Capital Campaign for Our Church Home – Flash(ing) in the Pan

We are now at the third Sunday of the Capital Campaign for Our Church Home and pledges have already started to come.

With the pledges that came in last week plus previous money, mainly from Mark’s concert, we now have pledges and cash of $67,500.

This is really exciting news. It brings us just over half way to the cost of the roof repair and just short of 40% of the way to our total campaign goal. This is an excellent start.

To address some questions that have come up:

  1. You can start paying your pledge any time now. You don’t have to wait for the end of the campaign on June 11.
  2. If you’re going to be paying through your envelope, put the amount on the Special Offering line and write in “Capital Campaign” so that the counters know where to designate the money.
  3. If you are going to pay by pre-authorized givings and you want to keep track of that separately from your regular PA givings, you can request the diocese to take the capital campaign money out on a different date.
  4. We will accept pledges from anyone, even those outside the church. So if your rich Aunt Matilda would like to make a donation, we would be happy and grateful to receive it.

We are continuing to seek volunteers to pick up pledge envelopes on the week of June 11-17 for people haven’t brought them in by that Sunday. You won’t have to make a sales pitch. You won’t have to review the donor’s pledge. Just know the basics of the campaign as outlined in your package. You’ll get a list of parishioners to call and a week to go out and pick up the envelopes. We need about 15 volunteers to make sure it’s a light load for everyone. If you can help, please see Deb Adams.

We have been emphasizing that these repairs are not being done for the sake of the building itself. They are being done in order to shelter and keep safe the ministries of the church. Our stewardship of our building can’t be separated from our love and service to God.

Each week of the campaign, we’re going to spend a couple of minutes during this time to explain some of the repairs that are needed and then hear about a ministry connected to that area of the building. This week I’m going to review the work that needs to be done directly over where we’re sitting today.

This is the newer part of the roof so there’s less work to be done here, but still there’s work to be done

The granular protection is wearing away, leaving the sublayer exposed to harmful UV rays, and damaging the flashing and overlap seam where the two slopes come together.

There are several spots where sealant and caulking have become brittle or weren’t applied properly. This could allow water to get in and damage the insulation under the roof.

In another place where vertical and horizontal surfaces meet, a 90-degree flashing was used instead of a 45-degree one, which would have allowed better expanding and contracting of the two surfaces as the seasons change.

Worship of God is central to the life of the church. Our worship space is beautiful, bright, and flexible, allowing us to follow Anglican traditions but also stretch ourselves. So Mary is going to talk to you about a worship activity. It’s not something that happens entirely here in this space, but it is related.

I have been asked to speak about this service that me and a few others do that indirectly involve this wonderful worship space that we call our Sanctuary.  We are known as L.E.M.’s which stands for Lay Eucharistic Minister.

We have been doing this ministry since late 2002 which is shortly after we moved into this building.  We were asked by Rev. Canon Janet Griffith and approved by Bishop Bruce Howe.

Our task is to take communion to shut-ins.  But we do much more than that.  We take the church to them.  For the most part they are interested in what is happening here at Ascension and like to talk about people that they know here and were long time parishioners with.  We usually start with a little visit and then go into the communion service, and even though some of them have dimension, as soon as we start the service they quiet down and take part as they never forget this part of their religious life.  They are always happy and grateful for the visit and the communion.

How this works is we ask the office administrator to put in the bulletin the name of the person we are taking communion to, so that they can be prayed for.  This information is then passed onto the Chancel Guild who prepare our baskets and put them on the altar to be blessed.  At this time I would like to thank the ladies for doing this for us as sometimes we give them very short notice.

For the most part the parishioners that we visit are long term clients that are either in Nursing Homes, Retirement Homes or House bound.  We also visit those who have a temporary reason for not being able to attend church – either because of an operation or an injury that restricts them from leaving their home or hospital bed.  We also ask if they would like a visit from a clergy and if so we pass this information on.  At times Rev. June has accompanied me on visits as well as her asking me to accompany her.

Over the years we have become very attached to those we visit.  For my part, most of them were virtually strangers to me when I first started taking them communion, but after a few visit we became very close.  Unfortunately we have lost a few as they have aged and departed this life.  This is sometimes difficult to deal with but at least we know that they no longer suffer and are in a better place.

When I was first asked to become an L.E.M., I said that I didn’t think this was something that I could do but Rev. Janet asked me to try it first before I turned it down.  I have to thank her for her persistence as I must say that for all the things that I do at Ascension, this is by far the best thing I do and the most rewarding.







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Capital Campaign for Our Church Home – The Parish Hall Pond

Last week, we launched the Capital Campaign for Our Church Home.

This is an ambitious campaign to collect cash and pledges over the next three years to raise $175,000 for current and future repairs to our building.

Campaign packages were distributed Sunday, May 7. Those who weren’t here would have had them delivered by a friend or neighbour, or received them in the mail. If you did not get a package, please let Sandra Coulson know.

We are seeking volunteers to pick up pledge envelopes on the week of June 11-17 if people haven’t brought them in by that Sunday. You won’t have to make a sales pitch. You won’t have to review the donor’s pledge. Just know the basics of the campaign as outlined in your package. You’ll get a list of parishioners to call and a week to go out and pick up the envelopes. We need about 15 volunteers to make sure it’s a light load for everyone. If you can help, please see Deb Adams.

These building repairs are not being done for the sake of the building itself. They are being done in order to shelter and protect and keep safe the programs and ministries that we do at Church of the Ascension and the people who attend them. Our stewardship of our building can never be separated from our love and service to our God.

Each week of the campaign, we’re going to spend a couple of minutes during this time to explaining some of the repairs that are needed and then hear about a ministry taking place directly  under that part of the roof.

This week, let’s talk about the ponding on the roof over the Parish Hall.

As you can see, a large part of the flat roof is covered in water that cannot easily drain. The drains built along sides and on support columns are now higher than the deck of the roof, which has compressed over the years.

The extra water is causing the roof to blister, lose its surface granules, and age from exposure to sunlight.
The Parish Hall is the heart of our community life. It is where we hold Sunday School, Coffee Hour, the Community Breakfast, dinners, and conferences.

Here, Christine Brush will talk about one of those programs:

One of the ministries offered in the Parish Hall is the Friendship Committee, also known as Seniors’ Afternoons or Seniors’ Lunches. This was founded by Christine Brush, Audrey Bullerwell, and Fran Buck. We started this program over five years ago. This program is a safe and welcoming environment for seniors in the London area.

Our volunteers have been from our church family and now has expanded to the London community. We have been able to provide free lunches, eight months a year. These lunches have been with a complementary musical component. This is provided through the generosity of the London and Windsor area bands and individuals that donate their time and musical talent.

The Friendship Committee, through the generosity of our seniors, assists in many other programs in the London area.

Over the five years, the seniors have contributed to London Food Bank, Children’s Aid Society, Mission Services residences, Women’s Community House, several nursing homes, hats and mittens for homeless, and The Angel Tree for Seniors for those who are need.

A month ago, The Friendship Committee, decided to begin a SMART Program directed by VON. This is held on Mondays and Wednesdays from 8:30-9:30am. This program will assist seniors in balance and mobility in a safe environment by trained VON specialist.

The Friendship Committee are continuing to expand our outreach to seniors in the London area, to provide them with a safe and welcoming place to be. As the phrase has been coined, to define who the Friendship Committee are: ” We are the community hub for Seniors.”

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Movie night, anyone?

I went to see The Hunger Games this week. Dramas with a kill-or-die dilemma are not usually what I like to watch, but there was a buzz around this one and I had a discount ticket, so I thought, “Well, if I waste my money, at least it will be a cheap waste.”

With that ringing endorsement, off I went. There was one scene where I thought, “Okay, not watching this moment.” But overall, I’d say it would be a good movie to get a discussion going. (I digress to say I’ve finally found a way to express that without some bad, bad pun such as “There’s a lot of food for thought in The Hunger Games” or “There’s a lot of meat there.”)

There’s the obvious issues of oppression and injustice that we see too often around our world. I also started to think about the ethics of entertainment. Panem’s Capitol is sickeningly obsessed with these games, but I wonder how far off we are as we cheer our way through this year’s particularly vicious NHL playoffs. What are the ethics, too, of a “reality” TV show that is quite manufactured? I was also struck by the view of adults through the eyes of the youth: feckless, self-absorbed. It’s not a youth rebellion, but a sense of being let down by adults. Interesting stuff.


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The Ten Commandments…and the Greatest Commandment

Below is the text from the reflection that was presented on Sunday, March 11th. Some of this was an ad-lib but I tried to stay as close as possible to these concepts.

Ten Commandments given to the ancient Israelite people. Ten hard and fast rules to live by. Some of them are pretty easy to keep. I haven’t felt the urge to murder anyone recently so I’m good there. I have no intention of stealing anything but I suppose that might change if I had no job or money. Coveting my neighbour’s possessions might get difficult too; there are some pretty nice cars out there I might like. I’m not planning on committing adultery…mostly because if I do Charlene might have trouble with the murder one.

So that’s four of the easy ones to remember for just about everyone. Some of the others are mostly known just by us Christians: no Gods before, um, Him, no idols, keep the Sabbath, don’t take his name in vain.

Then there’s the one all parents like…honour thy father and mother.

There’s another one that I usually forget because it doesn’t come up often…oh yeah, don’t bear false witness.

So there they are, ten commandments given to the Israelite people. It might have been easier if Moses stopped there, but no, he has to go and finish writing the Book of Exodus. In it we get a few more “laws” that we are supposed to follow; 613 more laws if memory serves. All kinds of things get covered: what to eat, how to cook it, how to eat it, when to eat it, who to eat it with, how to become clean again after eating it, who we can sleep with, who we can’t sleep with, when we can’t sleep with someone we can sleep with, etc, etc, etc.

Is it any wonder people have become confused knowing how they are supposed to behave?

Then God sent Jesus down to cleanse us of our sins. I wonder if part of his mission was also to straighten out this whole commandments and laws issue. Maybe God accepted the fact that we just couldn’t keep all those rules straight.

So Jesus made it simple for us. He condensed all those commandments and laws into the Greatest Commandment:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

And the second was this:

Love your neighbour as yourself.

Simple, straight forward, to the point. I think anyone can keep these straight.

So when you think of doing something that might be wrong, think whether you would want it done to you. If the answer is no…then don’t do it!

And when you are wondering how much of your time, treasure and talent you should dedicate in one way or another to the Lord, the answer to that question is pretty obvious as well. God comes before everything, but not at the expense of the second command. I think Jesus included the second part so we wouldn’t forget that while we’re waiting to live with God, we have to live with our brothers and sisters here on Earth.

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Tough Times

At a recent meeting there was a short discussion about how life can sometimes make you doubt your faith. This is fairly common and can happen multiple times in a person’s life for a multitude of different reasons. My personal experiences over the last 18 months would surely qualify as some of those reasons, but strangely enough I have felt my faith strengthening rather than weakening. Let me give you a short (okay, maybe not so short) rundown of the last year and a half:

On a Friday afternoon in June of 2010, while on holiday, I found out that the plant I had been working at for over 25 years was going to close it’s doors at the end of September. To say I was devastated would be a bit of an understatement. Here I was, 48 years old with two barely adult children and a mortgage with no job. I was pretty much a basket case on Saturday. On Sunday morning I had been asked to lead the children’s focus with a review of what we had studied during the year. I began the review with the first story we had discussed, the story of how Abraham and Sarah had been told by God to pull up stakes and head out to an unknown place and future, with only their faith to keep them company (and sane). As I spoke these words my own situation snuck up and slapped me in the face. Here I was, a Sunday School teacher saying these words to the children I have dedicated a fair portion of my life to teach. And suddenly my own situation seemed pretty small. If I was going to talk the talk, I really needed to walk the walk. With that decision I put myself fully in God’s hands.

As time progressed we found out that they were closing the plant in London but moving the operations to a sister plant in Brantford, where some people would be given jobs. As it turns out, I was not one of the people who were offered a job. But strangely enough, it didn’t seem to bother me all that much. I actually became a calming force for all the upset people who were being faced with a radical change of their lives. I joyfully explained to anyone who asked where I was finding the strength to remain calm and accepting of my fate. With only a week to go before the plant closing I volunteered to go to Brantford for a couple of weeks to help with the integration and training. Management couldn’t believe that I would offer my services this way but gladly accepted my offer.

Strangely enough, after those couple of weeks they found other things for me to do and finally realized that they should have kept me on after all. Unfortunately, being part of a huge corporation meant that there was no place for me and they were forced to let me go at the end of September of 2011. Again, rather than being upset about losing my job I was happy that I had managed to pull off another year of employment.

So I start looking for job but at the same time throw myself into things at church. Being unemployed gives me time to put together a really good Advent season for the children. I also joined (re-joined?) the Mission and Ministry team, went to a conference – discovering the Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations – and found a new direction for my efforts.

Just after Christmas a family situation developed that could have literally been deadly. Luckily I was unemployed and was around to see the signs before things got out of hand. Because I was unemployed I was available to help someone I love with all my heart through a very tough time. That person is now well on the road to recovery and life looks extremely hopeful again.

And now after all these things have happened, I get an interview for a job that seems perfect for me; a job that was not available a year ago, or even four months ago. This job allows me to use all the things I learned through my years at my old employer with a new, small company. I start the job next week and I’m really excited.

So – after all that rambling – you can see the last 18 months has been a roller coaster ride that would have been much harder without my faith. After being reminded of God’s love and presence talking to the children, I put myself in his hands and went for the ride of my life. In hindsight, it looks like a choreographed dance with all the steps falling into place at the exact right time. How could I possibly doubt the wonder and splendor of a loving God after these experiences? Some people say that God no longer talks to us, but I think if you keep your ears open (and your mouth shut) sometimes you can hear a whisper on the wind, a quiet voice saying “the times when you see only one set of footprints, is when I carry you”.

Cecil Merriam

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Today – Sunday February 5th, 2012 – was Vestry, the parish’s annual business meeting.  And I spoke in favour of apportionment.  For those of you who don’t know what apportionment is here’s a brief summary.  In the Anglican Diocese of Huron each congregation is connected to each other. We share many things, including the ability to fund ministries like Huron Church Camp, Huron Church News and Huron Hunger Fund. We also fund the salaries of professional staff members that deal in legal, financial and personnel matters.  Areas of expertise that few if any congregations are equipped to deal with on their own.  Moreover we pool together to pay the salaries of the bishops.

 Long time friends will know that I continue to struggle with the patriarchy represented in this diocesan structure with power and decision making flowing down from the bishops.  But recently when a friend asked “Why do we have to pay apportionment anyway?” I found myself answering fervently.  I know that our parish has benefitted greatly from the treasure trove of knowledge that resides in the building beside the cathedral.  How many times have the members of the Ascension’s Executive Team phoned for clarification or advice on trust funds or loans?  Twice in this past year the Director of Administrative Services has come out to Parish Council to give advice – this is in the evening on his own time.  I know that the payroll person keeps tremendous records so that she can cheerfully remind a forgetful Warden of a previous salary or the percentage rate of a salary recent increase.  The Financial Analyst is always cheerful and prompt in his answers to confusing finance questions.  He helpfully makes suggestions no one at the local level had considered. Never do any of these skilled people make you feel stupid.  I know this because 10 years ago when I was Warden I was the forgetful person asking the dumb questions.  As an individual parish we could never afford such expertise on our own.  We are blessed to have access to and the support of these capable people.

 So today, there I was asking for our parish to make paying our apportionment as much a priority as paying our local bills.  And this despite the fact this money also goes to support the hierarchical tradition of centralized, predominately male control of the church that is so contrary to my personal beliefs.  Such is the breadth of the Anglican Church that it allows me question somethings, value others and still belong.

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Love for Thy Gifts

My parents normally complain around this time of year about me. See I have this well, “unique” outlook on presents. I ALWAYS love them all, even if it’s that pink pair of socks my grandmother gave me, even though I hate the color pink, or that horrible pair of pyjama pants that are so thick and insulated you could use them as snow pants.

     You may be asking why my parents complain then, right? If they could give me anything and I would be happy with it, then why complain. See, the real problem here is the fact that well, simply they’re my parents. Parents want to be able to give their child not something they’re just going to love, they want to give their child something they will cherish, something that the child has really, really wanted. Bonus points if the child didn’t even know they wanted it!

     The outlook on presents I have, sadly appear to be a unique outlook. I love every present I have ever gotten just based on the fact that someone took time out of their day. May it be an hour, a couple of hours, or just five minutes, they thought about me and they look at me as important enough to deserve a present. I find it sad to see that so many people become angry with presents they are given, or take presents back because they don’t like them. Yes, I wont lie, there are presents in boxes on top of my closet that  I haven’t used in a year, or more. But I would never dare take them back to the store, just because its not what I wanted. I didn’t like that pair of socks, or those pyjama pants. I have worn them though. After awhile those pink socks became practically white because of washing, and those pants, well they became sweatpants instead, not pyjamas.

            What I’m trying to say is look at your presents in a new light this year, look at them for what they are….a proclamation of a person’s love, a person’s care. So this year, when you get a present you don’t fully “want” don’t throw it out, give it a try…sooner or later it might just grow on you….heck I’m wearing those “pyjama” pants as I write this, and my legs are toasty warm.

Lisa Merriam

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The Cormorant’s Blessing

I have been in Seattle for over a month now. I have been spending a lot of time walking beside Lake Washington. This is a 35 km long narrow lake that goes down the back side of the city (while the ocean in the form of Puget Sound is on the front). The kids’ neighbourhood has plenty of trees especially maples and they have been out in glorious colour – mostly yellow, but some reds. There is even a kind of tree that seems to have leaves that turn purple. On a sunny day it is a feast for the eyes. And there have been many sunny days

Around Seattle there is a range of snow-capped mountains the largest being Mount Ranier to the south. It is massive even from almost 100 km away. You cannot always see it but on bright clear days it is visible. A couple of times the clouds have been below its peak giving the impression that the mounting is floating on the vapours. Amazing.

Sometimes I find myself walking out on a public dock so that I can be surrounded by the water. When I stand there and relax I feel a grounding in my feet, a calming expansiveness in my belly, a warmth in my heart and a tingling in my head. I know then that God is in me and I am in God. It is real and powerful and peaceful. I raise my arms in an open embrace or a sign of blessing and I can feel eternity. It is beyond what I can ask or imagine.

One day as I was engaged in this communion a cormorant perched on a rock nearby and opened its wings in a reciprocal blessing. We stood, blessing each other for a minute or more. Here it was, another reminder that God is all around me and when I am open and observant I can find Her.

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Judas – colour and consequence

A few weeks ago I went to see the production of  “Jesus Christ Superstar” at the Stratford Festival. The music, the acting, the staging were excellent.  I enjoyed the experience totally.  But I found it to have a surprising impact.  As I watched the show I found that my
sympathies were with the Judas character. I liked him tremendously, far more than the Christ figure.  Can this be right?

As I have continued to reflect on the play I am struck by a number of things.  In this production Jesus was blond and clothed in white.  He seemed insipid.  Judas on the other hand was dark-haired and wearing a blue costume.  That gave him substance and life – some colour and consequence.

I like that Judas was the practical guy who took responsibility for managing the nuts and bolts of Jesus’ ministry.  He was the one who tried to walk the talk – make sure the resources went to the poor.  He was the one who understandably got upset when he saw money being wasted on frivolities like oil for Jesus’ feet.  Judas was no-nonsense and principled.

I like that Judas was a good friend to Jesus.    He was more than just a “Yes Man”.  He worried for his friend and tried to keep him grounded.  He was concerned that Jesus’ ego might overtake him. He told it like it was and that meant real, difficult, honest friendship.

Over the centuries it has been Jesus that gets the credit (and the glory) and Judas the blame.  But I am certainly seeing this in a different light these days.  Perhaps I recognize
more of myself in Judas than in Jesus.

More reflection needed, that’s for sure.

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Cecil on forgiveness

From what I understood, Reverend June’s reflection on September 4th talked about trying to forgive and deal with people who you feel have wronged you. I have to admit that I follow the Biblically prescribed pattern far less often than I could or should. Often it just seems easier to stay mad at the other person and suddenly their behavior starts to justify my feelings, or at least it does in my perception. I wonder how many times somebody says something in total innocence but in my mind I blow it out of proportion and take it personally, as if the person said it with the sole purpose of hurting my feelings. But sometimes, the pure arrogance of that opinion breaks through my cloudy thinking and I realize that I just may not be the center of everyone else’s universe. Usually that enlightened turn of thought comes after I’ve prayed for help. The Bible says that with God all things are possible, but I don’t remember it saying anything about those things necessarily being easy, and even with help it isn’t easy. But most things worth doing never are easy. But it seems to get a bit easier each time, so we have to keep trying, over and over again. After all, I’ve heard that Saints are just sinners who fall down…but get back up. So get back up and go talk to that person who you feel wronged you. It just might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship!

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