Endings and beginnings at Newtonbrook United Church

Dorway to ... ?

Dorway to … ?

The following item is published in the “Reflections” newsletter of Newtonbrook United Church. For the full newsletter, go to:  http://www.newtonbrookunitedchurch.ca/nuc-newsletter/archive/summer12.pdf

Beginnings and Endings

by Rev. Allan Baker

There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens

Every ending is a new beginning. This is the time for me to write my final submission in “Reflections” as I will be retiring as of July 31, 2012. This season of journeying together in ministry with Newtonbrook United Church is ending.  A new chapter in our stories is beginning.

Beginnings and endings involve change, which is difficult for most of us, both emotionally and intellectually. All of us, I think, wish to have stability in our lives. It may be true that the only people who like change are babies with wet diapers.

As I look ahead to a new chapter in my life, and the unknown changes involved, my spirit is fed by a poem that was written by Bruce B. Wilmer. It is called, “New Beginnings”.

“Each chapter that is ending

leads us to a new beginning.

The past that we are leaving

means a future that we are winning.

Each change that fills the present

sets the stage for our tomorrow,

and how we meet each challenge

helps determine joy or sorrow.

In every new beginning

Spirit plays a vital part.

We must approach tomorrow

with a strong and steady heart.

So as we turn the corner,

let all apprehension shed

and fill our hearts with confidence

as we proceed ahead.

When I arrived at Newtonbrook United Church on January 1, 2008, I had little idea how much transformation would happen in this congregation over the succeeding four years – and how well the congregation would cope with these new ways of doing things. You are a people who are blessed with the ability to realize that when one door closes, another one, or two, open. The metamorphosis of Newtonbrook into a new congregation, through the process of amalgamation with Northminster United Church is just one example of the way in which this renewal process is happening. I hope that it will be a resurrection process!

Of course, not all of our dreams have been accomplished in the past four years. There have been opportunities that have come our way that we did not anticipate – such as providing sanctuary for a refugee. This has been a ministry of radical hospitality, and of seeking justice. Newtonbrook, I have learned, is a congregation that lives a transformational faith; reaching in, reaching up and reaching out in faith, hope and love.

There are many, many words that could be written about this journey together, and about ministry that has been done, and left undone. Rather than create an epistle, let’s reflect on the following prayer from Bishop Oscar Romero:

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.


The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,

it is even beyond our vision.


We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction

of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.

Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying

that the kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.

No prayer fully expresses our faith.

No confession brings perfection.

No pastoral visit brings wholeness.

No program accomplishes the church’s mission.

No set of goals and objectives includes everything.


This is what we are about.

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.

We water seeds already planted,

knowing that they hold future promise.


We lay foundations that will need further development.

We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.


We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation

in realizing that. This enables us to do something,

and to do it very well. It may be incomplete,

but it is a beginning, a step along the way,

an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.


We may never see the end results, but that is the difference

between the master builder and the worker.


We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own. Amen!

As I prepare to close the book on this chapter of my journey with this vital and thriving Christian ministry that you share here at Newtonbrook, there are sic additional important words that I wish to share: Thank you! You are a blessing.

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