Maundy Thursday


Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday, was a very busy and stressful day in the life of Jesus. In the Gospel of John five chapters alone are set around that day’s dinner table. It was on this day that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper and washed the disciples’ feet, told them he was going to prepare a place for them and promised to come again. It was also in the Upper Room that Jesus comforted his followers with the promise of the Holy Spirit and prayed that they would be one before uniting their voices in the singing of a hymn.

It was also at the end of this day that Jesus entered the dark night of the soul praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, “If it be your will, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless not my will, but your will be done.” Yet with all that activity, the word ‘maundy,’ which means ‘command,’ suggests that Maundy Thursday can be summarized in one word.

At supper that day Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” (John 13:34-35). The word is love, but on this day, it is so much more than just a word.

For most of us the thought of love brings to mind sunny days and moonlit evenings in the springtime of life, or the glimpse of a mother holding a newborn babe. Calling us to love one another is motherhood and apple pie. But the new commandment to love came on the eve of the day the sky turned black as everything God had once pronounced good was eclipsed by a world full of hate focussed on the very One who commanded love. He was tried unjustly, subject to beatings and abuse and finally nailed to a cross and left to die. And die he did.

Time to throw in the towel on love? As Christ pressed on that day, he showed that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Jesus didn’t give up. His words from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,’ opened a grave that would swallow up sin and guilt and even death itself. On Easter God raised him up to prove that love never ends.

Few of us will be called on to die for love, but that is not what Jesus had in mind when he called us to love one another. He wanted us to live for love. Day after day he showed us what love looks like through his warm heart and listening ear, his endless kindness and compassion, his insistence on forgiveness and his undying belief in the transforming power of grace.

On Maundy Thursday he girded himself with a towel and washed the feet that he knew would soon run away and abandon him. And yet wherever we run away to, he is already there with arms open to welcome us home to love. Still Christ fills the basin and washes our feet in love, but today he also hands us the towel as a sign that the time to love one another is now.

Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all!


Yorkminster Park’s online devotional is read by someone almost every day in Odessa, Ukraine.  I have often wondered if perhaps it is one of the singers from the Kyiv choir that twice visited our church, or perhaps someone from one of the many Ukrainian churches we have visited on our various pilgrimages of sacred spaces.  We have been blessed so often by our brothers and sisters in the faith from Ukraine that today we have found ourselves weeping and praying for them.

A Prayer for Ukraine (based on Mary’s Magnificat)

Almighty and merciful God, with Mary of old we magnify your name and rejoice in you, our Saviour. 

We give you thanks that your mercy is upon those who fear you from generation to generation and that you continue to show strength with your arm – an arm so strong that all the armies of this world shrink before it.  For you are the God who scatters the proud in the thoughts of their hearts and brings down the powerful from their thrones.  May this ancient song haunt all who seek to sleep in the Kremlin this night.  Awaken now all oppressors everywhere to the fear of God – that tanks might cease their rumbling, bombs their bursting, that faith, hope and charity might flourish in the human family. 

Indeed we rejoice in you, O God, for not only do you bring the proud and powerful to ruin, but you also lift up the lowly.  And so we raise before you in prayer the people of Ukraine asking you to fill them with good things; with courage and hope, with peace and prosperity in all they do. 

We remember with grateful hearts the beautiful melodies the Kyiv choir once offered in our church and we pray those songs might continue to rise up, reminding them that the victory is yours.  Grant that Ukraine might live and breathe as a free people in a free land. Protect too those within Russia working and praying for an end to this war. Drain Ukraine’s enemies of their energy and faith in their military might.  Touch their hearts instead that their sights might be set instead on the wisdom of your ways.   

O God as in your mercy you helped your servant Israel and raised up your Son, Jesus Christ, remember your faithful servants in Ukraine and hear their prayers and the millions of prayers being offered around the world.  Give wisdom to all who seek to lead in Ukraine, in Europe, in the UN, and in Russia too, that inroads of righteousness might emerge and peace prevail, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.


A Prayer for British Columbia in response to the avalanches and flooding of November 2021

Almighty and merciful Father, on the third day of Creation you separated the waters from the dry land and brought forth vegetation from the earth and saw that it was all good, but in recent days the waters have returned to cover so much of the land in British Columbia and it is not good.  And so we pray for our neighbours and friends who have become the victims of destructive avalanches and flood waters, swamping their farmland, washing away homes and stranding whole communities.  Highways across the province are damaged and closed and so much that was saved from the summer fires has now been washed away and it is not good.

But we know it is not from you, for you are the source of every good and perfect gift and so we call upon you to intervene in your goodness on behalf of those still stranded and those working long days to carefully remove debris and restore the broken bridges and washed out roads.

We confess that for too long we have taken the blessings of a stable climate for granted spreading our carbon footprint beyond our place. And now as the waters rise and supplies run dry we pray for your help for our neighbours and friends.  We claim your rainbow promise of old to spare the globe of the curse of flood.  Separate again the waters from the dry land in that beautiful corner of creation.  May all who are stranded and afraid sense your presence and know your love.  Make new in their hearts the wonder of your promise of old:

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.

We thank you for the early signs of hope made manifest in rescue and relief and in the countless deeds of good neighbours. May these signs prevail and the reign of hope part the clouds and make the rains to cease upon the land in these days.   These things we pray in the name of Jesus Christ who submitted to baptism beneath the waters of the Jordan as a sign that he would share in our suffering and death so that we might rise up with him to new life.  Send forth again the sign of the dove and fill us all with you Spirit that goodness might prevail upon the land and sea, in the name of One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

A Poem for Dave and Jim by John Fenton

Since the outset of the pandemic, Dave King and Jim Weir have faithfully opened a window on line Sunday after Sunday to bring our worship services to our congregation and online following.  It has been a life line for many and we are grateful to them and thank God for keeping them healthy throughout the pandemic.  One of our members, John Fenton, has been inspiring us in recent years with his poetry.  Last week he penned the following poem in appreciation of the service offered by Dave and Jim.
Thank you John!
No 210
Web Cast
Utterly vast
In it’s reach
Like overseas
This poem is dedicated
To two guys
Who faithfully serve
Every week
The services of YP
Establishment of this hi-tech tool
Was stressed
A long time ago
By dedicated men
The future they could see
Sadly they are no longer here
We are the beneficiary
Of this amazing 😉 gift
To all who may be shut in
Yes I’m one of them
Keeping connected
Is so important
For me web cast is golden
Thanks David & Jim
Your dedication
Brings so much satisfaction
To the wider congregation
John Fenton

Remembering the Rev. Dr. John N. Gladstone

One hundred years ago today John N. Gladstone was born in the English village of Bury St. Edmunds where his father pastored the local Baptist Church.

His parents’ faith was so strict that John fondly recalled overhearing his mother pray for him the night before he left to serve his country in World War ll.  Her prayer, as he remembered it, was not that he would return safely, but rather that alcohol would never touch his lips.

John did return safely and studied for the Baptist ministry at Manchester.  Following his ordination and marriage to Joyce he served English Baptist churches in Redding, Plymouth and finally Bromley. During those years his two children, Peter and Judith were born.  Yet all of that was a long time ago and an ocean away.  But in February 1965, at a critical time in the history of our church the call went out to this young English preacher to come and serve as the Minister of Yorkminster Park.  And so he did staying until he retired in 1991 at the age of seventy.

The congregations of Park Road and Yorkminster Baptist Churches had merged after a fire at Park Road in 1961 and had together formed Yorkminster Park Baptist Church.  The church had been searching for a new minister for a few years when Lester Randall approached his old friend, the Rev. Leonard Griffith, a Canadian preacher who served at the historic City Temple in London, England, and asked who he considered to be the best Baptist preacher in England.  Without hesitation Leonard said, John Gladstone.  Members of the search committee including Percy Fell visited the Gladstone family on a trip to England and John was invited to preach for a month in 1964 during which time it became clear to the committee and congregation that John Gladstone was the person of God’s calling.

However, there was a growing cynicism in those days among some at seminaries and denominational offices about the usefulness of preaching.  There was a sense that clergy needed to stop being preachy and focus on being counsellors, social workers and executive leaders.  Dr. Gladstone once told me of a few leaders in the denomination who were openly critical of the church for calling him because of his seeming old fashioned approach to ministry.

Yet it wasn’t long till people in the church and well beyond were responding to his remarkable gifts as a preacher.  I remember well the first time I ever heard John preach as I am sure many still do.  He was literate and articulate warm and full of faith and the lilt in his voice had a way of persuading you that he had just the right word for the day – and he usually did.  People came from near and far to hear this gifted servant who wove his words, quotes and images together with an ease that made the message understandable, practical, positive and true.  He conveyed warmth and grace with a touch of humour and without ever losing his true focus on Jesus Christ.

Looking back one of the remarkable things about this man who was both in touch with the world around and so immersed in the scriptures that he was able to find just the right word, is that he did it all without Google and the internet.  Sermons today take considerable time to prepare, but in his day to preach at his level of expertise was a full-time job and to produce different sermons for the morning and evening services made it all the more so.  Speaking with his daughter Judith this week she remembered how on Saturday evenings he would close the door to the study at home not to be seen or heard from for hours as he put the final touches on his preparations for Sunday.  One could point to the sacrifices he made except it was always clear that he loved the preaching life.

The church grew significantly as Dr. Gladstone served almost twenty-seven years as our minister touching countless lives through his faithful preaching and vibrant faith.  The Meals on Wheels program was established in his early years and the House of Compassion came to life in his final years when his vision for the Lester Randall Preaching Fellowship also came to life.

His impact on our church and community was great, but it has been thirty years since he retired and sixteen since he lost his struggle with cancer and though those of us who had the privilege of knowing him will never forget him, to many of the people in our church today he is simply the name on the door of the church library.

I asked Judy how her dad might have responded to the challenges of our day and after a brief pause, she indicated that her dad was born for a different time.  I sensed she was glad for his sake, that he didn’t have to face the challenges of this age.  She said in the end he was tired of the times he was living in as he longed for his heavenly home.

I remember John once returning from having preached at a mid-week worship service in a senior’s home where one of our members, the late Bill Pond, lived.  Bill Pond, who could be a bit of an eccentric character, had sung a solo at the service.  When Bill was introduced by the nursing home chaplain the people were told he was singing for his minister, but Bill cut the chaplain off and said, “I’m not singing for him!” as he pointed at Dr. Gladstone, “I’m singing for Him!” he announced as he pointed up to heaven.  John delighted in telling that story because at the end of the day that was his philosophy too.  He ran the race well and did so to the glory of God.

As a bit of a postscript, I am sure that just as we look back with thanksgiving for those who went before us in our faith, John too would look back on the many who supported and prayerfully encouraged him along the way.  And knowing him as I did, I am certain he would also want me to reassure you that his mother’s prayer did not go unanswered.   Looking back through the years of our lives, so many prayers have been answered and at the end of the day it is always the faithfulness of God for which we give thanks.  It is God who raises people up and brings them into our lives for a time and a season, and it is God who is with us always.



A Prayer for Truth and Reconciliation

Today is Canada’s First National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

A Prayer for Truth and Reconciliation – September 30, 2021

Gracious and merciful God, Creator of the heavens and the earth we are blessed by the sacred rhythms of the seasons that you have put in place and the setting of the sun which invites us to rest and the rising of the same which offers a new day.

On this first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation we pray for the families of indigenous children and youth who did not rest when the sun set and their children did not return from residential schools.  Only now are they learning of unmarked graves many of which are yet to be discovered and still there is no rest.  O God, forgive us as a nation of people for inflicting this nightmare on our neighbours. Bring healing and hope to each family and to the First Nations of this land and plant the seeds of peace among all the people of this nation.

Faithful Creator, we thank you for the abundance of water in this land and the bounty of the earth’s harvest which offers food enough for all.  And yet O God, we confess that many of our Indigenous neighbours still thirst for water that is fresh and clean and hunger deeply for the food of justice.  Nurture their souls and equip them by your Spirit to preserve their languages and culture.  And strengthen the resolve of the leaders of our nation to work together to overcome the challenges that stand in the way of true reconciliation.

O God as the sun rises across our land on September 30th may it truly begin to usher in a new day for our Indigenous neighbours and indeed for all of Canada.  May this day be marked by a deepening appreciation for the hopes and dreams of Indigenous youth and indeed for the whole nation.  Creator God, Lord of Life and Redeemer of the World, bring justice and peace, healing and hope, through Christ our Lord we pray, Amen.

For more information on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation go to:

Where There is Hatred – Let Me Sow LOVE

We learned yesterday of yet another hate crime in our community.  This attack was against a gay man on Toronto Island last weekend.   He was taunted and then beaten almost to death by three homophobic people.  It took place only hours before the hate filled murder of a Muslim family in London, Ontario.  All of this during a pandemic which has given rise to anti-Asian racism.  An Asian friend has told me how it is not unusual for people to pass her in the street and offer hate filled slurs.  There was a significant rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes in our city in the month of May and we know too well that both the black and indigenous communities are constantly combatting hate and racism. 

In a world that doesn’t like talk of sin we must name hate in all its manifestations  as nothing less and call the world around in word and deed to love.  Science tells us the variations in DNA  between all people is so very tiny.  We are all part of the same human family.   Our faith tells us that each one is created in the image of God and precious in God’s eyes.  We are all children of God.  Let us put an end to such hatred and let us love one another. 


Gracious God we pray for this world where fear and hate seem to be speaking so loudly.  It is easy to judge and speak against others. Forgive us and open us all in new ways to the light of your love that the shadows in our souls might lose their hold.  And so pray in the words of St. Francis…

Lord make Me an instrument of Your peace

Where there is hatred let me sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is doubt, faith.

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is darkness, light.

Where there is sadness joy.

O Divine master grant that I may

Not so much seek to be consoled as to console

To be understood, as to understand.

To be loved. as to love

For it’s in giving that we receive

And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned

And it’s in dying that we are born…

To eternal life.  Amen. 

A Prayer For Fayez

The murder of three generations of a Muslim family in London, Ontario on Sunday evening has shaken our nation to the core.  The hatred that motivated this crime is evil.  Hatred may not always manifest itself in violence and terrorism as it now has against Muslims in London and as it did against Muslims in Quebec City, but it is where hate always leads.  Jesus said that if we hate someone we have already put them to death in our hearts.  Enough of hate.  Let’ s be done with hate. 

This must be a day for love.  Jesus called us to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbours as we love ourselves.  It was then they asked Jesus, “But who is my neighbour?” And in response he told the parable of the Good Samaritan.  It was Jesus’ way of saying we live in a global village where your neighbour does not always look like you or believe as you do, but where the imperative is always to love.  Love is the only answer to hate and love will win the day. 

But what does such love look like in the days after a Muslim family was intentionally run down and killed on account of their faith?  Many of us know Muslims through work, recreation or in our neighbourhoods.  Reach out to them in the next few days and thank them for who they are and tell them how horrified you are and how horrified we all are. 

Love must also be manifest in prayer.  As we pray for an end to hatred we will be planting the seeds of love.  The nine year old son, Fayez Afzaals, has survived the terrorist attack.  He lost his parents, his sister and his grandmother.  We must pray for him too and not simply for a recovery from his physical wounds, but for healing from the attack and the great grief he has to bear.

The London Muslim Mosque at 151 Oxford St W, London, ON N6H 1S1,  is hosting the vigils that have followed.  Let’s take a moment and write to the leadership of the mosque and tell them we are offering ongoing prayers for Fayez and his grieving extended family and faith community. 

Historically, Baptists were often the victims of religious discrimination and persecution and it is for this reason we have traditionally championed the cause of religious freedom.  The Muslim right to practice their religion in peace was also promoted by the earliest Baptists who insisted on freedom of religion for one and all.  We are free.  Let us use our freedom for nothing less than the purpose of love. 

A Prayer For Fayez

Gracious God, comfort and heal Fayez.  May the memories of his family be preserved in his heart and when he longs for the voice of his mother or father, may he hear them by your Spirit.  Surround him with love all the days of his life and protect and preserve his life that in his living he might bear witness to your sacred image in which we were all created.  And aid us all O God in casting out the evil spirit of hate and embracing your gift of love for one and all.  Amen. 

Two Hundred and Fifteen Unmarked Graves

Two hundred and fifteen unmarked graves were discovered last week behind what was once a residential school where government and church conspired to educate the culture out of the indigenous children and youth of our nation as was done in residential schools all across Canada.  In total there were about 130 such schools at which approximately 150,000 indigenous, Inuit and Metis children between the ages of 4 and 16 were schooled beginning in the late 19th century, with the last school closing in 1996. 

The remains of the 215 discovered children cry out begging us to name their names and give ear to their stories, but we can’t for the graves are unmarked.  And what of the parents and families from whom they were taken?  Many no doubt went to their graves grieving and wondering what ever happened to their children.   

By not marking the graves it would seem those who buried them placed no value on the children and the youth and were not going to miss them or grieve their parting.  Many of us visit family graves to silently remember those who have gone on before, but no one can find let alone visit an unmarked grave. 

The unmarked graves shame those who were there and a nation that kept silent.  It is now known that at least four thousand children died in Canadian residential schools, a much higher mortality rate than in the general public.  However it is believed there were thousands more and most lie in unmarked graves.  They died of disease and malnutrition and abuse to name but a few causes.  And when they died it was deemed too costly to send them home, so they were buried one by one and no one stopped to mark their graves. 

The church was part of this.  Oh we can point out that the Baptist church would not get involved with the state and so stayed out of the residential schools, but nonetheless we were silent.  And so it was all done in the name of the One who gave his life that each one of those children might have life abundant and eternal and we did what?  They may not have been treasured in the sight of Canada, but in God’s eyes they were. 

The day prior to the announcement of the discovery, one of the lectionary readings was from Ezekiel 37 where the prophet had a vision of a valley full of dry bones and the Lord asked him, “Mortal, can these bones live?”  And the prophet looked at the absolutely hopeless sight and replied, “O Lord, you know.” 

Indeed as we survey the bones of these unmarked graves we want their names and stories to be held up and we wish they  could come to life and be reunited with those who gave them life.  But we have made too much of a mess.  And we have lost the right to preach to the dry bones, but not the responsibility to pray and the call to work for truth and reconciliation. 


O God, we feel ashamed that generations of indigenous youth in our country were not given the dignity that your cross demands for all people.  We feel horror that these little ones were turned away into unmarked places when they were so precious to you. And oh how your name was taken in vain as if it was your agenda to remove the identity of these precious children, destroy families and discard their bodies.   Forgive our nation and heal our land.  For you O God know all of these children by name and already you have raised them up and taken them home.  Where the opening of these graves has reopened old wounds we pray for healing and hope, empathy, kindness, mercy and love.  Heal our land and reconcile our peoples by your Spirit and grace, Amen. 


The view from my study window
has me in awe this week.
It must have been on a day like this
the poet put her pen to paper
to mark the holy ground.
“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806 – 1861)