in our cultural memory – particularly those of us in our 60s or older – a vision of the “golden age” of church attendance. Usually the 50s and 60s when churches were built, Sunday Schools expanded, and there were long lineups for baptisms. Of course, what isn’t remembered is that was an unusual blip on the line graph of church attendance. In the era post-WWII there was a return to normalcy, an emphasis on the nuclear family and all that entailed, things such as the baby boom had increased church attendance. This was, it seemed, something that could be relied on in a world that had gone sideways with devastating wars, atomic bombs, and all the rest of it. What we forget, is all the complaints at the start of the 20th century about people not going to church. What we perhaps never new is that as far back as the medieval period, the Catholic church (at the time the church) brought in a rule requiring that everyone give confession a minimum of once a year. Since you were required to give confession before receiving the Lord’s Supper, which was a part of every Mass, this meant the church was concerned about people not even going to church once a year!

So, once we have that context, these questions start to look a little different. It’s no longer about returning to the way things always used to be, but about examining the role religious observance has in living meaningfully. Within Christianity, gathering as a community of faith is usually an important part of faithful practice. Worshiping with others helps us avoid putting ourselves at the center of our spirituality. It also encourages us to hear different voices, different interpretations, different perspectives than our own. Have you come to church recently and heard something new or something you disagreed with? I hope you will disagree with me sometimes! And when you do, let’s talk.

There is a personal responsibility related to these questions though. How can we hope other people will consider attending church if we do not consider it an important part of our daily lives and regularly place other activities ahead of it? How can we hope other people will consider attending church if we ourselves are not able to say why it is important to us (which cannot be that we grew up going to church, or tradition, since this will not be true for others)? What we do and how we talk about our faith matters. We need to be able to answer these questions for ourselves:

Are you able to tell someone else how attending church is life-giving for you?

Do you allow the experience of worshiping together to change you, challenge you, comfort you, encourage you to grow?

Are you comfortable talking about the sacred with others, without feeling that you have to hide your views or enforce them on others?

How do you live into the Christmas story throughout the year, not just at Christmas?

2017 01-18

Emily’s Weekday Wonderings January 18, 2017

Jesus was a refugee:

What each of us can do today …

Jesus was a refugee. At least, that’s what the author of the gospel of Matthew tells us. What does it mean when we talk about the single most important person to Christianity as a refugee? How does it call us to action about the current global refugee crisis?

Amnesty International , in October 2016, gave 21.3 million as the figure of refugees around the world. This number does not count those who are internally displaced – forced to leave their homes but still within their country. According to the UN Refugee Agency, more than half of the world’s refugees come from Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia. Half of all refugees in 2015 were children. This is also a justice issue: 86% of refugees are hosted by low and middle income countries.

Here are the 8 points I named about what we personally can do in response to the refugee crisis. You may be doing some of these already, but it is always worth reviewing what we are doing and what we might be called to do differently.

  • Articulating our theology, our faith response, to refugees. This starts with being able to say to ourselves and others “Our stories tell us that Jesus, like many other characters in scripture, was a refugee.” We need to be able to say why this matters – and that this is not just a political or social problem, but a matter of faith.
  • Prayer does several things – it reminds us that we are not alone in what we do (others are also taking action), remembering that we do not have to feel responsibility for the whole situation helps free ourselves emotionally to take what action we are able. Prayer is also about intention. Praying regularly for refugees reminds us of the situation, leading us to greater education and other action, ensuring that we don’t just set it aside in our lives because there are other things going on.
  • Commitment to do something. Amnesty International has a pledge you can sign “I Welcome Refugees”. This is a statement for politicians and world leaders as well as a personal commitment.
  • Write letters to government (MP, MPP, City Counsellor, etc.) to encourage that more be done to advance refugee issues, and to hold to account campaign promises, etc.
  • Donate or raise money for refugee services in Canada and overseas – both matter.
  • Volunteer your time. At LUC, a number of people in the congregation volunteer with the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office. Let us know if you’d like to learn more, and we’ll get you in touch with the person who coordinates our team.
  • LUC is sponsoring two refugee families right now, and one of them is arriving on January 25th. If you’d like to help out in making them welcome, be in touch. We can let you know if there are items we are missing for their apartment, or if there are other things you could do to support this work.
  • Refuse to support racist, xenophobic, or Islamophobic words or actions. We must not let our language or thinking become defined by fear, prejudice, or anger. This is both about recognizing our own biases and not condoning the biases of others.

Guest Speaker Author Diana Farrar

Author Diana Farrar

Author Visit at Leaside United!

Join us on Sunday February 12 at 12 pm. as we welcome guest speaker Diana Farrar, author of ”Door of the Heart” and long time advocate for equity.   Diana and her wife, Charlotte, from Dallas Texas, are coming to speak about the importance of community and why we must never become complacent with our advocacy work for those who are marginalized.  As an Affirming church, Leaside United is committed to offering ongoing educational opportunities that support the rights of  LGBTQ+  and all other marginalized peoples.   Please join us for this free event.

NEW! LGBTQ+ Question Boxes

Excerpt From Emily’s Weekday Wondering January 11, 2017

“The final gift was to all of us – a set of beautifully hand-painted question boxes as a part of the Affirming process. These are now around the church (by the office, in the sanctuary, near the Hearth Room), along with paper and pencils. They are an opportunity to ask the questions you might have related to LGBTQ+ topics. As an Affirming Congregation, Leaside has committed to an ongoing journey of learning and welcome. Presteign-Woodbine has not yet taken part in an affirming process, so this is an opportunity for all of us to ask questions and learn new things safely. Any time, please write down a question, whatever it might be. Some examples we heard on Sunday include:

“What does LGBTQ+ stand for?”
“How old are people when they know they are gay?”
“What does the term ‘Asexual’ mean?”
“Why do pronouns matter?”

We will have the opportunity to read answers to these, and any of your questions in future bulletin”

2017 01-17

Rock Eucharist this Sunday January 22, 2017

Just a reminder that our Faith Exploration groups have an opportunity to experience a Rock Eucharist this coming Sunday at 7pm at the Church of the Redeemer located at 162 Bloor Street West.   This is an open event, so if you know someone who might enjoy the service please feel free to invite them along.   If you are able …. we can get a hot beverage afterwards and chat about the experience.  There are two coffee shops close by.

Click here for more information about the Rock Eucharist at Church of the Redeemer.





NEW! Reverend Emily Gordon’s Sermons Now Online




2017 01-11

Emily’s Weekday Wonderings January 11, 2017


Bringing Gifts

On Sunday, during our “Time with the Children”, we talked about the Epiphany story – the arrival of the Magi/Wise Ones/Three Kings/Astrologers from the East (all different terms we use to refer to those guests who show up in the gospel according to Matthew, after following an unusual star in the sky). The story tells us they brought three gifts for Jesus – Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Incidentally this is the reason we think of the number three, because of the gifts, not because the story gives the number of travelers.


Like those stories of the Magi, we had the chance to open some gifts:

  • The first gift was for members of the Youth Faith Exploration group that has been meeting this year. Since September, there have been two meetings in addition to the Youth retreat weekend, which wasn’t only for the group but all youth at LUC. There have also been a couple of field trips – to the Aga Khan Ismaili Centre, and volunteering with Eastminster’s Out of the Cold program. Later this month there will be another meeting (this time jointly with the Adult Faith Exploration group), and another field trip to a Rock Eucharist at Church of the Redeemer, which anyone from the congregation is welcome to join. During the first meeting of the Youth Faith Exploration group, the group talked about the Bible, and the many different stories it contains (sometimes ones that contradict each other). This Sunday, we presented members of the group with their own copy of the Bible, as they continue their process of learning, asking questions, and challenging their faith.
  • The second gift was from Leaside United Church to Presteign-Woodbine United Church. It was a symbolic gift – a heart. Tanya shared some words from the Sufi poet Rumi: “Come out of the circle of time, and into the circle of love.”
  • The third gift was from Presteign-Woodbine to Leaside. As Rose Ann (intentional interim minister of PWUC) said: “The gift is of ourselves.” They presented a board with photos and names of members of PWUC. A chance for us to get to know some of the Presteign-Woodbine faces!
  • The final gift was to all of us – a set of beautifully hand-painted question boxes as a part of the Affirming process. These are now around the church (by the office, in the sanctuary, near the Hearth Room), along with paper and pencils. They are an opportunity to ask the questions you might have related to LGBTQ+ topics. As an Affirming Congregation, Leaside has committed to an ongoing journey of learning and welcome. Presteign-Woodbine has not yet taken part in an affirming process, so this is an opportunity for all of us to ask questions and learn new things safely. Any time, please write down a question, whatever it might be. Some examples we heard on Sunday include:
    “What does LGBTQ+ stand for?”
    “How old are people when they know they are gay?”
    “What does the term ‘Asexual’ mean?”
    “Why do pronouns matter?”
    We will have the opportunity to read answers to these, and any of your questions in future bulletins.

What wonderful gifts!

2017 01-07

Leaside United Church Youth help out at the Out of the Cold Program

Book Circle – Sunday January 22, 2017


The Leaside United Church Book Circle will next meet on Sunday, January 22 starting at 9:15 am in the Hearth Room. The book for discussion on this occasion will be “Precious Cargo: My Year Driving the Kids on School Bus 3077” by Craig Davidson. All are welcome to join this discussion.


Emily’s Weekday Wonderings January 5, 2017

lucdonkeyThe ABCs of Christmas Continue… (part 2)

Earlier in the week, I mentioned some of the questions that were offered as a part of the 7pm Christmas Eve service “The ABCs of Christmas”. Here is another question that caught my attention:

How will we retell the story in another 2000 years?

What a fascinating question! If we think about how much the world has changed in the past 2000 years, it is hard to even begin to imagine what it will be like 2000 years from now. Will we continue to advance technologically and, if so, will those advancements continue to be exponential? What will be the most important ways that we create our own sense of identity and connection – local community, national identity, global citizenship, or something else entirely? How will our plant and animal life continue to change? Will the convenience of travel increase, or will a journey taken on foot or by donkey seem more familiar to people living 2000 years from now than it does to us today?

I’m sure each of these questions, and many more, will impact how the story is retold in another 2000 years. As I was thinking about these questions, I also started to wonder: how do we want the story to be retold in another 2000 years?

Thank you for these Christmas Eve questions. I’ll keep reflecting on them next week!

Spirit Alive


All welcome to join us in the Auditorium on Saturday, January 21st at 10:00 am for Spirit Alive.

A time for spiritual reflection, meditation and thoughtful discussion led by Ross Lawford.   A snack will be provided – bring a mug for tea or coffee.

2017 01-04

Emily’s Weekday Wonderings January 4, 2017

egyptJanuary Theme: In Egypt

This past Sunday, we began to explore the theme for January “In Egypt.” Over the next couple of weeks we’ll hear the part of the Christmas story that relates to Egypt, but we began (and will end) the month with some stories from our Hebrew Scriptures. On Sunday, I reminded us that Egypt is one of the significant places that we hear about in our scriptures – a place that represents much more than just a place. Two other clear examples are Jerusalem, which represents much more than just a city, and the wilderness. Egypt becomes a significant place because it reappears in the stories of our scripture. In the Gospel according to Matthew, it is the place that Joseph, Mary and the young child Jesus flee to after the Magi visit (more about that over the next couple of weeks). In our Hebrew Scriptures, it is where Joseph (as in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) and later his whole family end up – note that it’s not just a coincidence the names are the same! We also associate with Moses, but Egypt’s presence in the scriptural stories doesn’t stop there – did you know that the stories tell us Abraham traveled to Egypt too?

Since Egypt keeps reappearing in our stories, it is clear that is about more than geography. Together we talked about what Egypt represents – a place of safety, a place of authority and civilization, a place of danger that must be escaped (the Israelites become slaves that must be set free), a place of “existential challenge” as someone suggested – how do we understand our identity when we are in a strange land, when we witness injustice around us, etc? Egypt, in the stories of scripture is not “home” – it is a place to flee to when home is no longer safe (such as the famine Joseph’s family faces in Genesis), or that must be left in order to return to home.

So I asked these questions:

What does Egypt look like for your congregation or your community?

What is Egypt in your life? Or, when did you spend time in Egypt in your life?

2017 01-03

Emily’s Weekday Wonderings January 3, 2017


The ABCs of Christmas Continue… (part 1)

On Christmas Eve, we had two wonderful services. At 10pm we had a beautiful service with communion and candles. It was so peaceful as we sang “Silent Night” in the dark surrounded by the flicker of candlelight!

Our 7pm service had the theme “The ABCs of Christmas.” It was an interactive service as we moved through different aspects of the Christmas Story. When we reached Q, it stood for Questions, and everyone had the opportunity to reflect, and to write down questions to offer as part of our Christmas Eve offering. I’d promised I would respond to and reflect on some of these questions as a part of my Weekday Wonderings for the first part of January, so you will see several posts on this topic.

There were quite a range of questions, but one group related to what I would call the practical questions:

  • Which story is closest?
  • What kind of animals were really in the stable?
  • What would the temperature/climate have been the night Jesus was born? When was Jesus actually born?
  • Is Bethlehem still an important city today?
  • Do the details of the story matter? Are we missing the point?
  • How do we know?

The truth is that we don’t know most, perhaps even any, of the practical or literal details of Jesus’ birth. Two of the gospel writers – Matthew and Luke – tell different stories about the birth, and although we often try to combine them in the Christmas story we tell, there are details that directly contradict each other, and others that are very different from each other (this was the theme of our wonderful pageant!) The stories also don’t include details such as the date of Jesus’ birth, animals that may have been present, or other details of the setting, such as the temperature and time of year. Although we celebrate Christmas on December 25th, this was a date chosen centuries later, because it corresponded to festivals related to the longest night of the year, which we know falls in December. Although we might dismiss the date, that symbolism matters.

Because all we have is stories, we don’t know which story is closest to what literally happened, but that doesn’t mean that the stories are irrelevant. In fact, while the details might not have any literal factual basis, that doesn’t mean that they don’t matter – all of the details that Matthew and Luke add to their stories are deeply significant!

For instance, in Luke’s story, the birth of Jesus is shared with a group of shepherds in the fields. Shepherds represent two different things: first, shepherds were common, everyday people. They weren’t particularly important – not priests or kings or government officials – and they weren’t even with other people all that often – to tend to their sheep they would often be off on their own, exposed to the outdoors, on the edges of the common life. When the story tells us it is the shepherds who hear the news first, it is a reminder that this birth, the life of Jesus, is for common, everyday people. It is a birth, an act of love, that happens at the edges. It is a reminder that God’s sense of who is important is not the same as the world’s. At the same time, shepherds have a special place within the stories of the Hebrew scriptures. We hear that King David, before he became king, was a shepherd. Just like Bethlehem is connected with David, and thus with royalty, so is the presence of shepherds. It would mean something completely different, if Jesus had been visited by a group of rabbis, or a group of Roman soldiers. So, I would suggest the details matter deeply – but not whether or not they “actually” happened.

(About Bethlehem today – with a present population of roughly 30,000 Bethlehem’s location makes it significant in a very different way. Due to its significance to Christians, its major industry is tourism. In 1995, it became a Palestinian city, and located in the West Bank of Palestine. Nearby are enclaves of West Bank settlers. You can see a few images that touch on the politics here:

Outreach Glad Tidings of Great Joy!



It is indeed wonderful to be able to announce that there are two pieces of great news to begin 2017!

First, our Leaside United Church (LUC) Syrian refugee family shall be arriving in Toronto later in January 2017.  This shall be almost exactly 13 months after the Leaside United Church Community Refugee Resettlement Committee (LUCCRRC) was first formed and church sponsorship was formally initiated.

The family consists of parents, Hadi and Anwar plus their three sons – twin four-year-olds and a six year old. They are very excited!  We have been blessed that the dad works as a translator of English and he has been teaching his wife and sons this new language during the long wait.  Together, we have all learned great patience!

The committee members are searching for suitable accommodations.  We are looking for a 2 or 3 bedroom apartment and hopefully it will be close to the Thorncliffe / Flemingdon area.  The family’s safe arrival shall be a wonderful New Year’s gift!!

Second, during October and November, LUC embarked on a special one-time fund-raiser for a Congolese refugee family of seven, now living in Calgary.  The sponsoring group-of-five Canadian families wanted to find a way to pay back or greatly reduce the family’s approximate $10,000 government loan for their medical, administration and travel expenses.  This debt was a heavy burden to the New Canadian family and the father worried greatly about paying back this loan.

Through the donations of a number of people and $1000 from LUC’s Outreach Committee, a total of $6960 was raised.  Over 50% of this amount came from non- Leaside Church members, who had heard the story and responded with great generosity.

We had the privilege and absolute joy of presenting this totally unexpected Christmas gift to the family in mid-December.

Their repeated words of thanks, smiles and hugs, filled us with tears of joy!

Thank you to all who responded.

So. 2017 at Leaside United Church begins with much for which to give thanks.


Bob and Lis Lister for LUCCRRC