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Introduction to the Reflection
Text: 1 Peter 3: 8-10, 13-16

"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.”

A few weeks ago we put the question out there … 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 you are, on how you 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.

Suzanne Lawrence (text unavailable)

Colleen Nichol:
“What do you notice has transpired in your life this past year that you would attribute to your connection with James Bay United Church? ie. What effect does your relationship with this faith community have on your life, on who you are, on how you are in the world?”

This past year has held for me THE GREAT HOMECOMING. After living overseas for 17 years – much of the time without a faith community that really resonated with me – stepping into the life of James Bay United Church has been for me a HUGE component of “coming home”. I have stepped into a faith community that is truly “Home for my Heart”.

Sunday morning worship is lifeblood to me. The sermons touch me so deeply time and time again; the whole flow of Sunday worship – the music, the prayers, the personal connections with everyone, the profound sense of sacred space – open up such a palpable encounter with God. I am SO grateful for this! All of this not only inspires me on Sunday mornings, but it grounds and sustains and expands me for whatever unfolds / whatever encounters I have with people and situations in the week ahead. I am profoundly shaped by what goes on here on a Sunday morning!

But that’s not all. I recognize that this calls out of me a certain level of commitment. Now to be honest, as I was anticipating this move into the flow of James Bay United Church, that frightened me a bit. I was worried that with so much time away from really putting myself into church life, I would have somehow forgotten how to do it! Much to my relief, I discovered that I could take things at my own pace, and become involved in what I feel is true to who I am, true to what I sense is calling me.

One other piece that I would mention is the yearning that I have had to get to know people in the congregation in a deeper way … with the sense of what a privilege it is to be offered a glimpse into another person’s soul / another person’s life journey. “Soulful Wednesdays” is one of the avenues that has enabled that to happen. These evenings have not only nurtured the life of my spirit, they have created rich opportunities for me to connect more deeply with any who have chosen to be part of these smaller gatherings.

So, what has transpired in my life that I would attribute to my connection with James Bay United Church?
… finding a “Home for my heart”
… finding a place to ‘land’ and express the Grace of God in my life
… finding opportunities to nurture meaningful compassionate connections with those
who have found their way into this faith community.

For all of this, I am immensely grateful.
* * * *

Lastly we’re going to hear from Pauline and Kim who are still away in Mexico. Last week I sent off a note to them wondering if they would consider the question and write to us … thinking it a bit of a long shot, they’re being on holiday and all … and a world away from us here … but less than a day later in popped a note from each of them!

So listen to this from Pauline Mackenzie …
Dear Karen,
Thanks so much for suggesting that I might share some thoughts of what my association with the JBUC faith community has meant to me over the past year. I have purposely put out of mind several harrowing weeks of my surgeries as well as Kim’s. I needed reminding of the loving care and support I received prior to your leaving on sabbatical from you and from Sharon Moon after my surgery. Sharon visited me the same day as my facial surgery to ‘stitch’ my incision in a faith healing method whose name I can’t recall. She explained I could even do it myself. Since the anesthesia had not fully worn off, I was all for any positive suggestion she was willing to share. Sharon visited me again at a later time in my recovery, again bringing warm prayer and conversation.
I received get well cards from pastoral care and others of the congregation notably a lovely card specific to my problem, designed and created by the very caring Aleksa and Judy who echoed her sentiments. Then there was the book Judy loaned me that was inspiring to her and has been also to me. I brought it with me to Mexico.

If I were in James Bay right now, I could look to see the date of the course at the Church given by Margaret, a gifted facilitator on what I’m calling, ‘ On Death and Dying’. That was not the name of the course, however, you may get the idea. I was given such meaningful thoughts and guidelines and information from Margaret’s material and the other participants in the discussions. I am so grateful for having been involved to listen to fellow members of our church.

I think I could go on and on: Karen you were at my door on your first day back from your sabbatical! (Dust off the Bible, I’m on my way!); Jazz nights on Tuesday enlarge our boundaries; taco night where two amazing 90 somethings came to check us out; the wonderful Christmas dinner put on by some men and their families because they wanted to treat seniors and had heard we had a professional kitchen. We were quite overwhelmed with their warm and generous Christmas spirit.
Once again, Karen: thank you for giving me this opportunity to express my gratitude to you and to the congregation of James Bay United Church!
Sending warm sunshine and love from Puerto Vallarta
Pauline Mackenzie

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And from Kim Tadei ...

Good morning Karen,

I would be delighted to share with the congregation my tremendous feelings of support I received this summer from the church and the thrift store people.
When my partner was going through her cancer surgery the people from the thrift store were by my side. In particular Aleksa whose partner Judy is also a cancer survivor, she shared stories of being a partner with someone who had cancer. We talked often on Fridays while we worked and it was comforting to know I had someone to consult if I had questions.
Then I received my cancer diagnosis! The women at the thrift store were there for me! They all came to me individually to share their breast cancer stories. Marg, Judy 1, Judy 2, and Aleksa were very supportive with huge hugs and infinite support through my ordeal. Thank you all, for that.

When Karen returned from sabbatical she visited us and shared her smile, her laughter and her faithful support. It was a wonderful afternoon Karen and we felt blessed that you came over for a visit.
We attended Cheryl and Karen’s workshop at The Marys Lake Retreat and we both thought it was an awesome day! Not just for the spirit but also for getting to know Christine and Nola better. We had wonderful talks with both of you and getting to know you better has enriched our lives.
We miss you all when we are away, but know this, you are all in our thoughts and prayers and we feel connected even though we are miles away.
Kim Tadei