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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


St. Elias Blog - 08-16.JPGThose who participated in our 2010 Pilgrimage of Sacred Spaces visit to St. Elias Byzantine Ukrainian Catholic Church in Brampton will never forget the unique splendour of the space and the warm welcome of Father Roman Galadza. And so our hearts ached for them when St. Elias was destroyed by fire just prior to Easter in 2014. But Father Galadza promised to rebuild and he and his people have persevered with this vision. On a recent sojourn west of the city I stopped in on St. Elias. The church has been raised up from the ashes as a magnificent symbol in this community of the power of Christ's resurrection to raise us all from death to life eternal. May God continue to bless Father Roman and the people of St. Elias as they proclaim the Risen Christ in word and in deed.

The Osprey

Blog-Osprey 08-16.JPG
Day after day we see an osprey.  
watching the water below.
He is waiting for prey 
It's just nature's way.
Yet, maybe he's here
to teach us not fear
but to watch and to pray, 
day after day after day.

The Sweet Spot

P1160100.jpgI visited Leonard Sweet, (one of our Lester Randall preachers of 2015), recently in his octagonal shaped inner sanctum where he pens his many books and countless sermons. It was the entrance to his study that caught my attention first as it was an old nautical door taken from a ship. To begin with the door is not nearly high enough to accommodate a man of Leonard's six foot plus stature. What's more, to add to the challenge of entering the study, the door frame rises six to eight inches from the floor creating a threshold that one could easily trip over. However, it is all by design he reassured me. He went on to explain that his study is where he prepares to preach and in order to do so effectively he must be both humble and confident, thus a door frame that forces him to bow down to the Lord and a ledge that encourages him to step up in faith. He didn't comment on the nautical theme, but clearly one's entry into the word is nothing less than a grand adventure. So bow down, step up, set your sails and wait on the Spirit as you open the Word.

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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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