Monthly Archives: April 2020

Donald MacDonald

Donald MacDonald died this evening at home surrounded by his loving family.

Donald was an internationally renowned veterinarian who joined our church twenty-five years ago along with his late wife Carol-Ann and daughter Meredith. During his years with us Don served on several boards and chaired the Board of Finance and Administration.

After the passing of Carol-Ann, Don met and married Judy Gerred at the church. Together they rediscovered love and joy in each other’s company and we rejoiced as they shared their gifts and talents so freely in the fellowship of the church. We all treasured Don’s warmth, kindness and humour. Don and Judy were appreciated as leaders of our annual pilgrimage of sacred spaces and Don was also deeply grateful for his regular luncheons with a small group of men from the church.

But perhaps it was his remarkably positive response to the health challenges he faced in recent years that made the greatest impression on all of us. When John Fenton led our Coldest Night of the Year charity walk for the Yonge Street Mission again this year he informed the church that he was dedicating the walk to Don MacDonald who was his inspiration for the way he keeps fighting his illness with a smile and encouraging others along the way. It was hard to fight back the tears that day, because John was so right. Don truly was an inspiration to all of us and we thank God for him.

Don loved jazz and there have been times in the life of our church when great artists like Jackie Richardson, Guido Basso and John McDermott have all payed tribute to him for his friendship and support.

In the end Don spoke openly about his death and being ready to meet the Lord. He gave testimony to his faith and what a difference it had made in his life. We give thanks that our faith makes a difference not only in life but also in death. For Christ has conquered the grave and carries us home to the Father’s House.

Don’s roots were in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and he loved Cape Breton’s Song of the Mira which ends with these wonderful words of promise;

Now I’ll conclude with a wish you go well:
Sweet be your dreams—and your happiness swell.
I’ll leave you here, for my journey begins;
I’m going to be with them again,
I’m going to be with them again.

We will be together again.  Let us continue to keep Judy, Meredith, David and Gavin and the whole family in our prayers.  A memorial will be held at a date to be determined.

May this dear friend rest in peace and rise in glory.

In Christ,
Peter Holmes

Fraser Fell 1928 – 2020

We were saddened to learn that Fraser Fell died yesterday.   Fraser was a giant and left a remarkable legacy in our church through his leadership and generosity, and in our community through both his business acumen and his philanthropic heart.  Though there is a hospital wing named after Fraser and many things we can point to in the church as evidence of his goodness and generosity, his greatest legacy is his family.  His partnership with his late wife Margot was an example and inspiration to us all.  His children David, Susan, Leslie, Martha and Mark and their families were always the source of great pride and joy for Fraser and Margot.  Throughout his life, but especially in these final months, they have all surrounded him with love and care.  There is so much to be thankful for in the midst of this loss.

Dale Rose and I had the privilege of sharing Communion with Fraser just before the home where he lived went into lockdown and since that time we have taken turns checking in on him by phone.  To the end, Fraser loved Yorkminster Park and was always a source of encouragement to his ministers and wisdom to the lay leadership.  Fraser always looked for the good in others and was so quick to express appreciation and many a blessing flowed from his grateful heart.  We can’t help but give thanks to God for Fraser.

There is more than one line in Rudyard Kipling’s poem, If, which makes me think of Fraser, but perhaps especially this line.   “If you can walk with Kings, nor lose the common touch.”  Everyone mattered to Fraser and oh how he mattered to us.  News of his loss will sadden people near and far, but let us remember in this season of Easter that death does not have the last word.  Christ has risen and conquered the grave and death.  Fraser is safe in the arms of Jesus, freed from the frailty of these final months, reunited with Margot and home with the God he loved and served so well. Thanks be to God for this good and faithful servant and for the hope we share in Jesus Christ.

A public memorial will be held at the church on a date to be announced.  Arrangements are through the Morley Bedford Funeral Home and condolences can be left on their website.  Let us continue to keep Fraser’s family in our prayers.

In Christ,

Peter Holmes.

A Prayer for Nova Scotia

Since Sunday’s shocking massacre of at least twenty-two good and innocent folk in rural Nova Scotia we have all been thinking of idyllic places and special friends in that beautiful part of our country and trying our best to pray. Our whole nation grieves, but in Nova Scotia where, as my colleague Dale Rose has reminded me, the traditional six degrees of separation can be reduced to two or three degrees, everyone is feeling a personal connection to this horrific loss of life.

And so many of the stories emerging about those whose lives were taken only serve to affirm the goodness we associate with the Maritimes and with rural life across our country, where people feel such a connection with the earth below and God above and the neighbour beside that doors are left unlocked and pantries open. One need only think of the iconic words in the beautiful ‘Song of the Mira,’ which champions the wonder of small town life in Nova Scotia.

Can you imagine a piece of the universe
More fit for princes and kings?
I’ll trade you ten of your cities for Marion Bridge
And the pleasure it brings…

And then into this good and pleasant land on a Sunday morning a wolf came in sheep’s clothing devouring the inhabitants of the green pastures. The only word for what happened on Sunday is evil and while I too struggle to find the words to pray, perhaps it doesn’t need to be so complicated. I find it helps to go back to the prayer Jesus gave us.

“Our Father, who art in heaven.” O God, we turn from our focus on the source of this evil, to tune our hearts and minds afresh to you. For you alone are above the chaos and madness of this event. You invite us to call you Father and in your love to rediscover our connectedness to you and to all your children. O Father, we open our hearts to your love and lean on you in the hope of healing and restoration for the shattered lives and communities of Nova Scotia and beyond. May all those who grieve know they are forever near and dear to your heart.

“Hallowed be thy name.” In the midst of this darkness and evil when we might well turn to hatred and fear, we turn instead to you that our minds might be rooted in all that is good and precious in this life. And so we thank you for the wonder and beauty of each day and the blessings of life and love, for you are the source of every good and perfect gift.

“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Lord God, these incidents of violence and so many other things happening in these days are not heavenly. We therefore make no room for them in our hearts and homes and instead long and pray for the day when the voice of evil will be forever silenced by goodness and mercy and when death will be no more and when love and kindness will breath through every fabric of this planet.

“Give us this day our daily bread.” Today is all we have O God. Help us not to fixate on the glories or failures of the past, or hoard and worry for tomorrow, but to trust you in the here and now where day by day you meet us full of mercy and grace. O Bread of Life meet the grieving families of Nova Scotia on this day and nurture them through to your eternal day.

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” God cleanse us of the sin that lies within and enable us to meet both friend and foe with the same grace Christ extends to us. Help me to forgive and forget the sins of the other that I might be freed to forgive myself as you have already forgiven and forgotten my sin through Jesus Christ.

“And lead us not into temptation.” We are weak, but you are strong. Help us to lean on you in times of trial and testing that we might be true to you and to our best selves. And when we fall and fail, carry us in your mercy as only you can for you are the Way, the Truth and the Life. Carry the grieving folk of Nova Scotia through this chapter and lead them on to your Promised Land.

“But deliver us from evil.” O Christ, we commit to your care all the victims of this evil, believing that you were with them in their moments of despair. In that you have overcome all things we pray that you would carry them over and indeed deliver all those who grieve and mourn from the fears, tears, and scars of evil that your love might reign supreme in Nova Scotia and across this land.

“For thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory…” Yes, you are the sovereign Lord of the Universe and so in silence we lift up all who grieve the violence in Nova Scotia and all who fight the battles against Covid-19 across this country and around the world and those too who struggle with other troubles and fears and in the quiet we wait, acknowledging the last word and the best word are yours.

“Forever…” Break the silence as you broke the spell of death at Easter and usher in your eternal day reassuring those who have lost loved ones along the way that In Christ we will be together again and all will be well forever. Amen.

We sang ‘Song of the Mira’ at the conclusion of the funeral of the Very Reverend Angus MacQueen, one of Nova Scotia’s finest sons and one of the greatest leaders the Canadian church has known. It was fitting as this song of Nova Scotia ends with a beautiful verse about being together again with those who have gone before us. Last Sunday morning an evil messenger rose up to spread bad news and fear, but every Sunday we celebrate the messenger of goodness and grace who God raised up to ensure that love will win and we will indeed be together again in Christ! Love wins.

Now I’ll conclude with a wish you go well:
Sweet be your dreams—and your happiness swell.
I’ll leave you here, for my journey begins;
I’m going to be with them again,
I’m going to be with them again.

The following link will take you to a rendition of this song by our friend John McDermott.


Thank you to the families who have honoured their loved ones by placing memorial flowers in the church on recent Sundays when they have not been able to be there to appreciate them.

During these strange days of COVID-19 protocol when only a few of us are able to offer worship inside an empty church, the memorial flowers have served as a powerful reminder of the deeper communion we share beyond the physical presence and beyond even death through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As we lead worship in an empty space we still sense the presence of those we know are watching or the task would be impossible. So too the flowers symbolize the communion we share with those who have gone on before us. Just as we know that the many in isolation will one day be back, we believe that we will all be together again through the victory Christ has won over the grave and death.

The above arrangements were placed to the glory of God an in memory of Norman, Grace and Elizabeth Bishop; John Stevens and Kerr Spiers; Mary Jefferies; and Donna Britten.  These arrangements have been a true blessing.



Some of the social agencies that are especially close to our heart at Yorkminster Park

MEALS ON WHEELS – operates out of YP Mon-Fri providing meals. Hot and frozen meals are available for those in isolation. MOW thanks YP for the wonderful response they received in their call for drivers. Volunteers needed.

CHURCHES-ON-THE-HILL FOOD BANK – operates out of Timothy Eaton Memorial Church Monday evenings and Wednesday mornings. Clients are being offered pre-packaged bags on the sidewalk outside the church. Their annual food drive had to be cancelled so donations are needed.

HOUSE OF COMPASSION – located on Shaw Street to provide 24/7 supportive housing for 21 people living with severe mental illness. HOC was founded by the people of YP and is chaired by Neil Hetherington. Please pray for the health of the residents and staff.

THE GATEWAY MEN’S SHELTER under the leadership of Jake Aikenhead – Pray for Jake and his team as they offer frontline care to homeless men on the south end of Jarvis Street. Jake invites you to contact to send encouraging thank you notes to his front line staff.

THE DAILY BREAD FOOD BANK led by Neil Hetherington is the agency that leads, coordinates, oversees and supplies all food banks in Toronto and speaks with one voice to the need of hunger in our city. With many food banks now closed due to their locations, the Daily Bread is more heavily involved than ever. Please pray for Neil and his whole team. For more information click here.

YONGE STREET MISSION a mission which YP supports in the heart of the city. Please go to the website to get an update on their needs and programs.

SANCTUARY is a downtown mission based faith community that seeks to reach and include those whose experiences in life have been marked by rejection and abuse. The Board of Sanctuary is chaired by Alison Marthinsen of YP. Pray for their team.

Lead Kindly Light – A Hymn for our Times.

As a young cleric in the 1830’s John Henry Newman wrote the words to the hymn, Lead Kindly Light, after he became sick trying to help others while in Italy during a deadly epidemic. Newman was quarantined for several weeks and became weak in body and spirit even questioning his faith. At last he boarded a boat that would get him on his way home to England, but the winds died stranding the sailing ship for a week in the dangerous currents and shoals of the Strait of Bonifacio. It was there in the deep waters of fear and doubt longing for the faces of loved ones that his faith went deeper still and he wrote the hymn that has often been turned to for comfort in times much like our own.

There are legends of the hymn being sung aboard the Titanic on the fateful night of its sinking and by English miners stranded underground after an explosion in the Durham coalfields in 1909. Corrie ten Boom remembered her sister singing Lead Kindly Light as she was led by SS guards into the concentration camp at Ravensbrook. It was also the favourite hymn of Mahatma Gandhi and the title given to one of his biographies.

Newman’s beloved hymn, Lead Kindly Light, has inspired numerous tunes. I have attached links to several arrangements, some old and familiar and some new. Take your time. Listen and reflect. Which arrangement/s speak to you and why? I would love to hear back from you at

  1. Lead Kindly Light tune ‘Alberta’ by William H. Harris
  2. Lead Kindly Light tune by Dan Forrest
  3. Lead Kindly Light tune ‘Lux in Tenebris’ by Arthur Sullivan
  4. Lead Kindly Light tune ‘Lux Benigna’ by John B. Dykes
  5. Lead Kindly Light tune ‘Sandon’ by
  6. Lead Kindly Light tune by Audrey Assad