From the Dean’s Desk… Time to cross the Jordan

Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.          Deut. 30:19b-20Jordan_River_in_spring

In the reading for Sunday from Deuteronomy, Moses gives his farewell address.  He’s gathered all the people of Israel around himself on the east side of the Jordan River, and he speaks at some length about their past – forty years in the wilderness – and then invites them to consider the future which God has in mind for them, across that river, in the Promised Land.  Yet, the shape of that future is not clear; there are uncertainties, fears, even.  Things will be different.  After all, forty years of doing things one way might even feel like that’s the only way, like that’s the way “we’ve always done it.”

It’s time for us to cross the Jordan River, again.  It seems to me that every generation of the church needs to cross the Jordan, and we’re no different.  I’ve been thinking now for awhile about October 14th, 2020.  It may seem a long way off, and, of course, tomorrow is promised to no one, but the future belongs to God, and so do we.  Whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s, as St. Paul puts it in his letter to the Romans.

So, then, what about October, 2020?  Well, I’m glad you asked.  That will be two hundred years since The Rev. John West, Church of England, Church Missionary Society, arrived in the still somewhat rough Red River settlement, having come down from Hudson’s Bay via river and lake.  We date this Cathedral Parish from his arrival.

How do we get to 2020?  It is, after all, still six years and nine months away, and we have yet to pass this year’s budget!  Well, we plan.  We pray.  We persist, as disciples of the crucified and risen one, Jesus Christ, to whom this Cathedral belongs, along with the whole church on earth.  We choose.

Together we choose to move into the future trusting in God’s call; we have to cross the Jordan again or we wither and die in the wilderness of our own self-satisfaction.  It’s important, vital, in fact, to celebrate the past, and to give thanks for God’s faithfulness through 194 years, but we can’t stop there.  If there is to be a river crossing, if there is to be the promised land of a future for this community of faith we call St. John’s Anglican Cathedral, we must, absolutely must, look beyond ourselves, and follow Jesus wherever he leads us, even – get ready for it – if it’s off ‘the Island’ between Main and the River, between St. John’s Park and Kildonan Park.

Let’s start thinking together about that bicentenary – it will come more quickly than you think – and how best to celebrate and give thanks to God.  Even more importantly than getting there, though, let’s think about the future into which God is calling all of us, a future of worship grounded in the presence of Christ, in Word and Sacrament, which then sends us out into service in Christ’s name!  You see, God is already there, on the other side of the Jordan, on the other side of Main Street, on the other side of the world.  Don’t you think it’s time we crossed too?

One place we can talk about our future together is at the Annual General Meeting.  I hope you will come and join us next Sunday, February 23rd, at 1 p.m. in the John West Hall.  First, after worship, we’ll share some food, and then we’ll get to work, with joy and thanksgiving for all that God has done in and through this community for almost two centuries, and also through us, and for all that God promises in Christ, a future rich and full to the brim with hope.

Thanks be to God! 

From the Dean’s Desk… South Sudan: Light under a bushel basket?

The Rev. Reuben Garang

[Jesus:]  You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.  You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.  (Matthew 5:13-16)

For decades a terrible war raged in what was then called the Sudan, in what was then the largest country in Africa.  The Muslim, Arabic-speaking north with the government in Khartoum dominated and persecuted and exploited the African people of the south, most of whom are Christian, many of whom are Anglican.

In 2005 a peace accord was signed, and, only two years ago, the world’s newest country was born as South Sudan gained its independence, with much celebration and great hope.  The vast majority of Sudanese in Canada are from the south, refugees during all the terrible years of warfare with the north.

We have two Sudanese parishes in the Diocese of Rupert’s Land, both in Winnipeg:  St. Andrew’s Sudanese Mission (The Rev. Justin Laki) which gathers for worship on Sunday afternoons at All Saints, and Emmanuel Sudanese Mission, which worships on Sunday afternoons at St. Matthew’s, now part of West End Commons ( ).  The priest for this community is The Rev. Reuben Garang.  Reuben is Sudanese, and arrived in Canada many years ago as one of ‘the lost boys’.  He has an amazing story to tell.  Read a little bit here from 2011:

In December of 2013 he left to visit family and friends in South Sudan where he had not been since he left war-torn Sudan in January of 1987.  That was the plan at least:–going-home-233804651.html  We had Reuben here at the Cathedral not long before he left Canada, but just after the new conflict had broken out between the President and the loyal part of the army, and the Vice-President and his armed followers.  He joined us for the Dean’s Forum, along with The Rev. Deacon Abraham Kuol Chuol, also from Emmanuel.

But things changed on the ground in South Sudan, quickly, and Reuben was never even able to get into the country, much less travel to his home area, right in the middle of all the terrible violence.  He made a number of entries into his blog while he was in Uganda, first hoping to enter South Sudan, and then looking for ways to contact his family.  Read it here:

In speaking with Reuben, one of the most painful aspects of this tragic conflict for him is the fact that it is between groups who are, for the most part, Christians.  European Christians, only now recovering from centuries of slaughtering each other, can understand some of that pain, and know also that we must listen in humility to the experience of Christians from other places.

Reuben arrived back in Canada and Winnipeg just a few days ago; we thank God for his safe return home.  Abraham, with us also in December, received news that several of his family members had been killed in the recent violence, including his father, his stepmother, five uncles, and numerous other relatives as well.  Please uphold him and all his family in prayer in this time of frightful loss.

We are honoured to have Reuben with us again on Sunday, this time to preach, and are very grateful that he can join us also before worship at the Dean’s Forum (9 a.m. in the narthex) to share his story.  Thank you, very much, Reuben!  Thank you also for reminding us that we are part of a larger reality called the Body of Christ, including the Anglican Communion ( ).  We hold you and Abraham and your families and The Episcopal Church of Sudan and South Sudan all our sisters and brothers there in our prayer.

On January 30th our Primate, The Most Rev. Fred Hiltz, issued a call for prayer for the people of South Sudan, and all of East Africa ( ).  In addition, the Primate has written a letter to our Prime Minister calling for the involvement of the Canadian Government in helping the people of South Sudan to achieve “a firm and lasting peace.”

As the Primate put it:  “Let us listen as one Anglican family in Canada to the concerns of Canadian Sudanese Anglican men and women seeking peace for their homeland and loved ones, and act together.”

Kyrie eleison!  Lord have mercy!

The Rev. Reuben Garang, Blog, Dec. & Jan. Return to South Sudan?

Monday, 23 December 2013

Pray for family members who are still missing in the war zone

South Sudan_RC_2014_01_4-624x482

 “I haven’t talked to my brother and sister’s  families for the last three days. They were displaced from Bor town which is now under the control of the rebels. I keep trying  all the phones I have but no phone is going through. Also, I cannot reach my other relatives in Twic East  County to ask them for information of the whereabouts of  my family members. May be all the network systems  are disconnected…


“I [hope] my relatives are in hiding and not dead.   It’s a  tough time for people whose relatives live in Jonglei. One of the people who escaped  from there  through River Nile said there is  no food  water and medication for people trapped in the war zone. Most of the people who were displaced in Bor town are still in the bush and some are taking refuge at  UN compound. All are in   a dire condition.”

From the Dean’s Desk… The Presentation of Our Lord (Candlemas)


Simeon took [Jesus] in his arms and praised God, saying,
‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.’  (Luke 2:28-32)

In some ancient traditions, the season of Christmas was much longer than twelve days.  In fact, like other uses of the holy number, the season was 40 days long, and concluded with The Presentation of Our Lord, with the story of Mary and Joseph again fulfilling the Law of Moses, continuing St. Luke’s account of the incarnation of our Lord at its very beginning.  According to Exodus 13, all firstborn children are to be offered to the LORD; not sacrificed literally, as was done by many cultures in the time of ancient Israelites – the ancestors of Mary and Joseph – but, in contrast, they are consecrated to God’s service.  Leviticus 12 describes how a woman is to be purified ritually after the birth of a child, and for a son the total is 40 days.  So, 40 days after Christmas brings us to February 2nd.  Four times in the Gospel for this day Luke reminds us that Joseph and Mary are faithful Jews, understanding themselves to be living in the Covenant of Moses, careful for the Law by which that covenant was established.  Jesus was a Jew.

Joseph and Mary were Jews.  Simeon and Anna were Jews.  All the first disciples, men and women, all of them, were Jews.  Jesus was a Jew.  How horrendously and hideously horrible, then, that in his name, in the name of Jesus, his followers, disciples of Jesus through the passage of agonizing centuries, persecuted and killed so many Jews.  One horror leading to another, until, in the last century, the most horrific time of all, the Shoah          ( השואה ), the Catastrophe, or, the Holocaust.

But even the greatest evil of all – and can such things be ‘ranked’? – cannot defeat the love of God.  As Christians we believe that this unquenchable love is most clearly revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of a Jewish man, Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee, who became Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the healing (the Greek word used here for ‘salvation’ can also be translated as ‘healing’) of all peoples and the whole creation.  God’s love is so powerful and bright that it shines through in many ways, in many traditions, in the creation itself, but often – and don’t we know it – there is an element of uncertainty, of question, a dimness, or lack of clarity, until we come to Jesus.  Here, in him, in his life, in his death, and finally, in his resurrection, all is clear.

Here there is salvation, healing for all peoples, for the whole creation.

Here there is light enough to shine upon and for all the nations.

Here there is the glory of God’s love, handed down through the people of Israel and its own son Jesus/Joshua/Y’shua/ ישוע, but glory enough, healing enough, light enough, salvation enough, for all people and for the whole world, indeed, for the whole groaning creation.  What a word, what a Gospel word, a living Word of Light and Life, is Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah of God.

Thanks be to God!

From the Dean’s Desk… Justin Demarais

Demarais, Justin Kelsey (Grad photo)But I, O Lord, cry out to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
O Lord, why do you cast me off?
Why do you hide your face from me?
Wretched and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am desperate.
Your wrath has swept over me;
your dread assaults destroy me.
They surround me like a flood all day long;
from all sides they close in on me.
You have caused friend and neighbour to shun me;
my companions are in darkness.  (Psalm 88:13-18)

Barely a week ago our Caretaker and Groundskeeper, Wallace Demarais, with his wife Bernice, discovered to their despair that their son Justin had died suddenly, unexpectedly, tragically, violently.  I cannot imagine how they must feel.  Horrible, terrible, to lose a child in any way, but I think the only thing worse would be to have your child taken from you like Justin was suddenly taken from Bernice and Wallace.

The words of Psalm 88 sound right here, since everything is so terrifyingly wrong about this situation.  It is the only Psalm that ends in darkness, with no word of praise to God at the end, unlike the sorrow/grief/anger expressed in other Psalms which end with a word of hope.

But it’s there, this dark and heartbreaking Psalm, because God knows that’s how we feel sometimes.  In Christ, God is present in our deepest darkness, our most horrifying sadness.  You see, God’s own Son was violently snatched away, in blood and horror and lonely death.  In Christ, through Christ, God understands.

Finally, in Christ, through Christ, the darkness can be overcome.  But it doesn’t just happen.  God works through us, through family, through friends.  Healing happens as we are patient, gentle, accepting, loving, whenever, however, it is needed.  And that’s happening, here at St. John’s, which doesn’t surprise me, and for which I am immensely thankful to God.

Thank you, one and all in this parish, who reached out in many ways to Wallace and Bernice and their family and friends, along with the women from Kildonan United Church, and other friends from The Anglican Parish of St. Francis.  Thanks, everyone, for helping with the service on Friday for Justin, in taking care of the place while Wallace is where he needs to be, for all you have done and all you will do in the days/weeks/months ahead to minister to this family in their terrible hurt.

God can heal; our loving Creator reaches out in grace and mercy and peace to give life even to a heart that seems dead with grief.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.      (John 1:5)

And Justin?  We know J.D. is healed and whole forever, forgiven as we are, made new as we will be one day, reunited with all the ancestors who have gone before him, shining now with the Lord Jesus Christ in the light and love of God the Creator, forever.

Thanks be to God!

Justin Kelsey Demarais, Funeral Service with Holy Communion

Justin’s parents are Wallace and Bernice Demarais. Demarais, Justin Kelsey (Grad photo)
This year will mark 25 years since Wallace begin work at St. John’s Cathedral.
We hold you all in our prayers, Wallace and Bernice,
with Sherry, Darrick and Ashley (Heyden), and all who loved him.

Doors open at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, 24 January, for viewing.
A microphone will be available also for memories,
until 10:45 a.m.
Funeral Mass begins at 11 a.m.

Burial to follow service at Brookside Cemetery.

A light lunch will be served downstairs in the John West Hall of the Cathedral.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

All this follows the Wake to be held at Thunderbird House tonight, beginning at 5 p.m. and continuing through the night, until 8:30 a.m. on Friday, when Justin’s body will be brought to the Cathedral.

Rest eternal grant to him, O Lord.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Winnipeg

Has Christ been divided?
cf. 1 Corinthians 1:1-17

Join us as we pray together for unity and experience different traditions of Christian spirituality!
Refreshments and fellowship following most services

Sunday Jan. 19 CITY-WIDE ECUMENICAL WORSHIP SERVICE (with Church Leaders)
525 Wardlaw Avenue at Nassau Street N., 204-475-6011,

Monday Jan. 20 SERVICE IN FRENCH à 14h00 (Catholique)
2:00 p.m. VILLA AULNEAU, 601, rue Aulneau (Saint-Boniface),
For further info: Sr. Rita Hamel, 204-594-6406,

7:30 p.m. 2903 McPhillips Street (Rosser-Old Kildonan), 204-339-0412,

Wednesday Jan. 22 ALL SAINTS’ ANGLICAN CHURCH (noon hour service-downtown)
12:10 p.m. 175 Colony Street (corner Broadway & Osborne), 204-786-4765,

7:30 p.m. 264 Donwood Drive (North Kildonan), 204-669-0501,

250 Jefferson Avenue (West Kildonan), 204-339-4512,

Saturday Jan. 25 Vespers in the Coptic Orthodox Tradition
1111 Chevrier Boulevard (Fort Garry), 204-478-6743,

Sunday Jan. 26 ECUMENICAL YOUTH MINISTRY LEADERS (Travelling Ecumenical Worship-South St. Vital)
2:00 pm St. Timothy Catholic Parish, 135 John Forsyth Road
3:00 pm Faith Lutheran Church, 1311 Dakota Street
4:00 pm United Church in Meadowood, 1111 Dakota Street
5:00 pm Sterling Mennonite Fellowship, 1008 Dakota Street (Closing of the Week of Prayer)
For further info: Michelle Marchildon 204-594-0278,

For more information you may contact one of the above churches/groups, or your own minister/pastor,
or The Archdiocese of Winnipeg: telephone 204-452-2227,

From the Dean’s Desk…

Lamb of God - Jan van Eyck, the Adoration of the Lamb

To the church of God that is in [Winnipeg, on Anderson Avenue], to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:  …in every way you have been enriched in [Christ], in speech and knowledge of every kind — just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you — so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ…  God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.   (From I Cor. Ch. 1)

We had a great Vestry meeting this week.  That’s not really unusual, at least here at the Cathedral, but I am very thankful for it.  There is real spirit of joy and thanksgiving in and for our community of faith, and trust in God for our future, true even when we were talking about finances and budget and the upcoming Annual General Meeting (23 February, 1 p.m.).  And why not?
We are not lacking in any spiritual gift, and God is faithful!

We have a great future, whatever may come; God is there in Christ Jesus, calling us to venture out of our comfort zone and into the discipleship zone.  We don’t need to be afraid; anything but.  In every way we have been enriched in Christ!  Wow!  Stop.  No, really.  Stop.  Think about that.

How can we not rejoice and give thanks?

We may not always feel like it; we may even be tempted to grumble and complain, to fuss and fret.  That’s normal, that’s human.  But it’s not where we are called to live as disciples of Jesus, not as a way of life.  We are called to joy, to peace beyond human understanding, and into a future with hope:  Hope for us as individuals, hope for this community of faith we call St. John’s, and hope for the earth itself and the whole community of creation.  God is faithful.

As we look together into this New Year, let’s breathe deeply of that joy, sink roots into that peace, and plan our life together, secure enough in that hope to reach beyond ourselves, and to trust fully in the One who is ever faithful.

The LORD lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the miry clay,
and set my feet upon a high cliff, making my footing sure.
The LORD put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God;
 many shall see, and stand in awe,
and put their trust in the LORD.
(Psalm 40:2-3)

Thanks be to God!


From the Dean’s Desk… Baptism of Our Lord

Baptism of Jesus_icon-2aDo you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.  (Romans 6:3-4)

On Sunday it is my joyful privilege to baptize two new little brothers in Christ:

Sydney James Richens
Dominik Izaiah Rodney Sampson

What a gift!

We used to think about baptism as something WE absolutely had to do FOR GOD, and dread the horrific consequences if we didn’t; frankly, it was understood as something of an eternal life insurance policy.  How sad, and so much fear!

Now, thank God, we have come to understand it more richly and more joyfully as primarily something that GOD does FOR US, claims us and names as God’s own children.  Wow!  What joy, and no more fear!

Article XXVII (Of Baptism), of The 39 Articles of Religion, states this:

“Baptism is… a sign of Regeneration or New-Birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church [or the Body of Christ]; the promises of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the [children] of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed.”  It might sound a bit dry, but it’s worth celebrating!  It’s our eternal birthday!  And, in fact, it’s anything but dry; it’s all about living wet, walking daily in the power of God’s gift given freely in the waters of death and life, our new reality as partakers in the life of Jesus, crucified and now risen forever.

Congratulations, Sydney and Dominik, and welcome to the family which lasts forever, the family of God, where water is always thicker than blood, and life is always stronger than death!

Thanks be to God!