Category Archives: Blog

“Make Room” for a wonderful, new children’s Lent and Easter book



Presbyterian minister and mother, Laura Alary, has gifted the church once again with a wonder-filled, story-resource for families. Make Room: A Child’s Guide to Lent and Easter invites children and their parents to consider together the story of the life of Jesus during the season of Lent, and make room in their homes and hearts to welcome God in as they prepare for Easter.

From her perspective as a mother, Laura writes, “When my children were very young I always looked forward to the changing seasons. Inside and outside the church, the turning of the circle brought new colours and sights and smells – plenty of opportunity to explore and create. My little library of activity books kept us busy. But when it came to Lent and Easter I was never satisfied. The kids and I ironed grated crayons on to waxed paper to make stained glass crosses; we made purple paper chains, and hot crossed buns; we even blended and burned our own incense. But something was missing. Although we had plenty to do, we lacked a framework – something to hold the pieces together in a meaningful pattern. We were missing the BIG picture – a narrative which held the life, death and resurrection of Jesus as an integrated whole, and which invited children to become a part of the story.”

Make Room is written for children using a story format that gently weaves episodes from the life and ministry of Jesus with reflections on Lenten practices from the point of view of children. The rituals and practices revealed within its pages are simple ones for families to complete: cleaning our rooms; eating plain meals like bread and soup; giving up snacks and using saved money to help someone in need. They are all variations on the traditional Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, and they all centre around the theme of emptying out to make space. Woven together the practices find their meaning in the stories of Jesus as these events are brought together to become a part of the big picture of what God is doing in the world – through Jesus, and through those that follow him.

Please consider buying this resource for your own family this Lent and Easter, and also placing an extra copy in your church library for other families to discover for their homes.

Make Room: A Child’s Guide to Lent and Easter can be purchased from Paraclete Press at, or through




Introducing: The HUB

About The Hub

The Hub is an online space for women to share their Reformed faith and how it relates to their daily lives. It is a place to create relationships with women who identify themselves as Presbyterian.

Blog posts encourage you to feel included in this community. They should help you to develop a relationships with each other, grow in your faith, and deepen your relationship with God. They should encourage you to serve God in your daily life. They should also encourage discussion.

Many of our posts focus on ways that women reach out into their community (local and world) and work towards justice for the marginalized, neglected, or forgotten.

The Hub is a resource of a larger outreach: Women to Women (WTW). It is supported by the Women’s Missionary Society.

The hub ad

A Letter From Our WMS Synodical President


Synodical of Central, Northeastern Ontario and Bermuda
Women’s Missionary Society

January 20, 2016

Dear Friends of CNOB Synodical, Presbyterials and WMS Groups:

As we begin 2016 I wanted to be in touch and share some of the great ideas and plans your synodical executive is preparing for this coming year. As we are planning for our annual meetings, for synodical and our presbyterials, we face new challenges and changes in these days. We realize our groups are getting smaller, which makes it more challenging to carry on as we have in the past…but change can be helpful and rewarding in new and wonderful ways.

Synodical Task Team
Our Synodical Task Team is trying to make some changes that will make it easier for you to continue in your various groups. One of the most important aspects of our group meetings is the fellowship we all enjoy as we come together for study, prayer and service. We hope that groups make it a priority to continue to enjoy this important time together even as the activities of your group may transition toward a leaner and lighter structure. We hope the studies that are provided in the Glad Tidings are clear and easy to lead for the members of your group, and that you are also able to adjust them for your group’s specific needs and interests. Many of the things we have done in the past may need to be approached in new ways during these days, and we trust your faith and hope for the coming year will encourage you to carry on and enjoy your time together.

The Synodical Task Force has discovered some groups have moved to eliminate the position of Recording Secretary as they scaled back some of the executive positions within their group. These innovative groups have created an easy-to-use ‘fill-in-the-blanks’ template for their minutes that one person voluntarily completes at each meeting and then places in a binder for their record-keeping. This simple template for their minutes has helped groups keep a record of their meetings, while easing the load for everyone. The Task Force has revised this template to suit any group’s needs. If you would like a copy of this template please
click on the link following this letter.

Report Forms
When filling in your reports this year, know that the WMS National primarily wants to know the name and church home of your group, and the names and contact information for all of the members of your group (including each member’s address, phone number, and email address if they have one). The most important piece of information that everyone needs is the name and email information for a contact person for your group, so that you will be able to receive all communication from the WMS National, Synodical and Presbyterial.

The other information you include in your report comes to first to your Presbyterial and, through all of the presbyterials to the Synodical, so that they can share what you’ve been doing with other groups throughout the synodical, and so that you hear what the other groups have been doing as you make plans for years to come. We are aware that the reports can feel burdensome for some groups, and so we will be simplifying the report forms for next year. To help us develop a better, more useful forms let us know what information your group would find most helpful to hear about from your presbyterial and synodical. This is the material we want to make a part of the report forms and eliminate that which is unnecessary for your purposes.

Synodical Annual Meeting
CNOB Synodical Annual Meeting is Friday April 15th and Saturday 16th, 2016 at Elmvale Presbyterian Church. The Rev. Karen Horst, moderator of the 141st General Assembly, will be our Speaker and Bible Study Leader. Our theme is “Wandering Ways”. Our Poster and Registration forms will be available shortly.

The Outreach wing of the WMS is also supporting a new way to keep in touch with other Presbyterian women………It’s called The HUB. The HUB seeks to encourage women to share their Reformed faith and how it applies to their daily lives. The website is Please share this especially with other women in your church that are not members of WMS.

National Women’s Gathering
The WMS is also supporting the third National Women’s Gathering on the holiday weekend of May, 2017, at the Sheraton Parkway Toronto North Hotel & Suites in Richmond Hill with the theme, “Rooted in Love.” More information will be available soon.

Regional Ministry
We appreciate Tori Smit, our Regional Minister for Faith Formation, as she helps us in so many ways in our Synodical. She has given many workshops to various groups and encourages us in our meetings. CNOB Synod has a resource website which includes a special tab just for the WMS groups of our Synodical to keep up to date on the news, programs, and ideas for our groups. Please feel free to contact her at or 647-348-0879 for any particular need or question you may have.

I am also available to visit your presbyterial when invited, so please get in touch with me early to reserve a date. The same with me, if you have any questions please be in contact with me. My email is or phone 905 372 6075.

May God continue to be with you in your groups and bless you in all you do as you serve God in ministry and outreach to others.

Joy Randall
President of CNOB Synodical

Click here for a copy of the secretary’s template for keeping simple meeting minutes.

Advent Intergenerational Event 2015 – Year ‘C’


The beginning of Advent is a wonderful time to gather the whole church family together to learn and celebrate together the beginning of a brand new church year and begin to anticipate and prepare for the coming of Jesus at Christmas.

Intentional inter-generational events are among the best activities a church can have to help all of our members grow in faith and in faithful relationships across all ages. When we share our rich stories of faith with each other we help our younger members learn from those they look up to and provide opportunities for our older members to experience anew the wonder and awe of our children. Together we build meaningful cross-generational relationships that lead to life-long faith formation.

This Intergenerational Event has been designed to not only provide and opportunity for faith sharing and learning, but also to provide resources for all of our families to continue to learn and worship together at home through the ritual of lighting an advent candle each day of advent and doing age-appropriate family devotions together. Together the congregation will share in a meal, learn about the history and practice of advent, get to know each other a little more, make an family advent wreath to take home, be supplied with an advent devotional booklet, and practice the ritual of lighting the wreath, reading and praying as a family at the event so they’re ready to carry it on day-by-day as a family when they get home.

This event is designed to happen on the first Sunday of Advent following worship or in the evening, or on a weeknight during the week before Advent. Here’s what your Advent Event could look like:

Share with a Meal (45 minutes) A potluck meal makes it easy for everyone. You may wish to ask families to bring a seasonal family favorite. Is there a food they always eat when they decorate the tree? wrap presents? have extended family members over? You may wish to put on some hot apple cider or hot chocolate for everyone to enjoy the scents of the season. Whatever works for you church with the emphasis on easy and enjoyable.

Invite families to sit together at this meal, but make sure a broad cross-section of ages are represented at each dining table. Decorate the tables festively and place some discussion cards on each table with fun Christmas questions such as: What is your favorite Christmas carol? What was the best Christmas gift you ever received and why? What is your favorite Christmas cookie and who makes it? Who’s coming for Christmas this year? What do like to eat at Christmas? Encourage tables to get to know each other a little more through these questions and chat about Christmas’ past and the joy each has brought.

Intro to Advent (10 – 20 minutes depending on the age of the group) While everyone is still at their tables take some time to introduce the theme of Advent to the group. Rather than delivering a lecture on Advent you might want to pick some of the more interesting points about Advent an print one point per piece of construction paper, cut each piece of construction paper into a 6 – 8 piece jigsaw puzzle, and place each jigsaw puzzle into an individual envelope. Distribute the envelopes of puzzles to the table groups and have them assemble their puzzles to discover exciting things about Advent for themselves. Have each group share what they have learned with the whole group.

Here are some interesting things to know about Advent:

  • Advent is the beginning of the church year
  • Advent means ‘to come’
  • Advent begins four Sundays prior to Christmas
  • During Advent we ready ourselves for the birth of Christ, the coming of Christ into our lives, and for the return of Christ
  • Advent is season of expectation, anticipation, preparation
  • Advent was originally a season of penitence and has become a season of joy and celebration in modern times
  • The colour of Advent is either purple or blue, depending on the congregation’s choice
  • The bible is filled with references to Christ as the light of the world. We light Advent candles to remind us that Christ is coming as light and as the number of lit candles increases as we get closer to Christmas we see that the light is growing brighter week by week
  • The evergreens of the advent wreath represent life and growth
  • The circle of the Advent wreath have no beginning and no end, as Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega; the beginning and the end
  • The four coloured candles of the Advent wreath represent the themes of Hope, Peace, Joy (sometimes represented by the colour pink) and Love.

Make An Advent Wreath (30 minutes) Each household should make an Advent wreath together to take home with them. The instructions for a beautiful and easy, fresh Advent wreath are included in this file. If there are  families who might want to make more than one wreath, they might make additional wreathes for shut-ins.

Worship Together (15 minutes) As families begin to complete their wreaths gather the whole group together and distribute the Advent devotional booklets included in this file. Explain that Advent is a wonderful time to begin a new family tradition together and that lighting the advent candles and reading scripture/stories together is a wonderful ritual to bring into their homes. As a whole group complete the first day of Advent devotions as it is written in the devotion booklet. You may wish to include a couple of Advent hymns to you worship.

Thank the families for attending and remind them to repeat the devotion that evening and continue through their devotional booklets at a consistent time each day.

Click here for instructions on making an Advent wreath

Click here for a pdf file of the Advent Devotional Booklet for 2015, Year ‘C’

When you open this file it will appear out-of-order. The file has been saved for you to print and then photocopy back-to-back, assemble, and then fold and staple as a booklet down the middle. You can also also print the booklet 2-sided, fold and staple as a booklet down the middle.

Introducing The CNOB Vacation Bible School Resource Lending Library

Children holding a heart shape

I am grateful to Knox Presbyterian Church in Guelph for cleaning out their attic and passing on to me a variety of VBS resource kits that they’ve used over the years. With this kind gift I am now able to begin a small but mighty VBS resource lending library for churches to save a bit of money while hosting a great Vacation Bible School at their church or in their community. If you wish to use one of these resource kits you are welcome to do so, knowing that each of them comes from a past season and therefore comes ‘as is’, without the possibility of ordering publisher pre-packaged craft kits, give-aways and student booklets. Many of our churches already avoid these ‘extra’ kinds of purchases already. Please know that every resource kit in the library already includes excellent directions for crafts and lots of activities making the packaged craft kits, give-aways and student booklets often redundant. So with just the VBS introductory kit from the lending library you should be good to go.

You will find a list of the available resources linked at the end of this blog post. With each listed VBS resource kit you will also see noted the overall theme of the curriculum, daily themes with accompanying scripture references, and details of every item the kit contains. I hope this will help you in making a resource selection suitable for your church.

If you would like to borrow a resource from the library to use for your Vacation Bible School, Professional Development Day programming, or for mid-year school break activities please contact me to find out if your resource of choice is available for the time you require it. Once I have received the request I will confirm the kit can be loaned to you and I will then try and use the Presbyterian people connections we share to pass the resource on to you as soon as possible while also trying to avoid shipping costs (I have no budget for shipping). You are welcome to keep and use the materials for as long as you need to prepare for and carry out your event, but please do not lose or destroy any of the materials you receive so that they might be used again and again by other churches down the road.

Once you’re done with the materials please contact me and once again we’ll try and get them back to the synod office in Toronto through the people we together know who might be travelling in this direction or as I travel just by your door as I tour the synod.

Finally, if you are busy cleaning out your church attic and are wondering what you could do with those very useable VBS kits you have taking up space at your place, please know that they could be used helping other churches this summer and beyond. If you’d like to donate them (even if they are duplicates to ones I already have) thank you and please let me know and I will figure out a way of picking them up from you and getting them into the Resource Lending Library. I am also hoping to build up a library of intergenerational materials as well, so feel free to keep that on your radar and pass things along when you’re done with them.

Thank you to Knox, Guelph for providing the beginnings of this very helpful ministry to the churches of our synod. Now let’s welcome the children for some exciting ministry opportunities throughout the synod.

Blessings, Tori Smit, Regional Minister for Faith Formation, Synod of Central, Northeastern Ontario and Bermuda

To borrow a kit please contact me at or call 647-348-0879

Click here to view the VBS Lending Library Resource List