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How are we doing?
by Tom Ford

Last year, the moderator said United Churches should concentrate less on physical plant and more on helping others in our community and internationally. How well are we doing in helping others who don’t sit in our pews? Not badly, it would seem. Westminster has had a good reputation for outreach and that reputation is continuing – despite the need to set aside funds for leaky roofs.

A good place to start an examination of our work is the Outreach Committee, chaired by Pat Miles. Its proposed budget for this year tells an interesting story.

Here are the people it wants to help.

* Agape Table Inc. ($50.00) supplies hot, nourishing meals to people who need them – and has a program that promotes and enables healthy eating for children.

* Art City ($100.00)is West Broadway’s community art studio offering free art programming to people of all ages who need or want to express themselves

* Betty Halstead Refugee Project ($400.00) has established an enviable reputation for helping newcomers to our community.

* The Council of Women of Winnipeg ($25.00) is a federation of organizations and individuals who come together to act in the public interest for the welfare of women, families and society.

* ESL bursary, Gordon Bell ($500.00) - awarded each year to a high school graduate who initially came to Canada as a refugee or immigrant. The award takes into account the progress the student has made, along with the obstacles she or he faced.


* Joint Inner City Ministries Volunteer Co-ordination Project ($200.00) supports three outreach ministries in the inner city.

* International HOPE ($600.00), a spin-off from the church, it collects, reconditions (if necessary) and sends tonnes of surplus medical supplies and equipment to 25 developing countries.

* Ma Mauri Wi Chi Itata Centre ($200.00) offers a profusion of services to aboriginal people including short term emergency services, community drop-in, in-home support services, community groups, a volunteer program, free Internet access and programs for ending the cycle of violence.

* West Broadway Community Ministry ($250.00) works in co-operation with other community groups to provide a safe, accepting environment in which direct services are offered to promote self-help and empowerment of individuals and families.

* Westminster Housing Society Inc. ($3,500.00): Another spin-off from the church, WHS is one of the city’s largest volunteer providers of quality, affordable housing. Some of the society’s key directors are members of the church.

* In addition, the committee wants to set aside $185.00 for discretionary spending and for honoraria for speakers. The church’s general outreach work doesn’t stop here, however.

Westminster earmarks 12 per cent of its budget for The Mission and Service Fund of The United Church Of Canada, which is sent to the General Council Office. And there’s more: The Westminster Children’s Sale established in 1999 to give children an opportunity to purchase gifts for their families; poinsettias sent to shut-ins at Christmas; help for West Broadway Community Ministry’s lunch program (this month we’re asked to bring Cheese Whiz to put in boxes in

the narthex); the mitten tree; the Westminster Organ Concert Series; lectures such as Carol Harvey’s on medieval miracle plays; special meals such as the fall supper; white gifts and prayer shawls.

For a more complete list of Westminster’s outreach and associated activities, please see a copy of the church’s annual report.

Westminster outreach activities include special offerings for people such as Project Peace Makers, the Bible Society, Agape Table, LITE and the Christmas Cheer Board. We also make our church available to groups for concerts and meetings. And we shouldn’t forget that members of the church – such as Outreach’s Pat Miles – go out on their own and use their special skills to help people in them community.

All in all, I think we can tell the moderator we’re proud of the work we’re doing. The need for outreach will never end – but we’ve made a good beginning.

Tom Ford is managing editor of The Issues Network

In Memoriam


Peacefully, with her family by her side, Agnes passed away on December 14, 2007 at West Park Manor. The daughter of Helmer and Mary Jernberg, Agnes was born in 1918 in Winnipeg, where she lived throughout her life. She married Dave in 1942. Agnes lived a full life filled with family and friends. Of special significance were the relationships that grew from her involvement over the years with Westminster United Church. Donations in Agnes’ memory may be made to The Westminster Foundation.

United Church Observer

Subscriptions to the Observer are now up for renewal. For both new and renewal subscribers there are two ways to go! If you have Internet go to the Observer’s website ( and click on the Subscribe Now section.

If you don’t have Internet or don’t like making purchases there contact Pat Richtik (489-8006) from the Communications Committee and she will gladly take your order.

Website of the Month

Youtube has a a wild range of videos on it. For example this seriously flawed sermon!

Books for Garage Sale

We’re looking for pocket books and fiction and non-fiction in soft cover only. No hard covers. No magazines. No recipe collections. Don’t donate these as we end up having to throw them in the garbage. And we do. A lot of work and no reward for Westminster. If the Salvation Army and/or the Children’s Hospital won’t take your hard covers etc. please put them in recycling yourselves.

The Gospel According To Sodom And Gomorrah
By Ernest Janzen

I am impressed with people who have “negotiated” their way out of a speeding ticket, or “bartered” for an amount below the advertised sale price. To find the origin of said activity, all we need do is hit the big “rewind” button …

We read in Genesis 18:20ff that God decided to act on the outcry against the sin of the original twin-cities (Sodom and Gomorrah), and that God intended to destroy the city in its entirety.

Enter Abraham who challenges God on this decision. Abraham says: “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked ! Far be that from you ! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”.

If the account ended there (which it doesn’t), the punch-value of the story as told thus far is already worthy of a George Dubya Bush “shock and awe” moment. Abraham TELLS God how to act?

And what about the leading questions? More people than would care to admit have committed the sin of saying: you’re not going out wearing THAT tonight are you ? A price has to be paid for questions like that, and Abraham’s volley well-exceeds the realm of fashion. In essence, Abraham chastises God and then “reminds” God of what acts are becoming and which are not. It boggles the mind.

In no other major world religion (excluding Christianity, itself a derivative of Judaism), do we find a principal deity who “speaks with” their creation, never mind one with whom humans can argue, debate, and barter.

Had you not grown up inside the circle (i.e., knowing the story), one would likely be stupefied to discover that Abraham gets God to agree not to nuke the city if 50 righteous can be found there.

But this negotiation spiral is just getting started. Notwithstanding the initial success, Abraham now negotiates for 45 righteous as the cut-off point. God concedes.

And this continues:

Abe: 40? God: sure.
Abe: 30? God: yup.
Abe: 20? God: k.

The expression quit-while-you-are-ahead leaps to mind at this point, but Abraham continues with one last shot over the bow: “Oh do not let the Lord be angry [ya think?] if I speak just once more. Suppose ten are found there.” While it would not be unexpected to witness God hit a breaking point, once again God agrees to this now radically reduced number.

This entire discussion is captured in less than a dozen verses within the Hebrew Bible, but it is legion in terms of its contribution to the then-understanding of who God was, and how humankind could interact with that God. You could negotiate with this God. You could make a deal with this God.

Could you? Or, does this story really reveal more of the then-Jewish perception of who God was? Regardless of whom was created in whose image (from a

“character” point of view), the story of Abraham standing toe-to-toe with God is nothing short of spectacular.

In spite of Abraham’s valiant efforts, the twin-cities are destroyed in Spielbergesque fashion (fire and sulfur rains from heaven). Ouch. Lesson? Perhaps that the negotiations had failed (which they had); or, that Abraham was insubordinate (which he was).

Or perhaps it is the epiphany that this God wears flexibility as part of the divine makeup. And thus, out of the ashes of this caustic story rises the redeeming
notion that the God of impeccably high standards … can also move on the same. Quite frankly, when you have fire and sulfur raining down, it’s always nice to find a silver lining in the clouds.

Welcome to Westminster

Margaret Downie

I was born in Winnipeg and lived in Fort Rouge until a year and a half ago when I moved to the West Broadway area. I am now widowed, but my husband Ron and I were in the original Square Dance group in Winnipeg in the 1950’s. Other interests for me through the years have been participating with the Shoestring Players (drama) and the Ceol Mara Singers, a Gaelic choir. I have four grown sons, now settled in Halifax, Toronto, Winnipeg, and Yukon. As you can imagine, I am frequently on the phone to stay in touch with them. Riverview United Church, whose congregation is presently incorporated into Churchill Park United, was my “home” church and in the 1970’s and 80’s I was secretary there. I have a prior connection with Westminster as I worked in AVEL (Audio Visual Education Library) when its office was in this church’s former manse and then later in Church House at 120 Maryland. Some ministers I still know were just starting out in their first “charges” at the time. I’m happy to be here at Westminster and enjoying the friendship of the congregation.


CJ Avison

I am very happy to be welcomed as a member of Westminster United Church. It seems to me that right from my first Sunday visit I have felt at “home”. I was born in London, England and moved to Winnipeg at age two. Though out my childhood, Winnipeg and the United Church were a part of my family life but I wandered away as a young adult. A change in my life brought me back to Knox United Church in Calgary where I learned to appreciate the wonder of traditional worship and a rich choral experience. On my return to Winnipeg, eight years ago, I began to search for a new church “home”. My journey to this place has led me to some wonderful congregations and I have met many generous and caring United Church folk but I just couldn’t seem to settle in. I believe I have found what I was searching for here at Westminster and I am looking forward to getting to know you and being involved in the life of the congregation. Peace be with you.


Congregation Celebrates Temperance Roots

Grace-Westminster United in Saskatoon, celebrated its 125th anniversary last fall but also participated in events marking the founding of the city 125 years ago. The Methodist church began at the same time Saskatoon was established (1882) by the Temperance Colonization Society, on land granted for that purpose by the Canadian government. Temperance Society representative John Lake chose the site of Saskatoon after meeting with local Dakota Chief Whitecap.

Interfaith visits

In last Sunday’s bulletin there was the following announcement:

Manitoba Interfaith Council and The Faculty of Theology/ University of Winnipeg offers you the opportunity to visit 5 worship centers of different faiths:

Buddhism - Thurs. Jan. 17 6:30 pm
.Hinduism - Thurs. Jan. 31 6:30 pm.
Judaism - Sun. Feb. 17 6:00 pm.
Sikh - Thurs. Feb. 28 6.30 pm.
Islam - Thurs. Mar. 13 6.30 pm.
Panel Discussion: “The Relationship between Faiths” - Thurs. Mar. 27 6.30 pm. U of W. Course Fee $25. For more information contact Tom Collings of The Manitoba Interfaith Council (772-2892) or by email-

There was also an article in the Sunday Winnipeg Free Press Faith page that mentioned a number of ecumenical activities available in the coming weeks.

If any members of the congregation intend to take part in any of this activity I (Roy Halstead-233-1361) would be happy to hear from you about your experiences in worship outside Westminster. I’m not going to ask anyone to write articles for the newsletter but if you’ll talk to me about your visits I may be able to help you share your thoughts with the rest of the congregation.

A Review by Robert Campbell of N. T. Wright’s Simply Christian

As a minister, I’ve always been on the lookout for a book that would function as a timely and accessible introduction to Christianity, a book that I could recommend to someone who has had little background in the church and with the Bible and who would like to know more, or that I could recommend to someone who has lived with all kinds of Christian conversation, teaching, and preaching and would like to have a framework that pulls it all together. N. T. Wright, who is currently the Anglican Bishop of Durham, England, has written such a book in Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense.

Wright tells the Christian story by showing how it addresses longings that all people share. These are described in four chapters in Part One as a hunger for justice in a world put to rights, a hunger
for a spirituality that transcends the bleak landscape of modern secularism and puts us in touch with the Creator, a hunger for community marked by relationships of trust and love, and a hunger for beauty that is true and enduring. Wright interprets these hungers, these longings, as “echoes of a voice” which he believes to be the voice of God. He then sets out to tell the story of God according to the Christian tradition, a story which he believes makes sense of these longings and points to their fulfillment.

In Part Two he unfolds the Christian story that emerges in scripture. Reading his chapter on God, one can understand why the concept, “echoes of a voice”, means so much to him. It arises from his conviction that God is both different from and accessible to us. He rejects two commonly held worldviews about God and earth that he believes lead to dead ends. One is the pantheist view that God’s space and our space are essentially the same—God is everywhere and everywhere is God—a worldview in which an echo of what is other is unneeded. The other is the deist view that God’s space and our space are firmly set apart and a very long way from each other—God certainly wouldn’t be involved in our world beyond having set it in operation—a worldview in which an echo is impossible. Rather, Wright puts forward the view held within classic Judaism and Christianity that while God’s space—heaven—and our space—earth—are not the same, yet they are not impassably apart, but overlap and interlock in different ways, so that God makes God’s presence known, seen, and heard within the sphere of the earth in such actions that might be expected to leave echoes, echoes of a voice. God’s action in Christ would be the richest source of these.

Before coming to the chapter on Jesus, Wright thankfully produces one on Israel. Thus, there is no possibility of detaching the story of Jesus from the story of God’s people over the centuries
that established the context for his coming. Any reader of Wright is bound to gain an appreciation of the Hebrew scriptures of the Old Testament and to turn to them with anticipation.

There are two chapters on Jesus, one focused on his ministry, marked by his proclamation of the kingdom of God, the other focused on the events of the cross and resurrection. For Wright, both are a necessary part of the story. He does not allow a detachment of the saving work of the cross completed in the resurrection from the socially challenging teaching of the kingdom, manifested in parable, miracle, and healings, or vice versa. Each helps explain and define the other and there is no having one without the other.

Wright’s chapters on the Spirit are helpfully concrete. Consider these sentences:

The Spirit is given to begin the work of making God’s future real in the present. That is the first, and perhaps the most important, point to grasp about the work of this strange personal power for which so many images are used. Just as the resurrection of Jesus opened up the unexpected world of God’s new creation, so the Spirit comes to us from

that new world, the world waiting to be born, the word in which, according to the old prophets, peace and justice will flourish and the wolf and lamb will lie down side by side. (p.124)

Having thus located the Spirit within the context of God’s promises and Jesus’ activity, it is not surprising that, when Wright comes to speak of Christian spirituality, he does not confine himself to speaking about experiencing “the intimate presence of God”, though that is part of it, but goes on to show how such spirituality will involve a measure of suffering, for it is built upon the life and work of Jesus and thus shares his suffering for the sake of the creation’s renewal.

Part Three focuses on the community which consciously seeks to hear the echoes of a voice, namely, the church, and contains chapters on the church’s activities—worship, prayer, Bible reading and interpretation—all of which make sense for a people called “to live at the overlap of both heaven and earth—the earth that has yet to be redeemed as one day it will be—and of God’s future and this world’s present.” (p.161)

Throughout his presentation, Wright helps us to see that our role as followers of Christ is to be agents, heralds, and stewards of the new day that is dawning, the one promised in Christ’s resurrection and that will come in fullness, the day when earth and heaven will be one.

Incidentally, Wright is helpful on a number of issues that seem to trouble the church these days. Against those who are always trying to articulate alternative readings of Christ’s resurrection, he provides firm arguments in its defence. Against those scholars who seem to be very suspicious of the early church and who think the real Jesus lies behind and not within the biblical text we have from it, he speaks convincingly of the reliability of the New Testament text. Against those who want to exalt metaphorical over literal readings of the biblical text, he gives several pages to showing how these two terms are often misused, thus leading to interpretive dead ends, and shows a new way forward that would have us reading the Bible the way first-century Jews and Christians might have.

Tom Wright is both a biblical scholar of the first rank and a pastor and preacher who faces parishioners from a pulpit on Sundays. This book combines both his theological and communicative strengths. The language is tailored to the ordinary person who is prepared to do a bit of thinking.

Simply Christian will reward anyone, either curious about the faith or anxious to understand it more deeply, who makes the effort to read it. It was published in 2006 by Harper San Francisco and can be purchased at McNally Robinson’s or at Hull’s or on the internet from your favourite provider.

In Memoriam


Born in Winnipeg, Nov. 23, 1921. Died Sunday, Jan. 13, 2008. He grew up and received all his education in Winnipeg. On Dec.19, 1942 he married Marguerite (Bonnie) (also “Sam”) Cameron. Together they had three children, Georgine, Ian and Allan. Also in 1942 he joined the Canadian Navy and served on Atlantic convoy duty till the end of the war in 1945. Over the years he was employed by Winnipeg Hydro, Purity Flour and, finally, worked on the Marketing staff of Shell Oil.

Murray joined Westminster Church in 1948 ( Bonnie in 1936) and together and individually were very active in the congregation especially in the Couples Club serving, jointly, as President in 1953. Murray served as an elder on the Session and as a member of the Official board. He represented Westminster on Presbytery for 25 years. He was also on the Board of Directors at Fred Douglas Lodge (Acting as President from ’79 to ’83) and on the Board of the Manitoba Health Organization furthering his work with seniors in Manitoba.

Perhaps his greatest love was with the AOTS (As One That Serves) since its inception in Manitoba in 1947. In 1979 he was selected by the National Council of The United Church AOTS Men’s Clubs to receive a life membership award, an honor he greatly cherished. People in Westminster will remember how he would organize groups of men to head over to the Municipal Hospitals, early Sunday mornings, to wheel patients in wheel chairs to the church services there.

On Dec. 19 of last year Murray and Bonnie celebrated their 65th Wedding Anniversary at a supper with friends and family at Fred Douglas where Bonnie is a resident.

Westminster Calendar

Sunday, Jan. 20: Fellowship Luncheon
Sunday, Feb. 3: Sacrament of Communion
Sunday, Feb. 17: Fellowship Luncheon
Sunday, Feb. 24: Organ Concert with Olivier Vernet (2:30 PM)
Sunday, Mar. 2: Guest Preacher, Sherri McConnell
Mar. 2 to 16: Winnipeg Music Festival Competions in The Sanctuary
Sunday, Mar. 9: Annual General Meeting
Sunday, Mar. 16: Fellowship Lunch
Thursday, Mar. 20: Maundy
Thursday Potluck Supper at 6:00 PM and Communion
Service at 7:30 PM
Friday, Mar. 21: Good Friday
Sunday, Mar. 23: Easter Sunday
Sunday, Mar. 30: Adult Baptism and Confirmation
Sunday, Apr. 6: Sacrament of Communion.
Sunday, Apr. 6: Organ Concert (Duo Majora) - 8:00 PM
Apr. 20: Fellowship Luncheon
Monday, Apr. 21: Westminster Dessert Bridge at 12:00 Noon
Saturday, Apr. 26:Westminster Garage Sale from 9:00 to 2:00

Information concerning Church Board and Committee meeting times: Check the Happenings page at

For the Archives...

This is the last Christmas (2007) that the front of the sanctuary will look like this. This summer, renovation. Next Christmas (2008) a new look.


Christmas Sale

Many thanks to the adults who helped to make this year’s edition a success!



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