As we gather here in this place of worship today, we are not alone.
There are more than 2.5 billion Christians on planet Earth and many of those people have already gathered for worship or will do so in the next few hours.
Approximately 22 million Canadians (about 67% of Canada’s population) profess to be Christian. 473,000 Canadian Christians identified themselves as Presbyterian in the 2011 census – although less than 60,000 of those persons are professing members of a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Of course, many of the remaining 413,000 Canadians who identify as Presbyterians, as is the case at Dayspring, are active adult adherents or children and teenagers who have not yet become professing members.
In trying to be the community of faith and care that God wants us to be, we are not alone. We are part of a much larger community. We receive support from that larger community and we participate in providing support to our brothers and sisters through Presbyterian initiatives of care across Canada and throughout the world.
But why am I sharing this information with you, this morning?
- Presbyterians Sharing Logo
Well, normally we would have focussed on Presbyterians Sharing on the last Sunday of September. However, that became Stephen Ministries Sunday. So I suggested to Heinrich that today might be Presbyterians Sharing Sunday. And so it is.
Let’s start with Dayspring. This congregation would not exist without the initiative-taking and supporting structures created by Presbyterians from across Canada.
- The PCC purchased the land and a home for the minister in the 1960s. The money to build the building (in three stages) was mostly contributed by members of the congregation (well over $2 million in total). However, the PCC (a) provided loans (mostly interest free) from a capital fund contributed to by Presbyterians from St John’s Newfoundland to Vancouver Island and (b) guaranteed the bank mortgages required to raise the balance of construction costs. We have now paid off those mortgages and loans through our offerings.
- The PCC has invested heavily in the cost of the theological education that prepared most of the persons who have served Dayspring as ministers over the years.
- The PCC provides ongoing resources and support for the ministry that we offer within the congregation and in the larger community.
But more than that, being part of the PCC offers us the opportunity to be present in mission and service across Canada and throughout the world – alongside some of those who have already gathered for worship today, or will do so in the next few hours.
- Some of what we give to Presbyterians Sharing enables congregations in smaller or economically disadvantaged Canadian communities to have a minister.
- Some of what we give to Presbyterians sharing has enabled Dr Blair Bertrand and his family to go to Malawi where he is teaching future ministers of the Church Of Central Africa and also mentoring 3 persons who will become the teachers of future classes of seminarians.
- Some of what we give to Presbyterians Sharing has enabled Dr Nick Bauman, accompanied by his spouse, to serve in Nepal as a surgeon and as a teacher of persons training to be physicians.
Every Sunday, in the Dayspring Weekly News, there is a “snapshot” of what we, in concert with Presbyterians across Canada and often in tandem with other denominations, are doing by way of mission and service. And you can find lots of this kind of information at the website of the PCC. The address is quite simple: www.presbyterian.ca.
So – not only are we not alone here in Dayspring Church, Edmonton; we have many companions there (wherever in the world “there” may be).
But there is one thing more. Presbyterians Sharing pays for staff at our denominational offices who keep an eye on human need throughout the planet. They assess cries for help from areas dealing with disasters (natural or human-created) or for assistance with development (for example of water supplies or food sustainability). Then they determine whether and how the PCC might get involved. That’s where our contributions to Presbyterian World Service & Development come in. PWS&D is separate from Presbyterians Sharing. Money contributed to PWS&D goes directly to specific efforts to provide relief from disaster and contribute to development projects. But the support structures that make it possible for Presbyterians from across Canada to make a difference through PWS&D are possible because of contributions to Presbyterians Sharing. It’s not an either/or. It’s a both/and.
What I have been sharing is a small snapshot of the ways in which we Presbyterians live out the Great Commandment that rings out in both the Old and New Testaments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and your neighbour as yourself.”
What I have been sharing is a small snapshot of the ways in which we Presbyterians emulate what was happening in the story Darolyn read from Acts 4 about how the early Christians shared their resources with one another. Ours is a much more complex economy than the economy in which they lived – so we have to find ways of living out the principles that operated in the early church.
The psalmist encourages us to celebrate what God is doing – but remember that God does those things through us.
And take note of that single verse from Romans 12 with which we began today’s worship.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
I invite you to take a moment for quiet reflection.