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 www.MatthewRuttan.com/Up and you can sign up in 13 seconds.

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

Prayer is a Challenge

Prayer is a Challenge

Renewal Fellowship Board Members meet in October 2015 in Simcoe, Ontario: Back Row – Fred Stewart (Executive Director), Doug Johns, Ian McWhinnie, Germaine Lovelace, Bill Harrison (Administrative Assistant). Front Row – Janie Robertson, Karin Cowan, Nan St. Louis, Charles Cook, Linda Shaw. Absent: Duncan Cameron, Leslie Ruo.
Renewal Fellowship Board Members meet in October 2015 in Simcoe, Ontario: Back Row – Fred Stewart (Executive Director), Doug Johns, Ian McWhinnie, Germaine Lovelace, Bill Harrison (Administrative Assistant). Front Row – Janie Robertson, Karin Cowan, Nan St. Louis, Charles Cook, Linda Shaw. Absent: Duncan Cameron, Leslie Ruo.

The Renewal Fellowship Board two-day meeting in October was held in my home in Simcoe. Yes, we all slept in one house, with some sleeping on mattresses on the floor in their sleeping bags. It was what you might call "a bonding experience."

As I was organizing the continental breakfast on the morning of the second day, the alarm on The Rev. Nan St. Louis' watch went off. I asked, "What's that all about?" Nan said, "It's 7:14 and that's my reminder to pray for The Presbyterian Church." I was amazed and somewhat embarrassed because even though I've been on the Renewal Fellowship Board for 13 years over my lifetime and am currently the Chair of the Renewal Fellowship Board, I have not been faithful in taking up the Prayer Logo challenge. Why not? Too busy with an assortment of other responsibilities? But that is not a good excuse, is it? I don't have an alarm on my wrist-watch and I don't even own a cell phone, but I do need to figure out a way to remember my commitment to pray for our denomination morning and evening.

Here's a less "jazzy" tech solution to the reminder problem: How about those of you who are praying morning and night email me and ask me how I'm doing? It would be encouraging to hear from those who have taken up the challenge and motivating for those of us who are a little too distracted with the other cares of the day. Email me and tell me you are praying for The Presbyterian Church in Canada. I won't publish your name, but I will let everyone know in our Spring Renewal News how many people have taken up the challenge to pray morning and night for The Presbyterian Church in Canada – the church we love and the church which needs renewal and God's wisdom at this time in our history.

As the New Year begins, may the Holy Spirit protect our church, and challenge us to be faithful and renewed in our witness and calling to follow Jesus in 2016. Let's take up the challenge of 2 Chronicles 7:14. May God bless us and make us a blessing to our communities, our country, and the world.

With thanks for your ongoing support of the Renewal Fellowship, and wishing you a "wonder-filled" New Year.

Linda Shaw
Chair, Renewal Fellowship Board <rfprayer@gmail.com>

Print Resources for the PCC Human Sexuality Discussions

There has been a request for resources that come from an evangelical/conservative point of view. Here are a few that have been forwarded to us by members and board members of the Renewal Fellowship. We welcome your comments and suggestions on these resources and any others you would suggest. Please email Linda Shaw, Board chairperson, at <ianandlindashaw@gmail.com>.

A Letter from the Committee on Church Doctrine: This commentary is in response to the Body, Mind and Soul Study Guide. Responses may be sent directly to the Convener of the Committee on Church Doctrine, The Rev. Ian Shaw, at <rianshaw48@gmail.com>, or forwarded to the Committee through the General Assembly Office.

Speaking Truth in Love: A Forum on Human Sexuality: The Presbytery of Hamilton hosted this day-long forum on Saturday, January 30th, 2016, at Chedoke Presbyterian Church, Hamilton, Ontario. Besides the videos, there are transcripts of presentations by Clyde Ervine, Kevin Livingston, Hugh Donnelly, Wes Denyer, and Karla Wubbenhorst.

Channels Articles: 13 articles on human sexuality have appeared on this site in the past. Read More

Print Resources:

Links following the titles are where e-books or hard copies may be purchased.

What does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? – Kevin DeYoung [ Google ] [ Amazon ]

Turning Controversy Into Church Ministry: A Christlike Response to Homosexuality – W.P. Campbell [ Google ] [ Amazon ]

The Uncomfortable Church: Can Gays Be Reconciled to the Body of Christ? – Dr. Lawrence Brice [ Amazon ]

Washed And Waiting: Relections On Christian Faithfulness And Homosexuality – Wesley Hill [ Google ] [ Amazon ]

Creation and Covenant: The Significance of Sexual Difference in the Moral Theology of Marriage – Christopher Roberts [ Google ] [ Amazon ]

The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Text and Hermeneutics – Robert Gagnon [ Abingdon Press ] [ Free materials on the author's website ] [ Amazon ]

Straight and Narrow? Compassion and Clarity in the Homosexual Debate – Thomas E Schmidt [ Google ] [ Amazon ]

Good News Journey – In British Columbia

There are several dynamic, growing churches in British Columbia and we have heard from two churches in the Presbytery of Westminster that have 'good news' to share and encourage the whole church.

1. St. John's Presbyterian Church, White Rock

By Sheila Jakus <sjakus@shaw.ca>
(Sheila is a joyful member of St. John's)

Like many other churches, St. John's Presbyterian Church in White Rock suffered a steady decline in attendance. Faithful members moved into nursing homes, and many passed away. The youth in the area were attending more "vibrant" churches. The congregation prayed for renewal and growth. God heard our prayers, but answered in some unexpected ways.

Recently, a small Lutheran group asked for space in our building and began worshipping in one of our halls. After worship the two congregations join for coffee and fellowship. They also join some of our other activities: Alpha, the Women's Missionary Society, and Proclamation. We welcome them with open arms and they add fresh vibrancy to our gatherings.

God also brought a day care to our building. Not only do they add life to our building through the week, but they have transformed our Sunday School space. A support group for moms and tots has also started, using our space for a time of sharing and advice from a nurse.

We opened our hearts in prayer, and we opened the doors of our building. God has filled both and continues to take us on new adventures. Praise God!

2. St. Andrew's and St. Stephen's Presbyterian Church, North Vancouver

By Rev. Robert Allison <boballison@shaw.ca>
(Bob is a retired minister of The Presbyterian Church in Canada)

Another church in the Presbytery of Westminster, St. Andrew's and St. Stephen's Presbyterian Church, North Vancouver, also decided to make some changes. Commencing about 24 years ago the elders became really concerned about reaching young people with the Good News. Realizing the need for different service and music styles, they inaugurated an early service, making it less formal and using some of the old lively gospel music. This eventually grew into music led by a praise team with song leaders, drums, guitars, piano – the whole bit. The second service remained more traditional with the use of organ music and the hymn book.

This church has for many years employed a full- or part-time youth pastor – a necessity, not a luxury – so there are well-led youth groups and summer day-camps for children. The Senior Pastor chairs the Presbytery's summer camping ministry which is promoted.

It is not surprising that the early service has a full house with many young families, and children who hear a great message from one of the ministers before going on to Sunday School.

Members of the church are also "freed up" to do their ministry, so there are committees that specialize: one that prays for and promotes missions, another whose concern is evangelism, and the list goes on.

The April Presbyterian Record has an excellent article, Trusting and Trying – Weighing What Works at Westminster, by the Rev. Matthew Ruttan about Westminster Presbyterian Church in Barrie, Ontario, that has risen from the brink of extinction to becoming a vibrant, growing church. This is because they called a minister who "believes in the gospel" and "courageously" preaches it; a church that "realizes it is all about Jesus"; and a congregation that specializes in getting to know the names of, and in warmly welcoming, newcomers.

This North Vancouver church likewise loves the good news of Jesus, and Sunday by Sunday at both services, they have a teaching and evangelizing pulpit. And here is a little word for interim moderators and search committees: as a friend of mine says, "strong churches are not built around weak pulpits".

What Does It Take to Grow a Sunday School?

Like many Canadian Presbyterian Churches, St. Paul's, Simcoe, Ontario, has had a shrinking Sunday School over the last couple of decades. A year ago the average attendance was 3 or 4 students. In less than a year we have increased our average attendance by 400%. Now true, it is easier to double or in this case quadruple attendance if you start small, but this is still good news.

How did this happen? Well of course we prayed, but we also took action. We chose two new programs to make the Children's Ministry more attractive and spiritually enriching. For the younger children we chose the "Children and Worship Program", and four adults attended a two-day training session to equip them to be children's worship leaders. Since I have been using this Montessori-based program for over 20 years, it made the transition fairly easy. For the older children, we chose the Christian Reformed program called re:form, which includes discussion based on a DVD presentation. We have also had several fellowship events for the older children in our church family.

The rest of our success story rests on the faithfulness of people. Two sets of grandparents committed themselves to bringing their grandchildren to church. Two couples, who hadn't attended the church since they were teens, decided to come back to church and bring their children. The faithfulness of these four families has been a model for all because of their consistent attendance. Now if a family with children visits the church, we look "child friendly," because we have a critical mass of children.

We still have a lot of work to do, but for now we are enjoying the children and youth God has given us, and we are equipping them to be followers and disciples of Jesus. The congregation of St. Paul's, Simcoe is very happy to include more children and youth in their church family. For more information, please contact me.

Linda Shaw
Children and Worship Trainer for The Presbyterian Church in Canada,
and Children and Worship Coordinator for St. Paul's, Simcoe, Ontario

Friends Sharing the Good News

St. Paul's, Simcoe, Ontario, is now the home of a ministry to seventeen adults with a developmental disability. We meet twice a month for worship, including some vibrant singing, Bible story and open prayer; a craft or activity time; and of course, coffee. From time to time we also go to "Friendship" conferences and special outings, but the important part of our times together is just being friends. Some of those "meeting for coffee" times between regular meetings may be the most significant.

This ministry grew out of a dream shared by three congregations. Two years ago the Anglican, Presbyterian, and Christian Reformed Churches in Simcoe committed to serving the community in this special way, and leaders come from all three of the congregations. Each year, we attend each sponsoring church once and lead in worship. Probably the highlight is the Christmas Pageant which we present at St. Paul's Presbyterian.

Friendship in Faith

"Friendship in Faith" is good news because: (1) we are worshipping God together; (2) we are meeting one of the needs of our community which has a large number of group homes; (3) church members are serving and being blessed; (4) a number of vulnerable people have found a church home through this ministry; (5) we are working ecumenically; (6) we are all learning much about the work of the Holy Spirit through the lives of people who know God in a way most of us will never know because we are too self-sufficient; and, (6) the gatherings are just plain fun

Linda Shaw
Coordinator, "Friendship in Faith", Simcoe, Ontario

Good News Journey – St. Andrew’s Moncton

Rev. Dr. Martin KreplinAn eleven-year journey of discernment, decisions, and dedication ended on January 29, 2012, when the congregation of St. Andrew's, Moncton NB, gathered for worship in their new building with their long-time pastor, The Rev. Dr. Martin Kreplin. The preceding Sunday, they had said farewell to their historic building in downtown Moncton, and, like the people of God who crossed the Jordan River into a new land, the congregation marked the occasion with a service of praise and thankfulness (and perhaps some tears).

This journey really began in the 1980's when a consultant recommended that the congregation move. God's timing is perfect though, and the congregation earnestly sought out God's will on the matter in 2001. The people prayed and asked God to reveal the barriers that were keeping them from enthusiastically inviting their friends and neighbours to come to St. Andrew's. It became clear that their beloved old building, with no parking and difficult accessibility, was holding them back from being the welcoming church that God was calling them to be. It has been a difficult journey from old to new, but with the generous offer of land at below market value, the astute guidance of the Synod Pastor, The Rev. Charles Taylor (now deceased), sacrificial giving by the congregation, RBC loan guarantees from the Presbyterian Building Corporation, bridge financing from Canadian Ministries, the guidance of several national church staff, donations of furniture from local businesses, and much prayer, the congregation is now worshipping and serving out of a beautiful new building on a high-profile street near the major transportation routes of Moncton.

The new building includes multi-use space for worship, large and small gatherings, and community ministry projects. The main auditorium can be transformed for many purposes including Sunday worship, but it does include an organ and the stained-glass windows from the old building to remind them of their history, and God's promise to continue to bless them and make them a blessing wherever they are. Their new community is an eclectic group of inter-generational and inter-cultural families in new suburbs and in a nearby trailer park. Oh, and the other good news is that while the old building has not sold, another congregation started renting the building on February 1st, so there will continue to be a Christian witness at the old site.

The people prayed, and the providential hand of God has been in the process. Give thanks to God for what the Almighty has done, and pray for this "new" congregation and their leaders as they seek to use their new facility to reach out to their community and grow in faithfulness. They have a building that accommodates a wide variety of programming, and they have parking spaces for many new members. Included in their vision for the immediate future are an "Every Home for Christ" program, after-school programs for two nearby schools, children's programs, youth ministry, and life-skills training classes. Further, they can now accommodate inter-denominational and regional events. Pray that they will continue to have a heart for God and for God's children. For a photo of their new building and more "good news," go to their website at . And, their church sign tells us plenty:

God's people have been called to share the "Good News" of Jesus' life and resurrection, but it's also beneficial to share congregational "good news." Share your congregation's and Presbytery's "good news" stories so the whole denomination can be encouraged.

The Spirit is Moving Swiftly

In April 2010, the Session of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Swift
Current, Saskatchewan, decided to advise the Presbytery that their church
would be closing in 2011. They were a small, discouraged group of seniors
(approximately 15 at Sunday worship). Within days of their decision, The
Rev. Jonathan Kwon came forward and shared that he felt God was calling him
to become their pastor. He was inducted in September 2010.

Less than a year later, there are 40 adults and youth meeting for
worship and several mid-week programs. And after no Sunday School for 25
years, there is a Sunday School with 8 children. A VBS this past summer drew
22 children!

Clerk of Session, Heather Steinhoff, says, “As much as things have
changed already (not without some stress), I think we are just getting
started.”

Pray for this inter-cultural congregation (Canadian, Korean, and
Filipino) as they seek to be faithful to God, each other, and their
community. Go to their website at www.starpreschurch.ca for more signs of renewal, and give God the
praise.


Now it’s your turn! Share your Good News story with Renewal Fellowship Secretary, Linda Shaw <ianandlindashaw@gmail.com> or call 519-428-5396.