Gathering of Solidarity, November 20th 2016

Over the past 6 days, hateful, racist messages have been spray-painted on 5 places of worship in Ottawa:  Parkdale United Church (for the second time since January), a synagogue, the home of a rabbi, a mosque and a Jewish Community Centre.

Yesterday, Karen and I and other members of St. Andrew’s joined 100’s and 100’s of others at the Machzikel Hadas Synagogue for a solidarity gathering.  Muslims, Jews and Christians came together to respond together to this vandalism.  As Rev. Anthony Bailey of Parkdale United Church said:  “Such behaviour must never, ever, be the norm – for any group.” 

As part of this service of solidarity yesterday, the whole congregation stood and read these words together, affirming our united stand against racism and our commitment to love, peace and acceptance.

Today, congregations all over Ottawa will be reading these words together as well.

Please stand with me, if you are able, and let us here at St. Andrew’s read these words together.


Here are the words of solidarity, written by members of the congregation of the Machzikel Hadas Synagogue.                      

                                     Expression of Solidarity and Gratitude
                                          Congregation Machzikel Hadas
                                                     November 19th, 2016

We gather together as a united community to express in words what we feel in our hearts.     Painful events of the past week have proven a number of important points.
Words of concern and empathy are more powerful than graffiti.
Expressions of love are more potent than expressions of hate.
The power of togetherness is stronger than the power of divisiveness.
A community standing together negates evil intentions.
Words of comfort heal the wounds of verbal assault.
A common commitment to everyone protects against an attack on anyone.

We are strong because we are resolute in our togetherness.
We are even stronger because we are cooperative in our diversity
We gather to focus on the good that inheres in all of us.
We gather to extol the mosaic that defines who we are.
We gather to celebrate the beauty of our community.
We gather to express our gratitude for the wonderful people who comprise this great city, our Nation’s Capital.
We gather to be thankful for living in this caring country, Canada.

We resolve, individually and collectively, to do all within our power to assure that this
Is the Canada that our children and theirs will inherit. 


Reflections on November 11

I sat beside a veteran travelling alone on the bus to the Remembrance Day ceremony downtown this morning. He seemed very old; in fact he was well over ninety, he told me in an Indian accent. Tiny and brown-skinned, he wore a Sikh turban and beard net. There were four or five medals hanging on the left side of his navy blue uniform. I noticed that his shoes were very well polished. 

I wanted to take and post a photo of this amazing character, but I worried that it might be disrespectful. I wasn't even sure from our discussion in which conflict he had served.  It sounded to me like he had been with a Sikh unit during Partition, but I suppose if he was far enough into his nineties it could well have been WWII. He said there were lots of deaths where he served and he came to the Remembrance ceremonies whenever he could. 

After getting off the bus at Metcalfe Street I lost sight of him for a bit in the crowd heading toward the War Memorial. I lost sight because I was worriedly checking for him BEHIND me when he was actually well AHEAD, and when I saw him next he was executing a flawless slow-motion sprint across Elgin to beat the traffic light. 

Today, November 11, I'd like to say thank you to my remarkable bus buddy, thank you to all our veterans and thank you to all our serving members. Huddled at the Memorial in a cold wind watching our Prime Minister and his wife, the Vice-Regal couple and this year's Silver Cross mother lay their wreaths in front of a beautifully diverse assembly of faces and uniforms, I was reminded yet again of how blessed we Canadians are. Thank you, Lord, for the incomparable gift of peace. 

Joan R.

A word about Worship - Part 2

This is the second of four articles, each focussing on one of the four different stages we move through as we worship.

The place of the prayers of thanksgiving and intercession and the sermon: are you wondering about this? In September a change was made to the order of service in both services, moving the prayers of thanksgiving and intercession so that they now occur after the sermon. This has allowed the reading of the scriptures to be followed more closely by the sermon that reflects on them and has moved the prayers themselves to a place in the service where they are now part of our response to God’s Word.

In my article in the September newsletter, I began by noting that in the Presbyterian and Reformed Traditions, worship is often shaped so that it goes through four movements. The first of this, our approach to God, I went into in more detail in that article. It includes the call to worship, hymns, prayers of approach and confession and assurance of forgiveness. Together these guide us into our time of worship, uniting us, preparing us and making us ready to hear the word of God, which is the second movement in our worship.

The hearing and preaching of God’s word is at the heart of our worship in the Presbyterian Tradition. John Calvin called the Word and the Sacraments the marks of the church and taught that where the word is preached and the sacraments administered, there you have church.

At St. Andrew’s the hearing of God’s Word, most often begins with the reading of a responsive psalm, and it is usually led by one of our children. There is a poignancy in this that reminds us that we are called not just to instruct our children but to learn from them as well. The psalms themselves are the prayer book of the church, teaching us the language of lament and praise. They bring the deepest of human emotions and experiences into intimacy with God.

During the 11am service, we follow the reading of the psalm with a children’s hymn and a time with the children up front on the chancel steps. Although it is called children’s time, it is a very important part of the service for all of us. If we are sincere in raising up people of faith, disciples who find home and nurture in the worshipping community, then it begins with welcoming children in our worship and sanctuary today. Just as we need to hear the Good News in worship ourselves, we are called to share it with our children. In collaboration, Christine, Aisling and I have been giving thought and prayer to this particular time in the service, working so that it connects meaningfully with both the Sunday School lessons that follow, as well as the rest of the worship service.

The worship service continues with one or more readings from the Bible. A short prayer for illumination always precedes this reading, asking for the Spirit of God to open us body and mind and soul to the hearing of God’s word. This is a particularly reformed prayer and reflects our belief that the Holy Spirit is both the power by which God’s word is revealed to us and the means by which we understand its application in our own time and place. Whether the readings for the day come from the Hebrew Scriptures (which we also sometimes call the Old Testament), and/or the Gospels and Epistles of the Greek (or New) Testament, all of Scripture testifies and points to Christ.

The sermon is what follows next. Preparing for and preaching the sermon are an important part of my role as teaching elder and pastor of the congregation. In preparing and delivering it I pray that it will be a vessel through which the Word of God and Holy Spirit can work and move. In reading the texts and working with them each week, some of the things I look for are how God’s transformative grace is at work in the text and how that helps reveal what God is doing in the world around us and where we are being called to join with what God is doing.

This then brings us to the completion of the second part of the worship service. The next part, our response to God,  is where the prayers of thanksgiving and intercession, also called the prayers of the people are now found and I will write more about that next time.

Rev. Dr. Karen Dimock




A Word About Worship

From our quarterly newsletter, St. Andrew's in Action. This is the first of four short articles, each one focussing on one of the four different stages we move through as we worship.

The assurance of forgiveness: are you wondering what this is? There have been a few changes to the order of worship this fall, and in addition to moving the place of the prayers of intercession there is this new piece in the service.

The assurance of forgiveness or pardon as some churches call it, is an element that is found in the worship services of many Presbyterian and Reformed Churches, following the opening prayers.

In the Presbyterian and Reformed Church traditions, worship is often shaped through four movements. The first of which is our approach to God. As we are gathered in together, we sing an opening hymn of praise and then incline ourselves in a prayer that is often two fold in its nature, blending together praise for who God is with confession. The nature of this confession is often both personal and communal as we acknowledge before God the way we as individuals and communities have turned from the ways of Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit among us. When I craft these prayers for our worship together, the words I use often include, we are here, we are listening, we are sorry and please forgive us. The Lord’s Prayer often follows these prayers of approach and then we have the assurance of forgiveness.

This assurance is itself one of the proclamatory moments of the worship service. Taken (sometimes directly and verbatim) from the Scriptures, it is a simple statement assuring us of the Good News that in Jesus Christ we have been, as the old hymn says, ransomed, healed, restored and forgiven.

This completes the first movement of our worship, now we are ready to hear God’s word for us today and I will write more about that next time.

-    Rev. Dr. Karen Dimock

Prayer for the morning

Holy One, thank you for the ability to begin my day in prayer.
Guide my path today.
No matter what happens, help me to feel that I belong to you,
and bring me home to you at the end of the day.


from Feasting on the Word: Worship Companion. Westminster John Knox Press, 2014 (used with permission).

Prayer for the Morning

Photo: James D.

Photo: James D.

God of surprising revelations, I thank you for rest and renewal.
I thank you that when you come to your people,
you speak peace and invite faith in you.
Make this new day a time when I will give
more thanks for life than I did yesterday.
Give me ears to hear your will for me,
hands that are open to others,
and eyes to see the beauty in your world;
in Jesus' name.


From Feasting on the Word: Worship Companion.
Westminster John Knox Press, 2014 (used with permission).