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This Sunday we celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. As we sing the great hymn ‘The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ our Lord’, we will be reminded that there is only one church, the Church of Christ. And that Orthodox, Protestant, Roman Catholic together, we are united by ‘one Lord, one faith, one birth, one holy name professing and at one table fed, to one hope we are pressing, by Christ’s own Spirit led’. Humility before each other, hope in God alone.

‘Oikomene’ was the classical Greek word used to speak of ‘the whole inhabited world’. In Christian circles, it (and its derivative ‘ecumenical’ in English) has come to refer to the whole Church of Christ. This morning we will meet the disciples in a boat upon the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 14: 22-33) – they are terrified, and to them comes Jesus upon the water. The symbol of the boat is an appropriate one for the Church – perhaps adrift, perhaps beset by storm, but never abandoned by its Lord (notice the mast at the very centre of the boat!).

In the evening we will gather with others from across the city to witness together to our unity in Christ (St. Mark’s Lutheran, 263 Victoria, 7 p.m.). Join us, both morning and evening!

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The week comes to a close and I look forward to beginning a new week of grace in praise and worship. And I am moved by the words with which John Hall, the Director of Music at St. Andrew’s Kingston, will welcome us in the Order of Service –

I come from a family of teachers, but I myself, preferred not to go into teaching as a full-time profession. Instead, I chose a career where one can never stop learning. The piano is a complex instrument and one can spend a lifetime understanding it and learning how to service it. After 40 years as a piano technician I like to think that I am still getting better at it. Similarly with one’s faith; we need to continue questioning, learning and sometimes teaching about our faith throughout our lives. We never have all the answers, but throughout this process of questioning and learning, our lives can only get richer.

John’s theme of learning is intentional as well as accurate. This morning our worship we welcome a team from Geneva House to lead us in worship of God – Geneva House is a Christian community of fellowship, study and witness at Queen’s University, and supported by many local churches, including St. Andrew’s. Together we will consider the words of the psalmist (#119) that will be sung as an introit,

Teach me, O Lord, your way of truth, and from it I will not depart; that I may steadfastly obey, give me an understanding heart.

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In preparation for worship, I offer this prayer:

God our maker, we are grateful that you created us free and curious persons, inhabitants of this beautiful earth. You have revealed your love for us by giving us both the capacity to make choices and the ability to heed your guidance. We are students in your world, O God, and as we pass through the years, help us to remain eager learners of your ways.
With the Bible as an open book in our hands, may our minds open as well.
With Jesus as teacher and example, may our hearts enlarge in discipleship.
With your Spirit as inspiration, may our wisdom increase.
Fill this time of worship with your presence. In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen. (Glen E. Rainsley. Hear Our Prayer)

Have a look at the Order of Service, and join us!

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Sunday January 11 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Sir John A. Macdonald. As Presbyterians we add a particular dimension to the national discussions and celebrations of the day – we remember that our nation’s first Prime Minister was raised within the worship of St. Andrew’s Church Kingston, of which his father, Hugh Macdonald, was among the first elders. As a young lawyer and member of St. Andrew’s, John A. Macdonald seconded the motion at a congregational meeting to begin Queen’s College in 1841, which later became Queen’s University.

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‘The faith that shaped the man who shaped a nation’ will be highlighted during this special afternoon hour in the sanctuary. We will be greeted at the sanctuary doors by folk in attire of the first half of the nineteenth century. The same Scottish metrical psalms sung in the early 19th century will be sung again – six of them, including ‘All people that on earth do dwell’, ‘God’s name for ever shall endure’, and ‘Ye gates, ye doors lift up your heads on high’ – but as was the custom then, unaccompanied, led by a precentor with a tuning fork. We will hear about other distinctives of the Presbyterian worship of Sir John’s childhood and youth,  including the use of Communion Tokens, as these of the congregation of St. Andrew’s from the year 1823.

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Join us!

This hour in the sanctuary will be followed by a demonstration by the Royal Scottish Country Dancing Society in St. Andrew’s Hall from 6-7 p.m., Scottish nibbles in the manse from 7-8 p.m., and a performance by Salon Theatre back in the Hall at 8 p.m. All free! Ample parking available along the streets and in the public lot on Queen Street just west of Clergy.

 

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Medieval European art is highly stylized, with elongated figures and stiff poses. It may not be to everyone’s taste but it does focus our eyes upon the intended message. Take this panel from a psalter of the 12th century at Westminster Priory in England. It accompanies the text of the Baptism of Jesus, as we will read this Sunday, Mark 1: 1-11. I am struck how clearly the servanthood of Jesus is communicated as he sets out upon his public ministry, with Jesus of small stature before John the Baptiser, without clothing of any kind, and head bowed. I am also struck how clearly the affirmation of Jesus is communicated, not only by the Spirit descending like a dove, but by the waters of creation (with its fish!) leaping up to acknowledge him. ‘You are my beloved’ is heard loud and clear – ‘beloved’ because he has accepted the call to work a new beginning for humanity.

With the congregations of St. George’s Anglican and Sydenham Street United, we will also read Psalm 72. This day marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Sir John A. Macdonald. This father of Confederation had affiliations with all three ‘streams’ of the Church over his life time, and this psalm is said to be the one from which the title (‘dominion’) and the motto (A Mari usque ad Mare) of the new nation of Canada arose – ‘May he have dominion from sea to sea’ (verse 8).

Join us! And come early at 10:10 a.m. for a pre-service, by-request hymn sing.

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This evening we are greeted by a painting of the 17th century Dutch artist Gerrit von Honthorst. Look how the darkness is acknowledged, even emphasized, as if to declare that there is much unknown and not understood in this life, that this is a world in which injustice and illness, betrayal and oppression abound … but that this is also a world in which there is light. The light is not of a spectacular beam from another galaxy or from flaming torches of a royal procession. There is not even a single candle seen. The light comes from … a child. The light comes from God who has come amongst us in Jesus Christ and in love, ‘for us and our salvation’ as the ancient Nicene Creed sings.

When the congregation joins in singing ‘Silent night, holy night’ and hundreds of candles are lit, I love the way the glass dome over the sanctuary comes alive with the reflections of the flames, like twinkling stars or dare I say a heavenly host. This evening we gather with carols and readings and candles, so our lives might be touched by ‘salve’, healing, and our spirits might be renewed by the beauty and certainty of the promises of God. Join us!

There is ample parking available on the streets around and in the public lot off Queen Street. Handicapped entrance and washrooms are available through the western door off Princess Street (you’ll see the ramp). A retiring offering will be received, to support both HomeBaseHousing in Kingston and the care of the 3 million refugees of Syria.

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During our worship this Sunday before Christmas, we will present our ‘white gifts’ (this year, books to augment the library and support the whole community of Central Public School around the corner from the church) and members of the church school will present in skit and interpretive dance ‘Hope and Breaking News: The Shepherds’ Perspective’.

I remember the time I first read Raymond E. Brown’s ‘An Adult Christ at Christmas’, and how the story of the shepherds came alive for me when I realized that as they told the story of the shepherds, the first Christians were really speaking about themselves.

Like those shepherds of  Israel, many of the first Christians in the towns of the Middle East and Asia Minor were humble, few were of any status, many were indeed slaves. But like those shepherds, to them had come a wonderful message, the good news of salvation, of new beginnings, of relationship with the one true God through Jesus Christ. They had heard the good news proclaimed, not by an angel but by the apostles, Peter, Paul, James, Andrew, Thomas and the communities that grew up upon the preaching of these apostles.

Like those shepherds, they had been filled with wonder and had been willing to explore this gospel, they had dared to believe the best. At the beginning of each week, to mark the day of Resurrection, they met in homes (sometimes marked secretly for fear of persecution), they shared meals, they sang and prayed in a deep and holy fellowship of faith. They had felt the Living Lord in their midst: they had known their hearts opened, their lives changed, as they were grown to live with Christ, in Christ, Jesus Christ who had lain down his life for them and was raised as the first of all who would follow, who called them to take up his way in this world.

Like those shepherds, they returned to their homes and work praising God, witnessing to the glory of God. They lived their best, spoke to family members and friends and strangers about the Christ in whom they knew healing and hope, they lived with an integrity and compassion that attracted others to follow the Way. They cared for the widows and orphans, they knew the joy of being embraced by God, the joy that did not leave them during times of illness, poverty, or oppression, the joy that did not separate happy days from sad days, or experiences of honour from experiences of dishonour, or passion from resurrection. They transformed the homes and streets and cities, living ordinary lives in the most extraordinary ways, from a perspective of abundance, having received life abundant and eternal in Christ, life flowed over from them into their communities. They felt no need to excel, to be exceptional: in the ordinary God had come, in the ordinary they would serve God and know good.

We will reconsider the story of the shepherds this Sunday morning, and are own lives … in the grace of God known in Jesus Christ. Join us!

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Every month this congregation inserts an invitation into the university’s student-run paper, The Queen’s Journal. I forwarded this week’s copy to the editor, thinking of the incredible stress that students are facing with end-of-term papers due and exams in full swing –  ‘Take a Break! … beautiful music … words of promise … Join us Sunday at St. Andrew’s Church’. And for a graphic I added a variation on the classic ‘Keep Calm’ poster – ‘Keep Calm: God works to bring all things together for good (Romans 8:28)’. I quickly realised however that there was no issue this week … due to exams! But then I thought perhaps the same invitation might be appropriate far beyond the campus.

This Sunday, an hour filled with Advent words of assurance and anticipation, complemented by carols and anthems that open us to beauty and spiritual strength. Even the preacher will sit back and just receive. Have a look at the Order of Service below (and if you scroll through you will find all the scripture lessons printed out also), and join us!

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14 DUCCIO CALLING OF PETER AND ANDREW

The Calling of Peter and Andrew by Duccio di Buoninsegna (c. 1308-11)

Advent and St. Andrew’s Day!

Andrew is the patron saint of Barbados, Romania, Russia, Ukraine and yes, Scotland. Our congregation bears the name of St. Andrew because most of the members who welcomed their first minister in 1822 were raised on the other side of the Atlantic within the Church of Scotland, as opposed to fellow residents who were originally English and members of St. George’s Church (of the Church of England!).
Today, almost 200 years later, a congregation continues to gather on the same corner at the centre of the city of Kingston, beginning each week in the praise of God and with prayers for God’s world. There are few Scottish accents to be heard, and the congregation now gathers folks originally from many nations and Christian traditions (including Brazil, France, Ghana, India, Korean, Netherlands, Taiwan, as well as many parts of Canada.)
Together we continue to bear humbly the name ‘St. Andrew’s Church’, and the cross on which Andrew is said to have been martyred continues to be found at the top of the steeple. It is no longer a reference to a nationality or a denomination, but a reminder of the faithful life of one of our Lord’s first disciples and apostles.
As we light the first candle of Advent, we acknowledge a new church year commencing. And this year, graciously, we begin on St. Andrew’s Day, and we remember not only our beginning but our calling within the context of God’s great work of offering humanity new beginnings in Jesus Christ and God’s kingdom of peace and justice.
Join us! Please peruse not only the Order of Worship below, but also the many invitations to grow in Christian faith, community and service with us.

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