Minister's Weekly Messages
[see below for Community Growth messages by Karen Hunt]
cast our 2020 Vision to connect more deeply with God, each other and
our community. We've heard how the Holy Spirit gives us gifts for
the common good to accomplish that relational connection. So now,
with that vision before us, we're learning to humbly walk with God and,
by following Jesus, reflect the light of the world. Following is
not just saying "Yes, I've heard of Jesus," accepting Jesus as an
idea. Biblically, following Jesus is an embodied action -- trying
to emulate Christ in our behaviour. That requires getting to know
Jesus through scripture, prayer and time in the Christian
community. The more time you spend with someone the more you know
them, the deeper your relationship gets.
What we are
finding out is that God wants to be in relationship with us, and expand
us and grow us by blessing us, if we choose to come along on that
journey. God will help us to mature in faith if we trust and
walk. It is easy to look at a long journey and say "It's too
far." "It's too scary." "It will take a long time."
"It's too dark and uncertain." "I don't know the way." If
we say "no" we just stay where we are -- but nothing changes. The
adventure comes from saying "Yes" to God, and stepping forward,
trusting in faith that God has a greater vision and purpose, that God
knows every twist and turn of that journey. We are taking baby
steps, like infants in Christ, and we have a heavenly parent that wants
to catch us if we stumble and teach us how to walk and how to run until
Many people look at the state of the world with
fear -- viruses, wars, political unrest, economic disruption, pain and
suffering. They might feel like quitting before they
started. But a long time ago one of the great theological minds
of the Church, St. Augustine of Hippo, said something helpful:
"Bad times, hard times, this is what people keep saying; but let us
live well and times shall be good. Such as we are, such are the
times." In other words, we make the time around us worth it by
our presence. For a time such as this, the world needs Christian
This week, commit yourself humbly to the walk, come and
encounter that loving parent, grow in that light, and see where it
February 2nd we began “The Humble Walk,” talking about how to develop
our relationship with God. We will be “walking” from here to the
season of Lent upcoming in the next few weeks, and looking at how to
grow and deepen our relationship with God by following Jesus. All
of these practices and ideas will help make more room for God’s love in
our lives, preparing us for the Resurrection celebration but also
preparing us for a way of life that should serve us in all times and
I didn’t realize until after that last Sunday was
“Groundhog Day.” A fun tradition of hoping for spring in the face
of the cold winter. Well, the “Groundhog Day” film starring Bill
Murry is one of my favourites, and a “sermon” in itself -- if you
haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. If you have, watch it
again -- after all, Bill did! It has a wonderful message about
spiritual growth over time, and shows the life practices and attitudes
that can both ruin lives and enrich them. The beautiful thing is
that we can choose how we respond to the moment and change it by
changing our attitude.
The movie and our scriptures emphasize
that life is both the big moments and the small ones, and we can find
value in every moment if we are present. Listen for the presence
of God in each moment and share God’s love with everyone you meet --
over and over until it’s a way of life. That’s our humble walk,
and it’s a journey worth taking!
our theme of 2020 Vision, Rockton and Sheffield have had their Annual
General Meetings the past couple of weeks and we had some time to
discuss goal setting. Some of the things to pray into for this
year that came out of those discussions are:
● Engage spiritual practices
● Experience God
● Renew baptismal vows
● Improve our current activities
● Develop a culture of appreciation
● Encourage children
● Grow attendance
I love about these goals are that they are related. If we can
engage our spiritual practices more intentionally, we will deepen our
relationship and experience with God. If we renew our vows and
focus it will help us in that process, and also make us more present
and intentional in our church activities. If those improve and
are more spiritually fulfilling, it will blossom in our relationships
and church culture, growing our sense of appreciation and
gratitude. In that kind of environment, children and families
will be drawn to this place, because the Spirit will be moving.
that end, our first step is deepening prayer practices -- whether at
Silence and Stillness Tuesday nights, at Bible Study on Wednesdays,
throughout meetings during the week, or on Sunday morning. We are
practicing “Listening Prayer,” and if you would like to hear more about
that please come talk to Gavin in Rockton on Tuesdays and Thursdays
(currently 9am-2pm) and in Sheffield on Wednesdays.
launched a new order of service on Sunday, its design is intended to
improve the flow that facilitates prayer and discerning the presence of
God. Pray into that, think about it, and look forward to our
Feedback Form from the Worship team later in February.
God is in
this place -- let us give thanks, celebrate, and continue to grow our
awareness as 2020 Vision continues to give us eyes to see and ears to
hear, and hearts open to the Spirit’s movement!
to recap: our vision for 2020 is focused on building connections
-- with God, each other, and our neighbours. Vertical,
horizontal, diagonal -- to build outward from the centre and reach
others with presence and love.
The heart of that vision is our
relationship with God, who is accessible to us through the person of
the Holy Spirit, and can be revealed to us in scripture, prayer and
So together we are seeking to encounter God
relationally -- not just receive intellectual understanding alone, an
education about God, but more -- to know and experience the Creator
that loves us, the Saviour that redeems us, and the Spirit that guides
This week we will be piloting a new worship service format
to facilitate that sense of encounter, and we invite you to dwell in
it, try it on for size. After six weeks we'll be sending out
feedback forms and asking what worked for you, what didn't, ways to
keep moving forward. Initial reactions are often to changes
because they're changes -- instead, pause and pray, and see what God
We'll be focusing more and more on how to listen for what
God is saying, so stay tuned for announcements about Prayer Circles and
Alpha, as places and spaces where we can live that out. Stay
week is where Vision 2020 really becomes a lived action and not just a
catchy phrase. Rockton will be having their Annual General
Meeting on Sunday and Sheffield on the 26th. We will be putting a
cap on 2019 and setting the tone for the new year.
I write this
message in the morning before going to my ordination interview, the
culmination of a season of my life that began at my baptism years ago,
that I preached about just last Sunday. Today impacts my future as a
What Faith means in all three cases is entrusting our
future to God - Paul tells us in Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all
things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been
called according to his purpose.”
God is with us. James
4:8 says “Draw near to God and God will draw near to you.” God
does not force intimacy upon us, but patiently waits to be invited
in. Let 2020 be the year we radically invite God into our lives -
into every meeting, every interview, every prayer, every relationship,
every decision every day.
God is working for our good.
Stick close, draw near. We’re going to be fine. More than fine - 2020
is going to be one for the books!
In Sunday's service we talked about casting vision for 2020 -- our goal
is to be intentional, grow our relationship with God, each other and
the community through presence, and learn to discern together what
God's will for Rockton-Sheffield is for the future. That will take
prayer and conversation, both collectively and one on one.
Let's discern and worship together, and find out what else God has in store for 2020!
Community Growth by Karen Hunt
Day is one Holy Day that has become very commercialized. The word love
goes up in lights but does it light up our hearts and actions?
Although the decorations have been around for weeks, we probably
haven’t had the opportunity to look beneath the red and pink sweetness
that blankets so much advertising. For me, that changed this week. In
small groups in our small communities of Rockton and Sheffield and
beyond, we have been blessed to turn the love talk into walking the
Love Walk. This week a whole choir was unanimous in their
commitment to actively support a women’s group, giving their time and
their voices. Bible Study and Alpha meetings also looked deeper
into what it means to truly love our neighbour even when, or especially
when, they are unlovable. God gave us the ultimate picture
of love by sending Jesus to die for and to rescue us. This gives
us so many opportunities. Opportunities to build greater bonds within
our church family. We opened up conversations that will help us to grow
together. Love shows us the way forward in faith. God has always loved
us. What a wonderful gift. Love everlasting.
Faith: Believing with the Heart
can hear myself sharing with friends that I was shocked at how quickly
my faith faltered recently, when I was faced with several unsettling
events which happened in a row. My mind was instantly filled with
visions of sad endings and catastrophes. I didn’t think I could make it
through. But then the community restored my faith. Murray shared his
patience. Gavin prayed. Choir music soothed. I learned that when the
rubber hits the road, we can open our eyes, and hearts and hands to
reality that we are not in charge. God created us. God loves us. God
has a plan for what should do. We must only love one another and
believe. After a week of support and debate and reading and singing. I
am more assured than ever that setbacks and trials highlight God’s
great love for us and also the love we share with one another. Exciting
things are quietly happening in Sheffield-Rockton. Hearts are open.
Voices are speaking up. We are not retreating into isolation. God
speaks and God provides the way to go but he doesn’t drag us kicking
and screaming down the road. We are finding ways to move beyond the
devastating words of cancer, fear, hate, separation and loss. We are
moving forward in faith.
we ring in 2020, it has been impressed upon me that many significant
moments in our lives are announced by the ringing of bells. One
friend’s husband ended cancer treatment with bell ringing.
On the farm, we moved a vintage bell closer to the back porch so that
we could use it to message each other whenever one of us was walking or
working farther than shouting distance away. Inside our homes
there are a long list of things that depend upon bells to deliver a
message. Bells warn us when doors are left open. Bells can
signify new arrivals or when something is finished or when a machine is
slipping into “error” mode. Bells on church steeples and at
railway crossings call us to gather, or slow down and they help to keep
us protected from danger. Ringing bells can provide all kinds of
information but the bell doesn’t do the work on it’s own. It takes our
hands or, at the very least, our listening ears. Then we must
understand the message. After those two ringing moments, there isn’t
any value added until we take action. Go to church. Gather
together. Hear the message. Fix what is broken. Celebrate
what has worked. Ring out the News!
As we say goodbye to 2019, we find ourselves saying other
goodbyes. Illness. Loss of life. Separations due to
work. We come together and then move apart, as we celebrate the
high and low points of daily living. Living out our goodbyes in our
faith communities does not get easier with practice.
The recent experiences of Advent culminated in the happiest “Hello” as
we welcomed Christ. But now what happens when the Angels leave.
When the Shepherds and the Wise Men leave. Once again, we feel the
fears of separation. Faith and Hope seem to place us back into an
uncomfortable time of separation and waiting.
In our Rockton-Sheffield faith community, we mirror these feelings as
we say goodbye to our minister. While she has shepherded our churches,
her messages in all their variety and wise examples always focused on,
“What does God’s message mean to you today in your life?” Putting faith
into action, although it includes closing some doors, also means
opening new ones. Faith in action includes both “Hello!” and “Goodbye!”
As 2019 draws to a close, we pray for Reverend Hart and for each one of
us as we draw closer to God.
is the focus during the fourth week of Advent. We all know what love
is. Love is caring for one another and feeling that caring
spreading around us.
As the year winds down, we remember those we
have loved and lost this year. We reach out to show love to those
who are facing hard times. We joyfully sing about the “Wonders of His
Love” on that “Holy Night”. Whether we celebrate the smallest things
one at a time or in a large crowd, we remember, “Truly he taught us how
to love one another” not only at Christmas but every day of the year.
words of love uplift us. The actions of love change us. Whether
we realize it or not, our communities are paying attention. We
express love by taking time out of our busy lives and trying to make a
difference. Being an active example of love can change the mood within
our own communities. God’s love doesn’t end at the church door.
It walks out with us wherever we go. God’s love embraces everyone we
meet. God’s love stretches to all people. We are truly loved. We
are truly blessed.
THE JOY GATE
I’ve read the story. I know about stars and shepherds and the manger
I don’t remember any gates. How did they protect themselves from danger?
That night when angels came through the gates of heaven to announce the heavenly Son.
Shepherds left un-gated pastures. The sheep followed along.
They didn’t worry about what they lacked.
They never questioned or decided to turn back.
Their faces shone with Joy
As they gathered round that baby boy.
Is there a JOY gate that is open, waiting for us to walk through?
Would we find it? Could we find it? if we did, what would we do?
Would we shut the gate upon Him … and turn His gift aside?
Are we ready to meet Jesus … with hearts that are open wide?
Someone left the Joy gate open that night in Bethlehem
And humble and low the Son of God came to save the world of men.
Not a palace but a manger.
A king without a throne. Could anything be stranger?
No entourage to shout His worth
But a choir of angels proclaimed His birth
Before we decide what we will or won’t believe is true
Let’s take time to find the Christmas gate …
and see if we can walk on through.
December 8 th begins the second week of Advent. The week of
Peace. Before writing this, peace had been elusive for me. I missed an
appointment. I was behind on my to do list. A recent discussion
escalated into a disagreement. I didn’t even have the focus to pray,
“Dear Lord, please give me peace.“ Then I attended Bible Study and my
At first, the focus was on words like fearful and sinner and
awful. But as the sharing went on, I heard the words evolve into
humility, tranquility and awe. We talked about past and present
understandings and, through the unselfish give and take of the others,
I saw the joy that teaching and learning and giving unselfishly
shackles us into anxiety. Humility is calming and the good news is that
we already possess peace. “God came down as a vulnerable and
helpless babe, in a forgotten town, into an ordinary family. He gave us
the Peace of His Presence. It is God’s gift to every single one of us.”
What must we do to earn this we ask? The answer is simple: “Give Him
your heart.” This is the Peace that passes understanding. Peace.
busyness has taken over and I have had to say “No!” to some of the
things that are a routine part of my community life. Two of those
– Bible Study and Charge Chat – were on this weeks chopping
block. Upcoming concerts, however, are high on the priority list,
both as participant and audience. I am looking forward to the
Brass in the Barbershop Concert at Sheffield this Sunday and love that
it features members from both Rockton and Sheffield United churches. As
well, it has been wonderful practicing with Christmas choirs and
Cantatas and hearing how the leaders work with us to bring out the
message. None of the songs consist of one part, but of
many. The harmony happens when all of the parts make their
contribution. Furthermore, the words have inspired some of the
best discussions of theology that I have heard lately. I loved it when
the choir leader said enthusiastically, “This week’s hymn selection is
excellent!” We began to practice and to confirm that the hymns
expressed individual faith and, as well, ways of living that faith in
the whole community. Poetry. Theology. Comfort and Commandments. When
some of those phrases stick in our heads and repeat their holy message
over and over, we are blessed.
with living in rural communities, do you ever think about the noises of
our lives? Upstairs, as I write this, I am playing a You Tube
selection from our November Christmas Cantata, while downstairs sounds
spill forth from an office computer. Simultaneously, I snap open
suitcases to get packed for our long-awaited getaway. We have planned a
quiet weekend. But how quiet will it be? To get there, we must
first join the sounds of cars, trucks, and buses. Horns will honk.
Engines will backfire. For a while, airplanes will thunder
overhead. When will we reach that place called “Quiet”?
Outside I can see the first heavy snowfall of November. Right
here, right now there is the opportunity for quiet stillness. In the
spaces in between vacuuming, snow ploughing and ringing phones.
There a time right now for meditation.
Each one of us is able to find our quiet place and feel restored. Faith
waits in the spaces. Of course, afterwards we will again seek out the
people, sounds, music and noises that God has given us to share.
Faith lives in the noisiness. Faith grows in the silence.
We are blessed.
more active we become in rural communities, the more fully we
experience the full range of life experiences and faith
blessings. This week the Rockton-Sheffield Charge provided us
with opportunities for difficult conversations ranging from funeral
planning to Remembrance Day memories and discussions of war and peace.
On the proactive side, learning how to meditate, perform CPR,
understand Bible Scripture and Pilates classes were opportunities
offered for better spiritual, physical and mental health. Some
neighbours and friends were actively involved with the Royal
Agricultural Winter Fair. Choirs provided us with the challenges
and rewards of new music being prepared for Christmas, while also
preparing our hearts for celebration. And through it all, volunteers
kept working on behind-the-scenes planning and maintenance of our
churches. It takes everyone sharing their talents and
gifts. We are truly blessed.
We can all name the big moments that have tested our courage. But
sometimes we have to show real courage over seemingly little
things. Making a phone call. Going out of the house.
Doing a job alone that we always shared with someone we have lost.
Keeping a routine doctor’s appointment. Nothing particularly out of the
ordinary. But oh how our minds think up reasons for postponing,
avoiding or not doing them at all.
We need to recognize that everyday courage takes us out of our comfort
zones. It is not the imagined courage of fighting dragons or saving the
world. Everyday courage says no when you are peer pressured to say
yes. Standing apart from a crowd to be yourself. Speaking
out at the risk of being unpopular. Courage is needed to truly
make change. It doesn’t happen overnight. It is hard to
see. The test of courage is one day at a time. One prayer at a
“I asked the Lord to walk with me, when darkness was all that I knew
He said to me ‘Never be afraid, for I will see you through’.
Be brave. Be a blessing.
we sometimes tire of hearing the path metaphor being over-used to
describe our faith journey, it fits well when we feel like we aren’t
sure of where we are going. If we are unsure of our destination what do
we think will help us? Is it leadership? Is it change?
I think the answer is given by parents, family and old and new friends
who, when they know we are unsure, or running late or facing
uncertainty, lovingly reach out saying, “I’ll leave the light
on.” Without judgment. Without interference. We are
offered a safe welcome, whenever we arrive.
In our rural charge we are all wound up and worried about where we are
going and how soon we will get there? Perhaps the question we
should ask and the one that will lead us forward is “Where is God
We struggle with life and death, right and wrong, dark days and light.
Through it all God is there. His light has no best before date. His
light will show us the way. God is Love.
This Sunday begins the anniversary season in our Rockton-Sheffield
Charge. Each anniversary is a time to appreciate two important things:
a remembrance of the past and a celebration of what is to come.
We look backwards into history to see where we began, what we have done
and how we got here. Then we imagine what lies ahead. However,
before we move into the future, we need to grasp onto one more
important thing. We need to grasp onto our Faith. Our faith has
brought us this far and faith will lead us on. Faith means always
believing that something good is about to happen.
Something good has happened in Sheffield for hundreds of years. Two
hundred and seven years to be exact. Our prayer is that this
anniversary celebration will strengthen, prepare and propel us into the
next century, as we find ways to meet the needs of young and old in a
changing world. May we be inspired to join hands in holding on to
a thread, a hand, a hope, a prayer. Our history has led us to this
point. May renewed faith lead us into the future. We are blessed
through all the seasons of our lives.
For deep ties to Sheffield-Rockton.
For the Gospel in word and sacrament.
For gifted church leaders past and present.
We give thanks.
For community, correction and encouragement.
For those who serve at Shelters and Seniors homes.
For church organists who nurture and grow Music ministry.
We give thanks.
For commitments to Bible study; exercise; work bees; spirituality.
For those who decorate and organize sanctuaries and social spaces.
For gatherers who deliver meals, baskets to hospitals, seniors and homes.
We give thanks.
For willing lifters of heavy stacks of chairs and operators of sound systems.
For all ages of historical buffs who share their wisdom and spiritual insights.
For neighbors, family and friends who draw together to comfort the grieving.
We give thanks.
For moms and dads, kids and cousins, aunts and uncles, grandma and grandpas
For church staff for their ministry, administration, church cleaning and maintenance.
For Rev. Louise Hart's caring instruction, thoughtful messages, and gentle shepherding.
We give thanks.
in our Rockton-Sheffield charge overflows with blessings, rural
connections in the annual celebration of farming, productivity and
community at Rockton World's Fair. During this Thanksgiving weekend,
let us give thanks to the Lord. We are not alone. We are blessed.
are not even two weeks into September and we are on a roller-coaster
weather ride. Sometimes hot. Sometimes cold. Sometimes both
in the same day. Even so, we take for granted a good night’s rest and
connection to each other by phone internet and open roads. Over the
weekend, family, friends and travelling neighbours faced the potential
for fallen hydro lines, closed roads and all the destruction of
rampaging wind and waves battering the east coast. I don’t think we
have ever had so many connections who had literally travelled or moved
into the eye of the storm. While we didn’t give a second thought to
meeting up for coffee, walking, biking or driving, these others were
gearing up to face the unexpected and uncontrollable. Unable, and a
little nervous, to call directly, I approached mutual friends and, by
Tuesday, we confirmed that everyone we knew had come through safely.
However, it may be a while until everyone in the Maritimes are restored
to the routine repeatability of heat, hydro and clear highways. When
our arms can’t reach the friends and family, we realize that community
goes beyond the boundaries of Rockton and Sheffield. What we take for
granted, others are praying for.