Ministry – Reflection, Nov. 2012

Rain, clouds and the gnawing, damp cold of a mid-November morning were my welcome into the world today. I had to get up early to get my car in to Clarence’s Garage for a little tune up and headlight repair. Fortunately, Clarence’s is just down the road from our house, yet in this foul weather, my walk home felt like two or three times the distance it does on a clear sunny morning.
How we feel deeply impacts how we perceive the world around us, doesn’t it! On a beautiful day, the world seems like such a kind and welcoming place, and yet when inclement weather lays its burden upon us, the world can often seem, bleak, hopeless and even cruel. For most of us, it’s easy to sing in the sunshine, but singing in the rain, well, that’s pretty much Gene Kelly’s domain.
In 1 Chronicles 16:34 we hear these words: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His love endures forever.” I imagine most of us would have no problem giving thanks to God when our lives are filled with sunshine and good things, but how hard it is to utter words of thanksgiving and praise when we feel like we are living under a cloud and we’re sick, weary and weighed down by the burdens and cares of life.
My neighbour has a lovely pond out beside his house and he has a dozen or more ducks, of various breeds, that live in and around the pond. Some of these ducks are really rather beautiful with iridescent blues and greens on their backs and wings, while others are – shall we say, interesting, with rather odd colourings and heads that remind me more of turkeys than ducks. But I digress – on a beautiful day the ducks, as you might imagine, enjoy both the sunshine and shade in and around the pond, and yet when the skies are gray and the clouds have opened up, sometimes it’s as if they don’t even notice – the rain rolls off their backs and they carry on as if it wasn’t even there. Perhaps they know in their little duck hearts that there is more sunshine just around the corner, or perhaps they have just accepted that both sunshine and rain are a part of their lives, and so – they carry on with life.
Faith is the unseen power that can lift our hearts, that we may carry on through both the sunshine and showers of our lives – giving thanks to God, for he is indeed good and God’s love truly endures beyond the boundaries of time and space. A thankful heart recognizes God’s work, blessings, mercy, provision, forgiveness and grace as they touch, contour and mold our lives. A thankful heart nurtures within us an attitude that keeps us focused on all of the amazing and wonderful things that God has done, and is doing in our lives. It shows us hope filled new directions and possibilities and draws us away from wastingour valuable time and energy lamenting over the things and experiencesthat we believe we have deserved or that we perceive we may lack. A thankful heart is strong in faith and well prepared for the challenges we may face in our day to day lives.
By the time you are reading this, we will have entered into the Season of Advent, a time of thankful, expectant waiting – waiting as we both remember and look forward to the incarnation of God’s love in the person of God’s own son, Jesus Christ. This is a time when we are called to pause from all of the busyness of life, and to remember and give thanks for the power and wonder of God’s self-giving love, a love that was, and is, and is yet to be. It is a time when hope reigns, grace abounds and we are reminded that in God, all things are possible.
May this Advent and Christmas season be a time of many blessings, both given and received by thankful, grateful and giving hearts and may the love of Christ come to dwell more fully in your hearts, each and every day.

Blessings, Rev. Brian

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Ministry – Reflection, June 2012

Changes – they are all about us, aren’t they! At the time of writing this article, I have just returned from a meeting of the ministerial group I am a part of. At today’s meeting one of our colleagues announced that she was going to be moving to St. Catharine’s, to serve a new congregation. I’m sure this is a positive move for her as she enters into a new and exciting ministry in a vibrant and active church. Like most changes however, there is a bitter sweet aspect to her move. For those of us gathered around the table we found ourselves saying goodbye to a well-liked and respected member of our group. No doubt someone will come along to take her place, both in her churches and in our group, but there was a real sense that although someone may indeed take her place they will not “replace her” for her openness, honesty, integrity and caring spirit were hers alone and the new person will, no doubt bring with them their own personality and their own unique gifts and blessings to share in the community and in our group.

As Donna and I are now in the midst of packing and preparing for our move to Dunnville, my mind is drawn regularly to the idea of change. We are both hoping that this move will be the last one for us for a very long time – moving and the change it precipitates can be both an invigorating and an exhausting experience. While we are both looking forward to getting settled in a small and familiar community where we know many people and see familiar faces at the grocery, hardware store and bank, we are also aware that many of the routines we have become familiar with over the last couple of years will now be changed and adapted to fit our new location and somewhat changed schedules. I am glad throughout all of this newness and change to have the warmth and sense of community that is so much a part of Hamilton Japanese United Church.

Having been a part of this community for some two and a half years now, there is a sense of rootedness setting in as we have developed strong and lasting bonds of mutual respect and support in our life and ministry together. Change is a fact in all of our lives and our spiritual lives are no exception. The faith that was begun in our hearts as children is quite different from the more mature faith that we now seek to nurture and embrace. Experience and the accumulation of wisdom and knowledge, as we journey through life, both shape and inform our spiritual selves. Neither is this a journey that we take alone, for our faith journey is a walk with God, as we experience the love, compassion, forgiveness and grace of the risen Christ in the faces, actions, and words of those we meet along the way. It is a journey of both heartache and sorrow and of wonder and joy, but most of all it is a journey into the very heart of love.

Over the last few months I have had the privilege of leading this year’s Confirmation Class – three truly special young people from among our congregation’s families. In a brief time I (with the generous assistance of Terri Brownlee) have sought to discuss so many aspects of our faith, our church and our beliefs. The reality is that we can only touch on most of these things, with the hope of further igniting the flames of God’s love that already dwell in their hearts. I guess it is something of a “sampler buffet” that we hope will both spark and encourage their relationship with God both today and in the years that lie ahead.
Much change lies ahead for these young folks – high school graduation, perhaps university or community college – relationships – family – a career. Indeed change is one of the few constants in our lives and yet it is with the love and support of our families, friends and a strong community of faith that we are able to weather the storms that we may encounter on the paths of our lives.

I pray that as we enter into the summer season, a time that will hopefully entail both some recreation and relaxation for us all, we may reflect on the changes that have occurred in our lives and find the place of peace where we can accept them and embrace them as we come to understand that they are all part of our journey – an adventure of faith, leading to the forgiveness and grace of God’s eternal love.

Blessings,
Rev. Brian

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HJUC Annual Minister’s Report For The Year 2011

It has been another full and busy year at Hamilton Japanese United Church. Having been here for something over two years now, I am feeling very much a part of the community and enjoying many relationships that have begun to deepen and grow as we come to know one another better through our work and worship together.It is a wonderful thing to have so many committed and competent people involved in our day to day church life. I truly appreciate the musical gifts that both Patti and Sandi bring to our weekly services, and the choir, under their direction, has offered musical leadership, with enthusiasm and spirit, as we learn new anthems and sing hymns both familiar and new.

I am particularly grateful for the wisdom and support offered by our Ministry and Personnel Committee and the Worship Committee with whom I work so closely on a day to day basis, as well as the support and cooperation of our Official Board, George our Chairperson and the many other members who offer so much of their time and energy to the life and health of our church. In a “family size” church such as ours, there is much work to be done, and often by fewer hands than we might like; however, the blessing in this is that we are very much a family and I am impressed time and time again with the compassion, thoughtfulness and care that are shown for one another, both in times of joy and celebration and also in the times of difficulty, challenge and sorrow.

We are called to minister both within and outside the walls of our church and, although there is always room to expand and deepen our commitment to these ministries, I believe we are on a firm footing and following the right track as I look back on the past year and think of our strong fundraising for the Tsunami Relief efforts in Japan; the $1,162.00 we raised in the Case For Kids Walk for Wesley Urban Ministries; our commitment of time and gifts to Wesley’s Christmas Store, and our weekly giving’s to the United Church’s Mission and Service Fund.

Our church picnic this past June was a real success and we were able to enjoy a worship service together, a wonderful barbeque and pot-luck lunch, and all of the beauty of the Binbrook Conservation area and lake. To add to the day we had a great turnout of young people – family and friends, and the sounds of fun and laughter during the course of the various organized games was a joy to our ears. We are looking forward to another church picnic this year – tentatively scheduled for Sunday, June 10 – once again at the Binbrook Conservation Area.

Our Christmas Party with Santa was again a highlight of the church year and we are looking forward, not only to repeating this in 2012, but also adding a Saturday morning “Breakfast With Santa” and “Jingle Sushi” sale as a combination fund raiser and outreach to the children and young families of our church neighbourhood.

Our Confirmation Class has begun meeting in the last few weeks and we have a small but very bright and enthusiastic group, and so we are looking forward to some interesting meetings and discussions with a tentative date of Sunday, May 27 (Pentecost Sunday) for our Confirmation Service. I would like to say a special word of thanks to Terri Brownlee for offering to assist me in the leadership of this class.

I am very pleased that our website is now up and fully operational. I would like to offer a special word of thanks to Tak Yano and Kaz Ehara for their hard work in putting this together.

As we close out the year of 2011 in our church records and business, I would like to encourage all of our members and friends to look to the future and imagine where God is calling us to go and what God is calling us to do as a faith community. We live in a rapidly changing world and although we need to keep abreast of changing technology and ways of being in our society, I also believe that we are being called as Christians in the 21st Century, not to lose sight of some of the basics of our faith and the principles and traditions that have served the followers of Christ in their mission so well for centuries past. Open arms – open hearts – open doors; simple words, simple concepts, but they can easily be lost or forgotten. Sharing our faith begins at home and among our friends and neighbours. We are called, I believe, to reach out in love each day of our lives, to meet people where they are and to demonstrate our faith in what we say, what we do, and how we choose to live our lives. Within the walls of our church we have a place of community and a place of safety where we are free to learn and to share and to grow our faith so that when we step outside the church door’s each Sunday, and head into another week, we are truly equipped and inspired to be the people we are called to be.

I believe we have been richly blessed in the year that has gone by and I pray that we will, once more, be both blessed and a blessing to others, in the year that lies ahead.

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Brian

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Ministry – Reflection, June 2011

Summer sunshine, what a gift, what a joy! After such a long, wet and dreary spring season we seem to have finally rounded the corner and moved into the weather that many of us long for – the warmth and colour and welcome of the summer. Last night, in nature’s effort to break the day’s humidity, we had a fierce storm that brought with it much lightening,thunderand rain. Our fearless guard dog Jessie quickly responded in her usual manner, assuming her position of safety, squeezing carefully in under our bed. Checking out the storm through our upstairs windows I was glad that I had taken the time and effort to put in stakes to support our two new trees, a yellow magnolia on the front lawn and a beautiful Japanese maple out back. The trees were both bending somewhat in the wind but the stakes and cables I had wrapped around the trees held firm and no damage was done.

In our church lives we have now entered the Season of Pentecost, a time when we remember the story, from the Book of The Acts of the Apostles, where we hear of the gathering of Jesus friends and followers who, in the midst of their coming together, both felt and heard the sudden imposition of a very strong, almost violent wind rushing in among them, and we are told that they saw something that they described as “tongues of fire” that spread among them touching upon each individual, in turn. The daily news reports of late have shown us, in clear detail, the harmful and damaging effects of unbridled wind – as tornadoes have recently wreaked havoc throughout the United States and parts of Canada. Wind is a very powerful force of nature that can, by turns, be either a source of terrible devastation or a source of energy, refreshing breezes and clearing skies.

In the Bible, the wind can often be linked to the presence of God, or more specifically, the Holy Spirit. As we gather at poolsides and on patios and beaches this summer, let us pause as we feel the warmth of the summer wind and think of those followers of Jesus, so long ago, who experienced the wind as a sign and very present symbol of the ongoing presence of the Holy in their lives. I would encourage you to let the warm caress of the summer breeze touch you and open your heart to the possibility that God’s hand is reaching out to you in an act of compassion, grace, love and care, that you may be healed and strengthened for the work of Christ that lies ahead for us all.

Thinking back to the windswept trees in my yard I wonder if they are not also a good metaphor for our Christian life; that as we are young in our faith, our roots not firmly established, we need the support of an iron stake, a person or family of faith, that is firmly anchored beside us, holding us strong through the winds of life, until such time as our own roots can grow and spread and find abundant nurture in the ground that is the church, the body of Christ.

I pray that the sunshine of God’s love may shine brightly upon each of you throughout the weeks that lie ahead and that the summer may indeed be a time of relaxation, refreshment and deepening of faith and love for one another and all of God’s good creation.

Blessings,
Rev. Brian

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HJUC Response to the Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan

Images of the events that have taken place in Japan over the last couple of weeks have filled our newspapers, magazines, television screens, webpages and e-mails. Many of the images are indelibly etched onto our minds eye as we think, time and again, of family, loved ones and strangers alike whose lives have been forever changed by this devastating chain of events.

In response to these events, Hamilton Japanese United Church is collecting donations in support of the effort to offer relief for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami (and ongoing nuclear issues) that have, and are still taking place in Japan.

At the discretion of the donor, we have two different avenues of directing the funding that we receive for the aid efforts. We believe that both are valid and helpful directions. We can either direct an individual’s giving’s through the United Church of Canada who is working with four partner agencies in Japan who will share in the distribution of the donations (85% will go to Japan relief and 15% will be directed to other areas in the world in need of relief, that may not have received sufficient media attention to initiate fundraising efforts).

The other avenue by which we can direct the funding is through the “Emergency Fundraising Campaign for Eastern Japan Earthquake Disaster”, which is an initiative of the World Mission Committee of Kyodan (United Church of Christ in Japan). We will send these monies to the Vancouver Japanese United Church – Japanese Speaking Congregation, who will forward these and other donations directly to the Kyodan Churches.

HJUC has had a long standing relationship with the Kyodan Churches in Japan and it was felt that by steering funding directly to their churches that are located in the north eastern area of Japan (the area most devastated by the earthquake and tsunami), they could get the money to where it is needed most, in a very timely fashion and they will also be well suited to address the unique circumstances that may present themselves in any given community.

We ask that any donations be made out to “Hamilton Japanese United Church” and that a brief accompanying note would indicate the avenue that the donor would prefer the funds be directed through. Tax receipts will be issued for all donations, regardless of the funding option chosen. Cheques can be mailed to – Hamilton Japanese United Church, 715 Upper Gage Avenue, Hamilton, Ontario, L8V 4J9. Please feel free to contact the church office (905-385-8823) if you should have any questions.

Our congregation is fortunate in that any of our members who were in Japan at the time of the disaster are okay. There is still much concern for extended family members, friends and all of those who have suffered and are still suffering through such terrible loss, fear, displacement and anxiety. We are deeply appreciative of any contributions that are directed through us to our sisters and brothers in Japan.

Yours in Christ,
Hamilton Japanese United Church

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Welcome to the Hamilton Japanese United Church Website

Welcome to the Hamilton Japanese United Church Website!

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