From the Dean’s Desk – 4th Sunday of Advent

Magnificat, illuminated manuscript-2

You have shown strength | with your arm;
     and scattered the proud in | their conceit,
casting down the mighty | from their thrones
     and lifting | up the lowly.
You have filled the hungry | with good things,
     and sent the rich | away empty.                        Luke 1:51-53

Sunday is the shortest day of the year.  At the Winter Solstice the night is longest, and the darkness is deepest.  For all of us who live in the northern hemisphere of our garden planet, it might be tempting to give in to despair, to hopelessness, to admit finally that the darkness is stronger than the light.

But the world is turning, and the light at the end of the tunnel is not a freight train.  Mary’s magnificent song, which we call the Magnificat – taken from the first word of the Latin text, Magnificat anima mea – reminds us in no uncertain terms that “the Light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not over come it.”

God is not content to leave us in the deep darkness of our own creation.  What a relief!  With the kind of week it’s been – siege in Sydney, bombs in Yemen killing sixteen schoolgirls, murderers in Peshawar slaughtering scores of children – that temptation to surrender to the power of darkness has been strong.  And the annual frenzy of buy, buy, buy, an attempt to dull the pain of a society which has lost its way, is not up to the job of shining true light in the darkness.  It can only cast the frantic glitter of millions of sparkling, shimmering artificial lights, which finally just shiver artificially in the darkness, as we long for real light to shine in the depths of our hearts.

But the world is turning.  God is at work in the Coming One, Jesus Christ and him crucified and risen, to turn the world not upside-down, but rightside-up.  The standards which we have used for so long to define ‘the real world’ are not God’s standards.  The system of idolatry by which millions are impoverished and a very few made fabulously rich is not God’s system.  No, all of this reveals a word which is grossly upside-down, completely against God’s desire in creation for a garden where all can share in God’s freely granted abundance.  All our fraudulent standards and our broken systems reveal a broken and wounded creation, captive to the power of sin and death.  That is the real world as it exists so painfully in all the headlines and fresh tragedies each day.  But that is not God’s desire, nor is it the divine dream.

Our Advent journey has been an opportunity to partake of that dream, and to breathe it in so deeply that it becomes part of our lives, of the very warp and woof of our real world.  God’s real world, the rightside-up real world, starts to break through when The Word becomes flesh in the fragile flesh of a newborn baby in a backwoods barn.  Mary’s song reveals the shape of that dream, and as Jesus grows in wisdom and stature so too does God’s dream become more clear, more bright, more focused.  That dream reached its most painful brilliance in the Cross and Resurrection, where the idol of human power and religion is stripped bare of all its disguises, and the world itself groans as it begins its roll back to upright and the new creation is begun.

Even through our bitter tears, and through the choking dust of the rubble of all our broken idols, we can see the Light shining in the darkness.  The love of God will not be defeated by all the hate and monstrous evil of humankind, not even the spiritual pus and deadly poison in each of us.  In Christ the coming one, God is our Saviour, and promises healing for the whole of creation.  In Christ the coming one the world is turning rightside-up again, and light and life are born anew each day in our own hearts and minds, in our lives and in our life together, as we allow Christ to be born in us.

 My soul proclaims the greatness | of the Lord,
     my spirit rejoices in | God my Savior…             Luke 1:46b-47

Magnificat, ErlanderThanks be to God!

2015 Festival of Prayer


A “Festival of Prayer” will take place in Winnipeg January 18 – 25, 2015 to mark the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The theme and resources for 2015 were prepared by a working group formed by representatives of the National Council of Christian Churches of Brazil: Jesus said to her: “Give me a drink.” (John 4:7). The encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman invites us to try water from a different well and also to offer a little water of our own. In diversity, we enrich each other. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is a privileged moment for prayer, encounter and dialogue. It is an opportunity to recognize the richness and value present in the other, and to ask God for the gift of unity.

The 2015 Festival of Prayer will begin with a City-wide Ecumenical Worship Service at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday January 18th at St. John’s Anglican Cathedral, 135 Anderson Avenue, Winnipeg. All are cordially invited to participate in this opening celebration with church leaders and to experience different Christian traditions in the various services that will be held throughout the Festival of Prayer. For more information, please click here.

Happy Hanukkah to our all our Jewish sisters and brothers, near and far!


Hanukkah Shameach, HBSo they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days, and joyfully offered burnt-offerings; they offered a sacrifice of well-being and a thanksgiving-offering. They decorated the front of the temple with golden crowns and small shields; they restored the gates and the chambers for the priests, and fitted them with doors. There was very great joy among the people, and the disgrace brought by the Gentiles was removed.

 Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev.  (I Maccabees 4:55-59)

This year Hanukkah begins tonight (like all Jewish Holy-Days it is a lunar calculation, and so moves each year) at sundown, and ends at sundown on December 24th.  What a wonderful opportunity for us to wish a Happy Hanukkah to our Jewish neighbours, our sisters and brothers.  Jesus, his family, and all his first disciples were Jewish, of course, and would have celebrated this great feast of miracles.  In the Gospel of John it’s called ‘The Feast of the Dedication’.


Tonight, after sundown, all faithful Jews will begin the eight day feast with prayer and candle-lighting.  Tonight, and only tonight they will recite this prayer:

ברוך אתה ה’ א‑לוהינו, מלך העולם, שהחינו וקימנו והגענו לזמן הזה.‏

Transliteration: Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam, she’heheyanu v’kiy’manu v’higi’anu la’z’man ha’ze.

Translation: “Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season.”

The story of Hanukkah (From

The festival reminds Jews of a time over 2500 years ago when Antiochus, a Syrian king, tried to make the Jewish people worship Greek gods. A statue of Antiochus was erected in the Jewish temple and the Jews were ordered to bow down before him. The Ten Commandments forbid Jews to worship statues or idols and so they refused.

A small group of Jews called Maccabees rebelled, and after a three year war they recaptured Jerusalem from the Syrians. But the temple was all but destroyed.

The Jews had to clean and repair the Temple, and when they were finished they rededicated it to God. They did this by lighting the lamp (Menorah) – which was a symbol of God’s presence. Only one small jar of oil was found, enough for one day, but miraculously the lamp stayed alight for eight days.

How is Hanukkah celebrated today? Hanukkah, Dreidel

Hanukkah is celebrated by lighting one candle on the Hanukiah (an eight-stemmed candelabrum) each day.

The Hanukkah Menorah symbolises how God looked after the Jewish people at this difficult time.

Games are often played at Hanukkah. The most common game uses a dreidel and is a popular way of helping children to remember the great miracle.

Hanukkah, menorah and dove, ChagallBest wishes one and all, Jewish kindred, in Winnipeg, in Israel, and around the world,
for these Holy Days then, as together we give thanks for the saving acts of the Holy One, blessed be G-d’s name!




Christmas Message 2014 from the World Council of Churches General Secretary

From the Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit:

Adoration of the Magi, He QiDear friends and companions on the journey:

I greet you in the name of Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! May the blessing of this season of advent – of expectation – be realized in your homes and your communities, and particularly in the lives of those who have to leave their homes in times like this.

This is a time when we are all called to look forward to more abundant expressions of the loving purposes of God:

“Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1)


Read the full message here.

If you wish to listen to Olav read his message, please click here.

Watch the WCC Christmas Video here.

From the Dean’s Desk – 3rd Sunday of Advent

Jesus in the BreadlineThe spirit of the Lord GOD is upon [us],
because the LORD has anointed [us];
he has sent [us] to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners…                                     Isaiah 61:1

Jesus came by for a visit on Wednesday night, and he brought some friends with him too, seven or eight hundred, actually.  And it was wonderful.


You may recognize the verse above from Isaiah; Jesus quotes it as his own mission statement when he begins his ministry after his baptism, in Luke 4.  It is, therefore, also our mission statement.  Indeed, it belongs to all the baptized, who have put on Christ crucified and risen as our life’s garment.

IMG_5648Wednesday evening, December 10th, was the Annual North End Family Centre. Christmas Party, the third year we have hosted it.  Although quite lively, to put it mildly, it was a great evening, full of the presence of Christ in all who came, and in all who hosted.  Thank you to all from St. John’s who were out and helped in any way!  You were the welcoming presence of Christ in this place for the Christ who came in from the cold that night, young and old, who stood outside, waiting to get in, mostly poor people who came for an evening they would not have had otherwise, mostly aboriginal, many of whom walked or rode the bus to get here.

(The LORD has anointed [us];)                            
to provide for those who mourn in [Winnipeg] —
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.                Isaiah 61:3

All the work, all the hours, all the running up and down stairs, all the cleaning up of messes, all the extra light and heat, all the extra garbage, all of it, all was worthwhile to see the smiles in the faces of the children, the children who stood in line for up to an hour to receive one new toy, and a small package of candy.  You would have thought they had received the world, they were so happy.


NEFC Xmas 2012 And even though we ran out of food, after the first four hundred received a modest ‘feast’ of Subway sandwich and chips and a pop, and again after the next two hundred and forty received one slice of pizza each, even then almost all the guests were polite and dignified and grateful for the evening.  Old women with grandchildren, young mothers with several kids, young fathers, and kids, kids, and more kids, were all grateful and patient and, almost without exception, thanked all the hosts and wished us all a cheerful ‘Merry Christmas!’.

Yes, Jesus came by for a visit last Wednesday, and brought a bunch of friends!  Thankfully, he also found many friends here to greet him.

As we complete our Advent journey, and move on and through Christmas itself, let’s remember Jesus’ mission statement, and ours as well.  Let’s work always to keep Christ in Christmas!  How?  Well, think about these things, and maybe read Matthew 25 again:  Feed the hungry (Winnipeg Harvest), give clean, safe water to th thirsty (Shoal Lake n.40 First Nation), welcome the stranger (NEFC Community Christmas Party!), provide clothing for those who need it (Charlie Brown Tree), take care of the sick (Pastoral Care Teams), visit those in prison (Anglican Chaplaincy).  Obviously there are many other ways as well, many other opportunities for all his disciples to work with Jesus to bring in the Kingdom, a kingdom where all can share in God’s abundance, a kingdom where all can live in justice with peace for the whole creation.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!  Thanks be to God!

“A Charlie Brown Christmas…”

cbtree_smallEach winter, the congregation of St. John’s “decorates” our Charlie Brown tree with a variety of donated winter apparel (hats, mittens, scarves and socks) for children who don’t have them. All of the clothing collected is then donated to a neighbourhood school. The Charlie Brown Christmas Tree appeared in the narthex on November 16th and remains through December 14th. We will be delivering the ‘fruit of the Charlie Brown tree’ to the schools next week.

This special project is a tangible way to express our support of the schools in our community. There is still one Sunday (December 14th) left to bring in more items. Thanks to one and all for sharing and caring and making this year’s tree so successful!

From the Dean’s Desk… Second Sunday in Advent

Saint Nicholas, the truth about Santa - bannerDecember 6th is the Feast of Saint Nicholas.  We are pretty certain that he existed, and he was quite possibly a bishop in the early church, in what is now Turkey.  Beyond that, though, well, there are many wonderful stories.  All of the stories are about a faithful disciple of Christ, who lives the love of Jesus.  Coca-Cola Santa Claus?  Maybe not…  Consider what The Encyclopædia Britannica has to say:

Saint Nicholas and gift giving in Europe“Saint Nicholas, also called Nicholas of Myra    (flourished 4th century, Myra, Lycia, Asia Minor [near modern Kale (Demre), Turkey]; feast day December 6), one of the most popular minor saints commemorated in the Eastern and Western churches and now traditionally associated with the festival of Christmas. In [Holland, Germany, and Switzerland especially] children receive gifts on December 6, Saint Nicholas Day.

“Nicholas’s existence is not attested by any historical document, so nothing certain is known of his life except that he was probably bishop of Myra in the 4th century. According to tradition, he was born in the ancient Lycian seaport city of Patara, and, when young, traveled to Palestine and Egypt. He became bishop of Myra soon after returning to Lycia. He was imprisoned during the persecution of Christians by the Roman emperor Diocletian but was released under the rule of Emperor Constantine the Great and [legend says] attended the first Council (325) of Nicaea. He was buried in his church at Myra, and by the 6th century his shrine there had become well-known.

st-nicholas-givingdowrytothreepoorgirls-fra-angelico“Nicholas’s reputation for generosity and kindness gave rise to legends of miracles he performed for the poor and unhappy. He was reputed to have given marriage dowries of gold to three girls whom poverty would otherwise have forced into lives of prostitution [. His legend says that he gave the gold secretly, by throwing bags of coins through the house window, or, another version, dropped the bags down the chimney. Legend also says that he] restored to life three children who had been chopped up by a butcher and put in a tub of brine. In the Middle Ages, devotion to Nicholas extended to all parts of Europe. He became the patron saint of Russia and Greece; of charitable fraternities and guilds; of children, sailors, unmarried girls, merchants, and pawnbrokers; and of such cities as Fribourg, in Switzerland, and Moscow.

“After the Reformation, devotion to Nicholas disappeared in [most] Protestant countries of Europe except Holland, where his legend persisted as Sinterklaas (a Dutch variant of the name Saint Nicholas). Dutch colonists took this tradition with them to New Amsterdam (now New York City) in the American colonies in the 17th century. Sinterklaas was adopted by the country’s English-speaking majority under the name Santa Claus, and his legend of a kindly old man was united with old Nordic folktales of a magician who punished naughty children and rewarded good children with presents. The resulting image of Santa Claus in the United States crystallized in the 19th century, and he has ever since remained the patron of the gift-giving festival of Christmas.”

Saint Nicholas to Sinter Klass to SantaSo one who began his life after death as a devout Christian, wearing a Bishop’s tall red mitre, and giving secretly to the poor, evolved much later into a patron, note, not patron saint, but patron, of ‘the gift-giving festival’ of Christmas.  Christmas is indeed a gift-giving festival, but it is God who is the gift-giver in Christ, whose Good News makes it clear that God does not keep score as we are tempted to do. Christmas is about God’s generosity which we are called to share, especially with the poor and all those in any need, all year round.  Whose birthday is it anyway? For now our Advent journey continues. Thanks be to God!

High Feasts and Holy-Days…


Christmas Eve – two services – the Family Service with Holy Communion at 7:00 p.m.
Dean Paul Johnson preaching and presiding
and the Sung Eucharist (‘Midnight Mass’) at 11:00 p.m.
Dean Paul Johnson presiding and Bishop Donald Phillips preaching
Christmas Day, Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord begins…
Eucharist at 10:30 a.m., Hon. Assistant, Dean Paul Johnson preaching and presiding
First Sunday of Christmas, December 28 – Eucharist at 10:30 a.m.
The Fourth Day of Christmas
Honorary Assistant, the Rev. Brian Ford preaching and presiding
Second Sunday of Christmas, January 4 – Eucharist at 10:30 a.m.
The Eleventh Day of Christmas
The Rev. Melissa Frankland preaching and presiding
Baptism of Our Lord, January 11 – Sung Eucharist at 10:30 a.m.
Dean Paul Johnson preaching and presiding


Trinity Institute 2015 Webcast and Conference – Creating Common Good

TI Logo2015-roundYou’re invited to attend Trinity Institute (TI2015), an annual conference that takes place in New York City—but you can attend at St. John’s Cathedral! We bring all the elements of the NYC conference to you via webcast.

This year’s conference takes on the pervasive, overwhelming issue of economic inequality. TI2015 speakers have real-world experience making change happen. They will provide us with hopeful, practical tools we can use to make a positive economic impact.


WHERE: St. John’s Cathedral, 135 Anderson Avenue, Winnipeg, MB
WHEN: January 22-24, 2015
COST: We have extended the Earlybird deadline to January 11. Register before January 11: $60/person, $105/couple, $45/students and seniors. After January 11: $70/person, $115/couple, $55/students and seniors. Registration covers the cost of the web cast, study materials, meals and snacks.

CONTACT:   To register for TI2015 For more information,
contact Carol Hargreaves at (204) 586-8385 or email

Please download our registration form at the link below:
registration form

For more information about Trinity Institute’s national theological conference—including speaker bios, schedule, videos, and more—visit