Dear Friends of the Valhalla Parish Community—
I often marvel at how strange and difficult it must have been as Mary and Joseph left their home to travel towards Bethlehem those many years ago. How strange and difficult it must have been to be compelled by government order into the unknown. This year, we’re coming to know that reality far too well.
God was with them, one hundred per cent of the way—and not just because Mary was carrying Jesus within! God travelled with them, led them, provided for them. Even in the midst of uncertainty, God provided for Mary and Joseph, kindling hope for the mysterious unfolding of God’s dream for the world. As it was for them, so it is with us: even in the midst of these darkening days, God abides here and journeys with us.
I have been thinking about Mary and Joseph a lot these days. On the wall of my home office, I have hung a modern depiction of the Holy Family I picked up a few years ago. There they are, tired and haggard, Joseph scrounging for change to put in the payphone, searching for a place to stay. Mary sits pregnant in her High School’s sweater atop one of those mechanical ponies I remember riding in the grocery store growing up. The scene is dynamic, compelling, unsettling in its ability to transport their journey into this time and place.
Like Mary and Joseph, we find ourselves in the midst of uncertainty. We are hopeful for the future, and yet the present moment challenges us with uncertainty. Our sense of normal has been upended. There are challenges to be faced individually, and as a parish community. Even so, God is with us. Even so, we look for the shimmering stars, the dazzling angels, and the more subtle glimmers of hope, all signposts along the way.
My friends, I began serving amongst you as Missioner at the beginning of October—a mere two months ago. In these past months, I have been grateful for your welcome, and for the invitation to serve alongside you on this journey into God’s future. While the pandemic has created some barriers to getting to know one another, our gathering at Thanksgiving was a highlight. Since late October, I have been grateful for the weekly opportunity to pray with you on Wednesdays at noon using the parish Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/valhallaparish). I am so glad to know that many of you are gathering online on Tuesdays and Thursdays with Marian.
This parish is so well served by members of the congregation, by Parish Council, and by the Wardens. Over the past months I have enjoyed coming to know the Rev. Marian Craft and the Rev. John Ruder, as well as Lorraine in her capacity as Licensed Lay Minister. This parish is rich in gifts of many kinds, and it continues to be such a delight to come to know you. I pray that the days ahead will offer further opportunities to connect in ways that are both safe and meaningful.
Jesus’ arrival at Christmas signals something new and important. His birth shines light in the midst of darkness. It bears witness to new life and new possibilities even when the world is plagued by uncertainty. Jesus’ presence today leads us through uncertainty into God’s abundant future where all have enough, and come to know that—in God’s eyes—we are enough.
As a celebration of God's great love, and in anticipation of Jesus' birth, a number of us will be working together to record a Christmas Day service to be broadcast on December 25th.
This year, as we journey through Advent with Jesus and with one another, would you commit to praying for this parish community? Would you continue to encourage one another, reach out to one another, to support one another as you are able?
From my first meeting with members of the congregation, I have heard people speak about Valhalla Parish—of St. Stephen’s and St. David’s—as a family. It’s a place where people come to know one another and to be known. It’s a place of familiarity, and challenge, and mutual care. I continue to hear that this is a. parish where people extend hospitality and care through pastoral conversations, through prayer and worship, through phone calls, and offers of support.
And this family business we’re in, it extends beyond ourselves as well, to support of ministries like the Community Harvest Food Bank, PWRDF, and others. There are so many ways in which we respond to God’s love and support one another. I’m so grateful to serve with and alongside you in this work. It is good work. It is God’s work. It is our work.
As we come to the end of the year, I invite you to make a year-end gift to support our shared work.
You can mail or drop off a cheque to the parish office as you usually do. If you prefer to give online, you can make a donation via Canada Helps. Your gift will go a long way in helping us to continue our mission of caring for one another and the world God loves. It will also help us to finish out the year in a strong financial position and to get a jump start on our journey with Jesus in the new year.
In Advent Hope,
Andrew Stephens-Rennie | Valhalla Parish Missioner
on behalf of the Valhalla Parish Council: Eileen Akselson, Daun Bate, Chris D’Arcy, Lorraine Deans, Chris Hildebrand, Art Lane, Marnie Pettit, and Kay Ross