Leaders from several of our national indigenous ministries invite us to a time of worship with them on this day, and through this Indigenous History Month. 


We can learn more about indigenous ministries at https://presbyterian.ca/canadian-ministries/indigenous-ministries/

Christi Belcourt – The Wisdom of the Universe

As the doors are re-opened, some of us will be able to gather in the sanctuary again, and some of us will participate online. All of us will have the opportunity to begin the week in praise and trust of God. Thank God!

Though the provincial Stay at Home Order has been withdrawn, we will continue exploring how to celebrate the sacred in the ordinary, in the world beyond the sanctuary. This morning we will consider the spiritual discipline of walking. 

It is also the Sunday before National Indigenous Peoples Day. As settler Canadians and as Christians we have much to confess and grieve in our relationships with our indigenous neighbours, brothers and sisters. We also have much to learn from them. This morning the sermon will begin with a look at Christi Belcourt’s painting ‘The Wisdom of the Universe’ – the original is found in the Art Gallery of Ontario, and an enlargement is found as a mural on an exterior wall of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Picton ON.

If you are able and wishing to attend in person, please review the protocols detailed in the previous post and in the link found under ‘Special Events’ to the right, ‘Re-Opening the Sanctuary’.

This service will include prayers, our cantor singing hymns classic and contemporary, and some wonderful passages of the Bible. The hour will be live-streamed and available Sunday morning at https://youtu.be/-qF0psR4Z-s. Organ preludes will begin around 10:20 a.m. and the service will commence at 10:30 a.m. Other services can be found on the St. Andrew’s Youtube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/StAndrewsPresbyterianChurchKingston

You are invited to have a look at the printed Order of Service below, and the announcements …

Download (PDF, 365KB)

At their monthly meeting last night, the Elders of St. Andrew’s Kingston agreed that it would be appropriate to re-open the sanctuary beginning this coming Sunday.

No member should feel obliged to attend worship in person while the pandemic is still among us – the service will be live-streamed at 10:30 a.m. and available after as a recording on the congregation’s YouTube channel.

But for any who may find it appropriate, the sanctuary will be opened in accordance with all public health guidelines. Only one door will be open (along Clergy Street by the cannon), up to the calculated 15% capacity of 75. The wearing of face masks and physical distancing will be required … and the only singing possible will be by the appointed cantor.

We thank God for bringing us thus far through the work of so many in our community and nation for good, and look forward to the full reunion to come – as we will sing this Sunday, ‘O God of Bethel … Through each perplexing path of life, our wandering footsteps guide’.


The Sabbath Eve. Alexander Johnston, 1851.

It is classic and ‘high’ Victorian in style, but this canvas does speak to me today. I see a modest rural cottage with rough floor panels, a picture without a frame tacked to the wall, and only a curtain separating the bed from the common room. I see individuals who have set aside their six-day-a-week work clothes for their Sunday best. I see an ailing matriarch, a pensive patriarch, a mother trying to calm her infant, a young man reading passages of Scripture early on the evening of the first day of a new week, and a young woman listening, wondering what to make of what she hears.

But what speaks to me most directly in this particular Sabbath scene was the dimension of family. Individuals with so many differences of age and personality and understanding, but bound together by mutual respect and covenantal love. As I prepare my sermon and bring an update from General Assembly, it is this calling to be a family of Christian faith that is highlighted for me – the call for us to be gathered, to hear and reflect upon and work out the promises of God, for the good of all and to the glory of God – the call to be together.

You are invited to join in an hour of the worship of God – hymns, readings of scripture, sermon and prayers. Have a look below at the Order of Worship and announcements for this Sunday. The service will be available online this Sunday from 10:20 a.m. at https://youtu.be/K2tGASthTto and afterwards placed on the St. Andrew’s Youtube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/StAndrewsPresbyterianChurchKingston

Download (PDF, 366KB)

A small group of members of St. Andrew’s Church gathered this Friday mid-day, climbed the tower and tolled the main bell 215 times.

This was the week that the unmarked graves of 215 indigenous children were revealed at a residential school in Kamloops BC. These graves were of children aged 4-15 who were forcibly taken from their family, denied their community, language and culture. It is hard to fathom the suffering of those children, and the families who never saw their children again, without even the opportunity to bury them. It is hard to fathom the suffering of the children who survived, and the communities that had to deal with such generational loss. It is hard to fathom that this trauma was suffered by indigenous children, families and communities across this land known as Turtle Island.

The tolling of the bell was a personal gesture of solidarity in grief, acknowledgement of complicity, and commitment to reconciliation. You are invited to listen and enter into a time of reflection – https://drive.google.com/file/d/1UUz7cPjDnUtMjPNvz1Bs6Yb-3-95CamU/view?usp=sharing

The Presbyterian Church in Canada has distributed additional resources for us to consider https://presbyterian.ca/2021/05/31/pcc-prays-for-the-lives-lost-at-kamloops-indian-residential-school/ and https://presbyterian.ca/2021/06/05/pcc-and-residential-schools/

Job’s Comforters. William Blake, 1805

Reflections of a recent anti-lockdown protest, unmarked graves at Kingston General Hospital and the residential school of Kamloops, and the struggle to sing the national anthem at a recent hockey game … they all came together this week as I considered the experience of suffering and what to make of it. 

Naturally the experience of Job came to mind. A good and godly individual who knows his world fall apart as he loses his family, his health, his property, Job hurls his question at the heavens – ‘Why God?’ ‘If you are all knowing and all powerful, why do the righteous suffer?’ ‘Why am I suffering?’ His friends offer little comfort, repeating religious and cultural platitudes. Job’s questions are not answered by God either. But Job does come to realize that the experience of suffering is not to be equated with the absence or apathy of God. It is something we know as Christians in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. And Barbara Brown Taylor writes in her book An Altar in the World that in fact ‘Pain is one of the fastest routes to a no-frills encounter with the Holy’.

You are invited to join in an hour of the worship of God – hymns, readings of scripture, sermon and prayers, including a celebration of the Lord’s Supper (so you are invited to prepare with bread and cup beforehand). 

Have a look below at the Order of Worship and announcements for this Sunday. The service will be available online this Sunday from 10:20 a.m. at https://youtu.be/PrhBhq7cX7U and on the St. Andrew’s Youtube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/StAndrewsPresbyterianChurchKingston

Download (PDF, 506KB)

This afternoon I had the honour to represent members of the Presbyterian community in Kingston, past and present. In the mid 19th century a potato blight caused the deaths of more than 1 million Irish. Those who were able attempted to flee. In 1847 over 90,000 journeyed across the Atlantic and some landed in Kingston. But in just a few months over 1400 died in this city due to typhus contracted on the ‘coffin ships’ or in the hastily raised ‘fever sheds’ along the shore into which they were crammed when they arrived. Most were buried in a mass grave on what is now part of Kingston General Hospital. The hospital is preparing for new building which will involve disinterring the remains of these children, women and men (mainly Roman Catholic, quite a few Church of Ireland and some Presbyterian). 

As we gathered inn prayer around these unmarked graves here in Kingston, I was conscious of those other unmarked graves that are very much before us this week, of indigenous children who were taken from their families and communities and died at a residential school in Kamloops BC. It is hard for me to fathom what this meant for the children who survived, for the families who never saw their children again and did not have the opportunity even to bury them, and for the communities that had to deal with such loss and anger. The Presbyterian Church in Canada has distributed a statement and a prayer in which we can share, and additional resources for us to consider. The page can be found at https://presbyterian.ca/2021/05/31/pcc-prays-for-the-lives-lost-at-kamloops-indian-residential-school/

A warm embrace, in Christ,

Holy One, as we gather here the cry lifted up by the psalmist of old comes to my ears and heart, a cry of so many since …

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me,
from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest. (Psalm 22)

As we stand upon this ground, the cries of men, women and children from the year 1847 echo to this day. They were forced to leave behind homeland and community, the suffered hunger and illness, they found themselves abandoned here in this far land, and their cries only grew deeper as they held loved ones dying and even gave up their own last breath.

O God, I believe they are in your eternal arms. And I believe you have  shown me in the death of Jesus that such suffering is not your will but rather you are present in the midst of it and hold us through it, that you bring us through life and even life through death. As these earthly remains find a new resting place, I thank you for this assurance for their lives, and for ours.

I also remember some of the last words of our Lord among us … sharing what makes a life ultimately truly human and enduring.

I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was sick and you took care of me … Truly I tell you, just as you do it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you do it to me.  (Matthew 25)

As surely as we mourn the suffering and deaths of these coffin ships and quarantine sheds, and condemn the politics and greed that brought them to these shores exhausted, ill and dying, I thank you for all who did reach out to extend assistance and company in their day. As we look back, we also look around, and I acknowledge the calling I now have to shape my life and community and nation in care of all in need in our time, neighbor and stranger, to support public health care and welcome refugees. As we bring to solemn remembrance those who have gone before, move me into a greater commitment to take up the ways of life for all today, in the way and name of Jesus Christ. 


p.s. On pages 72-73 of The Rock and The Sword, one can find reference to the Typhus epidemic in Kingston and the ministry of the Rev. Machar, including the quote ‘I have been much occupied in attending upon the sick and dying … My life is one of toil, but I would not have it otherwise’.