Love, Service, Spirituality

2017 03-30

Emily’s Weekday Wonderings – March 30, 2017

Photo Credit: PJ Accetturo

 

This is the week of Canada Reads. This year the theme is to choose the book that all Canadians should be reading right now. It’s an interesting question to ponder, whether or not you are following the discussions and debate of the Canada Reads panelists, or intend to read any of the books on the list.

Of course, the theme is premised on the notion that reading can be transformative – and that works of fiction or memoir can inspire change, offer insight, nurture compassion, and ultimately make the world a better place. Do we approach our reading this way – particularly our reading “for pleasure” whether fiction, poetry, biography, or history?

Laura Schocker in her 2013 Huffington Post article “6 Science-Backed Reasons To Go Read A Book Right Now” highlights research that has suggested positive benefits of reading, from potential mental wellness advantages such as destressing and helping lower levels of depression, to benefits related to aging such as keeping your mind sharp and reducing the risk of Alzheimers’s, to what I might term a spiritual benefit of developing empathy. While Sarah Begley begins her 2016 article in Time: “It’s well-established science that reading boosts vocabulary, sharpens reason and expands intellectual horizons. But the latest round of research on the benefits of literature focuses on how it improves not our IQ, but our EQ.” There are even people who now offer “bibliotherapy”.

As a life-long lover of literature, it’s wonderful to hear that this might not just be something enjoyable, but something that’s good for my health. As someone who hopes for a life-long process of being a part of making the world a better place, it is exciting to hear the premise of this year’s Canada Reads competition, and conversation engaging the relationship between literary merit and important topics of our time. As living into the Christian faith, it’s also not surprising. Our scriptures are premised on the notion that words, language, and stories are transformational. In our first story of creation (Genesis 1 not Genesis 2 – that’s a different story), we heard that creation happens with words, and chaos is transformed by language. The gospel of John begins “In the beginning was the Word.” Language, speech, story, are at the beginning of everything.

On Sunday, when I joined the children for Sunday School, we heard about how Jesus told stories to explain what is important, to answer questions, to offer visions. Stories are powerful in part because they say more than one thing, they invite you in to engage and interpret, to become a character, to be transformed. It was fun to do this on Sunday, just as each week it is good to do this with you, as we listen again to the stories of our faith in scripture and our lives, and prepare to be transformed.

Blessings, Emily Gordon

2017 03-28

What is a “Casavant”? And what is it doing at Leaside United?

It’s a Pipe Organ … and a “Casavant” originally was not a ‘what’ but a ‘who’!


Casavant Frères is a prominent organ building Canadian company in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, which has been building pipe organs since 1879. As of 2014, they have produced over 3,900 organs.


A Brief History of our Casavant:

Kenneth Davis, LUC Music Director 1954-1982

The specifications of the organ were prepared by our organist and Music Director from 1954 to 1982 Kenneth Davis (1927-2017), in collaboration with J.O. Morel, representative of Casavant Frères.  Much of the pipework came from Bridge Street United Church in Belleville, Ontario.  Built by Casavant Frères of Ste. Hyacinthe, Quebec, the organ contains 2,441 pipes, 39 ranks, 46 speaking stops, two tremulants, plus couplers and pistons.  The console is of the drawknob type and its action is electro-pneumatic.

The organ was dedicated during the church service on Sunday, April 7, 1957.  Dr. David Ouchterlony from Timothy Eaton Memorial Church gave the Dedicatory Recital on April 9, 1957.

 


 

 

Sharon Beckstead, LUC Music Director, 1993-present

 

Our Music Director Sharon Beckstead confessed recently that among many things “the Clarinet stop on the Casavant” was what clinched the decision for her to join Leaside United Church in 1993.  For over 24 years as our Music Director, Sharon has enjoyed experimenting and performing with this complex organ, a truly living, breathing component of our faith and worship experience.

 

 

 

 

Source: Excerpts from Fifty Years of Witness 1928-1978 Leaside United Church ® 1979


Join us to celebrate:

 

 

2017 03-27

Thinking about Baptism?

 

Our next scheduled baptism will be on Sunday May 28, 2017.  If you are thinking of baptism for yourself or someone else (whether or not May 28th works) please contact our minister Emily Gordon.

For more information on baptism at Leaside United Church please visit our Baptism Page.

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We just need your name and email address and we will start sending you the weekly news normally on Fridays coming from Alison’s office email at office@leasideunited.org with special messages from Emily Gordon.

 

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2017 03-23

Coming Together Event – March 29, 2017

Photo Credit: Brooke Lark

COMING TOGETHER EVENT

Wednesday, March 29th from 6:00 to 9:00

We’ll gather at tables around a simple meal of homemade soup and artisan bread and butter with fruit and cookies for dessert. There will be lively discussion and laughter and an opportunity to enter into a Bible story in a way that invites “AHA” moments of insight.

Following our communal supper of soup, we’ll have an opportunity to engage in a Bibliodrama on the text (Mark 14:1-10). A Bibliodrama is a close reading of the Biblical text with searching, imaginative questions. It offers people of all ages and levels of knowledge a chance to experience a method of creative study that might change the way they will read the Bible. For more information, go to the Bibliodrama web site (http://www.bibliodrama.com/)

This event promises an enjoyable and memorable evening. Come! We are expecting you!

Be Blessed to be a Blessing, Reverend Rose Ann Vita

What is a Bibliodrama?

 

A Bibliodrama is the reenactment of biblical stories in small groups of (adult) participants, who are interested in understanding the biblical tradition in non-fundamentalist ways. It is a playful, spiritual, and dramatic approach to biblical stories.

In preparation of our special coming together event next week you can watch this short video explaining Bibliodramas:

 

Source: www.bibliodrama.com


COMING TOGETHER EVENT

Wednesday, March 29th from 6:00 to 9:00

We’ll gather at tables around a simple meal of homemade soup and artisan bread and butter with fruit and cookies for dessert.

Photo Credit: Brooke Lark

There will be lively discussion and laughter and an opportunity to enter into a Bible story in a way that invites “AHA” moments of insight.

Following our communal supper of soup, we’ll have an opportunity to engage in a Bibliodrama on the text (Mark 14:1-10). A Bibliodrama is a close reading of the Biblical text with searching, imaginative questions. It offers people of all ages and levels of knowledge a chance to experience a method of creative study that might change the way they will read the Bible. For more information, go to the Bibliodrama web site (http://www.bibliodrama.com/)

This event promises an enjoyable and memorable evening. Come! We are expecting you!

Be Blessed to be a Blessing, Reverend Rose Ann Vita

2017 03-17

Spirit Alive – March 18, 2017

All welcome to join us for Spirit Alive on Saturday, March 18th at 10:00 until noon in the Auditorium.

Coffee/tea and refreshments will begin our time together.  Lucy Burke will provide the leadership.

 

Spirit Alive meets to explore matters of spirituality, meditate, and reflect together. Save the second Saturday morning of the month to meet at 10:00 to noon. Spirit Alive begins with coffee, snacks and fellowship followed by a period of led meditation, music, quiet time and reflection to deepen the sense of the spiritual at the center of one’s life. For more information contact Bea Lawford.

2017 03-14

Emily’s Weekday Wonderings – March 14, 2017

Photo Credit: Josh Applegate

 

What do we do when we encounter a passage from scripture that we find challenging, problematic, irrelevant or just confusing? On Sunday, I suggested that when this happens there are 3 main approaches we can take: accept it; reject it; or wrestle with it.

Each of these approaches has advantages and disadvantages, and it might be that there’s a right time for each. It’s easier either to simply accept or reject scripture rather than to wrestle with it. Sometimes we need that simplicity, and either find comfort in the words of scripture or take time away from scripture (and perhaps also the church as a whole). Our lives have their seasons, and these approaches are a part of these seasons of our spiritual lives.

Most often, however, I think we’re called to the more difficult work of wrestling with scripture – and not just as individuals but as a gathered community of faith. David Jasper, in his book A Short Introduction to Hermeneutics, gives a short very simplified description of Midrash, an ancient tradition of Jewish interpretation: “The Jews did not so much seek meaning in words, but rather saw in words a form of conversation, which is endless and reaches no conclusion, unless it is finally enclosed in the silence of God with which everything begins and ends. . . . There is never a moment when you can stop and say conclusively, ‘Now I understand this,’ for this is not the purpose of reading, and even to presume to make this claim would constitute a misunderstanding. . . . What is important is not any conclusion that we may reach but rather the struggle itself.”

Wrestling with scripture. I had promised a sermon title “How?” and then the question hardly came up directly – but indirectly it was everywhere. How do we approach scripture? How do we wrestle with scripture? How do we find meaning? How do we respond to the love we hear again and again?

It’s about having a conversation, asking endless questions, remembering what we know is important, being willing to change our minds, and doing this together, part of a conversation that started long, long before we were born, and will continue long after we die.

If you would like to try wrestling with last Sunday’s challenging scripture passage, you might try using the worksheet that was available for the service (this file also has the scripture passage and introduction) and listening to the sermon if you missed it. You’re always welcome to let me know what you agree with, what you disagree with, and what you are still wondering about.

Blessings, Emily Gordon

2017 03-09

Emily’s Weekday Wonderings – March 9, 2017

Photo Credit: Toa Heftiba

 

Here are three insights or questions related to last Sunday’s sermon:

  • What is the difference between a quiz, a test, and a temptation?

A quiz is something that offers evaluation of our knowledge or insight into what we are like, but with little risk. In school, quizzes might be given to help students realize what they need to practice more before an upcoming test or exam, or to make sure they are paying attention. We often come across quizzes in magazines or online that promise to reveal what House we would be sorted into at Howarts, what animal we are most like, or our personal fashion style. A test also offers insight into our knowledge or character, but there is clearly something at stake. In school, tests are a significant portion of our grades, and we can pass or fail. In life, when we are tested, we discover how capable or how inadequate we are – and the implications can be significant. A temptation might be considered a category of test. Temptations are about character and values, and they have an emotional weight. To give a usually inconsequential example: if I did not enjoy eating chocolate, I would not describe myself as tempted by a box of chocolates. I note that this is inconsequential, because so often our use of language about temptations is reduced to an idea of “guilty pleasures” that relate to what we are eating and drinking, rather than all the other aspects of our lives. However, I think temptation has weight, some significance, relating to body, mind, and spirit. This is my current thinking on the three terms – do you agree?

  • When are we tested?

Often the times when we are tested are the times when new things are happening, whether we consider them joys or challenges – a new job, a new child, a marriage, the end of a relationship, the death of a relative, the loss of a job. What does this mean for Leaside and Presteign-Woodbine, as we look forward to a new thing? What will be revealed about who we are, when we are inevitably tested?

  • What are the temptations we face in our culture today?

We aren’t likely to feel tempted to try to turn stones into bread or believe that we will be able to rule everything if we stop worshipping God, so what are the modern day temptations that we might be facing individually and as a society? Here are five suggestions that I made on Sunday:

  • Convenience
  • Complacency
  • Certainty
  • Fear
  • Happiness

Do you agree? What else should be on the list?

Blessings, Emily Gordon

2017 03-03

The Chickens Build a Wall

The kids and youth of Leaside United Church had a lot of fun learning and exploring the theme of “Finding Home” through the meaning of “welcome”!  This play was an adaptation of Jean-François Dumont’s book of the same name.  A big thank you to Tanya Wiles-Bell, Emily Pollock and all the participants for a great show and reminder of radical hospitality!

2017 03-02

Emily’s Weekday Wonderings March 2, 2017

Photo Credit: Greg Rakozy

 

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the season of Lent. Ash Wednesday is a day when we are reminded of the cycle of life, our own simplicity and connection to the earth. In Biblical language, we say: we are dust, and to dust we shall return. In scientific language, we might talk of molecules and atoms rather than dust – the basic components of existence, which connect us with other living beings, everything on earth and throughout the galaxy. We remember that the air we breathe has been breathed by other people, animals and plants, a few hours ago and millennia ago. We are all dust, all star dust, made of what has combined and recombined in everything that has been and everything we call life.

We carry this humble knowledge with us through Lent. Sometimes the tradition is to give up something for Lent, but we might instead think of doing and being something instead. This Lent, I invite you to join me in taking this season of Lent as a time for reflection and renewed commitment to living faithfully and authentically.

If you would like to do this by receiving a daily email during the season of Lent with a reflection, poem, or prayer, please let me know.

Blessings, Emily Gordon

Pancakes & Plaid

It was a sea of plaid from the kitchen helpers to the over 140 attendees at our Pancakes & Plaid Fundraiser for Camp Scugog on Shrove Tuesday this week.  Our special guests included Councillor Jon Burnside and our Member of Parliament Rob Oliphant. Both caught up with neighbours and got their fill of pancakes before #Lent.

Guest Speaker Emily Clark, the Development Coordinator at Camp Scugog and other staff members were on hand to answer any questions about the programs being offered at the Port Perry camp.  A special thank you to Bill Kinnear for sponsoring a special Adult Camp opportunity at Camp Scugog this summer through the Give & Go program.

Over 500 pancakes were consumed in the course of an hour.  We enjoyed litres of REAL maple syrup tapped in Ontario by Larry Allcorn and Graham Lute aka ‘Mosher Maple’.

Many thanks to all the volunteers who made this wonderful supper possible and all the guests who raised $1,230 for Camp Scugog!

Co-chairs Barbara Kinnear and Brenda French

2017 02-22

A View of the Windows at Leaside

Leaside United Church has magnificent stained glass windows. On Saturday, February 18, the Spirit Alive group undertook a tour of the windows, reflecting on the artistry of each window and its significance in the history of Leaside United Church. Most of the windows date from the 1950s and 1960s and were developed according to a plan prepared under the ministry of  Rev. Charles Murray, Leaside’s Minister from 1949 to 1964. These sixteen windows depict the life of Jesus in a clockwise arrangement around the sanctuary. Many of these windows are dedicated to parishioners who were active in the congregation at that time. More recent windows are dedicated to former Leaside United Church ministers, Orville Hossie and Norman Mackenzie and their wives Greta Hossie and Dorothy Mackenzie. The most recent window is dedicated to the memory of Patricia Fitzpatrick by her family.

 

Of particular note is the spectacular Memorial window overlooking the chancel. This window lists the names of nine very young men from Leaside United Church families who perished in World War II. This window was dedicated at Leaside on November 6, 1955 – the Remembrance Day service that took place ten years after the end of the Second World War. Also of note is the large window at the back of the church acquired from Eglinton United Church when that church building was closed following its merger with St. George’s United. The window depicts Christ as “The Light of the World” and replicates a famous 1854 painting by the British pre-Raphaelite artist Holman Hunt.

The tour by the Sprit Alive group gave us a greater appreciation for the beauty that surrounds us at Leaside United Church. For those who are interested, there is a very informative book in the church pews about the windows titled “Windows of Leaside”.

David Phillips

Spirit Alive meets to explore matters of spirituality, meditate, and reflect together. Save the second Saturday morning of the month to meet at 10:00 to noon. Spirit Alive begins with coffee, snacks and fellowship followed by a period of led meditation, music, quiet time and reflection to deepen the sense of the spiritual at the center of one’s life. For more information contact Bea Lawford.

Emily’s Weekday Wonderings & Sermon February 22, 2017

On Sunday the official sermon title was “Finding Home in Forgiveness and New Relationship” but the key word was forgiveness. You might want to listen to my sermon to hear some discussion of the “old story” idea of sin, and whether the concept is still relevant when we no longer believe the old story.

Rev. Emily Gordon Sermon Sunday February 19, 2017

 

You might also want to listen to my sermon to hear a few thoughts about what forgiveness is not (staying in harmful situations, for instance) and what it is (a gradual process, about remembering what is most important, finding opportunities to grow, etc.) I also mentioned a website called The Forgiveness Project, which has many real stories related to forgiveness.

After the service, I had several different conversations with members of both Leaside and Presteign-Woodbine – and I’ve had a couple emails as well. One of the emails pointed to an article that just came out in the Toronto Star related to forgiveness.

A few thoughtful and important questions that emerged in our conversations after the service are:

How do you forgive someone who has betrayed you? What if they are not sorry for what they did or are no longer in touch?

How do you forgive someone who is no longer alive? What about forgiving someone for dying?

Sometimes we want forgiveness to be a matter of the head. We know that holding onto anger is hurting us. We know usually people do not control when they die. We understand someone has to move for work or that relationships cannot always last forever. And yet, even when we can understand something at an intellectual level, we can still feel hurt, angry, betrayed… Forgiveness requires the movement of both the head and the heart. It requires finding a way of letting go of the space of hurt or anger in our thoughts as well as in our hearts, in our stomach, and all the other places our emotions reveal themselves. This is one of the reasons that forgiveness almost never happens instantaneously. It takes time, reflection, and emotional work. Since each situation is different, the time and work needed will be different as well. Often an important part of the work of forgiveness, is sharing your story. You might want to find a time to drop by and talk to me about a situation where you are struggling to forgive someone, or forgive yourself. Just let me know.