Reader:Cheryl Caldwell. audio begins with the scripture passage; sermon begins at 1:08

withinCheryl Caldwell:1 Peter 3: 8-10, 13-16

Rev. Karen Dickey: Always be prepared to give an account of the hope that is in you … or as Eugene Peterson puts it in his paraphrasing of the First letter of Peter: “Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with utmost courtesy.”

Well a few weeks ago, I began asking … what do you notice has transpired in your life this past year that you would attribute to your connection with James Bay United Church?  It’s really a question that asks us to wonder what effect does our relationship with this faith community have on our life, on who we are, on how we are in the world?

This morning we we’re going hear briefly from 4 people, who have something to tell us about that … who will give an account of the hope that is in them. Sylvia, Louise, Marg & Elizabeth. 

Louise N'ha Ruby: How can I say what I want to share in only 2 1/2 minutes? One word: Comfort

As a little girl I grew up in a church where I learned to fear God. Coming away with a belief that I was not good enough. Would never be good enough. No-one would be good enough. I grew “out” of Church. Over the years at religious based/biased weddings and funerals my distrust and antipathy to religion was reinforced.

Once in a while I would go and sit in a wee church (doors were able to be unlocked back then) in the small village of Balfour (located in the West Kootenays.) I would FEEL a Presence. Despite my disbelief in Religion, I always knew there was a Presence in my life. In all our lives. A divine energy of the Universe flowing through each of us. Weaving us together in the river of Life. TOGETHER. COMFORT.

I have been searching for Community: a sense of Belonging. Spirit flowing through me. Guiding me. Here. To You. I sit in the choir loft and am blessed to share a smile. Blessed and moved to bear witness to tears and pain. It is here, your embrace, your support, that I am beginning to FEEL and KNOW the expansiveness of God’s Love. It is here that I just might shed my distress; open my heart to the idea that perhaps Jesus IS. That Jesus loves Me.

We are not meant to do “it” alone! Thank God! and thank you Karen.
Thank you for sharing your journey with me and mine with you. COMFORT.

Marg Lunam: Never look down on the struggle for life ... your own or anyone else’s....Remember that behind every face is a soul at work.

Pretty much every week over the last year, I have heard these words from Karen and my heart has been touched…..broken open in some small way.

Those words really “landed” for me; I’ve been aware of really hearing something important.  

Many weeks over this past year, I have been privileged to be greeting at the door as folks arrive for worship.  It’s wonderful to see familiar faces, hear news, share a story or just a smile or a hug.  Checking in with those I care about in this place.

One Sunday morning about 6 months ago, I was at the door and shared a hug and a greeting with a friend, and then a visitor appeared in the doorway and …it just happened naturally that we shared a hug as well.  She told me she was visiting Victoria and had been happy to discover our church near her hotel.  I welcomed her.

After the service, I stopped to chat and to invite her for coffee and she shared a bit of her story.
She was newly single and trying on “single travel” for the first time.  She was finding it a bit lonely but loving Victoria and happy she had come….3 weeks, she had stayed.

Then she teared up and said, “But your hug this morning is the first actual human contact I have had in 3 weeks and I realize how much I am missing hugs in my life.  Thank you!”

She left for home that afternoon but the connection we shared has stayed with me.
I find myself praying for her and her new life.

Sometimes I find myself looking at a face…of a neighbour out walking the dog, the checker at the grocery store, a stranger shopping at the Thrift Shop….and I catch myself wondering…..”What is your soul working on today?”  And, if I’m conscious, I add a little prayer of intention for the well being of that soul.
It feels different.  It feels good.  I’m grateful for the invitation each week to  “Remember…….. that behind every face is a soul at work”.

Rev. Karen DickeyLastly we’re going to hear from Elizabeth Smyth whose story I’ll read to you since Elizabeth is in England -- which is where she lives. Elizabeth came into James Bay United Church through our website.  It was about a year ago that Nola first contacted her when Elizabeth signed up to be part of our directory. Not recognizing her name, Nola got in touch just to say hello and enquire about her connection with our congregation. From there they have had this lovely periodic correspondence.

Knowing something about this, I asked Nola if she would check in with Elizabeth to see if she would care to share with us something of the impact on her life through her connection with James Bay United. In a blink, Elizabeth wrote back to say she’d love to. Here’s what she’s written …

Elizabeth Smyth: Hello Everyone

For those of you who have no idea who I am, let me introduce myself....
My name is Elizabeth Smyth and I live in the North West of England and I'm a Nationally Accredited Lay Preacher, which means most weeks I'm busy leading worship in one of several churches in this area.

Whilst I enjoy what I do, I often find I miss just sitting in church on a Sunday morning and listening to the sermon and prayers etc. With this in mind, last year, I spent some time looking around the Internet to see if I could find podcasts of church services that I could sit and listen to at home. It's then that I came across your website and I read Karen's latest sermon. It did the trick! I've visited the website again (and again!) ever since. I now find though that I look at everything you good folk have been up too throughout the week and I'm getting quite good at putting faces and names together now. I kind of know who's responsible for what in church life!

I understand now just how important a good church website is as it allows people to be a part of your church community when they are unable to physically visit the church building. You never know just how far your online words and community spirit reach, they even reached me many thousand of miles away!

Over the months I feel I've become a silent, hidden part of your church, kind of an honourary member!!

I must thank Nola for keeping me up to date with general news and for painting a mental picture of James Bay for me, which, I must say sounds beautiful!

All my best wishes to you all. I look forward to seeing more of you online.