Favorite Hymn


Here is the link to another episode of Rev. Brad’s Favourite Hymns.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ieOkMnXuBq4&t=5s


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 14, 2020

Members & Friends of Summerside Presbyterian Church:

Typically when the Spring season arrives, I write a letter to the congregation outlining some of the many exciting events coming up that we have to look forward to: occasions such as our annual Camp Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, and Graduate Recognition Sunday.  At each such event we take great care to plan appropriate worship services accompanied by times of fellowship and celebration.  We enjoy lunches and cakes while people visit and laugh together in the church’s Fellowship Hall.  Those are some of my favourite times!

However, as you can imagine, this Spring will look different. There will be no special gatherings here at the church, no lunches together and no cakes.

So what do I have to write to you about this year?  Well this year I want to remind you that, as much as we all enjoy lunches and cakes and our moments of celebration spent together, the church’s ministry is so much more than just these things.

This Spring we will continue to recognize important milestones such as graduation; we will continue to celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit given at Pentecost; but we will be doing so in new and creative ways, making use of technology and the promise that God’s Spirit unites us even when we are apart!

Christ’s ministry, as it happens in and through the church, is not contingent upon us gathering together. In fact, I believe that our church family has continued to engage in some of its most important ministries since this pandemic started.  We are making increased efforts to keep connected with those who may feel particularly isolated and alone.  We are continuing to find new ways to unite in both worship and mission.

All of these things continue to happen because of the generosity of so many who continue to give to support our ongoing ministries. For all of these gifts we are so incredibly thankful!

Others have asked how they can continue to participate and support the church.

The good news is that, even in the midst of not being able to physically gather together, there are still many opportunities and ways to be involved.

Perhaps the most fundamental is to continue to uphold the church and its ministry in your prayers as we seek new and creative ways to engage in Christ’s ministry.

Another way is to share words of encouragement. Every week I receive feedback from many expressing their gratitude for the work that continues to be done. I may not always be able to respond; but each of you should know how important those messages of encouragement are!

For those who would like to contribute financially there are some very simple ways to do so.

Many have found that the simplest way to continue contributing is through our Pre-Authorized Remittance Program (PAR). This is very easy to set up by providing the church office with some basic banking information. Then once a month a gift of whatever the designated amount is automatically withdrawn from your account and given to the church.  It is that simple and, if you wish, can be just as easily canceled when we begin gathering for worship again.  If you would like to set this up, even if only for a trial basis, I would encourage you to give Church Administrator Cheri a call (902-439-3878).  She would love to hear from you!

(It should be noted that we have made the decision to lay Cheri off temporarily during this pandemic. However, we are incredibly thankful to her as she continues to give of her time by volunteering in the church office!)

We are also now able to accept e-transfers. Gifts can be sent right from your online banking account to summersidepresbyterian@gmail.com.

Another easy option is to mail a cheque to the church (130 Victoria Rd., Summerside, PE C1N 2G5).  We continue to check the mail several times a week.  If this is your preferred method of giving it may be worth considering sending in post-dated cheques so you aren’t having to run to the post office each week!

These are just some of the ways that you can continue to support the work and ministry of our congregation through the days ahead.

Once again, while this Spring season may look and feel differently than others, the church’s mission remains the same as we strive to live out the faith we have always affirmed. May we, as followers of Christ, embrace this opportunity.  Each of us has been greatly blessed in various ways.  Let us use whatever gifts may be ours to find new and creative ways to continue to engage in Christ’s ministry!

In closing I offer this prayer of thanksgiving for the generosity that continues to bless our community:

Grace-filled and Generous God:  You are the Giver of every good and perfect gift.

During these challenging days we give you thanks for the generosity of those who continue to seek ways to be involved in and support the work of your Kingdom.  For those who keep your Church in their prayers; for those who offer kind and encouraging words to others; for those who even in times of uncertainty continue to give of their own resources for the wellbeing of others – for all of these graces we give you thanks and praise.

May you continue to bless all that we offer, that it may be used to your glory!  In Christ’s name we pray.  Amen.


April 14th

Hello!

I hope everyone had an enjoyable and meaningful Easter weekend, despite it being quite different for many of us!  Over the past number of days I have received quite a bit of positive feedback on the services that were prepared (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday & Easter morning).  I haven’t had a chance to respond to all who sent feedback so I wanted to take a moment and thank each of you for your kind and supportive words.  I have learned a lot over the past week or so!  We will be continuing to do our best to provide you with worship resources and other material throughout the duration of this pandemic.

This leads me to my next point.  Remember the old saying about laughter being the best medicine?  It turns out that there may be some truth to that!  Various studies have linked laughter to all sorts of health benefits – everything from boosting your immune system to protecting your heart to (perhaps what is most particularly relevant to us today!) reducing stress.  It is with these benefits in mind that I am excited to announce the return of Holy Humour Sunday!

As far back as the 15th century, some churches have designated the first Sunday after Easter  as a time to celebrate “Risus Paschalis” (“God’s joke” or “Easter laugh”) – celebrating the supreme joke that God played on Satan by raising Jesus from the dead.

As a part of our celebration, this week’s service will include lots of jokes.  So this is where you have an opportunity to be involved.  I would encourage anyone who has a joke or funny story they would like to share to please do so.  Here’s how:  My preference is to have a video recorded of yourself telling the joke or story.  You can do this on most any smartphone and then send it to me through Facebook Messenger or email.  With any luck I should be able to include your clip as a part of the service.  For those not comfortable with being on camera, the other option is to write it down and email it to bradblaikie@hotmail.com.  I will try to include as many as I can in our upcoming service.  So, get thinking about which (“church appropriate”) joke or funny story you would like to contribute.  I would like to receive them by Thursday, giving myself enough time to hopefully pull this all together!

Thanks in advance for your help!  I look forward to Sunday as “together-but-apart” we celebrate, through laughter, the fact that Jesus brought victory over Sin and Death.

Rev. Brad


April 5, 2020

Palm Sunday 2020:  “Great Expectations”

Matthew 21:1-11 (NIRV)

As they all approached Jerusalem, they came to Bethphage. It was on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent out two disciples. He said to them, “Go to the village ahead of you. As soon as you get there, you will find a donkey tied up. Her colt will be with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them. The owner will send them right away.”

This took place so that what was spoken through the prophet would come true. It says,

“Say to the city of Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you.
He is gentle and riding on a donkey.
He is riding on a donkey’s colt.’ ”
(Zechariah 9:9)

The disciples went and did what Jesus told them to do. They brought the donkey and the colt. They placed their coats on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their coats on the road. Others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Some of the people went ahead of him, and some followed. They all shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”

(Psalm 118:26)

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up. The people asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus. He is the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

This morning we focus our attention on palm branches… on donkeys… and on crowds shouting “hosanna” – it is an ancient Hebrew word that means, quite literally, “Save us, we pray.”

It is often during times of trial that many people turn to God, isn’t it?

Historians tell us that during the Second World War churches saw a significant increase in attendance. The Sunday after the 9/11 terrorist attacks church attendance in North America rose by 6% from the previous week.  Times of uncertainty and trial cause many people to begin asking deep questions about life and its meaning.  It is during these moments that some, who have never turned to God before, begin to cry out “Hosanna – save us”.

Doesn’t this resonate with us today as we live through, and try to make some sense of, the Covid-19 pandemic?  Each Sunday St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Montague live-stream their worship service, usually to an audience of about 60.  On March 22nd however, their audience reached over 800!  It is a clear indication that during these times people are searching for something that will give them a sense of meaning, and perhaps more importantly, a sense of hope.

The good news of Matthew’s story is that Jesus will save them, but perhaps not in the way they were anticipating.

The people wanted a king but weren’t expecting one to arrive riding on a donkey.

The New Testament scholar N.T. Wright expresses the common mismatch that often exists between our expectations and God’s answers.  He writes:

“The people wanted a prophet, but this prophet would tell them that their city was under God’s imminent judgement.  They wanted a Messiah, but this one was going to be enthroned on a pagan cross.  They wanted to be rescued from evil and oppression, but Jesus was going to rescue them from evil in its full depths, not just the surface evil of Roman occupation and the exploitation by the rich.”

This is a reality that people of faith must learn to hold in tension.  In his beloved hymn “Ride On! Ride On in Majesty”, author Henry Milman highlights both the kingly esteem of Jesus cloaked with a God-infused humility: “In lowly pomp ride on to die.”  Our society would identify “lowly pomp” as an oxymoron – contradictory terms that appear together.  Yet it is precisely through Jesus’ shame and suffering that his triumph emerges.

While the general population today may not be using the exact word “Hosanna,” still we are hoping that God will somehow ride in and save us from this time of trial.

I have no doubt that God will “arrive” (indeed I believe – is already present!) to save us.   However, if we are praying that life will return to what it was 4 weeks ago, we may be sorely disappointed.

Perhaps what we are being saved from is not the Covid-19 pandemic – I have full faith that God will be with us throughout it at every stage.  Perhaps what we are being saved from is a worldview based on consumerism and individualism.

We are being reminded that we are all interconnected – each one of us is connected to, and depends upon, others. We are also being reminded that so much of what really matters in life is already under our roofs. And we are being reminded of the great inequity that often exists in societies, where some have access to resources that others don’t.  Bill Gates recently summarized this well when he said that we have been reminded “of the shortness of life and of what is most important for us to do, which is to help each other, especially those who are old or sick. Our purpose is not to buy toilet paper.”

Every year around this time we read the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and it is good that we do so. As Amy Jill Levine reminds us, “good stories deserve repeating, and good lessons warrant reiteration.”  She goes on to suggest that Matthew’s story is one that “should not only inspire, it should surprise; it should not only challenge, it should delight.”

As we hear it again this morning I pray that we might be encouraged to anticipate being surprised by what God can and will do throughout this pandemic.  May we be delighted in the God who not only hears our cries, but who answers our prayers and fulfills our deepest longings in ways more fully and completely than we could ever imagine or begin to hope for.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!  Amen!”

~ Ephesians 3:20-21

In closing I leave you with a prayer that has been prepared by the American theologian Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.:

Lord Jesus Christ, you from whom angels hide their faces, you made your way to be with us sinners. You are King of kings, yet you humbled yourself to bear our flesh. You shine with heavenly glory, yet you lowered yourself into our darkness. You glow with moral purity, yet you absorbed all our evil into your holy being and did not pass evil back. We join our voices with the Palm Sunday crowd to say, “Hosanna! Save us!”

 Lord Jesus Christ, we live in a frightening world, menaced by a tiny virus we cannot see and cannot see coming. Some of us are sick. Some of us have been sick. Some of us will be sick. All of us are afraid of being sick. Lord Jesus Christ, hosanna. Save us.

 Lord Jesus Christ, you entered our world as a helpless babe. We pray today for the babies of the world who cannot do for themselves, for the elderly, who can now do so much less for themselves, for people with disabilities, for the unlettered, the unheard, the unmentioned, the unmentionable.

 Lord Jesus Christ, you were a homeless man with no place to lay your head. We lift to you the exiled peoples of the world. Look in mercy on men and women in refugee camps today, dependent for life itself on blessed handouts. Look in mercy on their children, stung to see their parents ask strangers for help. Turn the strangers into friends, we pray, and the camps into havens of relief, all because your own people knew exile and because you are the one in whom our hearts find their true home.

 Lord Jesus Christ, Savior of the world, come into our lives, we pray. Shine on us with everlasting light. Rain on us with unceasing bounty. Blow on us with life-giving love. Settle on us with refreshing dew. Shine on us, rain on us, blow on us, settle on us. O Lord Jesus Christ, Savior of the world, come into our lives today.

We need you. Hosanna. Save us. Amen.

Below you will find a link to a rendition of Henry Milman’s hymn, “Ride On! Ride On in Majesty”.  I pray that it may be a source of strength for you as, together-yet-apart, we prepare to remember and celebrate the sacred week ahead.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAh1lzSQ3P4

Rev. Bradford Blaikie


March 29, 2020

Just over a century ago Christian churches in North America found themselves in a very similar situation to the one we are currently in.  Between 1918 and 1919 the Spanish flu spread across North America. Local governments closed all but the necessary services. Provinces enacted laws regarding quarantine and enforced the wearing of masks in public. Yet when church historians look back at that moment in history, what stands out amidst the trials is the creative ways that congregations found to continue to minister to their communities. In a recent article of The Christian Century, it was noted that during Advent of 1918, one church “arranged to leave Sunday school materials, booklets from the local missionary society, and instructions for home worship on front doorsteps.”  Other congregations made use of the new technology of telephones as a way of carrying church news concerning the sick and the needy.

At first glance it may seem that, given the current COVID-19 pandemic, the church has taken an extended vacation – we are not gathering for worship, we are no longer able to visit those who are sick or shut-in, even the way we normally conduct business meetings has been altered.  It is an easy mistake to make – to look at this and assume that the church is closed.  Yet nothing could be farther from the truth!

These moments of challenge and crisis when we can no longer carry on week-after-week with “business as usual” are precisely the moments when the church is reminded of the great truth that we have always affirmed but often forgotten – that the church has never been, nor ever will be, simply a building.

The church is the people; and to quote one of my favourite hymns, it exists “wherever people are praising… wherever people are helping, caring for neighbours in sickness and need.  The church is wherever God’s people are sharing the words of the Bible in gift and in deed.”

A devotion was shared with me recently that suggested that “the power of the church is not in its ability together, but its ability to scatter.”  Isn’t that true?!  Each worship service ends with a Benediction and a Commissioning – we are commissioned every week to “go out” and share the good news of the Gospel with all those we meet.

This is not a time of vacation for the church; this is a time for the church to reconsider its ministry in new and creative ways!

Just as a century ago Christians embraced the telephone as a new tool for ministry, so today clergy around the world are turning to live streaming and other technologies to assist in their ministries. And together we are having to rethink how to carry out pastoral care in this evolving situation.

Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when we are striving to remain physically separate from one another, the church’s calling remains the same – to nurture human connections with God and with each other.

Each week I have committed to providing a weekly reflection – words that I pray will bring comfort and inspire each of us during these times.  I continue to reach out to members of our church family by phone, email and text and provide pastoral care whenever it is needed.  Likewise our elders are making contact with those in their districts on a regular basis. The church is still very much active!  And we haven’t even begun to think about all of the new ministries that might emerge from this crisis:  In what ways can we utilize modern technology to stay connected with those members of our congregations who are shut-in? Are there ways that our congregation could provide support and encouragement for healthcare workers and others who carrying the responsibilities of keeping our society healthy and safe?  It will be exciting to see where God’s Spirit leads the church as we continue to offer ourselves in creative and faithful service during these times and in the days ahead!

Keeping in mind all the ministry that our church is currently involved in and bills that will come due, it is important to remember the necessity of continuing to contribute financially to the life and work of our congregation. Again, creativity in this area will be key!  While during the era of the Spanish influenza, congregants were limited in the ways they had to support their churches financially, we are very fortunate that modern technology has opened up for us numerous ways that people can continue to give and support, even in those moments when we are not meeting.

Perhaps the easiest way to continue contributing is through our Pre-Authorized Remittance program (PAR). This is very easy to set up by providing the church office with some basic banking information. Then once a month a gift of whatever the designated amount is automatically withdrawn from your account and given to the church.  It is that incredibly simple and, if you wish, can be just as easily canceled when we begin gathering for worship again.  If you would like to set this up, even if only for a trial basis, I would encourage you to give our Church Administrator Cheri a call (902-439-3878).  She would love to hear from you!

Another easy option is to mail a cheque to the church (130 Victoria Rd., Summerside, PE C1N 2G5).  We continue to check the mail several times a week.  If this is your preferred method of giving it may be worth considering sending in post-dated cheques so you aren’t having to run to the post office each week!

A third option would be to go to the Canada Helps webpage (https://www.canadahelps.org/en/) and search for Summerside Presbyterian Church. There you can also easily make donations to the church, however you should be aware that Canada Helps will keep a certain percentage of whatever is given.

These are just some of the ways that you can continue to support the work and ministry of our congregation through the days ahead.

Once again, this is a time for creativity and a time when society needs the church to live out the faith we have always affirmed. May we, as followers of Christ, embrace this opportunity.  Each of us has been greatly blessed in various ways.  Let us use whatever gifts may be ours to find new and creative ways to connect with those in our communities.  During these days of isolation and physical distancing may we embody the companionship and love of Christ for others!

The prayer I share with you in closing was written by the current Moderator of the United Church of Canada, the Rev. Richard Bott:

In this time of COVID-19, we pray:

When we aren’t sure, God,

help us be calm;

when information comes

from all sides, correct and not,

help us to discern;

when fear makes it hard to breathe,

and anxiety seems to be the order of the day,

slow us down, God;

help us to reach out with our hearts,

when we can’t touch with our hands;

help us to be socially connected,

when we have to be socially distant;

help us to love as perfectly as we can,

knowing that “perfect love casts out all fear.”

 For the doctors, we pray,

for the nurses, we pray,

for the technicians and the janitors and the

aides and the caregivers, we pray,

for the researchers and theorists,

the epidemiologists and investigators,

for those who are sick,

and those who are grieving, we pray,

for all who are affected,

all around the world…

we pray

for safety,

for health,

for wholeness.

 May we feed the hungry,

give drink to the thirsty,

clothe the naked and house those without homes;

may we walk with those who feel they are alone,

and may we do all that we can to heal

the sick— in spite of the epidemic, in spite of the fear.

 Help us, O God,

that we might help each other.

 In the love of the Creator,

in the name of the Healer,

in the life of the Holy Spirit that is in all and with all,

we pray.

 May it be so.

I have also included a link to the well-known doxology that we sing each time we gather for worship.  I hope that as you hear it you might find both comfort and inspiration.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQUTvMtUhw4

 

Grace & Peace,

Rev. Bradford Blaikie


March 22, 2020

Dear Friends,

Perhaps more now than ever before in our lifetime, it is important for the church to speak.  I know that a number of my colleagues are preparing, many for the first time, to livestream worship material for Sunday morning. I confess that this is not something I have any experience with. I am afraid that for me to attempt to do so would have been more of a hindrance to the message that I want to share with in this moment. Maybe in the weeks ahead I may find myself feeling more adventuresome, but for now, I believe that what I want you to hear is too important to be sidetracked by potential hindrances such as microphone issues and bad-lighting.  So I have resorted to what I know best, writing.  I pray that God’s Spirit might speak to you through what I have written.

The evolving threat of the coronavirus has taken over almost every aspect of our lives: stores, restaurants and businesses are closed, people are confined to home.  All of this is unchartered waters for us as a society; we haven’t been here before.   Today I want to remind you of a story.  It is a story that has come to mind repeatedly over the past number of days.  It is a story about scared disciples… disciples who have themselves locked behind closed doors for fear of what was on the outside. In the story of those first disciples, what they feared were the authorities; quite different from us.  In this moment, we trust and rely on our leaders and authorities. Now while the details may differ, I have come to take great comfort in the truth that the good news of the disciples’ story continues to be the good news of our story – that Jesus shows up!  They didn’t even unlock the door to let him in, yet there he was, standing in their midst.  Listen to what he says to them: “Peace be with you!”  In the very next verse the Gospel writer tells us that these disciples became “overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” (John 20:20) What a transformation! It is a transformation that I pray each one of us can experience.

I encourage you over the next few days to look and see if you can see Christ anywhere in the midst of this pandemic.  I believe I can. I see Christ when we a society are forced to slow down… to work and shop less… to spend more time with those immediately closest to us.  I see Christ when neighbours begin calling to check in on one another… when elders in the church email me asking what they can do to help.

Rev. Linda Berdan reminded me today that at various points throughout his ministry Jesus took himself and his closest disciples off to solitary places to rest and to pray (see Mark 6:30-34).  It is a reminder that a lot of good just might be happening in the midst of all of this “social distancing” and “isolation”.  I am convinced that Christ stands in our midst even now, if we would have the eyes to see him here. I am convinced that into the midst of our fears and anxieties he is whispering that same blessing: “Peace be with you.”  Friends, even in our isolation we are not alone. May this promise give you comfort in the days ahead.

I want to remind each of you that the church office remains open and either Cheri and/or myself will be there at various times throughout the week.  If there are things we might be able to assist you with let us know.  People have offered make phone calls, to run errands and I am always willing to pray with you. The church phone number is (902) 436-2557.  If you call and no one answers, leave a message and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

In closing, I want to share with you a prayer that the Rev. Amanda Currie, Moderator of our national church, has written:

Loving God, we thank you for your presence with your children through the anxiety of the COVID-19 situation. “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). Thank you for wise leadership and health authorities that guide us in making good decisions for our communities. “You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance” (Psalm 32:7). Thank you for doctors, nurses, medical researchers and technicians, and all those who are working to care for the sick and develop treatments for this illness. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1). Thank you for cleaning staff and caregivers and volunteers, and all who are working to keep our environments clean and safe. “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2). Thank you for pastors, elders, neighbours, and friends who are working to care for those who are vulnerable, alone or afraid. “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning” (Psalm 130:5–6). Thank you for the peace and comfort that comes from knowing that we are not alone. God, grant us patience as we wait; grant us courage as we serve you and care for one another; grant us hope as we trust in you for the future. “O [People], hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem” (Psalm 130:7).

Amen.