Are You Looking For Something to Read?

DSCN0297Have a look through this reading list prepared for the 2015 annual meeting of the WMS Synodical of Central, Northeastern Ontario and Bermuda. You will find some great children’s reading books, some key Christian education texts for church leaders to consider, and some wonderful addition options if your group is looking for some additional study materials. I hope you will find something for yourself and something for a leader in your church community to enjoy and grow with. Happy reading!

Click here to open the reading list

A letter from our Synodical President, Joy Randall, to all WMS groups and presbyterials

Dear Presbyterials, WMS Groups & Friends of WMS,

During preparations for our April synodical annual meeting and at recent executive meetings, we were made aware of concerns expressed by individuals and groups for a better understanding of today’s WMS. This letter is to let you know that we ‘are listening’ to you.

We want you to be open and share your ideas and suggestions. Please continue to do this. As an executive, we will discuss what is needed to improve our organization. We will strive to think of new ways to keep the information lines open. We will work with you towards making necessary changes to keep WMS a vital organization, both meaningful and rewarding for all.

We are most appreciative of the faithful commitment and dedication of our members to the WMS, its purpose and goals. God has been working through us both locally, nationally and internationally over the past 100 years. We have met many challenges through the years, and we honour those who overcame them as they worked together to further God’s mission.

Today, our challenges are different and our approach may need to be different as well. We know that our groups are getting smaller. Some have ceased being WMS groups, but still contribute in other ways. Our members are getting older and are worried that they can not meet these challenges. We understand and hear what you are saying. We see the different needs facing us today, both locally and throughout the world.

We realize that it is difficult for some groups and presbyterials to fulfill their financial objectives. There are more demands on us today. It worries us when we see so many people and countries having difficulties. Our hearts ache for them, and we want to give more. We want you to know that we are thankful for what each person, group and presbyterial gives. We know that God blesses the gift and giver and we are thankful for all that you are able to do to help others.

We think of the past, and feel that we still should meet as we always have. Today there are changes in our world and in our Society, and the reality is that change in our groups is needed. Our groups are smaller and less able to find enough people to take on the responsibilities of officers. We realize this. Do we really need them all? It depends on the makeup of your group. We wish to stress that it is not necessary to have all the officers that we used to have. Each
group or presbyterial should decide what works best for it. We should stress that in order for presbyterials and the synodical to keep in touch and be able to communicate better, there should be a contact person.

At a recent meeting with Tori Smit, Regional Minister for Faith Formation for our synod,  we discussed various models that presbyterials or groups might consider for executive positions and functions. They should be appropriate to your size and ability to fill these positions. Our deepest desire is to feel energized by the fellowship and study that your group provides. We hope that you would not feel burdened by an obligation to fill numerous positions that may no longer meet your group’s individual needs.

Remember, whichever way you choose, a contact person is needed. Then we are able to keep in touch and keep the communication lines open.

If your presbyterial or groups are feeling anxious about officers, or other aspect of functioning well, please feel free to contact the executive, Tori Smit, or myself. We would be delighted to lend you a hand. We can see what best fits your needs and make some suggestions.

We will continue to keep you in our prayers and will help in anyway that we can.
May God continue to bless us and keep us faithful to our purpose and mission. Please do keep in touch with us often and let us know how we can help you. We want to keep the communication lines open.


Joy Randall,

President of WMS CNOB Synodical

Phone 904 372 6075

PS I will be away in Taiwan to attend the 150 Anniversary of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan from March 30 – April 11th, 2015.  Look forward to seeing many of you at Synodical and if you have any questions will be happy to talk with you at that time.

Spiritual Practices Inspired by the Jewishness of Jesus

DSCN1020Spiritual practices and disciplines have gained a lot of attention in the mainline church over these last few years. Many are rediscovering the spiritual practices of an earlier church and in testing out these practices people are discovering through the ritual of disciplined prayer, reading of scripture and meditation they are able to experience God in new and meaning-filled ways.  In this workshop/ experience we will go back further than the early or medieval Christian Church and rediscover some of the spiritual practices of our Jewish heritage.

Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren F. Winner has inspired this exploration of Jewish spiritual practices. Following her conversion to Christianity from Orthodox Judaism, Winner found herself missing the richness of the traditional spiritual practices of her Jewish heritage. She wrote Mudhouse Sabbath to reconsider these meaning-filled practices through a Christian lens inviting readers to transform the way the view the world and God.  Practices of Sabbath Keeping, Hospitality, Mourning, and Fasting are among the eleven practices explored in her book.

In this workshop I have selected five of the spiritual practices she considers in her book.  Each practice can be explored through a learning centre as an individual or as a group. Each spiritual practice is considered through handouts outlining background information, questions for reflection and/or discussion, and detailed instructions for an activity which has been designed to invite participants to ‘test out’ the practice before leaving the centre and moving on to consider another practice. Participants can explore as many or as few practices as they wish, taking all the time they need to experience the practice as fully as needed to repeat it at home. Multiple copies of the files can be photocopied for participants to take them home and reinforce the practice as they wish.

You will find five individual attachments included, one per centre. In each attachment you will find a supply list for the centre, a sheet of condensed background information, a sheet of questions for individuals to reflect upon or the group to discuss, and instructions for the activity(ies) that go with that practice.  Choose to use all the centres,or explore one each time you gather.

I hope that you will find new ways of worshiping and glorifying God through these practices.DSCN1025

Click here for Sabbath file

Click here for Fitting Food file

Click here for Prayer file

Click here for Mourning Well file

Click here for Doorposts file

2015 Service of Installation for WMS Officers

Each spring WMS groups, presbyterials and synodical install newly elected officers into executive positions of the Women’s Missionary Society for the upcoming season. At annual meetings across the synodical officers are installed through special services that ask both the executive officers and the WMS members to together make a covenant with God for the work and witness ahead of them. Each year this installation service reminds us that the work that we do is not our own, but is God’s. In this service of installation for 2015 you will find the keynote text for the April Annual meeting of Synodical, Mark 4:26-29, used to remind us all that while we work for the kingdom of God, it is God that is the one that brings life to this garden, who grows this garden, and brings it to harvest. Please feel free to use this service of installation with your group, presbyterial or synodical as you commit to this season ahead.

Click here for the 2015 Service of Installation for WMS Officers 

Good Friday Dramatic Reading

Thank you to Rev. Stephen Dunkin of Graceview Presbyterian Church in Toronto for sharing this Good Friday service of worship.  Through the stories of some of the people who were there we gain a fresh perspective on the thoughts and feelings of those who loved and those who witnessed the events of the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus.  Please feel free to use and/or adapt this script to your congregations setting and needs.

Click Here for the Good Friday Dramatic Reading


A Garden of Devotion, Conversation and Reflection for Lent and Easter: 2015

The special seasons of preparation for the church offer congregations the opportunity to support families in the developing and maintaining of good practices for faithful devotion as families at home.  Parents are very clear that they believe that they ought to be the primary teachers of faith to their children, but often struggle with how they might do that.  Parents want to share their faith with their children, but they often simply don’t know how to do it.  Research also affirms that children learn faith best from their parents.  So, the best thing that the church can do for our children is support and resource their parents in the ways and means of passing on their faith with those they love so much.

Here is one resource that congregations can give to families to help them do just that.

What follows is a Lenten and Easter Family Devotional Booklet that is written for families to use daily; sharing scripture, prayers, conversation and activities while also sharing their family meal.  It begins on Ash Wednesday (February 18. 2015) and goes through to EasterSunday (April 5, 2015).  It invites families to engage with the lectionary readings of 2015 through short readings of scripture and/or age appropriate bible stories from The Bible in 365 Stories by Lion Publishing (this is a great children’s bible story book to recommend to families to use with primary school children).  In addition to the readings and open ended conversations focused on ‘wondering’, the booklet includes each family making a simple and small tabletop garden that will grow and evolve over the six weeks of Lent, with new symbols occasionally being added and fun activities to do over their time together that tangibly express the ideas they experience together.  Clear instructions to make this garden are included in the booklet.

To help families get started and learn how to use the booklet, your congregation might want to set aside some time just before Lent begins to start these gardens as a part of a larger Lent Event.  Getting together as a church family while learning about Lent is a wonderful way of comfortably sharing the importance of faithful family conversation and resourcing families with the tools they need to get started.  The garden is inexpensive to make and would take about 20 minutes to plant.  A congregational Lent Event might include other activities such as sharing a meal together, playing some games, introducing the themes and meaning of Lent through a trivia game, the planting of the tabletop gardens in household groups, and then the important step of practicing daily family devotions by using the first day’s devotion as your closing worship together.

There are a few extra items mentioned in the booklet (kazoos, little animals, silk butterflies etc.) that families will use at home to continue re-creating their gardens over the weeks of Lent.  Churches may want to send home a goodie bag with each family filled with these items so they will be encouraged to stick with their devotions and maintaining of their garden at home.  These items are clearly noted in the booklet.

Finally the booklet file is in pdf format and has been written so that you can print out the 12 pages of the booklet, photocopy the pages front to back (page 2 on the back of page 1; page 4 on the back of page 3; etc), collate the pages, and then fold in half and staple it together down the middle to form a booklet.  For this reason, when you open the file it will appear out of order.  It isn’t.  Have a go, photocopy it, assemble it, and the dates will all be in the right places.  I promise!

I hope you and your family enjoy this opportunity to grow together over this wonderful season of Lent as we prepare for the wondrous glory that Easter brings.

Click Here for the Devotional

Inter-Generational Advent Event

advent peopleThe 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:

Would You Rather  (10 minutes)  This is a fun getting-to-know-you game that you could play either before after the shared meal.  You play Would You Rather by dividing the Would You Rather questions slips of paper between four baskets.  Place one basket on each of four little tables or chairs set up in a circle to create question stations.  Divide the participants between each of the stations and invite one member of each group to pick out a slip from their basket and read it to the group surrounding the basket beginning with the words, “Would you rather”, followed by the two options on their slip of paper.  For instance they might read, “Would you rather a. hot chocolate or b. apple cider”.  Each person responds with their own personal preference.  Once they’ve shared their answer with their group those who chose option ‘a’ move to the next station in a clockwise direction, while all of the ‘b’s’ move in a counter clockwise direction.  Just drop the slip of paper in the basket before you move on for someone else to pick out later in the game.

Every station is asking and answering questions all the time with people moving quickly to their next stations, either clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on their individual answers.  There are no winners, just opportunities to mix the group up and get to know each other a little more.  Stop the game while it is still fun.

The Would You Rather slips of paper are attached as a separate file with this resource. Just cut them apart and you’re ready to go.

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 bigger families who might want to make more than one wreath, they might want to make an additional wreath for a shut-in.

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.

Advent Wreath

To make one wreath you will need the following:

  • a 9” X 2” clear vinyl plastic liner and a 7” X 2” clear vinyl plastic liner (available from a florist or Home Depot gardening department)wreath making
  • 1 block 3” X 4” X 9” wet (dark green) oasis, cut into six pieces (3” X 2” X 3”) (available from Michael’s)
  • florist’s tape for wet oasis (available at Michael’s)
  • 4 taper candles (purple or blue)
  • 1 chubby white candle
  • fresh evergreens
  • pruning shears
  • scissors
  • advent devotional booklet



  1. Hot glue the bottom of the smaller plastic dish inside the bottom center of the larger plastic dish, creating an inner dish with an outer ring (moat) surrounding the inner dish (it will look like a chip-dip dish).
  1. Soak 4 cut pieces of the oasis in water until they are saturated (The two extra blocks can be used by another family for their advent wreath). Take the oasis blocks out of the water and wedge each piece of oasis in the outer ring (moat) of the plastic dish with the oasis standing up above the upper edge of the plastic dish. The oasis should be wedged tightly at the 12, 6, 3 and 9 o’clock positions in the outer ring.
  1. Firmly push one colored advent candle into the center top of each of the four oasis blocks. Using 8 – 10 inch lengths of florist’s tape, tape the blocks to the plastic dish, securing the block on either side of the candle from the outside of the plastic larger dish to the inside of the smaller plastic dish. No one will see the tape so feel free to secure the blocks well.
  1. Snip the greens into 4 – 6 inch lengths. Push the cut ends of the greens into the oasis filling out your wreath until you can no longer see the dish or the oasis.
  1. Place your chubby white candle in the center of the dish and place the dish on a dinner or serving plate for greater stability.
  1. Water your advent wreath in the outer ring (moat) regularly throughout advent and it stay fresh and green throughout the season.


Advent Devotional Resources

If you would like to celebrate the season of Advent this year with a devotional for your family or congregation, here are all of the resources you will need to take part in that. We have a devotional booklet, craft, event information, and game that are all printable for your church or family Advent celebration!

advent 1 bibleAdvent Devotional Book

Advent Wreath Instructions

Advent Intergenerational Event

Would You Rather Game Slips












Church Hospitality and Growth

What is hospitality? It is the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers. Or, it is the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way. It is the church’s inherent function as the church to be an organization of hospitality. William Temple said, “The Church is the only organization that exists for the sake of people who are not its members.” This is precisely why the church ought to act out of a mindset of hospitality.


  • Most visitors have decided if they will return to a church before the service begins. You have 6 minutes to make a positive first impression.
  • People who stay in a church after six months know 7 or more people; those who leave know less than 3.
  • The longer a person is a member of a church, the LESS likely it is that someone will call if they stop attending.

We are the Church:

  • We are not in the membership business. We are in the discipleship business.
  • Hospitality precedes growth
  • It is a matter of Character

Four Areas of Hospitality:

  • Facility
    • Is it Clean?
    • Is it accessible?
    • Is it well marked?
    • Is it meant to be used?
    • Is it welcoming?
  • People
    • Are they polite?
    • Are they knowledgeable?
    • Are they ready to serve?
    • Are they inviting?
    • Are they willing to accommodate strangers?
    • Will they take the initiative?
  • Activities
    • Are they welcoming?
    • Are they accessible?
    • Are they appropriate?
    • Do they meet the needs of visitors?
  • Communication
    • Is it clear?
    • Is the language appropriate?
    • Is it controlled?
    • Is it accessible?
    • Do you expect visitors?

“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2