Briarwood Presbyterian Church: an open community for all, invited by Christ and inviting others to joyful worship and loving action in the world.
Dear Congregation of Briarwood,
If anyone was to ask 5, 10 or 20 years ago what any given church would look like today, they would be hard pressed to given an accurate answer. I remember when I first arrived at Briarwood, seeing this wonderful, large scale photo for a Presbyterian Church in Canada project of everyone who was part this worshipping community at the time. There were so many faces, young and old.
As I look back over the last year, 2012, I am struck at how we can never predict what a church will look like in the future. People move into an area. People move out. People are born. People die. New gifts are brought to the table. Long-time programs are made stronger or given a break. Which is just to say, where, really, is our sense of permanence when it comes to the Christian church?
I think one answer to that question is that our sense of permanence comes from this: that every time we gather, in worship, in fellowship, in being sent out each week, in study, in prayer – every time – we gather trusting that the living God will be present and has something to say to us, to our lives.
I cannot name all the times in the last year when I have noticed the presence of the living God in our midst. Over living room visits. Hospital beds. Planning meetings. Connecting with those find themselves new to this community. Inspired by those who have been here a long time, or who have had Christian faith for many years.
Over this last year, our “wonderful, large scale photo of Briarwood” has changed in many ways. I would like us to remember the baptism of Grace Wurah in September, and the deaths of Oliver Carlson, Colin Douglas, Heino Altosaar, Gladys Gaston, and Bill Fritz.
I would also like to remember with thanks the long health journeys this year of Heidi Gooding and Jim Teasell.
One of the most exciting developments in 2012 has been the activation of Briarwood’s full-time Children and Youth Director vision. I would like to thank Judy Pemberton for stepping into this role, until God provided a full-time person in Danielle Pierre. It is wonderful to see how Friday night Youth Group and Kids events are taking off and becoming a blessing in the lives of families in this church and in the wider community.
Thank you to everyone for supporting Danielle’s work and ministry in prayer and financially.
For me, 2012 has felt very much a year of settling into a routine. (Does that always take 4 years?!) I would like to thank those who are part of that for me on a weekly basis:
For Judy, and now Danielle. I appreciate our weekly planning meetings. This has been an excellent practice to lift up the joys and concerns of this congregation, and especially youth and their families to God. Highlights from 2012 include June’s Vacation Bible Camp, Messy Churches and our first P.E.D. Day Camp. And thank you to Susan Davidson for coordinating a visit to Briarwood for all the grade-three students.
For Moira Robson, clerk of Session, who this year has been a strong coordinating and leading presence. You would be amazed at all the behind the scenes work Moira does just to run the daily (and it is daily isn’t it, Moira) operations of the church.
For Malcolm Campbell, who for the last three years chaired the Board of Managers. Many of us have seen how hard the Board works to manage the annual budget and to maintain the building. You will remember the Sunday when we crowded with the children into the furnace room to dedicate the new furnace with Malcolm, after months, maybe years in fact, of planning and preparation. (It is an amazing story to hear how God clearly had plans for a natural gas heating system for Briarwood, with us hearing at the last minute that Gaz Metro was coming down Beaconsfield Blvd to the school.)
For Alejandro Duran, our organist, who works so hard every week with the choir and makes the organ, in the words of one choir member, “sing”. For Stevie Pemberton, Liz Kirkland and Francois du Preez who led worship bands in 2012 at the 11:30. Who ever thought there would be dancing Sunday morning!
For Nancy Wojciechowski, who as many of you know, is a real force behind the smooth operations of the church, and a wonderful pastoral presence on the phone and in the office, for whomever stops by the church. I imagine no one can ever name a time they saw Nancy be frustrated or look overwhelmed in all the comings and goings of the administrating the office. I know I have yet to see it 🙂
For Andrea Celuba, who retired this year from NOVA, and for Melanie Cajolais who runs the Day Centre program at Briarwood. I would like to thank all the NOVA volunteers for all their work in this shared space. Thank you also for always inviting anyone who is in the church, it seems, to lunch every time it is on. For Rose Brochu, who works faithfully and patiently with Mary, Doreen, Jimmy, Kathy, Pauline, Rose, Lucien and Thérèse as part of the Help Hands.
Thank you to Lauren du Preez for coordinating in the winter of 2012 the Faces We Love photo exhibit at Briarwood. What a great reminder of how wide the love and care of Christ in this community reaches. What a great reminder also of the nature of the church. That we are by nature and calling – out there. A part of our communities. Living, serving, loving.
I also wish to thank our very faithful and competent Treasurer, Ross Brydon. Ross is in the church every week, not only serving at NOVA, but to keep the daily financial commitments flowing smoothly. Always a brown paper envelope in hand for something or other.
I have estimated that a half a million cars drive by Briarwood every year. That is a lot of eyes on the church and a lot on our sign too. Thank you to Margaret Bryson, who, rain or shine, snow or sleet, is out there updating the message on the sign nearly every week. (We checked, and electronic sign messages easily updated inside are not allowed!)
There are so many others who use their gifts to participate in the mission of God in this place. Including all the sound technicians, faithful ushers and counters, coffee mavens, kids faith program leaders, mid-week program leaders. Thank you to the Rev. Dr. Harry Kuntz for leading two six-week Lent and Autumn studies services for adults between services.
One of the words used to describe the new challenge of the Church today, as many of our children, grand-children and neighbours show decreasing interest in organized religion, is the word missional. Tied up in that word is asking how we as a church participate in God’s mission in the world. One author, in this now established category of pastoral theology, describes the focus of a missional church this way:
- Not simply how many people come to our church services, but how many people our church serves.
- Not simply how many people attend our ministry, but how many people have we equipped for ministry.
- Not simply how many people minister inside the church, but how many minister outside the church.
- Not simply helping people become more whole themselves, but helping people bring more wholeness to their world.
- Not simply how many ministries we start, but how many ministries we help.
- Not simply working through our past hurts, but working alongside the Spirit toward wholeness.
- Not simply counting the resources that God gives us to steward, but counting how many good stewards are we developing for the sake of the world.
- Not simply how much peace we bring to individuals, but how much peace we bring to our world.
- Not simply how much we immerse ourselves in the Biblical text, but how faithfully we live in the story of God.
- Not simply how many people are “in” the kingdom, but how much of the kingdom we bring to the earth.
Perhaps there will be an opportunity at this AGM or in the year ahead for us to sit down together again as a congregation and rejoice in what God is doing among us, and share where God is calling us to invest our time, faith, resources and lives in the year ahead.
Thank you for calling me to be your minister 51 months ago. It is a blessing to serve Christ among you here, where so many minster in different ways, according to their gifts.
Finally, on a personal note, thank you for all the support this year to our family. Our kids love coming into Briarwood and feel most welcome there. Lindy is doing much better. Thank you for your prayers and help. Leah is 4, and has attended the Stewart Hall pre-school. Zachary is 6, and has begun to read books by the dozen. He is at Clear-Pointe with Elise, now 9 and very much excelling in all things school.
With all good wishes,
The Rev. Dr. Gregory Davidson, B. Sc., B. Ed., M.Div., M.Phil, Ph.D.