“Still Following Jesus”
September 16, 2018 – Year B – 17th Sunday after Pentecost
Anniversary Sunday – The 1990’s
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Such describes the 1990’s in Penticton United Church. There were many creative projects undertaken such as the landscaping project of 1991, the Archives headed up by Anne Walker in 1991, visits in 1991 by the Moderator Rev. Walter Farquarhson, in 1993 by the Moderator, the Rev. Dr. Stan McKay who helped us celebrate our 65th Anniversary, and in 1998 Rev. Bill Phipps, our Moderator visited.
In 1993 we held an “Apple Pie Making Bee” with 2000 pounds of apples provided by Harry and Mary Shaw. This raised $3,000.00. In that same year the Parlour was renovated in recognition of the life and work of Rev. Ernest Rands.
In 1994 the Gordon Brown Memorial Window was installed and dedicated. The stained- glass windows above the balcony were installed, a memorial to her husband by Mrs. Brown. A scholarship fund in the name of Rev. Ernest Rands, was started within the church, and is made available annually to a student at Okanagan University College in Penticton. The year ended with a deficit of $16,754.18.
1995 was a tumultuous year with Rev Harvie Barker and Rev. Ron Jeffries leaving us. It was a team ministry that had its struggles. An interim year with Rev. Gordon Howe followed and then in 1996 Rev. Helen Stover Scott was called to our church. Sadly, Helen died in March of 2000. Each minister brought gifts and creative ideas, some of which were accepted and others – not so much.
For instance, in 1997 the Constitution and By-Laws document was updated. The Memorial and Bursary Fund and UCW purchased a dishwasher for the kitchen. The entire kitchen was gutted and completely refurbished during the summer months.
In 1999 Refugees: Gordana and Dini Voloder, arrived from Croatia. Our church’s commitment to supporting refugee families has a long history.
Rev. Helen Stover Scott and other area Ministers conducted 8 weddings, 57 funerals, and 13 baptisms in 1999. Church membership was 523 persons.
Also, in 1999 the Angelus Ringers started under the direction of Margaret Ormond. They had 10 ringers. The funding and purchase of bells was available through a special appeal to the congregation. This group was recognized as a vital part of worship. We honoured them in June.
Renovations to the office area and foyer were carried out. Monies for this project were made available through bequests and memorials in the Memorial and Bursary Fund.
One of the most interesting pieces of our history occurred in 1998. The outside belfry wall was found to be bulging, and with the help of the Penticton Search & Rescue Team (who wanted some practice at rappelling) displayed their abilities by laying two beams to support and secure the wall.
There is much that should be said about the faithful leadership of chairpersons of council, committee members and the faithful volunteers. In spite of stressful times, the congregation was supportive and dedicated. Our Ministers served faithfully through changing and often difficult times. They tried to faithfully answer Jesus’ question “Who do you say that I am?”
That timeless question is as old as Jesus himself. And it certainly is an appropriate one on this anniversary Sunday. If we are to be like Peter, we would say “You are the Messiah.” Jesus is the anointed One who is chosen to save people from harm. Perhaps we have an understanding of Jesus based on our Sunday School days, picturing him as the Good Shepherd – the One who gathers us like a lamb being protected from the wolf. Some of us have come to know Jesus as the Rock – the solid, immovable force that stands sentinel over us. Others might say the Judge who rules over our actions. And the list goes on.
“Who do you say that Jesus is?” For the founders of this church, surely Jesus was their constant guide. Jesus gave them strength, courage and guidance. And that truth is equally as real today. The Jesus that I know is my peace, my lover, and my true friend.
When Jesus asked Peter, “who do you say that I am?” he was wanting to make sure that we are not missing the boat! He wanted to make sure that we know clearly who he is and what he is all about. “Some say this and some say that, but who do YOU say that I am?
And yet the question is as relevant today as ever before. Who do we way Christ is? Jesus is the gift of God who shows to us what it is to be fully human. One of my favorite books is John Shelby Spong’s book, “This Hebrew Lord.” In it John Spong suggests, “To be in Christ is to come alive. It is to turn on to life, to know the power of love, to experience freedom from our self-centred bondage. For Jesus, to be the messiah meant that he must bring life. He must bring love to the unloved, freedom to the bound, wholeness to the distorted, and peace to the insecure.”
This fullness of life is only a dream for many people. With lives crammed full with work, volunteer activities, care for family members and the drudgery of the everyday, there is little room to dream of an encounter with the enlivening Christ. Yet, freedom, wholeness and peace is the gift that Christ promises to people like you and me.
So, my friends, as we celebrate the 1990’s we reflect on Jesus’ timeless question “Who do you day that I am?” Each of us will have a different answer. It is perhaps the most important question for which you and I will be called to respond. For me, the answer is; Jesus is the gift of God who shows us what it is to be fully human. Will you dare to live in this way? Will you let go of your inhibitions and insecurities and trust deeply! And will you risk! Risk vibrant, abundant living!
Our church in the 1990’s sought to honour Jesus as Bible Studies, UCW meetings, Men’s Club, Choir, and many fund raising projects were undertaken. Yet there were struggles and tensions that permeated much of the 1990’s. Some of it was the fall out of 1988 and the position taken concerning human sexuality tolerance. Approximately 100 people left our church in 1988 through to 1990.For those who stayed at Penticton United Church, we knew Jesus to be inclusive and welcoming of all people. As you go into the coming week, consider the question Jesus asked his disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” Don’t jump to conclusions, but let the answer come to you through reflection and prayer. You may be surprised and freed by the answer. Your answer is at the core of your faith and it will give direction to your life and to your Christian witness in the world. Amen.