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Eden From the Beach

In my youth I well remember picking up the odd glass ball as I walked on the beaches of Vancouver Island.  They were floats that had broken off Japanese fishing nets and followed the currents across the ocean until they washed up on the shores of the north Pacific coast.  We still have a few of them and prize them greatly if only for the memories they invoke.  These glass balls can transport your spirit back to the beach as easily as a seashell cupped to your ear.  



Dale Chihuly grew up near Seattle, also on the same Salish Sea, and found similar glass balls from the same source along the beaches of Puget Sound, but he wasn't content to hang on to them as sentimental souvenirs to remind him of the places in his past.  Dale Chihuly allowed them to fuel his imagination and take him to a world of wonder and beauty.  He breathed new life into the old glass floats.  

Today marked the closing of the Dale Chihuly installation at the Royal Ontario Museum.  Some of the art critics poured cold water on the exhibit apparently hungry for more of an academic explanation for the meaning of the various pieces, but the public flocked to the show in record numbers and for good reason.  It was the essence of light in a world that can seem so dark.  It was creation in a world that often appears bent on destruction.  It was a triple rainbow of colour in a world where important things fade and so many other things are reduced to black and white.  


I visited the show twice over its six months taking both my daughters and my wife and on the final exhibit was also joined by my dear friend, Corey Keeble, Curator Emeritus.  The first visit was during the sweltering heat of summer when the world outside was wilting and finding it hard to breath. On that day it was an Eden.  My second visit was on a frigid day in mid-December when it was just as hard to catch one's breath at street level, but upon entering the Chihuly exhibit it was as if I had arrived at Christmas a week early.  All at once the Chilhuly both took your breath away and yet gave you a second wind.  The exhibits dance with colours and shapes that emanate joy and love.  There was nothing religious about the show, but it works with light and is formed and shaped by the breath of the artist.  Another word for breath is spirit and this was a deeply spiritual show if you were willing to go there.

Grace and Peace,


The Prayer for the Turning of the Year offered by Peter Holmes at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church, Watch Night, Dec. 31, 2016 as one year gave way to the next.  

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:  "Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown."  And he replied:  "Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way."  (Minnie Haskins)

Gracious and Eternal God, here we are at the gate of yet another year and we are here to say, 'thank you,' because your hand was better than light and safer than any way we knew.  And oh it was dark at times - there were calamities we did not see coming - and sometimes we let go of your hand, so sure we could do it on our own, but that is why we are here. Never did you leave us or forsake us and so now at the gate of a new year we pause to take your hand again.   

Oh God, thank you for staying with us through yet another year and for keeping us all on course as surely as you kept the earth in orbit round the sun.  Thank you for all the things that brought warmth to our hearts this year: evenings with loved ones warmed round a fire, sharing laughter with children, hearing a familiar melody for the first time all over again, and always for the breaking of bread.  Thank you for those 'I Do,' moments and the endearing and enduring convictions of the love that ages us like wine rendering our souls better with each passing year.  Thank you too for the first cries of newborns piercing the night announcing the end of labour's great pains and proclaiming that by your grace, life with all its blessings is here and now.  Pierce this night with the song of a child - the child who leads us in love to your eternal now.   

Thank you too for those we had to leave behind this year and for the faith that we will be together again.  Thank you too for new friends we met along the way.  And thank you day by day for hearing our prayers and answering them even when it was not the answer or the outcome we had hoped for.  Eternal God, you know best, for long ago and forever, you were already here just as you are there at the next gate waiting and watching, until that new day when the watch will end and the wait will be no more.  

O God there are some who find this gate hard.  Some bear fresh wounds, others have old bruises that seem slow to heal, and still others just can't let go of what was.  Bless them Lord that they might know how dear and wonderful they are now.  For those too fearful to hear even this we pray.  Reach out and take their hands as only you can. And for those whose homelands have been at war so long few know of anything but fear and strife we pray.  Oh God may peace break forth upon this world in 2017 like a summer's morn early and bright with an endless blessing of hopeful possibility in such a way that only the dark night and the cold fright are left behind. 

We thank you for the peace and prosperity of Canada as we enter this 150th year of confederation and we pray for all who lead and serve this nation and particularly for those who serve overseas to defend our freedoms. We pray that as neighbourhoods change and norms evolve we would warm all the more to the strangers at our door and the foreign ways of our new neighbours.  May this new year be marked by kindness and grace in all our communities and relationships.  

We pray too of your church here and all around the world that it might be a beacon of hope and grace in this world that one and all would know and embrace the good news that you so love this world that you gave us your Son, Jesus Christ, into whose scarred and sacred hands we place our trust for this year and this life and the life to come.  This we pray in the name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East."  (Minnie Haskins)

In 2015 and 2016 Yorkminster Park commissioned summer mission teams to work with the children of Oneida Nation of the Thames.  Our teams were deeply moved by the voices, faces, personalities and stories of these children and their families.  On Wednesday afternoon we received word that a fire had destroyed one of the homes in their community and that a father and four children had been killed.  Two of the boys who were killed had been in our summer program as had two of their siblings who survived the fire.  This tragic news has hit the hearts of our team members and our whole community.  And so we pray... 

Almighty and merciful Father, who sent forth your own Son that we might know life abundant and eternal, our hearts ache for an Oneida family that has lost not only sons, but also a father.  We confess, O God, that too often in our history we have set the fires and fanned the flames that would destroy our first nations.  Forgive us, for this day, O God, we would douse those flames with our tears and plant the seeds of peace and love.  

And so in this spirit, we pray for a family and a community ravaged by flame.  We commit to your care the young boys once in the care of our Oneida team.  May this whole family and community be aware of the embrace of your grace and the presence of our risen Lord Jesus Christ, who enables us to believe that the flames of life and even death cannot consume us.  Now in the assurance of that promise we commit to your loving care those who have been taken and those who are still with us and we pray for your comforting peace upon Oneida Nation of the Thames.  

We pray too for members of our own team who were touched by the voices and stories of this family.  As their hearts go out along with their prayers, bring comfort and hope and remind us again that all things work together for good for those who are called according to your purposes.  O God help us to obey your call and  to know your purposes this day for the good of one and all in the name of the One who was born to bring peace on earth and good will, and who died to break down the walls that divide us all and rose again to bring this broken world back to life abundant and eternal, here and now and forevermore, Amen.  

My children are all grown up now and rarely seem to need my voice to guide them, nonetheless there were two nights over this past week when they called to express their concerns about the world and I sensed they wanted to hear my voice. They now live under other roofs and I have long since stopped tucking them in with fairy tales and a prayer, but I have felt an increasing need to speak to their concerns and as always to offer a prayer. 

On Tuesday evening my children were in touch to express anxiety about the unfolding U.S. election.  Among other things they were and are concerned for the safety of the world and for the plight of women's rights.  Of course they are not alone in their concerns and it is for this reason I write. 

I tried to console them as a father might by telling them of other elections and presidencies that led to anxieties about nuclear safety which the world survived, and of other presidents and leaders who also objectified women but who could not halt the progress women made.  I also told them of Presidents whose elections seemed to offer little hope but who nonetheless made great progress and that we had to be hopeful and give the new President a chance.  However, none of us know the future and after such a long and emotionally charged campaign it is natural that some people will be feeling anxious about what is ahead.   

There is no denying that Donald Trump appealed to people with xenophobic, racist and sexist attitudes and now those same people feel vindicated, but I don't believe that is why he was elected.  He was elected because far more people were simply feeling forgotten, left out and afraid in a system and a world that overwhelms them.  Donald Trump tapped into their feelings as no other candidate did and he offered to lead those people back to the promised land.  And of course there were others who voted for him who felt they were choosing between the lesser of two evils.  

Now Donald Trump isn't a modern day Moses and it is not realistic to expect him to take America back to the promised land.   But that doesn't make those anxious with feelings of estrangement from the system and even anger towards it wrong.  And before we go blaming America for giving us Donald Trump, we must remember that even here in Toronto we have elected the odd notorious character.  At the end of the day he won the election and he has to be given a chance.  

But ultimately, I believe faith in God is the answer, not faith in a political leader.  It is for this reason we must pray for America and for Donald Trump and those who are working most closely with him.  At the end of the day, our hope is in the Lord, who made heaven and earth.  Leaders will come and go and in no time be forgotten, but God is from everlasting to everlasting. 

My greatest concern for America at the moment is for the healing of the great division that seems to exist.  People on both sides remain angry and fearful and address each other with hostility.  Families have been divided over this campaign and so have churches.  I find it very sad and feel we must also pray for the healing of this wound in America.   As followers of Jesus we should not be afraid to speak into this division in America in the name of our Lord who over and over again said, "Fear not."  We need to be inviting people to put their trust in God.  

On Thursday night I received calls from my children again.  This time the news of Leonard Cohen's death had upset them.  One of them saw a tragic irony that as a seeming jester ascends to the throne, the voice of the poet/prophet has fallen silent.  But love will not be silenced.  We must let our words and our deeds become poetry and prophecy in this day.  And just as I sought to reassure my children, we must seek to reassure all God's children including those with whom we disagree as well as our neighbours whatever their faith may be, and the strangers in our midst and those living on the margins of this world, that grace and love are very much alive and will yet have the last word.  I have written a prayer for our day.  Please be free to make it your own.  

Gracious and eternal God, you are from everlasting to everlasting, perfectly united in love as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, One God.  Guide us by your Spirit as we seek eternal wisdom by which to live in these challenging times.  Unite us as your children that our life together might offer a beacon of hope in a world darkened and divided by fear and anger.  And embolden us as we seek to speak the truth in love through both word and deed.  We pray for the healing of the divisions in American and of the divisions in our own land and in our families and work places.  May we be instruments of peace and unity.    

And we pray that the people of the United States of America and people in all places would discover afresh that true unity only comes through love and grace and mutual respect.  And so give us ears to truly hear and eyes to see to the depths of despair and misery and open our hearts to love as you love.  We thank you for offering such love in the person of your Son, Jesus Christ, whose coming into this world is a sign that you have not given up on us, and whose victory over death empowers our hope in your bright eternal day.    

Help us to stay hopeful and grateful in all times, for you have surrounded us with the beauty and wonder of your creation and you have blessed us with the love of family, neighbour and friend.  Thank you.    

We pray for U.S. President Obama and ask that you would strengthen him with wisdom day by day as he seeks to ensure a time of peaceful transition.  We pray too for President-Elect, Trump and ask that you would surround him with good and wise advisors.   And we pray that in the lonely hours when he faces difficult decisions that only he can make, he would take time to pause and listen in the silence.  When he does O God, speak your word that he might hear it.  Whisper into his heart that it might melt away any fear and fill him with faith.  But whisper also O God into all of our hearts, because it is then that our hearts are warmed to love through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.  

Grace & Peace,

Peter Holmes 

Illuminated in Song

BlogGjeilo1.JPGWe had a remarkable Luminous Night Festival with Ola Gjeilo on Saturday evening followed by a performance of his music by the choir at our Sunday morning service with Ola himself accompanying on the Steinway.  William Maddox and the Yorkminster Park choir worked tirelessly with rehearsals Thursday and Friday evenings and again on Saturday afternoon prior to the concert. After all that, they were back in the chancel for services at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Sunday singing beautifully. Thanks to William and the choir for their faithfulness in song and service. And thanks to Ola Gjeilo for his beautiful, inspiring music.

Grace & Peace

p.s. here is a link to the concert:

The Monarch of Thanksgiving


A visitor arrived unexpectedly in the manse garden last Friday as I was working on my Thanksgiving sermon.   Most of the monarchs began their migration home to Mexico in late August, but this butterfly appeared the day after the first frost was most likely to have hit Toronto, (October 6).  Instead of the first winter chill, we had a monarch.  Amazing!  While a part of me wondered if global warming isn't unhinging creation, I also couldn't get over its beauty.  It had the glow of a sunrise as its winged dance led it from flower to flower.  This ancient symbol  of the resurrection arrived like a visitor from the other side, the day after we had conducted a memorial service for my colleague and friend, Deborah Ban.  For just as what was once a caterpillar is raised out of its cocoon and transformed into a new creature, we too shall be raised up to new life in Christ.  Winter and death will one day come, but we shall return to the garden of God. Thanks be to God.

Happy Thanksgiving,


The Rev. Deborah Anne Ban


The Rev. Deborah Anne Ban - 1958 - 2016 

These are sad days at Yorkminster Park. Our Minister of Discipleship, the Rev. Deborah Ban, died early Thursday morning after battling lung cancer over the last ten months. As most are aware, Deborah was a remarkably sensitive and creative person, a kind and wise minister, and a wonderful mother and wife. She listened carefully and loved forcefully. For all of us who had the privilege of counting her as a colleague, friend, or pastor, it is a heartbreaking loss, but all the more so for her family.  

We continue to keep her beloved husband, the Rev. Craig Rumble, and their daughter, Micah Braelyn in our prayers as well as Craig's church, Markham Baptist. 

Previously, Deborah served as Family Education administrator CMHA York Region; Counsellor with Family Counselling Centre, Sarnia; Pastor/team pastor at Temple Baptist (now Banwell Community Church), Windsor; Chaplain at Kingston General Hospital; Calvary Baptist, Denver Colorado; Lorne Park Baptist, Mississauga; and as a student with Burlington Baptist, Burlington; and McNeil Baptist, Hamilton.  She and Craig both graduated from McMaster Divinity College where her late parents, Joseph and Arline Ban, both served on faculty. 

Thank you to one and all for the many messages you have sent Deborah along the way and for the prayers you have offered on her behalf. As we are united in our grief may we also be united as we press on in the hope of Christ's gift of eternal life. 

A memorial service of thanksgiving for Deborah's life will be held at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church, 1585 Yonge St. Toronto, on Thursday, October 6, 2016 at 1 p.m.

Praise for the Choir's Praise


I received the following note from Barbara McDougall O.C. who has been very involved in our refugee ministries and was also federal Minister of External Affairs; Employment and Immigration and several other portfolios during her years as a Member of the Canadian Parliament.  I was encouraged, though not surprised, to receive her praise for the choir's singing last week at St. Paul's Cathedral in London, England. 

From Barbara McDougall O.C.

"I was in London last week, taking a few days timeout. I stayed in my favourite small hotel, owned and managed by the same family for four generations, conveniently located near Buckingham Palace, in case the Queen wanted me to drop in for tea. (She didn't call. Shucks.)

It is also within an easy walk of Green Park, on the Mall leading to the Palace, where there is a beautiful memorial to Canada's veterans and war dead. It is a subtle and elegant sculpture, very low key, sensitively rendered, and discreet, and I visit it every time I am in London. It is a reminder of to all of how special our country is, and to me that my father, coincidentally a deacon at Yorkminster Park in the late1940's, was based in London for nearly three years during World War II and lived in Kensington, not far away. I recommend to every Canadian passing through London that this is a special memorial for us.

But last week's visit had a particular highlight: the evensong service at St Paul's Cathedral led by William Maddox and the Yorkminster Park choir. I attended two of the services, and have to pass on to you how beautifully the choir sang, and how superb the organ was at the hands of William Maddox. Although the cathedral is always full of tourists wearing baggy shorts and back packs, many of them walking back and forth and gazing upwards to the spectacular dome, oblivious to the fact that a service is going on, it was interesting that many paused to listen at least for a few minutes. And those who had managed to find a chair and stayed for the full service (only about 45 minutes,) were rewarded with an elegant liturgy - 400 years old according to the program - executed superbly, as one would expect, by the YP choir.

I'm sure there were other Yorkminster people and families there, although I didn't recognize anyone, but my purpose in writing this is to ask you to spread the word among the congregation how proud we can be of our splendid choir and its contribution to a great Christian tradition, and in a great historic place. And please tell the choir members too!"

Into the Mystery


Into the mystery - It's a new day and though I know not what may come my way, the sun is up and we are not alone. So much to be thankful for... always.

Memories of the Okanagan


I am partial to fridge magnets, but Janet prefers more serious souvenirs. Four years ago on a visit to the Carcajou Cherry Orchards on the edge of picturesque Summerland, B.C., Janet fell in love with an unusual poppy which she wanted to take with her as a keepsake. Of course the idea was crazy. Chances are the delicate little flower which seemed to grow wild in the orchard wouldn't have survived a transplant from one end of their garden to another, let alone one end of the country to the next. We didn't take the poppy with us, but we did drive off with a pretty nice bag of cherries. 

The Carcajou Orchard was a special place because it was where Jessica and Alex worked each summer after they finished tree planting in northern B.C. A few months after our visit the owners of the orchard, Keith and Jan Carlson, arrived in Toronto for Jessica and Alex's wedding and presented Janet with a tiny momento of our visit tucked inside an envelope. Needless to say it wasn't a fridge magnet, but a pocket full of poppy seeds of the Bombast Rose variety, and each year since, there have been more and more poking through the ground in our Toronto garden and as they bloom we can't help but think back to that beautiful spot where the cherries grow from down on the shores of Lake Okanagan to halfway up Giant Head Mountain, and where the fruit tastes so sweet that even in the winter they call the town Summerland.

Grace and Peace


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Rev. Dr. Peter Holmes

Peter Holmes, BA, MDiv, DMin is the Minister of the Congregation at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church

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