Archive for November 2011

Birthing a New Creation – an Advent prayer

A new day begins in North America - beginning at Cape Spear.

At Newtonbrook United Church, Birthing a New Creation is our theme for the season of Advent 2011. During this season we hope to focus on how hope, peace, joy and love can nurture our spirits as we act as co-creators in bringing a new creation to life.

The following is a prayer for this Advent, 2011:

God of new beginnings;

new dreams;

new missions;

in our hearts we give you thanks

for all that is past,

for all that is,

for all that will be

that honours you and your love.

During this journey through Advent,

may we know in our hearts

that we are not alone;

you are with us and your love surrounds us,

through Jesus, the One born in a manger in Bethlehem.


Posted November 30, 2011 by allanbaker in Environment, Newtonbrook United Church

Advent 1 – Birthing a New Creation

Our theme for Advent 2011, here at Newtonbrook United Church, is: ”Birthing A New Creation.”

A NEW creation? We know that Advent is the season on the Christian calendar that leads up to the birth of Jesus – but why “a NEW creation”?

One practical reason has to do with this congregation’s decision on October 30th to amalgamate with Northminster United. This will lead to the formation of a new congregation – a part of a new creation.  Advent in the future will be different, as we participate in the birthing of this NEW congregation.

Advent also offers us the opportunity to participate deeply in a season that nurtures our spiritual life on this earthly journey. Advent can provide thirst-quenching water for those dry places within us – IF we set aside time to discern where God is in our life.

In our Jesus 24/7 study group this week we considered a question from Barbara Brown Taylor: “What is saving your life right now?” That’s an Advent type spiritual question that can help to birth a new creation within our soul. What IS saving your life right now?

Advent is the beginning of the Christian calendar, AND it is a part of the whole cycle of the birth, life, and crucifixion of Jesus. Advent begins that story of HOPE for God’s SHALOM – justice, peace, living with respect in creation, reconciliation and, “walking humbly with our God.” Advent doesn’t just lead to the birth of Jesus – it initiates the whole of the mystery of God’s incarnation: Emmanuel – God With Us!

Advent looks ahead to the birth of Jesus, but let us not forget the paradox of the fact that Christ is already among us. Advent is both a time of thanks for the gift of Jesus, and a time of anticipation of the “not yet” of the coming of the Kin-dom of God’s creation on earth. Yes, there is a Voice in the Wilderness Calling – a call to Look East. Christ is bringing, and has brought, new life to the earth. It is time to birth a new creation of LOVE, PEACE and JUSTICE.  And yet, the Spirit is already among us.

During Advent 2011, let us commit to Birthing A New Creation.

A Pension Plan for ALL Canadians

The following letter was published in The Toronto Star on Tuesday, November 22, 2011:

I really appreciated Thomas Walkom’s thoughts on how the “reforms” announced by the federal government will adversely affect the pensions of younger Canadians. When we already have a low-cost, low-risk, universal pension plan for Canadians, one wonders why we need “pooled” pension plans.

We already have plenty of evidence to show that the “pool” only gets deeper for the one per cent, and the financial institutions that they own or control.

I also appreciated him calling defined contribution plans “bogus.” The truth must be stated, and he did that clearly.

Please keep this issue “alive.”

Allan Baker, Scarborough

Posted November 26, 2011 by allanbaker in Economics

Occupy Toronto poetry


The following poem was written by “bury reader” . It is being offered for your reflections, and the nurture of your spirit of social justice and solidarity:


It’s not just about occupying a park.

It’s about occupation.


A place of occupying being


A place where all are welcome

Where food, shelter and compassion are abundant

for those on the edge and the other 99%.

We only ask that we come together so all have enough.


The sacred fire burns bright.

May it not be put out tonight.

They who rest their souls in tents

on stolen land but owned by the church.


With the Mayor ready to evict

And waiting on courts rule

Will there be justice

Or will they forget that holy books

were written about people who lived in tents

who strived for justice and compassion.


Will there be compassion?

Will there be passion?

Will there be a chance to talk out our space?

Or will it be a G20 with gates.

bury reader

Posted November 21, 2011 by allanbaker in #Occupy Toronto

Newtonbrook United Church and its Covenant with the Environment

On The Skerwink Trail

At the November meeting of the Coordinating Committee of Newtonbrook United Church on November 16, 2011, a decision was made to implement the “Covenant With The Environment” that the Green Team had proposed.

All groups who use space here at 53 Cummer will be asked to endorse this covenant when they ask to use space here.

I like the way that the covenant quotes from the Song of Faith of the United Church of Canada:

In grateful response to God’s abundant love, 

we bear in mind our integral connection to the earth and one another; 

we participate in God’s work of healing and mending creation.”

Posted November 18, 2011 by allanbaker in Environment, Newtonbrook United Church

Occupy Toronto and Psalm 123

“We have had more than enough of contempt.

Too long we have suffered the scorn of the wealthy,

And the contempt of the arrogant.(1)”

The concluding lines of Psalm 123 relate to one of the messages from the “Occupy Movement.”

On Friday, November 11, 2011, David Olive wrote a column in The Toronto Star about the “Occupy” movement, and the politicians in Toronto, Halifax, Vancouver, etc who are determined to clear the occupiers from parks in those cities. The column had lots of information about the growing gap between the “haves” and the “have nots”, and how the middle class in North America is being downsized.

Economic injustice is a choice that we make as human beings. Having our sisters and brothers living in poverty is a decision that our society makes – it doesn’t just happen.

Advocacy for the re-distribution of wealth is a part of our scriptures, and I wonder why Christians haven’t taken up this cause?  The JUBILEE that Jesus spoke about, as recorded in Luke 4:19, also has roots in the Hebrew scriptures in Leviticus 25. Psalm 123 concludes with the lines above. Why are Christian churches not at the forefront of challenging the economic system that is creating such a chasm between the wealth of the 1% and the rest of humanity?

David Olive’s clear implication is that the current trends will not lead to the continuation of “peace” in our society. I suspect that he is referring to what has happened in other nations when the economy is restructured for the benefit of financial institutions that are in the control of the wealthy. His column concludes with the ominous words:

“Those now working to shut up and shut down the Occupiers are in denial about the real threat to civil society. Its not the tents and yurts of Occupy Toronto’s peaceful encampment in St. James Park.”

“We have had more than enough of contempt.

Too long we have suffered the scorn of the wealthy,

And the contempt of the arrogant.(1)”

[1] Psalm 123, page 847 in Voices United

Posted November 16, 2011 by allanbaker in Uncategorized

Remembrance Day 2011

Remembrance Day, also known as Veterans Day in the U.S.A., seems to be taking a larger portion of public attention each year. Here’s a reflection on that fact, from a letter that I received from

Hi Allan –

Remembrance Day is changing as the veterans of the First and Second World Wars, and the Korean War, pass away. More attention is being paid to current and more controversial conflicts, such as Afghanistan.

Remembrance Day was first marked within the British Commonwealth (which included Canada) on November 11, 1919, at 11 a.m. to commemorate the end of the First World War upon the German signing of the Armistice and to remember those in the armed forces who gave their lives.

Back then, the majority of the people killed in wars were soldiers. Today it is civilians who pay the highest price. In Afghanistan, fewer than 3,000 foreign troops have been killed in a conflict that has claimed between 14,000 and 18,000 civilian lives.

But in many of the speeches made by Conservative government officials at this time of year, the focus is on commemorating wars, rather than trying to prevent war itself.

For instance, Prime Minister Harper freely connects the battles of the past, such as Vimy Ridge, with the war in Afghanistan.

This is leaving many to wonder why we gather together each November 11. Is it to mourn the soldiers killed, or to adulate them? Do we lament war, or commemorate it?

Posted November 13, 2011 by allanbaker in Uncategorized

The spirituality of service

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others,

as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10 (TNIV)

On October 27th, 2011 I participated in a Habitat for Humanity “Faith Leaders Build” here in Scarborough. There are two comments that I wish to share about this event.

First of all, the participants were men and women; Christian, Jewish and Muslim; and a rainbow of the palate of human skin colours. This testifies to the goodness in humanity, rather than the divisiveness that the media seem to portray as the human condition.

My second reflection is that everyone was dedicated to serving someone else – not their own needs. Through this giving of ones-self, a family who we may never know will have opportunities for a better life, and we will all benefit from a more abundant society. This is because safe, affordable housing is key to transforming the lives of people who live on the margins of society. It provides a foundation for the building of a new life. That’s what the congregation of Newtonbrook United Church has seen happening at Lester B. Pearson Place in Willowdale.

Serving others is a spiritual practice.

Those who look intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continue in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” James 1:25

Posted November 2, 2011 by allanbaker in Uncategorized

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The Dawning of a New Day at Newtonbrook United Church

Sunrise at Cape Spear

Exciting events happen in church congregations from time to time. Sunday, October 30, 2011 was one of those times at Newtonbrook United Church.

After an Iona-style worship service, the congregation gathered to make a decision about their future. When the vote was tallied, 100 per cent of the members present voted in favour of a proposal to amalgamate with their neighbours, Northminster United Church. Northminster United also voted in favour of the proposed amalgamation.

If approved by South West Presbytery of the United Church of Canada, the amalgamation process will “officially” begin on January 1, 2012, and conclude on June 30, 2013. The site of the NEW congregation will be 53 Cummer Avenue in Willowdale.

The United Church of Canada is a “united and uniting” church. Amalgamations of congregations have been taking place since the founding of the denomination on June 10, 1925.

Still, there is a sense in this situation that God is doing “a new thing” in this neighbourhood and we all look forward to the possibilities and opportunities to do Christian ministry in a new way.

We worship a God who calls us to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths yet untrodden, and through perils unknown. Still, we serve in ministry to God’s world and God’s people knowing that God’s hand is leading us, and God’s love supports us. (The previous words are adapted from a prayer published  in Voices United, page 915)

Posted November 2, 2011 by allanbaker in Uncategorized