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,
Andrew

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. 

Amen.

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’.

 

 

 




 

The Trinity – Georgy Kurasov (Russia) 1992

During my preparations for this Trinity Sunday service, I came across this painting by the St. Petersburg artist Georgy Kurasov. The Cubist-inspired style, with disjointed colours and shapes, demands that I look carefully at what is portrayed. And what I see is a wonderful image of the One-in-Three and Three-in-One. 

I see only half of each face, reminding me of the continuing mystery that is the Holy One. I see God the Father holding the cross of Christ, this redemptive love at the centre of God’s will and being. I see a hand of both God the Son and God the Holy Spirit together forming a heart, reaching out, pointing to me and to you. And most of all I am reminded that God is not some static or monolithic entity, but that God is in God’s own being relational and a community of love, a dynamic of love that overflows to bring this universe into being, humanity to know salvation, and the Church to be raised up and sustained.

In the midst of all the mystery, there is much to celebrate this Trinity Sunday. I invite you to join me. Our worship will include wonderful hymns, from the words of the 6th century Patrick ‘I bind unto myself this day’ to the 20th century, ‘We are one in the Spirit … and they will know we are Christians by our love’.

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/Jvw9X72LJsw and thereafter on the St. Andrew’s Youtube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/StAndrewsPresbyterianChurchKingston

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Have a look at the list of services and announcements for the forthcoming weeks. Please consider each a personal invitation to join in Christian worship, community and service. 

The format allows for printing double-sided as a trifold brochure.

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Pentecost Mosaic Photo credit: Music4Life,Pixabay

No, this is not an image of the first recorded fire drill! This is Pentecost Sunday, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the followers of Jesus to bind them together into … the Church, the living body of the Living Lord (Acts 2).

Our celebration will include multiple readers bringing the scene of scripture alive, some classic hymns of the day including Spirit, Spirit of gentleness and Revive your work O Lord, and a sermon that quotes Dr. Suzanne Simard from her new book Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest. 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/Ty20gtt-bI0 and thereafter on the St. Andrew’s Youtube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/StAndrewsPresbyterianChurchKingston

Here is a prayer for the day, from Hildegard of Bingen, Germany (12th century)

Holy Spirit,
making life alive,
moving in all things,
root of all created being, 
cleansing the cosmos of every impurity, 
anointing wounds.
You are lustrous and praiseworthy life, 
you waken and re-awaken everything that is. 

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It is Ascension Sunday, and I particularly enjoyed the challenge of selecting an image with which to focus and extend my thoughts this week.

Some images imagine Jesus in the act of ascending and looking up into the light of glory ahead. Others imagine the scene from the perspective of the disciples, looking up as Jesus ascends with the canvas showing only the bottoms of his feet. And so many others as well!

In the end I landed on this work from 1483 by Melozzo da Forli. I concede that it is more about the Ascended Jesus than the Ascension of Jesus. But for me this image reinforces not just the last scene of Luke’s Gospel, but the whole point of the incarnation, ministry, death and resurrection of our Lord. Here we see Jesus, risen and ascended, standing on the clouds of eternity but even in glory he continues to look upon the humanity of his love, and his hands are raised eternally in blessing of us all.

The hour this Sunday will include wonderful hymns of heritage, from ‘Fairest Lord Jesus’ to ‘Jesus shall reign’ and ‘Crown him with many crowns’, along with readings of Scripture and prayers for our world. As we continue to explore themes raised by Barbara Brown Taylor in her book ‘An Altar in the World’, the sermon will focus upon the act of blessing, God’s initiative and our calling. 

During the service, reference will be made to the ‘Statement on Recent Violence in Gaza’ of the Presbyterian Church in Canada – you can find it at https://presbyterian.ca/2021/05/14/statement-on-recent-violence-in-gaza/

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/bfEEjAXjeEE and thereafter on the St. Andrew’s Youtube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/StAndrewsPresbyterianChurchKingston

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Georgia O’Keeffe. Pink and Yellow Tulips, 1925.

Georgia O’Keeffe is known for her close-ups of flowers, like these tulips. Her canvases are much appreciated, and in fact one holds the distinction of the highest price paid for any painting of a woman artist – $44 million at an auction in 2014. But what of O’Keeffe’s own motivation and appreciation?

A flower is relatively small. Everyone has many associations with a flower – the idea of flowers. You put out your hand to touch the flower — lean forward to smell it — maybe touch it with your lips almost without thinking — or give it to someone to please them. Still — in a way — nobody sees a flower — really — it is so small — we haven’t time — and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time… So I said to myself — I’ll paint what I see — what the flower is to me but I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it — I will make even busy New-Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers …

This theme of ‘seeing’ what is right before us is a spiritual practice suggested by Barbara Brown Taylor in her book ‘An Altar In The World’, one that we all can enter into, and perhaps particularly during this season of pandemic. I think of the invitation, the extortion, of Jesus … ‘Consider the lilies … ‘ (Matthew 6:20). You are invited to join in an hour of the worship of God – hymns, readings of scripture, sermon and prayers – as we ‘consider’ our lives and the presence and promises of God.

In support of the recent provincial ‘stay at home’ mandate, the Elders of St. Andrew’s have decided it would best to suspend in-person worship until further notice. This service will be available online this Sunday from 10:20 a.m. at https://youtu.be/-i4SoXlV2UU and thereafter on the St. Andrew’s Youtube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/StAndrewsPresbyterianChurchKingston

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Dodge Dart (2020) by Carol Aust www.carolaust.com  Used with the artist’s permission

I love this painting by California-based artist Carol Aust. The title of the canvas refers to the car, but the scene is all about the person sitting on its hood. I see an individual lost in thought. But there are other dynamics in evidence also. I can hear the hills around echo ‘Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth’ (Psalm 121) and the geese over head honking their encouragement to take up ‘the Way’ (Acts 9:2). This fourth Sunday of Easter, we continue to explore ‘the Sacred in the Ordinary’, and in particular the common human experience of feeling lost, in all its dimensions and possibilities. 

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). 

In support of the recent provincial ‘stay at home’ mandate, the Elders of St. Andrew’s have decided it would best to suspend in-person worship until further notice. This service will be available online this Sunday from 10:20 a.m. at https://youtu.be/biMLJcnSQ7o and available thereafter on the St. Andrew’s Youtube channel,  https://www.youtube.com/c/StAndrewsPresbyterianChurchKingston

Download (PDF, 472KB)