Upon Seeing our First Grandchild for the First Time

For weeks she’s been told to hurry her birth
then eleven days past maximum girth
Abigail stole our hearts without a word
cooing softly. Beautiful baby bird
with angel wings took flight from womb to light
awakening us all to end of night.

JPH 05-01-19

Welcome Abigail Susan Holmes born in Toronto on January 5, 2019 at 6 a.m. weighing 7 lbs 11 ounces. Congratulations to mom and dad, Michelle and Jamie Holmes!

Saints in Stained Glass

Saints are often compared to stained glass in a church – people through whom the light of God shines. A visit to the Art Zone Glass Studio recently gave members of the Yorkminster Park Baptist Church Stained Glass Window Committee a deeper appreciation for the process of the artistry in creating a stained glass window.

First the glass is blown and then cut into hundreds of pieces and assembled in a jigsaw format according to a grand design with each piece doing its part. Then the glass is further prepared with an acid etching that provides variations to the colour. Eventually it is painted or stained and fired in a kiln before the lead is applied to bond the pieces as one. It is only after all of this handiwork is hung in a window frame and the light pours through that someone will notice the likeness to a saint.

The saintly side of our beings often comes to light only after such a process. The Spirit breaths life and the vine is cut and pruned that it might bear fruit. Some of our colour has to fade and much that is black and white needs to be shaded with love and grace. And no one of us can do it without the others. We are all part of something so much greater than our individual selves – the body of Christ. And Christ’s is the light that bonds us together bringing beauty and love to light.

I look forward to the completion of a new window, but mostly I look forward to the fullness of God’s life and light revealed in the body of Christ.

Grace and Peace


Prayers for the Jewish Community in Pittsburgh

In Luke 4:16 we read, “When Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom.”

Whenever I visit a synagogue I quietly remind myself that it was in such a place as this that Jesus was raised and worshipped. Jesus was Jewish. The thought of someone opening fire on a House of Worship of any kind is appalling, but that it has happened in a Jewish synagogue is so close to home for all Christians.  What happened today is a disgrace.

On our pilgrimages we have had some remarkable and deeply spiritual experiences in Jewish Synagogues and Temples including a Jewish Temple in Pittsburgh. Always we have been welcomed with such warmth and grace. My heart goes out to the Tree of Life congregation in Pittsburgh and to all our Jewish neighbours, friends and neighbouring congregations. Your entire community is in our prayers. Shalom.


Still chewing on a toxic weed
with nothing else on which to feed
at only an inch or two in length
predator ants will test its strength

Then for ten days it closes its eyes
and as a chrysalis all but dies
yet only a few short weeks to go
till it takes flight for Mexico.

If this caterpillar can cross the sea
what is holding back you and me?
so let the monarch show us the way
to life abundant and God’s new day
JPH 03-09-18

(We recently caught our first glimpse of the Monarch caterpillars on a hike around the Island Lake Conservation Area near Orangeville – lovely hike).

Conversations with a Monarch


A butterfly landed on my shoe
I wasn’t sure just what to do
But then the monarch said to me,
“I’ve come along to walk with thee”

But why would it walk when it could fly?
So here was I wondering, ‘Why?’
But then the monarch said to me,
“I’ve really come to set you free.”

A butterfly landed on my chest
with a broken wing it needed rest.
Again not sure just what to do
It smiled and said, “I died for you.”

Now I hold it closer to my heart
Yet still not sure just where to start.
A mere insect speaks with me?
Silly me, lost in a mystery

A butterfly landed on a tree
perched on a leaf right next to me
saying, “Feed and cling to the life,
when all about you death is rife,

For come what may, one day you will die
But then you will rise up and fly!”
It closed its wings as if to pray,
And in an instant flew away.

So grounded, wounded, I still may be
Yet now I will cling to the tree
Feed from love’s sweetest flower
Trusting heaven’s higher power.

JPHolmes 08/08/18



Now’s the season of the sunflower
living in the sunlight hour by hour
gently they turn and follow its way
forever open to God’s new day

As a choir singing from the same page
sunflowers unite fully engaged
looking up and never looking down
beaming forth joy neath love’s gold crown

There’s a lesson here for you and me
If only we’ll take the time to see
the meaning of life is in the Son,
to live in Christ’s love till day is done.

JP Holmes  08/08/18

Special thanks to the Raschle Family whose ‘pick your own sunflower’ field just east of Hanover, (Grey County), Ontario offers beauty and inspiration to all who pass by and especially to those who stop.  And to think they offer the money in the donation box to charity.  How wonderful!  So glad we stopped.

p.s. They even leave a pair of scissors to help you cut!

Sointula Blessings

In the midst of a west coast heatwave we visited Malcolm Island off the north-east shore of Vancouver Island and stayed in a seaside cabin outside the village of Sointula – a world away from all things overheated. In fact the island almost has its own little micro-climate.

The season of foggy mornings which the locals have long referred to as the month of Frogust arrived a few weeks early this year. The fog burns off by noon most days, but while hiking the 4 km Beautiful Bay Trail the forest canopy offered a continuous refreshing drizzle. The forest was coloured in a thousand shades of green as it weaved along the shoreline. The sound of the waves was in the air though glimpses of the Queen Charlotte Straight were few and far between. The pebbled beach below the trail is particularly popular with orcas often seen surfacing to rub their bellies on the smooth stones. The beauty, wonder and mystery that marked the way made the long journey seem less so.

Malcolm Island was settled more than a century ago by Finns pursuing a utopian dream. The very name Sointula means place of harmony. We all need Sointulas in our lives. The family, the church, the nearby park, and the company of friends should all be places of harmony offering an emotionally and spiritually refreshing micro-climate along life’s way. How blessed we are by the sointulas of life.

Tzouhalem Morning

Tzouhalem Morning

There’s a sweetness to the forest
underfoot and in the air,
when the wind creates a chorus,
and the birdsong sounds a prayer.

How the fragrance of the backwood
makes one suddenly aware
of all that yet is still so good
though one’s life may seem unfair

And if you reach that distant ledge,
remove shoes and look around,
you’re right above the ocean’s edge,
Mount Tzouhalem’s holy ground.

JPH 25/07/18

(Janet and I have hiked to the cross on Mt. Tzouhalem once or twice on every summer visit to Vancouver Islamd going back to when the children were very young.)

A Prayer For Toronto

A Prayer for Toronto 

Earlier this evening we were sitting in a diner in LA when we caught the newsflash of a mass shooting back home in Toronto. Fourteen people had been shot on the Danforth.  How could it be? Our first thought was of those we know and love – Was everyone okay? We thought too of the victims and their families and first responders as well as hospital staff by then in high gear caring for the victims. When I think of the police, firefighters, paramedics and medical personal in our city, I realize how blessed we are in Toronto.

But one can’t help think too of the escalation of violent crime in our city streets in recent months. This is not the city we know and love. I am certainly all for saving the lives of each and every victim, but imagine the important work put on hold by all of those involved in solving the crime and caring for the victims and of course the incredible suffering of victims and their families. And it is a pity that the hospitals have to surrender beds that would be reserved for people fighting diseases in order to mop up from warfare in the streets.

My mind also went back to a sermon I heard in church earlier in the day. The preacher reminded us that the early church’s conviction that the love of Jesus poured out on the cross was so great that no one in this world was or is beyond its transforming power. It was this conviction that turned their world upside down. I am sure there are many things we can all do to make our city a better place, but perhaps it all begins by returning to that conviction and offering our burdens for the city to God in prayer.

A prayer for our city

Gracious God you are the source of all that is good and right in this world. So shine your light into our city and chase the powers of darkness away. Confront one and all afresh with your love that all fear might be forgotten. We pray for those cradling weapons of hatred and violnce. Surround them with the better angels and guide their hearts in new directions. Strengthen all who care for the wounded and bind up the hearts of the bereaved with love. Guide the hands and minds of the attending medical staff and grant wisdom and strength to the police. Guide our elected politicians as they lead us through this time.

Make safe again our city streets. Remove the guns and erase the anger and fear. Grant that Toronto might be a place where peoples from all nations find hope and meaning in life and live together in peace with a growing appreciation of the blessings of our diversity and the strength of community. O God may peace prosper in Toronto.

With the hymn writer of old, Frank Mason North, we pray…
O Master, from the mountain side,
make haste to heal these hearts of pain;
among these restless throngs abide,
O tread the city’s streets again;

Till all the world shall learn thy love,
and follow where thy feet have trod;
till glorious from thy heaven above,
shall come the city of our God.

Grace and Peace,

Pilgrimage of Sacred Spaces 2018 – Detroit – An Introduction

The Pilgrimage of Sacred Spaces 2018 – Detroit

Twelve years ago, William Maddox, Yorkminster Park’s Director of Music and organist, and I organized a Lenten pilgrimage of Sacred Spaces aimed at encountering spiritual truth through the eyes of another tradition as embodied in a consecrated place of worship along with the story and activity of its peoples. In those early years we went to a different space each Wednesday evening. While the evening hours brought a certain hush and calm to the various spaces, in the months of February, March and April we were not able to see the effect of natural light, which often speaks volumes in a space, particularly through stained glass.

Our focus was primarily to appreciate the architecture, listen to the organ and look at the primary symbols, artistry or icons in the space. Someone from the host church would welcome us and tell us a bit of their story. Pilgrims were always given a sacred reading and prayer from the tradition of the visited space and the opportunity to quietly explore and reflect in silence. We always came together and ended with a prayer for the community and when we were visiting a church, the singing of a hymn.

Eight years ago Corey Keeble, Curator Emeritus of the Royal Ontario Museum, joined William and me as a co-leader. Corey’s incredible knowledge and expertise opened our eyes and soon he had us reading the architecture and artistry as if it were a book. We continued to include the readings and prayers and music, but Corey’s enthusiasm and deep spirituality also opened our eyes to many new and profound insights.

Having already explored many of Toronto’s sacred spaces we soon took our pilgrimage on the road travelling by bus to other towns and cities. While we continued to offer day trips to sacred spaces in and around Toronto, we soon discovered the amazing spiritual splendour of nearby cities including, Hamilton, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Rochester, up and down both sides of the Niagara River, Newmarket to Uxbridge, Montreal, Cleveland, and even Israel and Palestine. Finally this year we took in Detroit.

The most challenging aspect of planning the Detroit pilgrimage was limiting our pilgrimage to eleven spaces because the city has so many magnificent sacred spaces from which to choose. We limit it to eleven spaces to allow for time to travel from space to space, but also so that pilgrims will have opportunity to explore other aspects of the cities life in free time. It is a recipe that works as we always have a bus full of pilgrims ready to sign up for four days of adventure.

Apart from the magnificent sacred spaces we visited, perhaps the most inspiring aspect of the trip was to simply bear witness to the remarkable rejuvenation of Detroit’s city core where historic buildings once boarded up have been restored to their former glory and where formerly abandoned streets are now bustling with pedestrian life. The museums and concert halls too are extraordinary. I can’t wait to go back and explore other aspects of this remarkable city that has risen up from the ashes.  (The pictures in this post are of structures in the downtown core and were taken on evening walks).

The pilgrimages always flow smoothly and so much of that has to do with the incredible logistical work done in advance by our sacred spaces organizing committee led by Judy MacDonald and Don Deathe along with Don MacDonald, Randall Speller, Ed Welker, Euan and Joan Ferguson, Ron Wakelin, Mary Stevens, and Rob Mee – a truly great team.  This small group organizes the bus, hotel, meals and so much more.  This year we were especially blessed by the assistance of Janice Ivory Smith who grew up in Detroit, our dear friend Milton Fletcher of Detroit, and Jim Westphal, a friend of Don and Randall’s who also lives in Detroit and shares a great interest in the sacred spaces as well as the rejuvenation of the city itself.

I also can’t say enough about the wonderful people from each of the sacred spaces who welcomed us with warmth and kindness into their spiritual home. In each place we encountered grace through these wonderful people. What’s more the punctuality, co-operation and friendliness of all who join us makes all the difference in the world. For me, these pilgrimages are filled with joy. Thanks to one and all. I invite you to read on through the eleven entries that follow and enter into the pilgrimage with us.

Three of our pilgrims, Peter Alberti, Ewan Ferguson and Rob Mee are also remarkable photographers and combined their efforts on a CD which can be purchased. Rob Mee has also posted his own photos online and I invite you to look at these amazing photos of each of these glorious spaces.

Detroit, Michigan

Grace and Peace,

To visit the entries for each of the sacred spaces we visited, please clock on the following links:

The Islamic Centre of America

Pilgrimage of Sacred Spaces – Detroit – Islamic Centre of America

St. Joseph’s Oratory

Pilgrimage of Sacred Spaces – Detroit – St. Joseph’s Oratory

Historic Trinity Lutheran Church

Pilgrimage of Sacred Spaces – Detroit – Historic Trinity Lutheran Church

Sts. Peter & Paul Jesuit Church

Pilgrimage of Sacred Spaces – Detroit – Sts Peter & Paul Jesuit Church

Mariner’s Church

Pilgrimage of Sacred Spaces – Detroit – Mariner’s Church

St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral

Pilgrimage of Sacred Spaces – Detroit – St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral

First Congregational Church

Pilgrimage of Sacred Spaces – Detroit – First Congregational Church

Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian

Pilgrimage of Sacred Spaces – Detroit – Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian Church

Congregation Shaarey-Zedek

Pilgrimage of Sacred Spaces – Detroit – Congregation Shaarey Zedek

Temple Beth El

Pilgrimage of Sacred Spaces – Detroit – Temple Beth El

John Freeman Walls Historic Site

Pilgrimage of Sacred Spaces – Detroit – John Freeman Walls Historic Site and Underground Railroad Museum, Emeryville, ON