Stir up Sunday is a term that has been used for years in our Anglican tradition, and it comes from the words of the collect for the Sunday-next-before-Advent from our beloved Book of Common Prayer. Because the prayer starts with the words “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people…” people have come to associate this Sunday with the making of the year’s Christmas puddings, to be made now and then reheated on Christmas Day. The British tradition of Christmas pudding was made popular by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, as were many of the things that we now think of as essential to Christmas.
In the December issue of Anglican Life, our columnist Ashley Ruby contributed a wonderful article about Christmas puddings, here shared for your Stir up Sunday enjoyment.
STIR up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
by Ashley Ruby
(for the Decemeber issue of Anglican Life)
As this paper goes to print a whole month in advance of its publication, I often struggle to find words that I feel sure will remain relevant from the time I write them down to the time you read them. Our world is changing so very quickly as of late, making it even harder to know what will be true both today and tomorrow. While I was ruminating on this complaint, I thought of something much sweeter—Christmas puddings!
A traditional part of a Newfoundland Christmas dinner is the Christmas pudding. My grandmother often mentions, when she goes to make the pudding for us, how her father made the pudding when she was small. “He never had a recipe,” she says, “Just made it off the top of his head. A little of this and a little of that.” Many recipes call for a spoonful of cinnamon and a handful of raisins, baked or boiled into a denchy and delicious little pud, that adds a special spicy warmth to the meal. (The Newfoundland word “denchy” refers to something that is still moist and not over cooked). Many recipes, however, require the pudding be made well in advance and re-heated on the day of.
Traditionally, these puddings are mixed up on “Stir-Up Sunday”—the last Sunday before the season of Advent begins, when the words of the collect for the day begin, “Stir up, we beseech Thee, the wills of Thy faithful people.” After these long months of sitting and waiting out the passage of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with no real end in sight, we all have a need to stir ourselves up. As the days blend into one another, Advent is a beautiful time to take the reins of the season and claim our time back by living liturgically and diligently marking the course time as it passes, with such little pleasures as mixing up the Christmas pudding on a special day.
These practices offer us several opportunities. Firstly, we are invited to deepen our knowledge of scripture and of the Anglican tradition by drawing our eyes to the passages traditions like Stir-Up Sunday derive from. Secondly, as we connect to the divine through the scripture, we are connected to the daily lives of our ancestors by participating in traditional practices that occur outside of church. And thirdly, we are invited to connect more within our family units (chosen family counts, too!) in little activities such as these in a time when our smallest circles have become integral. This experience illuminates personal and family ritual and devotion, and out of necessity, elevates them to a place of spiritual importance akin to the Eucharist.
We have been sitting in a different kind of darkness for quite some time. Now more than ever we need to clear the gloom from our minds, dust off the mantle of our hearts, and prepare within ourselves a sufficient home where such a mighty guest may come. We should mark these days gracefully and joyfully, and not wish or worry them away. There is a peaceful joy to living in God’s time—especially when there is pudding at the end!
The full story will appear in the December issue of Anglican Life.
A Celebration service, held at St. Mark’s Church, Shearstown/Butlerville, on October 4th, 2020 brought praise and glory to God, but also celebrated and honoured organist Violet (Saunders) Holmes in anniversary (to the day) of 50 years of service of bringing music to God’s House. Presentations of flowers, by vestry secretary, Della Parsons, and a certificate, by Fr. Paul Thoms, commemorated the event. A most special audio file message, sent by Arch Bishop Stewart Payne, was delivered over the microphone, bringing congratulations to Violet and salutations to Fr. Paul and the congregation of St. Mark’s. This was especially significant, since 50 years previously, he had been the rector of the parish and had issued the invitation for her to play in the church. The message, and once again hearing the voice from of our “Rev’d Payne” of long past years, warmed the hearts of all in attendance.
The leadership Violet provided, in bettering the worship to God through music, was exemplified in a myriad of ways over the 50 year period. She led the fund-raising efforts for the purchase of the first electric organ; was key in bringing the first piano; organized and directed both junior and senior choirs, along with the purchase of new robes to outfit all. The need for dressing space for two choirs and for the storage of robes led to the excavation of the church basement and construction of the church hall. She created and oversaw the delivery of a Christmas Carol Service that brought drama/costumes, scripture and a mixture of old-time and contemporary music together, and it would become a tradition and focal point of celebration in Christ’s coming. In commemoration of the building’s 100th anniversary and celebration service in 1998, Violet wrote an original song, aptly titled “One Hundredth Anniversary Song,” to relay the history. All this, while being lead organist for countless services, weddings, funerals and more. On behalf of Fr. Paul, and the St. Mark’s vestry, and congregation of Shearstown/ Butlerville, I offer congratulations and extreme gratitude for her dedication and service to the worship of God and Christ Jesus.
This story will appear in the January print issue of Anglican Life; article by The Rev’d Canon Jeffrey Petten; photographs by Lorna Clarke and Geraldine Hardy.
Due to COVID-19, The Royal Canadian Legion asked that people not gather in person this year for the annual Act of Remembrance. In the Parish of Rose Blanche, although we do not have a branch of the Legion in our communities, we do have cenotaphs. To be in solidarity with the request from the Legion, the decision was made that this year the Act of Remembrance would take place on Facebook Live, streamed from the rectory. Canon Petten officiated, using the same liturgy that has been used in the parish since 2014.
With the aid of a smart tv, a tablet, and the internet, the only difference between this year and any other year was that we did not gather in person, and no official list of those laying wreaths was read aloud. To replace this, Canon Petten did suggest that if people wanted to place their poppies at the cenotaph they were encourage to do so; or if they felt inclined to, people could paint a rock with a poppy on it. This was well received, and we thank those who did paint rocks and placed them at the cenotaph.
Although we could not gather in person, we remembered our glorious dead with thankful hearts, and offered thanks for their sacrifices and for the sacrifices of those who returned home. We will remember them.
This sermon, preached by Archbishop Stewart Payne, will appear in the December print issue of Anglican Life.
Thank you Rev’d Tanya for your welcome and the invitation to preach here today. In recent years we have come to highlight, and emphasize more and more, the ministry of the whole people of God, the ministry of all the baptized. Various attempts are made in parish life, by self-educating and programming to help us all realize the gifts that God has given us and how we use them in ministry, in love and service to God and neighbour.
The Education For Ministry Program (EFM) is a worldwide, adult, lay training program of theological study by the School of Theology, University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee and managed in Canada from Kelowna, BC, by EFM Canada, containing studies of: the Hebrew Scriptures (our Old Testament); the New Testament; Church History; Theological and moral choices.
Judy Parsons and Ann Marie Turpin, All Saints’ parishioners, completed the four year EFM program in May of this year, but because of the COVID pandemic, had to delay the graduation exercise until today in this Service of Holy Eucharist. Inevitably then, a theme of my sermon is the ministry of all the baptized
The idea of ministry can be seen to stem from the Hebrew Scripture,”Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord; and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all mind, with all thy strength (Deut. 6:5). Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself (Lev. 19:18). That was the focus of Jesus’ life; he highlighted it repeatedly by word and deed; he lived it, even to the cross.
Our first reading today, Exodus 33, gives us a small snapshot of Moses in his leadership role, in his ministry role, leading the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt, to the promised land. Moses had been affirmed again and again, in his divine calling and had felt the presence of God in their midst, leading the way, protecting and directing them. In fact, all through the journey there is a running conversation between God and Moses. Yet in our first reading, Moses, for whatever reason, is going through a difficult time and feels bereft of God’s presence and cries out to God for a sign. “Show me your ways so that I may know you and find favour in your sight. Show me your glory, I pray,” (which means, let me see you). In the midst of that struggle, Moses was again affirmed:
“My presence will go with you. (My face you will not see) I will do the very thing you have asked; for you have found favour in my sight and I know you by name.”
It is not uncommon for people, in dark times of hardship, difficulty, loss, and distress, to long for a sign of God’s presence, to want to see God’s face and have the assurance of God’s presence and love. As with Moses, so with us, we are given the assurance of His presence. God is always and ever with us even when we feel His absence. Jesus is really and truly present and the Holy Spirit strengthens us. The beautiful Holy Communion hymn comes to mind, “O God unseen, yet ever near, thy presence may we feel and thus inspired with Holy fear, before thine altar kneel.”
In our Gospel reading today, Jesus looks at the coin presented to him with the image of the emperor imprinted upon it and responds to the question regarding the paying of taxes to the occupying government of Rome. “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s.” In other words, Jesus is advising them to meet their civic responsibilities and obligations; by all means, pay your taxes. Jesus then adds, “Give to God the things that are God’s.”
Jesus knew well that as the coin bore the image of the emperor, so all humankind bears the image and likeness of God, regardless of colour, race, or creed. We are His; God’s very own. What is it that belongs to God and how do we give back to God? Everything we have and everything we are is a gift from God. We give back to God not simply by meeting our civic responsibilities but by using the gifts and talents, our time and energy in love and service, in ministry, to God and to one another. God wants to dwell in our hearts by faith and be with us always. God loves each one unconditionally and longs for our response in love and service to God and neighbour.
In our second reading, Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, in their ministries, commend the Thessalonians for doing just that, giving to God what is God’s, in the power of the Spirit, not simply in word but in deed, by example, serving the true God through Jesus Christ.
In the Episcopal Church, USA Catechism, the question is asked and the answer is given.
Q – Who are the ministers of the Church?
A – The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests and deacons.
Q – What is the ministry of the laity?
A – The ministry of lay people is to represent Christ and His Church; to bear witness to Him wherever they may be; and , according to the gifts given to them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the World; and to take their place in the life, worship and governance of the Church.
Bishops, priests and deacons are all part of the “Laos,” the whole people of God and they too represent Christ and His Church. By virtue of their ordination they have specific ministries of a pastoral, sacramental, and administrative nature.
The question to all of us is not whether you are called but to what. What is the function at this particular time and in this particular place?
John Westerhoff and Carolyn Hughes co-authored a book some years ago, “On the threshold of God’s future” In the book they have much to say about lay ministry. “Ministry takes place in the normal flow of our daily routines. It involves an attitude we bring to everything we do and a way of living wherever we are. Ministry is the responsibility and privilege given to all christians, not just the few who are ordained. There is one ministry, the ministry of God working through each one of us, as homemakers, engineers and nurses, salespersons and labourers, pastors and bus drivers,” (I can add, fisherfolk and fish plant workers and the list goes on and on to include everyone). “Each of us is called in Jesus’ Name to serve God’s people and God’s world in every moment of our lives, wherever we find ourselves. Ministry is performed as we express concern, no matter what the cost; as we respond to another’s need with no strings attached; as we embrace the sufferings of others by being present to them.”
There are many different ministries exercised in the Church gathered and in the Church dispersed the rest of the week, to name a few.
The ministry of hospitality at home and in Church.
The ministry of music, the ministry of song, the ministry of greeting/ welcoming.
A listening ear, an encouraging word, a helping hand, showing love and compassion for another in need, the sick, the lonely, the disabled.
St. Teresa of Avila says it best, “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours; yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on all the world; yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good; yours the hands with which he is to bless us now.”
COVID-19 restricts much direct personal contact in many cases now but much can be done by telephone and through the social media networks.
The ministry of prayer is a ministry we all share in, not only in our regular worship together but in our personal prayer times; not in word alone but in the lifting up of people and situations to God from the deep recesses of our hearts, thanking God and asking that His will be done.
Many years ago during a parish visit the Rector and I called at the home of an elderly bed ridden lady. We sat by her bed, shared some thoughts and prayers. As we were about to take our leave she said, “At night when I see the lights going out in the houses around, I get ready for bed. I say my prayers and I remember you in my prayers every night.” Here was a person who could no longer turn over in bed without help but continued to have a very vital prayer ministry. At that moment I felt I was standing on holy ground.
Enjoy your ministries to the full. In the words of the late Archbishop Michael Ramsey, of Canterbury, “May it be said of you, not so much that you spoke of God cleverly but that you made God real to people.”
A print version of this story will be in the December issue of Anglican Life
On October 24th, Bishop John Watton and the Diocese of Central Newfoundland, participated in a Walk Of Hope, together, in different communities across the diocese. On a personal note, Bishop John wished to offer thanks on the occasion of the ten-year anniversary as a cancer survivor, and also to use the walk as a powerful symbol of hope, faith, and thanksgiving.
A statement from the diocese said, “In this time of uncertainty and change, the Bishop is asking each parish to participate in some way to unite our Diocese in prayer and action.” People were invited to join Bishop Watton (who was walking in Gander), or hold their own events from 8am until noon on the 24th. Donations, made as an outward sign of support, were accepted by the Diocese of Central Newfoundland, to be used for various forms of outreach to those in need of a helping hand in times of illness or need through the Friends of the Bishop Fund.
There were many participants, and a few are pictured here; these are photographs that were posted on the Diocese of Central Newfoundland’s Facebook page.