Renewal News – April 2016

Author: The Webmaster.
Contents current as of April 7, 2016.
In This Issue:

A Volunteer Team Retires

A photo of the Toronto-Area Renewal Fellowship Office Volunteer Mail Preparation Team. Back row – Norma FitzGerald, Margaret Middleton, Doreen Medland, Lois Nicolle, Lynda Harrison, Robert Anderson. Front row – Olive Ten Eycke, Eleanor McIntyre, Elsie Simpson, Priscilla Anderson. Absent: Fay McAllister, Joyce and Cathy Reid.
A photo of the Toronto-Area Renewal Fellowship Office Volunteer Mail Preparation Team. Back row – Norma FitzGerald, Margaret Middleton, Doreen Medland, Lois Nicolle, Lynda Harrison, Robert Anderson. Front row – Olive Ten Eycke, Eleanor McIntyre, Elsie Simpson, Priscilla Anderson. Absent: Fay McAllister, Joyce and Cathy Reid.
It was the summer of 1998 and my first day on the job as the new administrative assistant of the Renewal Fellowship. Quite appropriately, it was "mailing day" at the location of the Renewal Fellowship national office, at St. Andrew's Islington Presbyterian Church in Etobicoke. Welcoming me that day was a most extraordinary group of volunteers who had been undertaking this ministry support for many, many years. The Toronto office support team is made up primarily of St. Andrew's folks, along with a few from a couple of other Toronto-area churches. This faithful group had seen Renewal Fellowship staff come and go (Calvin Brown was the executive director who hired me, Fred Stewart is the current director), and the nature of the mailings have changed considerably. For well over twenty years, it was heavy work handling copies of Channels magazine (and inserting multiple copies to some churches!). It was tiring work with a lot of folding and stuffing of mail items. It was sticky work sealing envelopes and applying proper postage. And it was uncertain work, never knowing when the publications would finally be available.

In all of this effort, the team always maintained a cheerful and pleasant camaraderie, enjoying our mid-morning refreshments and wide-ranging and inclusive conversations. Devotion not only to the work of renewal, but also to one another!

Since I live in Hamilton, a few years ago a second office support team began, drawing its members from a number of area churches. This was a welcome relief for the Toronto team as the quarterly mailings then shifted to an alternating basis. By the end of 2015, however, the Toronto team (many of whom are shown in the accompanying photo) announced that it was time to retire – not from disinterest, but rather due to the increasing challenges of age and the continuing physical demands of this ministry support.

We thank all current and past members of the Toronto team for their amazing fortitude and faithfulness over these many years. Former members include Margaret Benner, Lillian Deline, May McBain, and Helen Young. Your passion for renewal and practice of fellowship is a living sacrifice, an offering to our gracious, triune God of love.

Bill Harrison, Administrative Assistant

2016 Annual General Meeting
"Practical Renewal"

Everyone likes to go to a conference and get at least one practical idea. It somehow makes it all feel worthwhile! So, the title of the Renewal Day and Annual General Meeting this year was well chosen: Practical Renewal. What is renewal if not something very practical, something very applicable to real-life circumstances?

Rev. Alex MacLeod
Rev. Alex MacLeod
Rev. Alex MacLeod, Lead Pastor of Kortright Presbyterian Church, Guelph, Ontario, built his session around months of personal study as well as personal need and personal experience. He challenged us that if we want to follow a route to renewal, we might have to actually stop working so hard for it. Like him, we might stop being "crazy busy" and choose instead a regular time for Sabbath rest. Stepping into this God-ordained rhythm or pattern, instead of restricting us, actually allows us to focus and enjoy God even more. Sabbath rest has the potential to root us in God as our creator, to ground us in the redemptive grace of Jesus Christ, and to help us flourish in the creativity of the Holy Spirit. That's what I want!

Liz Honeyford
Liz Honeyford
Liz Honeyford, Associate Pastor at St. Paul's Presbyterian Church in Leaskdale, Ontario, challenged us to consider "prayerful solitude" and "intentional awareness" as experiences which strengthen our interior life. Prayer and a sanctified imagination helped her find a safe place to rest in God, turn to Him and listen for His voice. We might agree that our busy lives can keep us "continually partially aware" of God. I needed to hear that Sabbath rest and prayer are two disciplines which can help me be even more fully aware and awake to what God is doing and saying in each moment.

Rev. Fred Stewart
Rev. Fred Stewart
Rev. Fred Stewart shared that to meet with pastors and congregants and encourage them to stop working and instead pray together was a gift that he was able to offer on both his East and West Encouragement Roadtrips. It may have seemed that our three speakers planned how their messages would knit together so clearly. But no, this was purely God at work for our benefit!

It is significant that our AGM speakers did not give us mere words. They revealed something that they are putting into practice in their lives. So, let's see: there was worship, teaching, encouragement, fellowship, each with moments of obvious Holy Spirit blessing. There was a chance to "recalibrate" and "reset" our hearts to seek God, to let our souls be refreshed by His nearness, to know personal renewal and pray for renewal in Presbyterian churches across Canada. I'm indeed thankful to God for how worthwhile and practical this day was for me.

AGM Worship Team: The Rev. Ian and Mrs. Gwenna McWhinnie of Glenbrook Presbyterian Church, Mississauga, Ontario, and on piano, Janie Robertson of St. Andrew's Islington Presbyterian Church, Etobicoke, Ontario.
AGM Worship Team: The Rev. Ian and Mrs. Gwenna McWhinnie of Glenbrook Presbyterian Church, Mississauga, Ontario, and on piano, Janie Robertson of St. Andrew's Islington Presbyterian Church, Etobicoke, Ontario.
Janie Robertson
St. Andrew's Islington Presbyterian Church, Etobicoke, Ontario
Renewal Fellowship Board Member

What is "Up!"?

"Up! – Get up, look up, be up" is a daily e-mail devotional written by Rev. Matthew Ruttan, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Barrie, Ontario. It is published five days a week (Tuesday to Saturday), and is something you can read in about one minute. I started my subscription about a month ago, and I found the devotionals practical, easy to read, and creative. I wondered, "How and why does this busy pastor, with a young family and a dynamic church, find the time and energy to write five devotionals a week?" So… I asked him. He told me that he previously subscribed to some e-mail devotionals that he found helpful, but sometimes seemed vague or not connected to his day-to-day life. He also told me that he enjoys writing and that he thought God wanted him to write as a part of his ministry. It fit well with his overall ministry focus on teaching, some of which was firmly rooted in online ministry through a blog, website, and social media. Matthew reminded me that Jesus met people where they were – on hillsides, by the lake, at the workplace. Today the majority of people, and especially younger people, are spending lots of time online – sometimes in positive ways, and sometimes in unhelpful ways. It is Matthew's hope that his online devotionals will help people in very straightforward and practical ways to get on board with the reality of God's imaginative plans for our lives and our world.

UP! started in April 2015 with a few dozen followers. A year later, the daily subscribers total almost 300. Subscribers include members of his congregation, a wider group of people from Canada and the U.S.A., and even a few from elsewhere in the world.

I asked Matthew, "What is your motivation to continue?" He said, "Jesus and His kingdom are the motivation. Seeing people mature in their faith is the motivation. As the ministry grows, I personally know fewer and fewer of the subscribers, but from what I can tell, the readership is very diverse. There are devout Christians who receive it, as well as people new to the faith, and many who are just curious about this whole Jesus thing. It's energizing to see how a range of people can be helped in real, day-to-day ways in their faith. Plus, it keeps me growing as a leader. Just like a sermon, each devotional I write is first written to me. So writing this devotional keeps me "up" on my toes about living with integrity as a follower of Jesus."

I also asked him, "How do you find the time to write five devotionals a week?" He answered, "I get that question a lot! I'm disciplined with how I use my time. I set time aside each morning to read and write. I don't have an exact count, but I probably read between 20 and 40 books a year. And when you produce a lot of content like I do (blogs, devotionals, sermons, Bible studies), you very quickly develop a system for cataloging ideas, inspiring quotes, and helpful stories. That really helps. So if I want to use a story I heard Fred Craddock tell or a quote that C.S. Lewis said, I have a system where I can pull it up in about 30 seconds. Plus, I really enjoy writing, so it's a part of my day I look forward to, and that gives me energy for other things."

Wherever you are in your journey of faith, I think that you'll find these short, practical devotionals a great part of your day. Want to learn more and be blessed? Just visit and you can sign up in 13 seconds.

Linda Shaw
Past Chair of the Renewal Fellowship Board
Coordinator, Renewal Fellowship Prayer Calendar

Executive Director's Comments

Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There is much I could write about this spring. I'm going to focus on just a few things. Each of them is an area that your prayers are requested. Here goes:

First, at the Annual General Meeting, I announced that I would be finishing my time as Executive Director on September 30th this year. It will be five years that I will have served in this capacity, which is the commitment I made to the Board. I have been blessed by the opportunities to minister to and meet so many of you. I am so thankful for your support in prayer, encouragement, and giving. God has been so faithful. Now pray for the Board as they vision and plan for the future and for the person God is preparing to lead the Fellowship on the next chapter of this adventure.

Second, on May 16th, I begin my third and last Encouragement Roadtrip 2016 (Ontario Edition). The majority of our congregations, ministers and members are in Ontario. So, for 30 days, I plan, God willing, to visit every corner of the province and travel 6,000 kilometres. In addition to your prayers, you can help this effort in a few ways. Please let me know of any congregation and/or minister that would benefit from a visit intended to encourage and support them. If you are located in Ontario, please prayerfully consider a Prayer and Praise event in your area during this trip. Send me an e-mail at the address below and request e-mail updates or indicate your prayer support for the roadtrip, and use the online donation information below to support this venture financially. We can make this happen only if God's people specifically make the trip possible. To date, we have received approximately 25% of the funding necessary. When I visit an individual or group on these roadtrips, one of the best moments is when I share that the trip was made possible by individuals and churches that want to encourage and support Canadian Presbyterians in this way.

Third, once again I will be at General Assembly (this year as a commissioner). Over each of the years I have been Executive Director, I have hosted prayer gatherings at General Assembly each morning. This year with the weighty issues being considered, this prayer time will be especially significant. Please pass along to any commissioners you know to listen in the General Assembly announcements each day for the time and place of the prayer gathering.

If you want to follow our daily progress during the road trip this year on Facebook go to Starting May 1st, you can follow our trip's webpage and blog posts at

God's richest blessings to you all.

Fred Stewart

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More News

  • The Renewal Fellowship's Renewal Day and Annual General Meeting was held at Kortright Presbyterian Church, Guelph, Ontario, on March 5, 2016, with 65 people in attendance. For reports and more info go to
  • The Rev. Nan St. Louis is the new Chair of the Renewal Fellowship Board.
  • Bill Harrison, Administrator of the Renewal Fellowship, had heart surgery in March, but is recovering well. Special thanks to all who are stepping up to the plate during Bill's convalescence.
  • The Rev. Fred Stewart will be at this year's General Assembly as a commissioner and as a Renewal Fellowship resource.
  • Ms. Karin Cowan of Parry Sound, Ontario, will assume the responsibility of Renewal Fellowship Treasurer on June 1, 2016.

  • Financial Position of The Renewal Fellowship: Total income in 2015 was $90,492 and total expenses were $78,149 so we made up some of the deficit from 2014. That's worth celebrating! In 2016, we need an income of $89,000 to do what needs to be done. We are always thankful for your support.

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