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A True Story About Playing Cards

I came into the office this morning to find that a large box of playing
cards had been left for me. There were fifty decks in the box. I opened one.
They were lovely playing cards; very smooth and with large, easily readable
numbers on them. But there was a hole in the center of each card and each
package. The logo on each card said “Casino Rama”.
I asked our secretary about where the box had come from. It seems they had
been dropped off by one of our saints, who is part of a group in the
congregation that sponsor and run card parties here. They are a good
fundraiser. The “card circuit” in our city is a moveable feast of bridge,
euchre and pepper players, who come to play cards, eat, and move on. They
purchase tickets to play cards for an afternoon. They love it and so do we.
The cards were used, although in excellent shape, and had come from the
First Nations casino over near Orillia, about two hours away. The
instructions from our saint, that came with the box, were simple; “could
David bless the cards so we can use them?”
Not having a prayer for the blessing of cards at hand, and knowing that even
the internet would come up short on this one, I was reminded that in the
United Church we dedicate things in the church and then make them holy by
our use of them. I’m not sure if we need to formally dedicate the playing
cards in worship, but I am certain we can make them holy by using them.
Knowing that our Methodist forebears are spinning in their graves, I have
to ask ” Whose deal is it?”
— David

A Memorable White Gift Sunday

Were you there? Oh, if you weren’t at church on Sunday, December 7th, you missed a highlight of the Christmas season.
As Rev. David stood at the microphone at the front of the church to make the announcements, people were startled (as was David) to hear Alvin the Chipmunk speaking the words David was trying to say. Pat Wilkie, the sound magician, had tweaked the controls to alter David’s voice, much to the amusement of the congregation.
While the candles were being lit we listened to the beautiful blending of the voices of Angela Shearman and Matthew Galloway singing “Who Is This Tiny Child?”
The Church School was in charge of the service. Under the leadership of Ann Otterbein they had prepared a drama about Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere. The narrative, read by five girls, set up the story which was illustrated by a children’s choir. This little band of angels, large and small, sang about Mele Kalikimaka (the Merry Christmas greeting in Hawaii) and Feliz Navidad from South America. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer became Roo Roo the Kangaroo from Australia.
Sitting right up front gave me a really close look at these precious children. Some were very serious, giving their wide-eyed attention to the signals from Ann and Tamara, her helper; some bopped along with their hips swinging; others swiveled to see what their neighbour was doing. There was a gum-chewing angel whose eyes, even so, remained fixed on the leader; another one or two who must have thought there was too much noise during the bell-ringing and so put the bells to their ears to close off the sound a little.
Following the drama presentation we discovered some budding musical talent as Sarah McCarrel on violin, Ashley Otterbein and Laura Charlton at piano, and Jacqueline Otterbein on saxophone played Christmas carols.
Then the pièce de résistance. A magical set of circumstances occurred when it came time to sing to the baby Jesus. From the back of the church there arrived a brand new four-day-old baby who was gently placed in the manger as the children sang “Away in a Manger” to Baby Bradley Charlton. I have always wondered what it would be like to see a real live baby in the manger scene. I couldn’t believe my good fortune to be there for this Holy re-enactment. Here was the future interpreting the past. The children presented a message which was more than real and I had a hard time keeping the tears back.
Since this was White Gift Sunday, a long-time tradition of our church, the children wheeled in wagons and grocery carts jam-packed with “white gifts” of groceries for the Salvation Army Food Bank. This year they will be even more important because of the demands on the bank caused by the economic stresses of this time.
We take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas, Mele Kalikimaka, Feliz Navidad.
By Rosemary Fenwick

Shelaugh Hart to Sing at Communion Service

We have a special guest at church on Sunday, October 5. Shelaugh Hart will share her faith with song during the service. Shelaugh lives in Barrie, Ontario, and comes to Owen Sound frequently to perform in the local entertainment scene. Her CD has been played on local radio. She also visits socially here, sometimes singing at birthday parties. Her enthusiasm makes you smile when she sings Gospel as well as Jazz standards.
Share the news.

Shelaugh Hart will sing again at Rhythm & Pews on November 23, sharing the performance with Don Buchanan, sax, and Rob Gasidlo, keyboard.

Web Site Addition

It seemed like I was sitting in a pew while listening to our minister,
Rev.David Shearman, but it wasn’t Sunday.
And I wasn’t at church, anyway; I was sitting at my computer!
Clicking on a link that has been installed on Our Services page of our
web site, a recording of a recent sermon begins to play.
A day or two later, I listened to it again because I sometimes absorb
interesting ideas slowly. And this one sure is interesting; an
exploration of forgiveness rather than judgment.
Yes, folks, it’s another first for Central Westside. Thanks to Pat
Wilkie and our web guy, Bob Daniel you can now listen on line to
David’s familiar voice, whether you are a shut-in or a snowbird or
just miss getting to church on a Sunday.
Tell your friends and tune in. Go to http://www.centralwestside.ca

JOB POSTING:Looking for the right people

Our church is an interesting place. It’s operations are unique.
Would you like to see what goes on outside of the Sunday worship service?
Would you like to play a part in helping our church in it’s special ministry?
We have openings that range from maintaining property to financial matters, from worship to human resource issues and congregational life to stewardship.
We do not offer a salary but the benefits are great.
You get to work with lots of other wonderful people, learn some new skills (promotions are common) and feel that you are making a contribution to our efforts in the name of God.
Right now we are accepting applications for various positions. Let us know what you like to do and we’ll see which of our jobs fit. We promise to get back to everyone who applies. We already know you will be successful.
Leave your name with the church office and you will be contacted for your special job interview.
Thank you for your interest in our church community.
Glen Durst
Chair of Stewardship Committee

Light Up Costa Rica

Anne Otterbein reports a successful project:
Our Sunday School children, with the help of the congregation, raised enough money to provide a complete solar lighting system to three families in Costa Rica.
Monroe Murphey introduced the project sponsored by Owen Sound Y Service Club of which Monroe is also a member.
Here’s how it worked: every day for a whole month, each participating family were asked to donate small change based on simple everyday items and happenings. Some suggested donations were a nickel for every pair of shoes in the closet or for every TV in the home. And 50 cents each time you went skating or tobogganing wearing a warm jacket. The children hoped to raise enough money for one system and were thrilled that they could send three systems to families living in the rain forest.
The purpose of this project is to provide Indigenous families in remote areas of Costa Rica with environmentally friendly lighting in the homes.The solar powered lighting systems provided are for reading, cooking and extending the workday for families. The solar system also provides power to radios as well as powering rechargeable batteries eliminating the use of battery operated lighting which is expensive, non-recyclable and when batteries are thrown away, can leach their poisonous contents into the ground. This is a vast environmental problem throughout the developing world.

Emmaus – An Experience and a Place; our minster, Rev.David Shearman poses a question

Do you know where Emmaus is?
There is an Emmaus Road, just outside of Pembroke, Ontario.
There is an Emmaus, Pennsylvania, Just outside of Allentown, in the
Lehigh Valley.
If you were to travel today to the Holy Land and to ask to be taken
to Emmaus, you would probably receive a bemused look from your guide.
“Emmaus… yes.” And then you would be taken to a place where, as
your guide would tell you. “Tradition says that this is where Jesus met two
of his disciples and they recognized him in the breaking of bread.”
The problem is that in the Holy Land there are at least nine sites
in and around Jerusalem that lay claim to being Emmaus. Only four of those
sites have any scholarly possibility of being the real Emmaus and none of
these places can be dated further back than the time of the Crusades, about
1000 AD.
There is another site, however, which seems to have been recognized
by the early church. It is called Emmaus-Nicopolis. It fits many of the
scriptural criteria for being the biblical Emmaus. And most importantly, it
has a much longer history, with a church dating back to the fourth century.
Archeologists have discovered the ruins of several churches on the
site, beautiful tile mosaics and, most importantly an outdoor baptistry. The
early church only used outdoor baptistries in places where there was a
bishop in residence and bishops only resided in towns and cities significant
to the faith.
But does our knowing where Emmaus was located really have any
importance to us two thousand years later?
When Luke 24:13-35 carries us back to Easter night and we find
ourselves in the company of two followers travelling away from Jerusalem in
despair or depression or fear because, along with the rest of the disciples,
they (and we) consider the witness of the women an idle tale.
We are content with a dead Jesus.
Upset, yes, angry, a little; but we know what we know: he is dead.
Is it even possible we want him dead because then we can forget all the hard
stuff and all the frightening stuff and all the demanding stuff?
Whatever we are thinking, whatever has brought us here, we are on
the road to Emmaus (which may not even have been a real place) and a
stranger catches up with us. We offer this stranger our story and our
hospitality. But something happens. As we tell the stranger our story, in
return we are given a better story and divine hospitality.
That’s Emmaus. It’s not just a place but an experience. And it is
the defining experience for the Christian.
What this text tells us is how hard it is to trust the word of
someone else, and how essential it is to experience for ourselves the living
presence of Christ. It’s not about memorizing scripture or knowing the
foundational statements of belief. It is being asked to commit ourselves,
instead, to a journey during which we will stop to share bread with a
stranger by the side of a road, and meet the Risen One in person.
That’s where Emmaus is. Right there. Right in the middle of our
daily living.
Then 1 Peter 1:17-23 says it all over again: We know who we are and
whose we are because we experience Jesus present in the way we live with one
Do you see the difference? Our faith lives in each one of us and
shows itself, not in our good deeds, but in how Jesus is present in the way
we live with one another.
I like the way Donald Schmidt, a minister living in Hawaii says it.
The assumption undergirding Peter’s letter is that we were not
ransomed into the servant community in order to talk about theological
conundrums or to attend committee meetings, but to live as people
manifesting truth, love, and obedience.
His understanding of obedience, however, is not the kind of
soldierly obedience which comes to mind. Schmidt draws our the Latin roots
of the word: (from the Latin ob-audire: thoughtful, whole-hearted
That’s where Emmaus is. It’s not just a biblical place. It is not
just ruins on a dusty road, waiting to be excavated. Emmaus is a place in
our hearts and in our lives. It is a way we are called to relate to each
other and to love and listen to each other. Emmaus is right here.
In the last month the United Church of Canada, the Anglican church,
the Presbyterian church and the Roman catholic Church, along with the
Assembly of First Nations has initiated, along with the Federal Government,
a five year process called the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on
residential schools. It is hoped that by allowing those who were hurt by
this experience to tell their stories and to have their hurt acknowledged,
healing can begin and reconciliation begin to take root.
Perhaps that will be our Emmaus experience for this generation.
Where is Emmaus?
It was then and it is now. It was and it will always be. Emmaus is
not only a place, it is our encounter with Jesus as we see Jesus in each

Ministry of Hangers: Rev.David Shearman reports on one of our resident saints.

Hospitality is the buzz word in our denomination these days. Making people
feel welcome is important, so our leaders and those who know, tell us.
So are the details.
This week one of our church saints stopped in with several bags of new,
wooden hangers. Around the church office we wondered why.
“They were on sale at Canadian Tire this week,” she said, “and looking at
the coat racks by the doors, I thought we could use them.”
She was right. And I hadn’t noticed.
Like most churches in this country we have lots of coat racks near the
doors. And there are lots and lots of hangers. All kinds of hangers. Wire
ones. Plastic ones. Wooden one. Some are bent. A few are broken. Some were
so old that the business names are long gone and phone numbers are three
digits (that means they are older than most of the people in the church
today; perhaps as old as the United Church of Canada itself!).
The point our saint was making, in a very gentle way, was that to anyone
walking in the door they looked like junk. They were messy. And over the
years, we had all become used to the junk and the mess right in front of us.
But not that newcomer. Not that visitor. And not our saint. The old
collection of hangers stuck out like a sore thumb. And their presence
pointed to a church that did not care to pay attention to the details.
Thirty new hangers later, I have to agree that they look a lot better. They
match. And it shows a detail of care that matches the rest of the sanctuary.
The devil is always in the details, but I’m going to have to remember the
ministry of hangers and the insight of one of our saints. Because that’s how
we make people feel welcome.

The Candle of Love, A message from Rev.David Guiliano

Jennifer and Doreen decided that United Church Moderator, Rev.David Guiliano’s message is too heart warming not to share with those who may have missed it.
Here it is from United Church of Canada website which also has a video for those who would like to watch him in action.
Greetings, friends, in this season of Advent, anticipation, and longing. I hope that this message finds you encountering God’s new birth among us in ways that inspire you and your passion for living the Way of Christ in the world.
Let me tell you a short story about an experience that inspired me and builds me up at this time of year. It was the usual busy week leading up to Christmas—hospital visits, communion for those who are shut-in, delivering Christmas hampers, and carolling. Christmas Eve brought the hot crush of visitors and many wired-up children for worship.
By Christmas morning, I was feeling the kind of tired that many people in ministry feel on Christmas. I arrived at the sanctuary early and was enjoying the sun slanting in through the windows and the silence of the big, empty room. I set up a small table at the front of the sanctuary, laid a tablecloth on it, and set out the ceramic crèche from the altar and put the Advent wreath beside it. I knew there would be a small group this Christmas morning, and by 11:00 o’clock there were 9 or 10 of us gathered around the table. First the children told the Christmas story to us in their own words using the ceramic figures, moving the cows and shepherds, Mary and Joseph around the space. We sang familiar Christmas songs and gave thanks to God for Jesus’ birth among us.
Then we used a liturgy that was written by a young man who had grown up in our congregation who was now a minister elsewhere. The liturgy invited us as we lit each Advent candle to some activity or to answer some question. We lit the candle of hope, for example, and went around the circle and talked about the places in the world where we find hope. When we got to the fourth candle, the candle of love, the invitation was to go around the circle and say to each person by name, “I love you and God loves you.” It’s quite an experience to have our friends say to us, “David, God loves you and I love you.” It’s a powerful experience to say to my brothers and sisters in our little church community, “Cindy—or George—I love you and God loves you.”
Well, when it became time for Sarah, a young mom, to go around the circle, she did like the rest of us. We went around and there were warm tears and friendly laughter after each turn. She came to Matteo, her seven-year-old son, and she said, “Matteo, I love you and God loves you.” And here is the breathtaking moment for me. Matteo simply said, “I know.”
I don’t know when it is that we forget or stop trusting that we are beloved. I do know that that is part of the promise of the birth story that we hear at this time of the year. A reminder that God loves us and that we are beloved. And we come to church, we come into Christian community, to be reminded of that and to learn how to live that love in the world.
My prayer for you, and for the strangers who will worship with us on Christmas Eve, and for those we reach out to in the world is that somehow you and they will hear through the voice of The United Church of Canada, “God loves you and we love you.” And that it will be said and enacted through our life together with such truth that they will be able to respond simply, “I know.” Because there begins the journey of faith with God—with the story of our belovedness expressed through the birth of a small child born in a manger.
Peace be with you. Amen.

Our church is burgled – Rev. David Shearman puts a theft in perspective

I first knew something was wrong when I drove past the church Wednesday morning and saw the new city police car – you know the one no one wants to see – the one that has no markings on it -the one they use for speed traps.
When I got to the church the police were here and it was obvious – the door frame to Jennifer’s office was shattered to kindling and the money was gone – $500.
You probably read about it in the paper but they didn’t say much more.
It was all the proceeds from the Talent Table to date
The thief also took the pennies from the bucket that says on the label:- plunk plenty pennies to placate pastor
The bare fact is this – the church was burgled.
We don’t know when it happened other than that the church was open when it happened and there were others in the building at the time.
I suppose what that really says is – we have a choice of being an open church or locking ourselves up tighter than a drum and living in fear.
We discovered some ironies to the situation; our insurance deductible is $500.
On Wednesday in the mail the United Church Observer arrived.
On the cover was the head line ‘Crime Proofing’ How to secure your church!
I am going to have a conversation with David Wilson, editor of the Observer about that – just a hair too late by a couple of hours.
But of course all of us on staff had reactions
It felt like a violation of our personal space
After all it is the place where we work, it is comfortable – It is home to us
We also felt a responsibility for the loss of the money; was it something we had or hadn’t done?
And then there’s a thought in the back of our minds, was this indeed still a safe place to work or was this indicative that the trends of the big city have come to Owen Sound again. Our world was upset as we knew it – and how!
Will we ever find the thief? Probably not.
As the police officer said,”I hope they had a real need for the money.”
So do I!
In the great scheme of things, the loss of that money is significant – yes,
but it isn’t significant.
I had to laugh, because that’s the only way sometimes to deal with the ridiculous things that life sends you.
The coincidence of this event and our gospel reading this morning was what made me laugh.
“Stay awake, stay alert! You have no idea what day your master will show up.
But you do know this, that if the homeowner had been there at that time of night, he would have been there with his dogs to prevent the break-in”
(Somehow the image of Tongo, our church dog, comes to mind).
“Be vigilant just like that, you have no idea when the son of man is going to show up.”
The passage reminded me very clearly that just as a thief comes to upset and overturn the little world of Central Westside, so the coming of the Messiah will indeed give us that feeling of upset, of violation, of wonder.
It is easy for us to fall into a sense of complacency
And in light of this burglary at Central Westside we have changed some things; we are not doing things the way we did them before.
It was a good and expensive lesson to learn. Without question we were complacent.
Sounds familiar doesn’t it?
Kinda sounds like what we are dealing with in Advent
But you see that Advent is about breaking the complacency that we might feel – breaking the mould of how things are and reminding us that there are other possibilities out there.
Other possibilities that God is bringing into our world and changing things in a radical way and changing things to show us a new way
How radical?
Just read our old testament lesson:
They shall beat their swords into plough shares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.
That’s radical stuff
And seem as far away from possibility as the things that we read on the front page of our newspaper and watch on the news every single day.
But that’s what God wants us to do and that’s what God wants us to be
Is it possible?
Can swords be beaten into plough shares and spears into pruning hooks?
Yes, they can!
People who worked for the Lutheran Aid Relief Organization after the war in Cambodia discovered something interesting; unexploded bombs and shells had been dangerously defused and explosives removed, and the bomb casings and the shell casings turned into water troughs for livestock.
I have a colleague who has a lovely set of brass lamps that she bought in Vietnam when she and her husband were there. The lamps came from shell casings and they’re beautiful, she says.
But even more so at a national level, is it possible? Yes!
More than a century ago Argentina and Chile were rattling sabres. You know how nations start to do it – they start to beat their chests and flex their muscles and start moving things forward.
It was over the boundary between the two nations in the Andes. The dispute was whether it was to be at the watershed or the highest point of a mountain range – where the river begins or the highest point.
War was a very real possibility in 1902
The people of both nations are by and large Roman Catholic and they were reminded of a cyclical by Pope Leo 13th, which called for the consecration for the whole world to Christ the Redeemer.
And Christians were urged to encourage their governments to settle matter amicably and without the use of swords.
The governments of Argentina and Chile listened and agreed to submit the matter to arbitration.
The American Ambassador and King Edward Vll of England proposed the solution which was accepted by both sides in 1903.
But that’s not the end of the story; there’s a lovely little codicil to this.
Bishop Benevente in Chile suggested the erection of a statue to remind the people of the words of Christ: “And they shall be lifted up unto the earth and all men drawn to me”
That statue should remind the people that they should be consecrated to a mutual understanding of each other and work towards peace.
And thus was born the sculpture ‘Christ of the Andes’
The Bishop of Argentina picked this up and the result was a 26 foot high bronze Christ holding his right hand out in blessing over the disputing nations and holding a cross in his left hand.
It was placed at 13,000 feet, the highest point of traverse between the two nations. the highest point on a highway in Aspousa Pass. It was readily accessible, in fact it was on the major trade route between the two nations.
But here’s the kicker – the bronze out of which the statue was made – came from old canons.
They took the instruments of war and turned them into plough shares.
War would not be anymore between these two nations.
And it never has.
That’s the difference that Christ coming into the world can make
That’s the possibility that is held out before us – when we claim the waters of baptism, when we gather together at this holy table.
The possibility that something new and different, the reality that we need not study anymore.
When God comes in this time of Advent, he breaks into this world in new and different ways.
God’s coming among us is what Advent is all about.
Are we ready? Are we prepared? Perhaps it’s time to watch and wait?
For the breaking in of God to our world.