Monthly Archives: June 2020

Doubly Blessed

I have been thinking a lot about my dad these days. Ten days ago I visited his grave with Steve and Cheryl and my mom to mark the eighth anniversary of his passing. Yesterday was Father’s Day and today would have been his ninety-third birthday. He was born the morning after the longest day and like the midnight sun he lives on in our hearts. As I have been remembering him it hasn’t been one of his memorable sermons or his leadership of the church, but some of the tender moments shared between a father and son. The following verse was prompted by a recollection of the countless times we played catch – the mere thought brought a smile to my heart. I wrote the second poem a year ago, but thought it worth sharing again. Happy Birthday Dad and Happy Father’s Day too. You always were a double blessing.
I would often with dad play a game of catch
When throws missed the mark I’d go fetch
the ball, as dad would lean on his cane
letting me serve and not complain
mine was the joy, his was the pain
oh I’d play that game again
and again.
JPH 22-06-20
I drop by dad’s grave
and listen for the gravitas
of his character
that transcends the gravity
of our times.
He stood so tall
as he leaned on his canes
symbols of his courage
instruments of empathy.
And walking alongside
in shadowy times
you just knew
he knew
and when he prayed you believed.
I drop by dad’s grave
And touch the tomb
hoping something has rubbed off
and praying for more.
Seven years ago today we buried you Dad.
Still I hear your voice.
Thank you
Happy Father’s Day!

The Midnight Sun

The summer solstice arrives later this afternoon and with it the season of the midnight sun.  I wrote this poem for Anne Lindsay’s recent concert, ‘Songs of the Midnight Sun,’ which was webcast from the church last Sunday.  I was honoured to have my poem read there for the first time. 

I have put a link to the concert after the poem.

The Midnight Sun

At the dawn of the Midnight Sun
deeds of darkness shall come undone
and death at last shall lose its say
as all shall rest in light of day

The stinging tears of grief are gone
festering fears are silenced in song
nets are filled and the hungry fed
eternity rises in the breaking of bread

Streetlights at last shall be no more
As starlight of heaven opens a door
to a world where all shall live in love
and on earth shall be as heaven above

Come out of the shadows into the light
pick up your mat and make things right
living, forgiving with strength, with soul
kindness and tenderness heartedly whole

May this solstice offer a glimpse to see
Eternity always as yet it can be
alive in our hearts from this day forth
reaching east, west, south and north

O Light the darkness could not put out
help us to glow when gloamings about.
May the brightly hours of this midnight sun
live on in our hearts and make of us one.

JPH 12-06-20

Songs of the Midnight Sun featuring Anne Lindsay:

From Peter’s Pen YP Newsletter, June 2020

A glitch somewhere in cyberspace prevented my newsletter entry making it into the YP newsletter which came out today.  Here it is.

From Peter’s Pen

Lessons From the Waiting Room of Life
I am so grateful to God for the love and concern of the church family during this time of unexpected medical need. As I await my pending surgery your cards, messages and emails have come to mean a great deal to me. Thank you, but above all, thank you for keeping me in your prayers.

There has been a lot of waiting involved in this medical process and waiting is not my strong suit, but all of this has been a gentle reminder to live in the moment aware of God’s many blessings. While waiting I have been more or less quarantined, but this has not prevented me from being able to enjoy the sights and scents as spring has brought new colour to the garden day by day. Many of you have been quarantined too and are anxiously awaiting the arrival or a vaccine, or good medical news, or word about a job, or even just the opportunity to be with loved ones again. I hope that the arrival of summer boosts your spirits as well and that in the midst of this time you will be aware of God’s faithfulness each and every day and of his mercies which are new every morning.

Covid-19 has without question given rise to fears and has taken a toll on many, but it has also led to lower pollution levels, and opportunities to connect with old friends we had lost touch with in the busy times. While on a daily basis we must support and pray for those effected by the virus, those offering service in these times, and those seeking solutions, I also pray we come alive in new ways to many of the blessings that may have gone unnoticed in busier times.

I am also grateful to God for the medical solutions that are available to me and for the team that are caring for me. We live in a great country and part of what makes it great is the medical system we have and the countless staff at all levels who make it so wonderful. Previously I had never spent a night in the hospital in my life, but now I have seen first hand the incredible efforts 24/7.

One of the wonders of our health care system is that it has brought together some of the finest and most knowledgable professionals and workers from around the world. I was cared for by a team of doctors and nurses who had come to this country from far away places like Iraq, Iran, China, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Jamaica. Each one was wise and compassionate, but they were also putting their lives on the line during these days of Covid-19.

I have been deeply disturbed, as we all have, by the reports of growing racism against Asians in response to the coronavirus. It is human nature when we are afraid to look for a scapegoat to blame, but this always makes things worse. In the midst of this there has been an explosion of tension in response to longstanding racism against African Americans south of the border. We may be on the other side of the border, but racism is real here too and we must stand and work against it.

Many in these Covid-19 days are suggesting that working from home as we have been doing since March may present a good alternative for the long term. While it cuts down on commute time thus eliminating many a traffic jam and offers companies significant savings on rent, we should be very cautious. The modern workplace brings people of many ethnicities together and offers them the opportunity to build relationships and friendships with people of different economic, cultural, and ethnic identities. Whereas working from home will rob us of these opportunities to put a face on other ethnicities and hear and value their traditions. In a world where we come and work together face to face we should be less prone to fear and prejudice.

In recent years we have had the privilege of visiting a First Nations reserve with a team of volunteers, but with Covid-19 there will be no Oneida experience this year. These opportunities also widen our understanding and appreciation of our indigenous neighbours. I pray our friends at Oneida and all our first nations peoples will remain close to our hears in this times and we will continue to build bridges of healing and understanding.

The church must stand against all racism, but at the same time, like the hospital we must be a community in which all people come together as a team. We too must work and serve together from east and west, north and south as one great fellowship born of the love of the Great Physician, Jesus Christ.

Corona Creativity
With all the talk and fear of the coronavirus we may have forgotten what a real corona is and I am not referring to a brand of beer. The corona is the bright pearly glow of the sun that only becomes visible during a total eclipse when like a crown it surrounds the dark face of the moon. It is the light that reminds us the sun is still with us during a time of sudden darkness. I pray the life and witness of our church is like the corona of the sun during these days of Covid-19 as we continue to bear witness to the risen Christ.

We are so grateful for the gift of webcasting that was made to the church more than ten years ago and the manner in which David King and his team have been able to strengthen this ministry during these days. Apart from our Sunday worship it has afforded us the opportunity to offer some beautiful concerts in the empty sanctuary – these can still be viewed online. It also enabled Dale Rose and I the opportunity to offer daily devotional conversations during Lent and to follow these up with a ten session online Discipleship 101 class posted to our website in the weeks that followed Easter. These along with our Walking Together daily devotional edited by Paula Willis, a roster of volunteers and pastors offering phone calls, resources and messaging from our Director of Family Ministries have been strengthening our fellowship when it would be so easy to drift apart. In the midst of all this Janice Ivory Smith has been a guiding hand. Thank you to all who have helped us bear witness to the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, whom the the fear of the coronavirus, the economic hardship and the racial tension nor anything else in the world can put out. Let us continue to let our light shine!

Peter Holmes

WAITING – but not much longer!

As many of you know I have been waiting for major surgery since I was diagnosed with a rare cancerous tumour in early May.  My wait seems to be almost over as I received a call this morning with a date for next week.

My family, my ministry team and my friends have all been so supportive and encouraging and I am as pleased for them as I am for me.  My family of course also includes the people of the church whose prayers, cards, emails and messages have been a tremendous source of encouragement.  Thank you to one and all.

Waiting is not always easy especially in these Covid-19 times when it means living in isolation, but I have filled my days with quiet walks, gentle gardening, reading, writing, rest and prayer.

I have written a few poems including the following poem called, ‘Waiting,’ which was read at the beautiful concert Anne Lindsay offered yesterday at the church.   If you didn’t have a chance to see and hear one of Canada’s greatest fiddlers, you can still enjoy it at


I am waiting in a line
that winds around a corner
I know not where
it goes from here or there
yet already it stretches
me beyond belief

I am waiting on a call
that never seems to come
It holds out hope
which helps one cope
but the endless silence
deafens my spirit

I’m waiting in a room
all the doors are closed
the chairs are marked
with signs to keep us apart
an exclamation mark
leaving me alone

Yet in the line when I can not see
a garden scent catches up to me
there’s lilac and lavender in the air
and in the silence I cannot bear
the birds sing and the winds give voice
now’s the time to pray and rejoice.


J. Peter Holmes

Reaching out to our Friends

Yorkminster Park Baptist Church has been blessed through the years by the preaching and presence of many remarkable American friends, some of whom are close to the front lines of today’s tensions following the violent murder of George Floyd.

Over the last week I have been reaching out to assure them of our concern and prayers.  This is a time for us to be praying for our American neighbours and friends.   Those to whom I have reached out include the Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis of Minneapolis; our dear friend Milton Fletcher of Detroit; Dr. Marvin McMickle of Rochester, the Rev. Susan Sparks of NYC, and the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III of Chicago.

I am pleased to post the following messages back to our Yorkminster Park family from both Milton and Karoline.

From Milton:

From Karoline:






A Prayer for America after the death of George Floyd

Prayer for America after the death of George Floyd

Gracious and merciful God we give you thanks for our country Canada. We rejoice in the rich beauty of her landscape and of the marvellous mosaic of her peoples. We give you thanks for her collective consciousness by which she offers compassionate care to all who are sick. We thank you too for the border we share with United States of America and for America’s love of liberty and her historic desire to make the world a better and safer place.

We pause and pray the blessing of your peace upon America as she grapples in new ways with the racism that has plagued her for generations. We pray for the family of George Floyd as they mark his death and grieve his loss. We thank you for their pleas for justice and peace. Comfort them in the knowledge that they are not alone and that George will not have died in vain. May his death open doors in new ways to deep conversation about the justifiable fears of young African American men, the prayers of their parents, and the tensions that exist with police authorities.

We thank you for courageous civil leaders who welcome the conversation and in humility bend their knee acknowledging the need for change. We thank you too for all who seek to be faithful in offering their service as officers of the peace both here and there. May this death bring true and resolute action and accountability to make streets safe and free for one and all.

We thank you for those who protest peacefully and hold their breath in the hope that another will not have his breath taken away. Fulfill the vision of the prophet Amos of old that justice might flow like a river and righteousness like a never ending stream. Breathe new life into America not by might nor power, but by your Holy Spirit and bring to fruition the dream of Martin Luther King and all who continue to work and pray to keep alive the flame of love and hope. May the pains of these recent days give birth to new life and true liberty for all her peoples.

We acknowledge too O God, our need as Canadians to continue to fight against racism in the system and in our hearts. Grant to us sensitivity and kindness towards all peoples. We thank you that we live in a time and place when people from so many diverse backgrounds can work, play and live together in this vast land. Open us to each other’s treasured stories and timeless truths that together we might grow in wisdom and live in harmony. Grant that we might see in each and every person the divine image and the beautiful uniqueness that includes people of all colours, creeds, shapes and sizes, ages and orientations.

We thank you for American friends and family and pray for their peace. We thank you too for Americans who have blessed our pulpit and church with their presence and ministry. Watch over each of them and use their gifts to bring healing and hope. Bless them with wisdom and grace as they seek to guide and encourage, shelter and protect their flock.

Now may we as your body, the church, be an instrument of justice and mercy, of unification and peace in our cities. May we stay close to Jesus who is always moving on the margins to include the excluded, to bind up the brokenhearted, to set the prisoner free and to raise us all to newness of life. May the love of Jesus shine in our hearts and in this world, until your kingdom comes in all its fullness and your will is done on earth as it is in heaven, through Christ our Lord, Amen.