Category Archives: WMS Archive

I Will Give You Rest

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28 NRSV)

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” (Mark 1:36, 37 NRSV)

Traditionally summer has been the minister’s ‘down time’. Meetings stop, people are away, and things are quieter all around. For many years, ministers typically took all of their holidays in one large chunk. This meant that real rest could happen.

Then things changed:

  • Cell phones meant ministers (and almost everyone else) could be accessed 24/7
  • Email meant that you were never truly away
  • People came to expect that their concerns would be addressed immediately
  • Even if we could get away from work physically, emotional distance was much harder to achieve

And then came Covid.

Over the past month or so I have had repeated conversations with church leaders who have not had time off since the pandemic began. They are literally at the end of their ropes.

Tori and I are similarly exhausted. While we have tried to be good stewards of our time and energy, we are aware of just how tired we really are. In June we took a week’s holidays and it actually took us two weeks to fit it in around emergent phone calls and meetings. 

For many, physical tiredness is just the tip of the iceberg. Many are feeling burnt out with no place to turn to deal with it. This has affected relationships, ministry effectiveness and satisfaction, as well as general health and wellbeing.

I cannot say when this will all end, nor can I resolve all of the issues this article raises. However, I would like to address just one, the need for physical rest.

As I read the above passages of scripture, three things pop out at me:

  1. Jesus needed to get away. He needed to get away to pray and he needed to get away to rest. The words of Peter, ‘everyone is looking for you’ speaks to our condition as well as his.
  2. Jesus promises rest. We are weary and heavy laden. Jesus promises rest.
  3. You can’t have spiritual rest without physical rest.

I remember talking with a friend who was connected to a retreat centre. For years this establishment had offered week long retreats for clergy. More recently they have discovered that these same clergy needed to sleep for the first five days in order to even be able to consider any spiritual work.

This is all a way of recognizing that we are tired – very tired – and that the summer should hopefully be a chance to recharge our batteries. 

I am aware that the summer is half way over but, I pray that you might recognize your own need for physical rest and might assert yourself to take it. No one knows what the fall will bring but, if there is a time to re-charge your batteries, now is it.

Tori and I will be taking the next three weeks off. During that time, we will only be available for emergencies. We will be doing our very best to also take an email sabbatical for this time.

Your ministry is a blessing. Please make sure that you are well rested and able to lead your flock. Please remember the adage; “put on your oxygen mask first.”

May God bless you in this season of rest.

John-Peter & Tori.

PS – Elders, please consider giving your minister some additional time off this year. They need it!

Away At the Lake

Join Cairn Camps in Baysville for a summer retreat experience!

Cairn is excited to be offering Away at the Lake this season, an all-inclusive retreat on the shores of Echo Lake!

This summer, leave the busyness at home and immerse yourself in the beauty of Creation, enjoying a Muskoka getaway of reading on the beach, walking through the forest, engaging in camp activities at your leisure, and enjoying meals where you don’t need to cook OR do the dishes! This is an opportunity for rest, for Sabbath, and for retreat. 

Looking for more information? You can view the Away at the Lake Information Package here.

Please also know that the Cairn Campership Fund and other bursary programs are available to help cover Away at the Lake registration costs. Community Funders are eager to see their dollars be used this summer, and so we encourage anyone to apply who may find this helpful. You can view the Campership Form here.

We can’t wait to welcome you to Away at the Lake this summer!

For more information, please visit ilovecamp.org/away-at-the-lake.cfm or contact the Cairn office at admin@ilovecamp.org or by phone at 705-767-3300.

A Statement Regarding Residential Schools

Dear friends,

In response to the devastating confirmation of unmarked graves on the grounds of former Residential Schools in Canada, a statement was published on June 15, 2021, written in consultation with the National Indigenous Ministry Council, a Committee of the General Assembly, and signed by both the Rev. Dr. Dan Scott, Moderator of the 2021 General Assembly, and by the Rev. Amanda Currie, Moderator for 2019–2020. It speaks, through repentance and lament and in humility, for the lives of all the children who were lost, those we know who died at the schools and those still to be found in unmarked graves. The statement makes many commitments for the church to act upon.

In various ways, the church has begun responding to the commitments outlined in the statement. However, any work regarding former Residential Schools and the land they are or were on must be done in conversation with and after listening carefully to the affected communities and in line with their wishes. Additionally, we work in consultation with the National Indigenous Ministry Council.

This work takes time and must be respectful of the impacted communities’ wishes. We know there are cemeteries associated with some of the schools that The Presbyterian Church in Canada ran but we do not know for sure whether there are unmarked graves on the grounds of these schools, though it is likely. We are working on opening conversations around searching the grounds of both Cecilia Jeffrey Residential School and Birtle Residential School. The church has also begun looking into how to approach those affected by the schools that The Presbyterian Church in Canada ran but that closed before 1925. We have also contacted the United Church of Canada about how we will work together with regard to the schools The Presbyterian Church in Canada ran before 1925 but then became associated with the United Church of Canada.

As a colleague in ministry, I am writing to ensure that you and those associated with the ministry you serve have seen, read and considered the statement, available here.

You can learn more about the ongoing work for reconciliation and Indigenous justice as well as any news regarding this issue at the Indigenous Justice page of our Social Action Hub. It is a living resource that we keep updated.

Get Involved

We all have a responsibility to deepen our understanding of the ongoing impacts of anti-Indigenous systemic racism, of which residential schools were part, and to act. Here are only some of the ways to respond after reading the statement issued on June 15, 2021

Read the Statement publicly. Additionally, read Calls to Action 71-76 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. 

Learn about the Ministries with Indigenous Peoples of The Presbyterian Church. Watch a worship service by Indigenous ministry leaders to mark National Indigenous Peoples’ Day. 

Seek to understand the harms of intergenerational trauma on Indigenous peoples and communities. 

Read the Final Report and Calls to Justice of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and use the PCC study guide on the final report: Why work to decolonize?

Read the resources and support the work of Indigenous organizations such as the Native Women’s Association of Canada.

Learn about the impacts of colonialism, why it was necessary for the church to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery, and PCC-run residential schools. Resources are online here

Learn about any schools operated near your community. As much as possible, seek information from Residential School Survivors, Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers.

Read about the work that has been done regarding the cemetery for the Regina Industrial School in “The Regina Indian Industrial School (1891-1910): Historical Overview and Chronological” by Douglas Stewart (available through Amazon).

Sincerely,  
The Rev. Ian Ross-McDonald, 
General Secretary, The Life and Mission Agency  

What Will ‘Our New Normal’ Look Like?

What does the future hold for the church as we contemplate moving out of pandemic lockdowns and shuttered church buildings?

What is God saying to us, and how are we called to act as participants in this ‘New Normal’?

God declares, “LOOK! I am making a new thing, now it springs up, do you not realize it?”

This past Saturday the Synodical of Central, Northeastern Ontario and Bermuda hosted a Bible Study led by Rev. Dr. Pat Dutcher-Walls, Professor of Hebrew Scripture at the Vancouver School of Theology. If you missed it, there is still an opportunity to hear and reflect on the prophetic word Pat offered to us all.

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Easter Greetings from the Synod of CNOB

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Great is Thy faithfulness; great is Thy faithfulness;
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me. 

                  Thomas Chisholm 1923, 1996 BoP 324

This is one of my very favourite hymns, one that I regularly find myself humming or singing under my breath. In many ways it sums up, not just my experience of God, but the fullness of that experience. The key line, “All I have needed thy hand hath provided,” reminds me of the nature of God’s providence. 

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On the Anniversary of the Pandemic

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“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. (John 14:1 NRSV)

On March 12 2020, the World Health Organization officially declared the Coronavirus to be a pandemic.

On March 16, 2020 the province of Ontario recommended the closure of all recreation programs, libraries, private schools, daycares, and churches and other faith settings.

This week we commemorate the one year anniversary of the Coronavirus pandemic, an event that has changed lives worldwide. It simply repeats the obvious to try and recount how different the world is today from a year ago and how uncertain the future remains, even with a vaccine. This truly is a once in a century event.

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You Are the Light of the World

Gift Habeshaw, unsplash.com

A number of years ago, my then minister, Rev. Dr. Karen Dimock, preached a sermon in which she talked about light. She reminded us that the light of Jesus’ time was the light of an oil lamp not the light of a light bulb and certainly not the light of a spot light. Her point was simple, the light Jesus describes does not usually allow us to see the end of our journey or even the whole picture; often it only allows us to see the next step.

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Fear Not!

What’s your favourite Christmas movie?

I love to watch The Polar Express, and I’ve just finished binge-watching the new Netflix series Dash & Lily, but truth be told, my absolute favourite Christmas movie is A Charlie Brown Christmas.

I was already a committed Peanuts fan when the movie came out in 1965. I would grab the newspaper each day and delight in the wisdom of Charles M. Schultz shared through his Peanuts characters. It was no surprise that A Charlie Brown Christmas leapt to the top of my list when I saw it for the very first time. It has consistently remained there ever since I lay down on the living room floor in my pyjamas that first time and became mesmerized by the story shared so many years ago.

Won’t you watch it with me again. 

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The WMS Synodical Zooms Their Way Through Their Annual Meeting!

“Greetings from the WMS Synodical of Central, Northeastern Ontario and Bermuda.”

These last six months have been a challenge to all of our churches as we’ve worked hard figuring out how to do ministry while staying safe, flattening the curve, and following social distancing protocols. As the proverb goes, ‘necessity is the mother of invention,’ and so our churches have been making use of some wonderful inventions during these days. For many of our church leaders ZOOM has presented the perfect platform for holding our numerous meetings, but comes with the work of learning how to use the technology itself. This can be a new challenge for anyone, but most especially if computers and computer programs are new for them.

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