Christmas Lights 2020



The lights are up and out of doors.
Three blue spruce shine as never before.
Packed in crates and sprouting doubt
the trees inside are down and out,
as are so many.  But up are the lights,
leading us out of the shadows of night.
Why keep the light inside under a bushel,
when outside an inn unassuming
burns still a bush unconsuming?
In this cold, covid winter stark,
God speaks into the chaos dark.
Light, oh let there be heavenly love.
The Word made flesh, down from above.
Holy human, full of acumen, divine.
So eat the bread, and drink the wine,
take off your shoes, fall on your knees.
God touched the earth and lit up the trees.

JPH 22-11-2020

Let There Be Light!

It was just over a year ago we had the joy and privilege of dedicating the long awaited Creation Window above our west gallery.   The spectacular stained glass window was crafted over a period of two years by the Kathryn and Jane Irwin of the Art Zone Studio to honour the late Betty Howson whose children funded the memorial window. 

The window is also called, ‘Let There Be light,’ from the first day of creation.  Wonderfully, the light often renders variations in the brightness of the reds and yellows and sharpness of the blues depending on the time of day and where the sun is in the sky.  At times it also casts those same colours onto the walls of the nave and up into the chancel depending on the time of year.   The colours dance and sing in sacred wonderment.

One evening last week as the sun was setting the Creation Window appeared to have been transformed.  So great was the variation that one might have thought the artists had returned to stain the glass with new colours, but of course the artist was God, the giver of light.  I pray the wonder and beauty of God’s light and love are reflected as well in our lives as we seek to follow the One who is the Light of the World.    

I was searching for just the right words to sum up the wonder of light when I came across a poem crafted by the British poet Malcolm Guite entitled Seven Whole Days.  While the poem was inspired by the George Herbert hymn, the first day or stanza of the poem almost seems to have been written for our window.  It is published in his book, Parable and Paradox, 2016 Canterbury Press.  Feast your hearts and eyes.

Let there be light as I begin this day,
To draw me from the darkness and the night,
To bless my flesh, to clear and show my way,
Let there be light.
Strong in the depth and shining from the height,
Evening and morning’s interplay,
Blessing and enabling my sight.
Lighten my soul and teach me how to pray,
Lighten my mind and teach me wrong from right,
In all I do and think and see and say
Let there be light. 

Malcolm Guite

Here is a video about the making of our Creation Window



Pray For Lebanon

Yorkminster Park Baptist Church has a longstanding partnership with the Baptist Church in Lebanon and its mission arm known as the Lebanese Society for Education and Social Development.   They do remarkable and inspiring work and have a strong presence in the city of Beirut which is suffering terribly this night after a massive explosion ripped through the heart of the city earlier today.  It has taken an extensive toll.   I received the following letter from our dear friend, Nabil Costa, the CEO of LSESD asking us to pray.  Let us endeavour to do so.
Dear Peter,

The massive blast that took place at the port of Beirut late in the afternoon today left an important part of the city laying in apocalyptic ruin. The rumble of the explosion was felt all the way to Cyprus.

Beirut looks like a war zone as the devastating shockwave shattered windows and vitrines sending debris and glass flying in all directions. Initial footage shows collapsed buildings and homes while the national wheat silos have been eviscerated. Hospitals are not able to cope with the number of injured and maimed while the Red Cross is in desperate need of blood donations. The number of casualties is not known at this stage but material losses are in the billions of dollars.

This calamity could not have come at a worse time for a country on the brink of financial collapse and social implosion while the number of coronavirus cases have surged in recent days.

The reasons behind the explosion are still unknown.

  • Please pray for those who have lost their homes and loved ones so that they may find comfort and healing.
  • Please pray for the doctors, nurses and paramedics who are caring for the injured.
  • Please pray for the rescue teams that are trying to find missing family members and neighbors.
  • Please pray for people who are in places of responsibility as they manage the catastrophic human and economic consequences.
  • Please pray for the Church as it seeks to comfort and serve the distressed and brokenhearted.
  • Please pray for the People of God as they seek the Lord and humbly cry out to Him for mercy.
  • Pray for LSESD/MEBO family of ministries and in specific for the Beirut Baptist School and the Gateway Bookshop, which suffered important material damage and for the staff who have been injured by the glass debris.

In Christ,

Nabil Costa
Chief Executive Officer

Photos of Damage to the Beirut Baptist School

Photos of Damage to the LSESD Gateway Bookshop.

Rise With Wings

Rise With Wings
That’s my friend Milton on the right
aside John Lewis, the channel of Light.
Where angels fear to tread went he,
a fool for Love ‘gainst bigotry, inequality…
Dear Milton let me to your coattails cling.
Hold tight to his and we’ll rise with wings!
JPH 28-07-20
My dear friend, Milton Eric Fletcher of Detroit, is pictured with Congressman John Lewis and Milton’s brother, Zaid. My friendship with Milton, and indeed Yorkminster Park’s friendship with Milton, goes back almost twenty years and includes many remarkable highlights. I am so grateful for Milton’s faithful calls and prayerful support during these days of recovery. Milton’s friendship with Congressman Lewis is also an inspiring story. God bless you Milton!  We can’t wait till the border reopens if only to see you again. 

O Chrysalid Monarch

A sphere of straws full of nectar draws
a thirsty monarch from the air.
Pedals bow in prayer for safe landing there
as flower’s cone ‘comes her crown to wear

O Chrysalid Monarch of the universe
you landed here to reverse the curse,
and bursting forth from death’s cocoon
opened us to Eden in love to commune.

JPH 28-07-20

A Flock of Hydrangeas

A flock of hydrangeas raise their heads
like bleating sheep in a garden bed.
Need to be sheared for a florist’s bouquet
and placed in the church next Lord’s Day.
So the shepherd takes a handful of yarn
and sends his lambs back to the barn.

JPH 16-07-20

The Neighbour’s Sprinkler

The neighbour’s sprinkler greets the dawn
and does far more than water the lawn.
Invites the children to frolic and play
on yet another hot summer’s day
and christens the world through prism light
with rainbow promises – all will be right.

JPH 12-07-20

Conversation with a Caterpillar

It lay there perfectly still
munching down upon the dill.
Slowly slithering towards cocoon,
it seemed to say, “Not so soon.
Time and rest, will heal your wound,
and turn this tomb into a womb.”
So I wait on the Spirit who knows the hour
when I will rise up by God’s power,
and the wind will blow open a door
and like the monarch I will soar!

JPH 11-07-20

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: