Christmas Commercials That Aren’t So Commercial

Christmas Commercials That Aren’t So Commercial 

In my sermon on Sunday, (December 17), I referenced two wonderful Christmas commercials that were both produced by the John Lewis Department Store in the UK. to encourage charitable giving.  Afterwards a number of people asked me for the links which I am providing below.

The store has produced similar commercials for charity each Christmas since 2007.   Enjoy!

If you weren’t there but wonder how I related these commercials to the Christmas story, the link to my sermon is below.  The sermon starts at the 60 minute mark.

Merry Christmas!


Charles Gilchrist Adams 1936-2023


Yorkminster Park Baptist Church, Toronto lost a great friend with the passing of the Rev. Dr. Charles Gilchrist Adams earlier on Wednesday.  Pastor Adams, served as Minister at the historic, Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit for over fifty years prior to his official retirement four years ago.  Dr. Adams was not only a remarkable preacher, but also a prophetic voice calling for civil rights and civic reform.  We thank God for the privilege that was ours in knowing and hearing him as we did.

Dr. Adams and the choir of HMBC participated in a pulpit and choir exchange with Yorkminster Park on three different occasions which were organized following the visit of Deacon Milton Fletcher of Hartford Memorial to YPBC for our Watchnight Service twenty-one years ago.  Pastor Adams also spoke and sang at a Yorkminster Park Church Dinner and on another occasion, he drove to Toronto following his morning service to be at Yorkminster Park in order to introduce his great colleague and friend, the late Rev. Dr. Gardner C. Taylor to Yorkminster Park.  Pastor Adams introduction on that occasion was as eloquent and rich as the finest sermon.

His sermons were most memorable and moved us deeply as he entered the pulpit to engage our hearts and minds as if making a case in the very court of God.  Once his case for the Christian faith was made, he would launch into his signature celebration with raised, rhythmic and poetic voice singing into our souls.

After having had the honour of preaching in his pulpit on the first leg of our first exchange and being moved as I was by the heavenly cadence of the African American call and response, I warned Pastor Adams that at Yorkminster Park, the congregation’s highest level of participation is absolute silence.  I told him that when they are deeply moved, they will meet you at the door and tell you they could have heard a pin drop.  And for the most part Pastor Adams achieved the highest level of that sacred silence, but then it happened.  At some point in his celebratory exclamation the entire congregation was unable to sit still any longer and the people jumped to their feet with hands clapping and a chorus of Amens echoing through the sanctuary.

Thinking back on it now, it was such an honour as a young preacher to be welcomed by this master orator with such warmth and grace.  I treasure those memories as I am certain all of our choir members do as well of sharing services with one of America’s greatest preachers.

Shortly before the death of one of my predecessors, the remarkable John Gladstone, I took Charles to visit the preacher we both admired so greatly.  During an earlier chapter in his ministry, when he had felt a need to be fed by a great preacher, Pastor Adams would often drive from Detroit to Toronto on a Sunday afternoon in order to attend Yorkminster Park’s evening service and hear Dr. Gladstone preach.  He had never announced himself during those years, but when he met Dr. Gladstone on his first visit to our pulpit, he embraced him and told him what a difference he had made in his life and ministry.  What a blessing it was for Yorkminster Park to realize it had played a small part in nurturing one of the great preachers of the day and what a blessing it always was to welcome him to our pulpit.

To read more about the passing of this remarkable friend and preacher please go to….


A Prayer for a Gaza Hospital

A Prayer for A Gaza Hospital

Perhaps you heard it too.  In some of the early accounts of the bombing of the Gaza hospital, it was referred to as the Al-Ahli Arab Baptist Hospital.  The hospital was in fact founded by the Church Mission Society of the Church of England, (Anglican) in 1882.  The Baptist name which seemed to appear in some of the earlier reports, dates from the years 1954-1982 when the hospital was administered and supported by Southern Baptists.  However, since 1982 it has been run by the Episcopal Church of Jerusalem.  It is estimated that there are half a million Christian Palestinians living outside of Palestine, while only a few thousand remain in Gaza and the West Bank.

The hospital has remained in Gaza despite the relatively small Christian population, because it was, as the name Al-Ahli translates, a hospital for all the people.  The Church Mission Society, which founded the hospital, traces its roots back to William Wilberforce and the Clapham Sect who are best remembered for their work to abolish slavery in the British Empire.  The presence of this Christian hospital in Gaza has been a sign of the call of Christ on the church to care for the sick in a broken world.  The bombing of the hospital and the suffering it has brought is heartbreaking.

I don’t know what the future holds for this hospital at a time when it is needed more than ever, but even in this time of devastation, its Christian presence in Gaza has served as a reminder that Christ is present in the midst of great terror, suffering and strife.   As we pray for peace in Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, and the surrounding countries, let us also pray that like Christ this hospital will rise from the ashes to serve a broken world in his name and spirit as they have been doing for 141 years.

Let us Pray

Gracious God we pray for the staff and patients of the Al-Ahli Arabi Baptist Hospital in Gaza City.   We pray for those seeking recovery amidst so much horror and grief.

We thank you that through so many years of strife and conflict the hospital has remained true to its mission to offer healing and hope and we ask that this place which by its very presence has been an instrument of peace would now in its vulnerability and brokenness, provoke the warring factions to lay down their arms and work for an end to these conflicts.

We pray too for all of the hospitals and medical centres, the medics and first responders throughout the region as they deal with the casualties of this war in both Palestine and Israel.

We pray for peace and healing throughout Palestine, Israel and the entire region in the name of the Prince of Peace, Amen.




The events of last weekend in Israel were horrifying.  The Hamas attack on innocent Jewish civilians was evil. Listening to the accounts of barbaric, murderous, hate filled violence has sickened me.  It has been unimaginable. The sight of innocent civilians suffering in Gaza is also hard to watch. There is so much anger, fear and confusion on both sides and it has touched and wounded so many families all around the world and continues to do so.

The issues in Palestine and Israel are so deep and complicated and the images of this week so raw that I find myself speechless.  At times I have even been thinking things that simply can’t be uttered aloud.  It is hard to find the right words when there are no words.

However, I have been reaching out to Jewish rabbis with whom I have had the opportunity to work through the years.  I have told them how deeply upsetting it is to see the horrendous violence Israelis have endured at the hands of Hamas terrorists this week.  I have assured them of my solidarity and prayerful support.  Similarly, I have reached out to Imams with whom I have worked and to a Palestinian leader.  All of these people have given their lives to build bridges for peace and I have written to thank them and assure them of my prayers for them and for a true and lasting peace in Palestine and Israel.

It is natural that fear and anger are coming to the fore, but the best things we can do, and perhaps the only things, are to pray for peace and to reach out to people we know whose community or loved ones are impacted and assure them of our concern and our prayers for justice and peace.

A Prayer for Peace

Gracious and merciful God, on this day when some call for rage, we pray for peace, but we know there can be no peace without justice and so we turn this great crisis in Israel and Palestine to you remembering that vengeance is yours and not ours.  You alone are able to discern and find a way beyond the anger, hatred, and fear.  Show us the way and shine your light into the hearts of those filled with hate that, like Saul of Tarsus, they might come alive to love.  Strengthen all who seek to build bridges for peace and understanding.  Silence the bombs and the weapons of destruction.  Save the children and the aged. Watch over and protect emergency service workers, doctors and nurses and bring healing and comfort through their hands.  Protect the homes and lives of innocent civilians and even in the midst of a blockade open doors to healing and hope.  Bring to the table the best minds and hearts and through the process plant the seeds of a true and lasting peace.  We pray these things in the name of the One who is the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

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: