As we journey through the book of Acts, we hear now the story often called ‘the conversion of Cornelius’. It is fascinating and it is challenging – I hope you can join us!

Cornelius is a Roman centurion stationed in Caesarea, who becomes the first non-Jew, the first Gentile, to be welcomed as a Christian, into the fellowship of the Church, and embraced as a brother in Christ. The Church becomes the Church!

After reading and re-reading this story, I have thought it might better that this story be called ‘the conversion of Peter’. Peter has been raised within the covenant people and raised up by Jesus as representative of the ‘rock’ upon whom the Church will be built. On his way to Caesarea Peter receives a dream, with a command from on high to eat food long forbidden to the faithful. He resists eating the ‘gentile’ food to keep himself ‘pure’ as one of God’s chosen people, but finally Peter understands – God has enlarged the boundaries of those to be embraced within the community of the faithful, and now to be numbered among the faith he needed to enlarge his own embrace.

How wonderful to hear and ponder this story on Reformation Sunday, with the great exhortation brought forward over the centuries – the Church ‘reformed … and always reforming’! Not change for the sake of change, but change in accordance with the call of the Holy One. As with Peter, so may it be with Presbyterians.

Join us if you are in the area. The concrete sidewalks have been poured along Clergy Street and are open. Ample and free parking is available along neighbouring streets and in the public lot off Queen Street just behind the church. During the service there is a nursery for infants and children up to and including 3 years of age, and also a programme for older children. Have a look at the order of service and the announcements – I invite you to consider each a personal invitation to grow in Christian faith, community and service. You would be welcome!

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As I sit at my desk, I am wet and cold. But my heart is, as John Wesley once said, ‘strangely warmed’.

I was out at the Collins Bay federal penitentiary this morning. A group of 17 men there had organized a long distance run as an opportunity to raise money. Given the limited amount of money that incarcerated men there have, the total of over $300 was incredible. They had heard about the Sunday Supper programme of St. Andrew’s Church, offering a free home cooked meal to all, and the chaplain had arranged for the cheque to be presented this morning to help cover the costs of a couple of meals. It was a privilege to represent the congregation. And it was humbling to acknowledge how these men took up Christ’s mission of extending the care of neighbour and stranger.

Earlier in the week we had begun our Tuesday evening study series. This autumn we are focusing upon the dynamics of the Reformation, in preparation for next year’s 500th anniversary of Luther posting his 95 theses upon the door of the church in Wittenberg. To begin, I invited each table to use paper and a marker to draw some image of the history of the Church and Christian faith. One table drew a line with a beginning and an ending, but with many peaks and valleys between, signifying a movement towards God’s kingdom but filled with eras of both faithfulness and unfaithfulness, inspiration and conformity, growth and decline. Among the others, another table drew a rough picture of the continents, and with arrows showed how the gospel had spread from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth … and then all around and even back. I am very aware of the wonderful mission movements of the Presbyterian Church through the 19th and 20th centuries, but equally how now we are welcoming the gospel by way of new Canadians. It is humbling, and affirming, to celebrate how at St. Andrew’s Kingston we are being strengthened by members who come to us filled with Christian faith from Ghana and Korea and Indonesia and other cultures and nations.

Mission is particularly on our minds and upon our hearts this month.

Each week this autumn we have received on Sunday morning consecutive portions of a paper by the Committee on Church Doctrine entitled ‘Living God’s Mission Today’. The point these paragraphs make is that it is all God’s mission, not ours. It is God who is at work in this world for healing and justice and hope. We are blessed when we participate in God’s mission. By standing with our Living Lord in this world, we allow the love and life of God to flow into and through us to others. And often, as in a penitentiary and a congregation, we can feel the love and life of God flow into us from others!

10154179_10153970302800117_782001521696425002_nThis Sunday morning we welcome Lucie Howell of Mustard Seed Canada to tell us about the work being supported in Asia in the name of Christ. Join us if you are in the area. There is a nursery for infants and a programme for children during the service. Clergy Street remains closed, but there should be walkways providing entrance to the church, and the public parking lot behind the church off Queen Street offers free parking as well as neighbouring streets. There is an accessible door (and washroom) available off Princess Street to the west side of the sanctuary.

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Sunday October 16, 2016, marks 175 years to the day that a Royal Charter was granted to the Synod of the Presbyterian Church in connection with the Church of Scotland to begin an institution of higher learning in Upper Canada. An alternate was sought to the publicly funded King’s College of York (Toronto), which demanded all students as well as staff subscribe to the tenets of the Church of England. The Charter granted by Queen Victoria decreed that the new institution, to be known as Queen’s, would be built within three miles of St. Andrew’s Church Kingston, in recognition of the formative role of the congregation and the denomination. First classes were held early in 1842, with a Principal, a professor of classics, and eventually over a dozen students. Though it was open from its beginning to students of all religious backgrounds, it was the Presbyterian community that provided the leadership and financial support to maintain the college through its first eight decades, until the university was handed over to its graduates in 1912 and government funding secured.


This Sunday of Homecoming Weekend we will celebrate the contribution Christian faith (and the Presbyterian Church) has made to our nation – we will remember the St. Andrew’s cross at the centre of the Queen’s crest, and the university’s motto ‘Sapientia et Doctrina Stabilitas’ (Isaiah 33:6). We will celebrate how Queen’s and Christians continue to contribute to the life of our nation, to the glory of God.

Join us if you are in the area. There is free parking on street around (though Clergy Street is closed) and in the public lot just behind the church off Queen Street. An accessible entrance is available along Princess Street at the west end of the church. There is a nursery for infants and children up to and including three, and older children will be greeted with an activity bag and invited to remain in the sanctuary for worship. Have a look at the Order of Service – we look forward to welcoming you!

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Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done, in whom God’s world rejoices,
who from our mother’s arms has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

It will be good to gather this weekend and give thanks.

Otherwise it can all be so overwhelming. The issues of the groaning creation. The violence and injustice suffered by so many peoples within our nation and beyond. The frailties, failures and fears of each of us as individuals. These dimensions of our days, and so much more, can easily overwhelm and rule our lives.

They are real. But there is another reality that can release rather than constrain life. And this is the weekend that reality returns to view. We can give thanks. We can acknowledge the wonder of soil, sun and water bringing forth grain for bread and vines for wine. We can remember the labour of many for the common good. We can recognize that not one of us choose to be born, and that we are inheritors of generations of inspiration and beauty and example. It is all gift, and we can give thanks.

We can not give thanks generally, however. No gift is truly a gift unless the giver is thanked. This weekend we return to the Giver, ‘Now thank we all our God’.

And in the thanksgiving, life is renewed. The issues, the burdens, the struggles remain. But we are renewed with a larger perspective. We have the assurance that we are not only of origin and destiny, but we are accompanied. We know this in Christ. And gratitude gives way to freedom and generosity in the Christian, whatever the season or circumstance.

As we continue to read our way through the stories of the first Christians, we come to the conversion of Saul upon the road to Damascus (Acts 9). Might our conversion in Christ be one to gratitude, deep and full? It would certainly set me on a different path in this world.

If you are in the area, join us in the worship of God this Thanksgiving Sunday. Scroll through the order of service below. There is a nursery for infants and a programme for children during the service if they are interested. Clergy Street remains closed – if parking in the free public lot off Queen Street behind the church, you may need to walk from the manse driveway and around the stone wall on the grass.

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The autumn edition of our congregational newsletter, hot off the press. Thanks to our editor, these pages provide a great introduction to some of the people and opportunities of the community known as St. Andrew’s Kingston. We would welcome you to join in the fun, fellowship and faith.

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‘When Strangers Meet: How People You Don’t Know Can Transform You’ is the title of a new book by Kio Stark. The review I read recently is enticing. Contrary to ‘stranger danger’ upon which a couple of generations have now been raised, the claim is made that speaking to unknown others can be a gift. All you know of the other is their humanity, and connecting at that foundational level can make you feel more human. Strangers can be mediums of the unexpected and new that encourage growth. Strangers can understand us even better than those closest to us, without accumulated layers of experience and expectation.

I thought of this as I read the story of Philip running up to the Ethiopian in the passing chariot (Acts 8: 26-40). Speaking to the stranger here is of divine will – God sends Philip to the side of the Ethiopian. The stranger (to us) invites another stranger (to him) into conversation, and hears something new and transformative. He becomes the first African Christian. The one stranger ‘went on his way rejoicing’ and other stranger (Philip) is sent by the Spirit strengthened by the experience to speak to other strangers.

What a great affirmation of our humanity, that we can connect with unknown others immediately and deeply. What a great promise for us in our seeking, whether seeking to share or seeking to receive, that the Spirit may work best among us in realms of the ‘new’ rather than the ‘known’.

If you are in the area Sunday morning, please join us in the worship of God. There is a nursery for infants and a programme for children available during the service. If driving, there is ample parking on the surrounding streets or in the public surface lot off Queen Street behind the church. Have a look at the Order of Service, and the announcements that follow, and join us in Christian worship, fellowship and service.

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So we continue our journey with the first Christians through the Acts of the Apostles. Persecution drives them from Jerusalem, but God uses their scattering to share the gospel known in Jesus to other peoples (Acts 8:1-20). Philip preaches amongst the Samaritans, and great joy is known. Peter and John are sent to confirm this new development, and the Holy Spirit descends upon this ‘other’ people and they are included into the Church, the Community of Christ, the beginning of the renewal of the Human Community.


I thought of this work of God, of this divine dynamic of inclusion and community, as I reflected upon a shard of news this week. The campaign of an American presidential candidate sought to attract support with a tweet that used the image of a bowl of differently-coloured candies named Skittles – ‘If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you, would you eat them? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.’ The illustration troubled me greatly. Then a friend shared a response that helped greatly: ‘Are the other skittles human lives? … Is there a good chance I would be saving someone from a war zone and probably their life if I ate a Skittle? … I would eat the Skittles … I would GORGE myself on Skittles … And when I found the poison Skittle and died I would make sure to leave behind a legacy of children and of friends who also ate Skittle after Skittle until there were no more to be eaten. And each person who found the poison Skittle we would weep for. We would weep for their loss, for their sacrifice, and for the fact that they did not let themselves succumb to fear but made the world a better place by eating Skittles …. The real question … is ‘Is my life more important than thousands upon thousands of men, women and terrified children?’ and what kind of monster would think the answer to that question is yes?’

Reading this, I am reminded of our Lord laying down his life for the lives of all humanity; I am reminded about the many Christians who have witnessed to life in Christ with sacrifice, even unto death. But today I am also strongly reminded that community has been God’s will since the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, a community that reaches out further and further beyond itself to include all peoples. In the Church Christians learn a lesson about community for life in all its fullness. So may it be.

This Sunday morning, join us in the worship of God if you are in the area … and in the practice of community. There is free parking in the civic lot just behind St. Andrew’s off Queen Street. There is a nursery for infants and children up to and including three years of age. There is a program for all other children during the service if they wish. There is a warm welcome in the name of Christ for all.

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