Question of the Week

What is Lent?

What is important to know going into it?  Should I be giving something up?

The word “Lent” comes from an old English word for “Spring,” which is a helpful starting place when considering what Lent is, what Lent is not, and what we might consider in the next few weeks before Lent begins.  In its most basic definition, the season of Lent is the 40 days (not including Sundays) which precede the celebration of Easter.  Modelled on the story of Jesus spending 40 Days in the wilderness following his baptism and before beginning his public ministry, this block of time is preparation for entering into the mystery of Easter.

One of the most well-known ways of observing Lent has been through the adoption of a particular discipline, or ‘giving something up.’  Chocolate, caffeine and meat are popular items to forego during this season.  It is important to know why we are doing this, however.  Lent is a time of renewal and regeneration.  Rather than merely a time in which we do something to please God, Lent also very much becomes another one of God’s gifts to us – an invitation to claim some space, or create some space, to focus on the things which (or The One who) truly gives us life.  The wisdom of the ages tells us that there are many powerful and creative ways of entering into this space.  Some examples:

Almsgiving – it is easy to spend money mindlessly, to consume food that is bad for us, entertainment that numbs us, to buy things that we don’t need.  Commit yourself to giving a certain amount of extra money away during Lent – to the church, to a cause you believe in, to someone in need, to St. George’s Refugee Sponsorship, to the Water Project – and then spend the smaller amount of money you have left with mindfulness and gratitude.

Service – our lives become cluttered with obligations, appointments, chaos and stress.  Make a choice to do something for others during Lent, to take on a project or service that is over and above what you normally do.  What do you need to let go of in order to do this?  How does this project give you life and energy?

Worship & Education – Lent began in the church as a season of catechism (i.e. teaching.)  It was a time in which Christians made a particular point of learning and growing in their faith, of making time for both spiritual and mental renewal, for nourishing the brain and the soul.  You can join us for our Super Tuesdays:  6:50pm to 8pm for one of two study options.

The first is the book study “Let Me Go There” by Paula Gooder; the second is “Just the Basics” – a look at the fundamental teachings of our Christian faith.  On Sunday mornings, you can participate in our “Following Jesus” Bible Study from 9am to 9:45am in the Asbil Lounge.  On Wednesday nights, you can share in our “Women in the Bible” sermon series & Bible Study from 7pm to 8:30pm.

Consumer Choice – rather than giving something up, try changing your consumption habits to more clearly reflect your values and beliefs.  Buy locally.  Eat food that was produced within a 100 mile radius.  Or commit to fair-trade coffee and chocolate.

Giving Something Up – Giving up meat or dessert, caffeine or alcohol, is still a viable Lenten option, just be clear about why you’re doing it.  If it’s because you want to lose weight, or because you think you should do something, it’s probably not the right choice.  If foregoing a luxury moves you to be more compassionate for those who have less, or if you simply want to create enough of a break in your regular patterns of consumption so that you can once again appreciate the blessings of this life, then go for it.

Lent begins on Wednesday, February 14th,  with Ash Wednesday.  Consider how you want to observe Lent 2018.  These questions may help you in your decision-making:  Where does my life feel out of kilter?  Where do I feel lost or hurting?  What do I most want/need to receive from God right now?  What questions are most persistent in my faith life?   With this in mind, give careful, prayerful consideration to where and how you might create the space or practices in which to bring these needs, hopes, and questions before God over the course of these 40 Days.

Blessings to you in the week ahead,
Reverend Martha.

What is Candlemas?

“My eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,, a light for revelation”

The ancient church was adept both at piggy-backing on already established pagan festivals to create new Christian festivals, as well as lining their festivals up with the rhythms and seasons of the natural world.   Which is why the “Christmas   season” — a season that is obviously well past in the secular world — continues in the church until February 2nd .  Candlemas is the Christian Festival of Lights, and this celebration marks the end of Christmas.  Forty days after we tell of the birth of Jesus, we encounter the story of his presentation in the temple, and Simeon and Anna’s recognition that the light of God is revealed in this baby boy.  It falls at the mid-point of winter and also became a practical celebration — during the “candle” Mass, candles used in the church and in homes are blessed for the upcoming year.  (Interestingly, the secular world has used the same maneuvers of the early church, claiming February 2nd away from its Christian connotations and marking it instead as Groundhog Day).

Although we no longer rely on candles to light our homes and churches, Candlemas nonetheless invites a simple and meaningful expression of faith in our modern world.  This year, we will be celebrating Candlemas at Advent Café on January 31st at 7pm.  As part of our Sermon Series & Bibles Study (Women of the Bible), we will be reflecting on the prophet Anna, one of the first to recognize who Jesus was, even when he was just 40 days old.

The format of the evening is simple.  If you use candles in your home, bring them with you this evening to share in a blessing.  With that sign of light and blessing as a physical reminder, we can reflect together on what it means to be called into darkness, to be present ‘here in this place’ as bearing witness to, inhabiting, God’s light.  We conclude our evening with fellowship and refreshment as we enjoy a tangible sign of the joy that we receive in God’s life.

What should we know about Mark’s Gospel account?

Q. This year in the church, we will be hearing a lot from the Gospel according to Mark. What should we know about this Gospel account?

This is how Mark begins:  This is the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

 Good News/ Euangelion:  what does this mean in Jesus’ world?

-usually used to refer to political news, a message from the Emperor that a significant battle has been won, or that an uprising has been subdued.

-the fact that Christians used this word to describe the message of Jesus, a peasantwho died as a criminal of the state, is significant.

Key Facts about Mark:

-Probably the earliest of the Gospels

-Most scholars believe that Mark was a source for Matthew and Luke’s writings. 

-Shortest and most basic of the 4 Gospels

-Written in order to create an argument:  to convince people that Jesus was Christ, Son of God.  Not a biography, but rather a means of leading people to faith.

-Scholars disagree about when and by whom the Gospel was written.  It was anonymous, and apparently the author didn’t think that this specific information was necessary for understanding the writing.

 Who is Mark?

By the 2nd century, this Gospel was associated with John Mark, relative of Barnabas

(one of the twelve apostles).   It was thought that he wrote it in Rome and based it on

Peter’s teachings. 

 The Gospel’s Context:

Written for use by the early church.  Material about Jesus was circulated through the oral tradition in order to form and build-up the early church.  We can see this oral tradition represented in Mark’s Gospel.

-written for Greek-speaking non-Jews, living outside of Palestine.  Therefore, the Gospel reflects the transition of Christianity from a Jewish sect to a more widespread phenomenon.

-Jerusalem was attacked and captured by Rome between 67-70AD.  Was Mark written before or after this revolt?  Some indications in the text suggest before, some after.  Therefore, it could have been written any time between 50-75 AD.


-No birth narrative, relatively no information given about Jesus’ background. 

-Messianic secret:  Mark’s Gospel is shrouded in secrecy.  Jesus tells almost everyone who has a miraculous encounter with him, ‘not to say anything.’  Most of Jesus’ closest followers are shown as being incredibly stupefied by Jesus.

-For Mark, Jesus can only be understood in light of his whole ministry, including his crucifixion.


-Typically described as action-packed, fast-paced, and concise

-least sophisticated writing of the 4 Gospels, but it is not careless.  Mark very carefully wove stories together in order to tell us who Jesus is and what following Jesus looks like.


A New Year Blessing of the Home

Leader: The Lord is with you;
All: And also with you.

Leader: Peace be to this house
All: and to all who live, work, and visit here.

L: The Magi came to Bethlehem in search of the Lord. They brought to him precious gifts: gold to honor the newborn king, Frankincense to the true God in human form, and myrrh to anoint his body, which one day would die like our own.

L: Let us pray. O God, you once used a star to show to all the world that Jesus is your Son. May the light of that star th at once guided the magi to honor his birth, now guide us to recognize him also, to know you by faith, and to see you in the epiphanies of the daily experiences of our lives.

L: Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord — Jesus born of Mary—  shall be revealed.

All: And all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.

Leader: As the Wise Men once sought your brilliant light, O Lord,

All: so may we seek to live and work in your splendor.

L: O God of Light, bless this (our) house and this (our) family. May this be a place of peace and health. May each member of this family
cultivate the gifts and graces you have bestowed, dedicating our talents and works for the good of all.

L: Make this house a shelter in the storm and a haven of rest for all in need of your warmth and care. And when we go out from this place, may we never lose sight of that Epiphany star.

All: As we go about our work, our study, our play, keep us in its light and in your love. A Blessing of the Chalk for Marking the Door:
Lord Jesus, through your Incarnation and birth in true human form, you have made all the earth holy. We now ask your blessing upon this
simple gift of your creation — chalk. We use it as a tool to teach our ch ildren, and they use it as a tool in their play and games.
Now, with your blessing, may it become a tool for us to mark the doors of our home with the symbols of your wise servants who, so long ago, came to worship and adore you in your first home.

People in turn mark the doorway with one or more of the symbols:

20 + C + M + B + 18

The magi of old, known as

C         Caspar
M        Melchior
B         Balthasar

Followed the star of God’s Son who came to dwell among us

20        two thousand
18         and eighteen years ago.
+          Christ, bless this house,
+          And remain with us throughout the year.

L: O God, you revealed your Son to all people by the shining light of a star. We pray that you bless this home, and all who live and visit here,
with your gracious presence. May your love be our inspiration, your wisdom our guide, your truth our light, and your peace our benediction;

All: May we be Christ’s light in the world.

What are the 12 days of Christmas?



Q.  What are the 12 Days of Christmas?

We all know the song, ‘On the 1st day of Christmas, my true love gave to me….,’ and although the Partridge and the Pear Tree are the best known of ‘true love’s gifts,’ the carol has become so popular that there are all kinds of ‘re-make’ versions now circulating.  My kids got a 12 Days of Canadian Christmas storybook one year, featuring puffins, polar cubs, and hockey players.

It doesn’t take a lot of detective work to assume that the first day of Christmas occurs on December 25th when we celebrate the birthday of Jesus.  And you might remember, on January 6th we celebrate Epiphany, the story of the Magi’s visit to baby Jesus (we’ll be celebrating that on Sunday January 7th instead).  However, figuring out who is celebrating what, when, it not always an easy task.  In some parts of the Christian church, for example, the visit of the Magi is celebrated on December 25th, along with the birth of Jesus and the visit from the shepherds.  Epiphany, then, is the celebration of Jesus’ baptism and is considered a more important remembrance than Jesus’ birth.  Even December 25th as the date for Christmas is not recognized across the board; in the Armenian church, for example, Jesus’ birth is celebrated on January 6th.  It might come as a surprise that for many Christians, Christmas hasn’t even happened yet!

Because our secular world is so intent on celebrating Christmas from the morning after Halloween when Christmas decorations and food can finally go on sale, to the flurry of mall activity on December 24th, counting down each day as “Only X number of Shopping Days left before Christmas!’, we don’t always realize that, in the church, the celebration mostly happens from December 25th onward.    The Feast of the Nativity (Christmas Day) and the Feast of Epiphany (January 6th) are both regarded as such important Christian remembrances that the twelve days that separate these two occasions became known as the Twelve Days of Christmas and provided an impetus for linking the two great days with ongoing merry-making.  Numerous other saints’ days and remembrances of Jesus’ life occur in the intervening days:  St. Stephen’s day on December 26th, the Feast of Holy Innocents on December 29th (the remembering of the Jewish boy babies killed by a jealous King Herod after Jesus’ birth), and the Circumcision of Jesus on January 1st.

 The Twelve Days of Christmas can be honoured in many creative and fun ways.  Some households light a candle each of the twelve nights, while others give small gifts throughout (although ‘8 maids a milking’ and ’12 drummers drumming’ actually have never been shown to make great gifts, despite what the song says!).  There are traditional foods that can be prepared and served throughout, with special attention to marking a time of feasting, of making sure that meals are shared with others with hospitality and gratitude.  January 5th, the Twelfth Night, can be the culmination of the lavish and on-going party.  It is common, then, to see January 6th as the last of the 12 Days, after which the tree comes down and diets return to more ordinary and restrained fare.

Even that is not the entire story.  One of the older traditions of the church extends the Christmas season until February 2nd, at which point a Festival of the Lights is held – Candle Mass.  This festival brings Christmas to its final close by blessing the candles which are to be used in the Christian households throughout the year, and then processing through the darkness with this newly-blessed light. 


Why is there one pink candle in the Advent wreath?

Gaudete!  Or in English, Rejoice!  As we now enter into the third week of Advent, we light the pink candle on the Advent wreath, and it is a natural question to ask why this one doesn’t quite fit in with the others.  It makes sense that the middle candle – the Christmas candle – would stand out (it’s white).  But isn’t the Advent colour blue?  Did we just run out of the blue candles?

 In some churches this morning, the clergy will be wearing rose-coloured vestments – it is an option that some churches take to change the colour of this one day of the church year to pink, to deck the clergy and altar out in the same rose colour as the Advent Candle, and to once again use the power of our visual sense to communicate symbol and story through colour. 

You may have noticed that, to this point, our Advent readings have had a sombre tone.  The first week of Advent speaks of apocalypse, and invites us with Jesus to reflect on the coming kingdom of God, the promise that Christ will be with us again.  The second week of Advent introduces us to a wild and woolly character:  John the Baptist.  He comes blazing on the scene calling his people to repent, to turn their lives back to God.  Advent, in marked contrast to the hyper-activity and romanticism of secular Christmas, is a season of the church year that invites reflection, inner quiet, penitence, renewal.  In the past it has been referred to as ‘mini Lent’. 

And yet, Advent is also a time of preparation for the mystery, the joy, of Christmas.  This third week then, we turn a corner.  We see in our Advent wreath that the light has become stronger – three candles now lit.  The birth of Jesus is just around the corner.  Our readings and prayers begin to become more celebratory:  today our Sunday School and Youth Choir share with us their annual Christmas Pageant, and at 4pm today, our Senior Choir help us, through the service of Lessons and Carols, to frame the story of Jesus’ birth in the wider story of salvation history.

 The third Sunday of Advent announces this turn toward Christmas with these traditional words:

   Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Let your forbearance be known to all, for the Lord is near at hand; have no anxiety about anything, but in all things, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God. Lord, you have blessed your land; you have turned away the captivity of Jacob.’

 We don’t have pink vestments here, and our worship doesn’t open with these traditional words.  But let us nonetheless take a stirring message from our one pink candle this morning:  God gives the gift of God’s own self to us at Christmas for the purpose of restoring human joy.  Gaudete!  Rejoice!  May our hearts be opened to receive this purpose as we move ever closer to our celebration of Christ’s birth.

Q. What is the Grace Meeting Room? Where is it?

Last Sunday, we shared with our congregation the next steps in our partnership with Grace Church, unanimously approved by both Corporations and Parish Council.  On Monday December 4th, the Corporations of St. George and Grace sent a letter to our Bishop asking that our two parishes be formally amalgamated.  On Tuesday December 5, that amalgamation received the support of our Diocesan Synod Council.  This means that we will be one congregation, with one set of books, one ministry team, one budget, one parish list, beginning January 2018!  It is an incredible joy to reach this final goal in our partnership.  (If you have any questions about this amalgamation, please contact a member of clergy .  We also have hand-outs available outlining the ‘whys’ and ‘wherefores’ of our next steps).


In this amalgamation, all of our assets and liabilities will be shared.  The question was raised about the assets that Grace is bringing with them.  A huge round of applause was shared when we noted that, of course, the greatest asset that Grace brings with them is their people.  I would add to this assertion that the people who come to us from Grace also bring with them an incredible faith, a willingness to serve, a generosity of spirit, a gracious friendship, and a rich history of ministry in

St. Catharines.


They also bring a number of special items that represent this history and ministry.  There are things that we are using across our church and in our worship:  linens and Eucharistic vessels, powerpoint equipment and furniture for our renovated Bear’s Den, beautiful hangings that will go into our gymnasium, war memorial plaques that now hang in our sanctuary, and any number of other practical items that we use for coffee hours, community dinners, outreach and fellowship.  One of Grace’s beloved stained glass windows, the “Pentecost Window” is going to arrive at St. George’s in the new year and will become part of our chapel space in the east transept.



While it is of great value to all of us to have these things in use, we also recognized the need to specifically designate space at St. George’s for some of the other memorial and historical pieces that have been meaningful to the Grace community, particularly the Memorial Boards and the plaques and pictures remembering past leadership of Grace. 


We have therefore created the Grace Meeting Room.  It is beside the Asbil Lounge (and was formally called “The Board Room”).  A generous parishioner is donating appropriate furniture for this room, and our volunteer group – under the direction of our Property Manger, Jim Streadwick – has been painting and brightening and cleaning up the room.  A lovely picture of the Grace Church building is going to be framed and hung on the wall, along with the plaques. 

 We expect that this room will soon be ready for use.  It will be a place where various committees will meet, where counselling, visioning and planning will take place.  The room will be open on Sundays and through the week for those who want to find a quiet space for remembering and giving thanks.












 -Written by Rob Welch, Chancellor of the Diocese of Niagara

 I’ve been asked this question a number of times in the last couple of months, since

Bishop Michael Bird announced in September that he will conclude his episcopal ministry in our Diocese on May 31st, 2018.  A special electoral Synod will convene on Saturday, March 3rd, 2018 at Christ’s Church Cathedral to elect his successor, who will initially serve as coadjutor Bishop.  Archbishop Colin Johnson, metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of Ontario, will preside at the election.  After a short transition period following the election, the coadjutor will assume the responsibilities of diocesan Bishop on June 1st.

At its October 3rd meeting, the diocesan Synod Council appointed a seven-person

Electoral Synod Nominations and Planning Committee to oversee the electoral planning process.  The committee will also prepare biographical material on the nominees.  On

December 5th, Synod Council will meet and act as a nominations committee to compile an initial list of candidates.  At that time, each Synod Council member will nominate, by

secret ballot, 3 eligible persons.  To be eligible for election, a priest must be in good-standing with regard to doctrine and discipline of the Anglican Church of Canada, at least thirty years of age, and have been ordained for at least seven years.

According to diocesan Canons, the top ten nominees through this process will be

contacted by the Electoral Synod Nominations and Planning Committee to ensure they are willing to let their name stand.  Further nominations may also be made in writing by any ten members of Synod, with the consent of the nominee, and provided to the chair of the Electoral Synod Nominations and Planning Committee prior to or during the

electoral Synod.

This Committee will be discussing ways to disseminate information about the candidates before the electoral Synod.  At the electoral Synod, after Eucharist, balloting

commences.  An election is declared when one candidate receives a majority of votes of the Clergy and Lay delegates on the same ballot.

I personally hope that from the nomination of candidates through to the announcement of a final result, this electoral synod process will provide an opportunity for diocesan

discernment in an open, transparent and innovative manner. 

As a parishioner of St. George’s, I’m happy that, included in our prayers for the

people,  we are asking for this discernment as our diocese moves through this period of transition.



Interesting Facts About Stewardship from Our 225 Year History

Q: Did you know? Interesting facts about Stewardship from our 225 Year history

Today we celebrate All Saints and All Souls.  This celebration is particularly poignant for us this year as mark the 225th Anniversary of St. George’s.  This is an opportunity to recognize, pray for and offer our thanksgiving to God for the faithful people who have gone before us and whose gifts partnered so generously with God to build this church.  Looking back, here are some interesting notes about the history of Time, Talent and Treasure at St. George’s:

  1. Originally, the St. George’s community relied on overseas money (Society for the Propogation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts or SPG ) to provide and pay for their clergy.
  2. It was also the expectation in this part of the world for a short time that the government would support Anglican clergy and Anglican churches.  The multicultural nature of Canada from the very beginning eventually saw the overturning of this provision in 1854 because it was so unfair to all other denominations!  We still have a very small trust fund left over from this time in our Canadian church history.  We are not able to access the principle.
  3. In 1796, 46 names pledged 121 pounds (a lot of money in a time when people had very little money) to build the original church building for St. George’s.
  4. When St. George’s finally hired a long-term clergyman exclusively for their community, 27 families pledged 100 pounds to help toward his salary.  The rest was paid by the SPG and by the government, but this was the first time that the congregation had in any measure taken responsibility for paying their clergy.
  5. When congregations began to pay for their clergy, it was called Voluntarism, rather than Stewardship.
  6. The first Bazaar was held in 1847 by the ladies of the parish.  It raised 361 pounds and allowed for the purchase of an organ.  This venture was considered so successful that in 1852, the Vestry of men voted again on putting the women in charge of raising the funds for a rectory!  They held another Bazaar, and a rectory was purchased on King Street
  7. Until 1921, it was common practice to buy a pew at St. George’s.  Pews in the centre of the church cost the most, with the sides and galleries being less expensive.  This was the primary source of income for supporting the church for many years.

Our Narrative Budget Explained (2018)

The Joyful Giving Campaign is composed of two Components: 1) Narrative Budget 2) Parish Relay. Last week’s Question focused on the the Parish Relay. This one focuses on the Narrative Budget.

What we give and how we spend our money communicate clear stories about who we are and what we believe. This Narrative Budget links our financial choices to the stories of investing in our faith community now and for the future. Our Narrative Budget this year is called 225 Years of Generosity & Joy St. George’s leadership feels excited to share this document with you because of the past generosity it details – generosity that has built our beloved church for generations – as well as its hope-filled invitation to each and every one of us to be part of how God continues to build our church home – for the present and for the future.

Here are some other details you should know about St. George’s 225 Years of Generosity & Joy:

  • The stories represented in this year’s Narrative Budget are based on what has been happening in the last few years at St. George’s and what we hope and plan and pray for 2018. When we are asking for you to complete an Intention Form, we are asking you to consider what you will be giving in 2018. The numbers for 2018 are approximate at this point. The final 2017 budget will depend on 1) how the rest of 2017 goes, 2) the response we get to this campaign, and 3) other unforeseen variables as we move through the final quarter of this year
  • A line-by-line 2018 budget will still be available at Vestry this coming year. The numbers in that budget will be much firmer. You will still have an opportunity to vote on the 2018 Budget at 2018 Vestry
  • Whether you are a long-time member of St. George’s, new to our parish, or previously a member of another congregation (particularly St. James and Grace), this year’s budget is FOR ALL OF US and represents a comprehensive vision for ministry for our entire congregation going forward
  • You can access this year’s Narrative Budget through several media. We have printed copies available at the church. We have this document posted on our website, . You can save paper and have this document emailed to you. Email me at for your copy delivered straight to your inbox. And a paper copy of the Narrative Budget will be circulated with the relay materials for our Joyful Giving Campaign.
  • Whether you choose to read it on-line and save some paper, or whether you get a printed copy, PLEASE read this important document! It is an important part of our 225th anniversary celebration this year as we give thanks for where we have been and where we are going. It shares great joy and hope about what God has been doing in our midst. It represents a life-giving invitation to participate in the possibilities which are on the horizon for our faith life together.