another way to show love.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Do you love this day, tolerate it, or fall somewhere in between?

In elementary school, we handed out Valentine’s Day cards, had awkward dances in the gym, and ate a lot of those cinnamon hearts and Hershey’s Kisses. As an adult, I see a lot of expensive flower arrangements at the grocery store, hear jewelry commercials playing on the radio, and still eat one (or five) too many chocolates. But rather than buying something and instead of just focusing on romantic relationships, there’s another way to show love this Valentine’s Day.

Since February 14 falls on a Thursday, it coincides with the World Council of Churches (WCC)’ weekly, global campaign - Thursdays in Black. This campaign acknowledges that love and relationships for far too many people are marred by violence, coercion, and oppression. Individuals can participate in the call to end rape and violence by wearing all black on Thursday, posting a pic with #ThursdaysinBlack and tagging Women's Inter-Church Council of Canada and Fellowship of the Least Coin (two ecumenical, women’s organizations working towards peace, justice, and reconciliation for women and girls around the world) on social media.

This is one of the most loving things we can do for vulnerable people of all genders and the generations to come - create a world without rape and violence. 

Show some love.

- Pastor Awit

on Sabbatical.

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Originally published in September 2018

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After 7 months of working with a church consultant on sustainability and two congregational meetings, Sugarbush members decided to take a leap of faith. We’re mindful and grateful for the resources (human and financial) that we have as a church and as part of a bigger Disciples family, our energy levels as a small congregation, and our individual need to take a breather. So, to be good stewards of all that we have we’ve decided to put our weekly worship on hold from September - December 2018 to reflect on church, faith, and what they mean in our lives.

We’ll continue to host Dinner Church on the second Wednesday of every month at The Church of the Apostles. We’ll continue to meet with our friends and family from church. We’ll continue to plan and invite others to coffee/tea, movie nights, and discussions. We’ll continue to volunteer and be active in our community.

All of us (members and pastor) are encouraged to reflect, pray, and actively explore our faith, spirituality, and community during these next few months. We’re praying more or praying more regularly, we’re getting outdoors, reconnecting with friends and family, learning a new skill or craft, going to other churches and places of worship (yes, that’s ok!), and learning about God through Christian and other faiths’ spiritual practices (that’s ok, too!).

We’ll be coming back for a family-style Christmas Eve service in late December. We’ll update everyone on our Facebook page, through our e-newsletter, and right here on the website!

It’s funny/ironic/uncanny that it’s Sugarbush’s 7th year and it’s this year that we’ve decided to take some time for discernment, prayer, and visioning. In scripture, the 7th year is a sabbatical, a sabbath, a time of rest.

For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the wild animals may eat. You shall do the same with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.

- Exodus 23:10-11, NRSV

Our intention is to take quality time for ourselves and for our faith, not just what’s leftover at the end of a busy day or week or month. May we do this in the parts of our lives that need it most and our life as a whole. May we be rested and refreshed. And may we find our centre and our Source.

Until we see each other next, peace be with you.

- Pastor Awit & the Core Team

this Advent, part 2.

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Yesterday was the first Sunday in Advent. I seem to only blog during this season! Anyways, I’m writing to you from my messy desk in Toronto. I have final papers to write for my (hopefully) last year of seminary and Christmas plans to make for our church. Outside my window, the air is warm but soon there'll be snow covering the streets. What's on your desk or kitchen table? What does it look like in your corner of the world?

This time of year can be stressful and joyful. Some people are preparing for exams at school or for Christmas concerts at church. Some are working long hours and are excited to spend their time off with family. Some are looking forward to holiday dinners and gift-giving. Yet, we know that there are countless people in our own country and in countries all over the world who don't have these same stresses and joys.

We know that some people have never stepped inside of a classroom or had to quit school at an early age because of their gender or because their families are unable to pay school fees. We know that some aren't welcome in churches or faith communities because of their ability, gender identity, or sexual orientation. We know that some people (mostly women and girls) are paid too little or not at all for their work in and outside of the home. We know that some are forced to work in different countries and in precarious situations in order to provide for their families or they don't feel safe around family members. We also know that some people (too many) are without a home and enough food to eat. For all of these people, what is the good news of our faith?

This Christmas, I pray that God will speak to you like the angel spoke to the shepherds. I pray that you will make room for families who have been told that there is no room for them. I pray that you will care for people who find themselves in uncertain situations and without the basic necessities of life. I pray that YOU will live out the good news with your words and actions, so that there will be more hope, peace, joy, and love in every corner of our world.

- Pastor Awit

P.S. this is an inspiring story of a church and pastors all over a country coming together to support a refugee family through an 800-hour, ongoing worship service.

#21stCenturyChristmasStory #TodaysGospel

this Advent.

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In Advent, on our journey to Christmas, many churches around the world focus on themes of hope, peace, joy, and love. Last week we reflected on hope - how it means that we don't hope against hope or hope without hope, but that it means actually expecting God to work in our lives, it means that we expect to see, hear, taste, smell, and touch God in our ordinary lives, through people, experiences, and even in our challenges. That's a long sentence, but that's what we were asked to reflect on and hope for.

This week, we focused on peace. Whenever we think of peace, we often, automatically, think of its opposite - conflict, violence and war or the threat of these things. Sometimes it's hard to think of peace when in some places peace is so thin, so translucent, or it just doesn't seem to exist.

Is there peace in our own lives? Is there peace in our families, in our friendships, in our workplaces, and in our church? Sadly, not always. This holiday season can be very difficult and even terrible for some because they've lost loved ones, they're separated from their partners and families, or they're in conflict with others and they won't talk to one another. We might have peace in one part of our lives and have it lacking in other parts. 

Is there peace in our world? In the US, people who left their home countries due to economic instability, violence, and wars that the US and other foreign powers helped to create, people who have lived, worked, and paid their taxes for decades, these people are now being sent back to these unsafe and violent places and families are being torn apart. In the US, we also heard the news that the President officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and will be moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This city that Jews, Christians, and Muslims revere as holy, and whose ownership has always been contested has now been recognized by the US as Israel's. With Palestine already occupied and more land taken away each year, this announcement doesn't make for peace and can actually incite more hostility and more violence.

In Libya we hear of a slave trade, migrants from different parts of Africa making their way to Europe for opportunities and safety, but getting stuck in Libya, and then exploited and sold into slavery for under the cost of a smart phone. In Syria some civilians that have been displaced for months and years have started to return to their communities and homes, only to be terrorized by unseen landmines and other devices. In Myanmar, the Rohingyas have been persecuted, raped, tortured, and forced to flee to neighbouring countries. Hundreds of thousands of them have made dangerous journeys by foot and on boats, only to be turned away or sent to camps without basic necessities. In the Philippines, the war on drugs has led to thousands of extrajudicial killings of drug dealers and users, and alleged drug dealers and users. Every night there is a killing in the street.

In so many places, there is no peace. 

We don't always have peace in our personal lives or in the world. But we have a taste of this peace at the Table. Jesus gave his whole life to form a new covenant between God and all people. So when we come to this Table, reflecting on the things that make for peace in our lives, the lives of people around us and in the world - things that we haven't done or haven't done enough of - we can still be assured that we are accepted and loved by God. At Jesus' invitation, all are welcome to this Table of peace. And after we leave this Table and leave the four walls of our church, let's pray and work for real peace in our lives and in God's beautiful and fragmented world.

- Pastor Awit

P.S. there is peace in the world and there can be more of it! Here are some inspiring stories of peace-making:

* Australia legalizes same sex marriage (video)

* American Christians are arrested for reading #2000verses on poverty and justice in the US Senate Office to oppose the Republican's Tax Bill (video)

* American university students "swipe out hunger" by donating unused swipes so that their classmates can have a meal (website w/video)

our Stand.

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Dear Sugarbush family and friends,

I hope that you're doing well.

On our last Saturday worship service before our month long break, we talked about leadership and service. We were encouraged to dig deep, to challenge ourselves by serving in a new area or to commit to continuing to serve in a ministry. That Saturday we were asked to be leaders in this church.

But while we think about our own community of faith and the things that we need to do to keep it running and welcoming, we also need to think about how we can be leaders in the wider community and how we can show "Divine Love-lived" through our words, actions, and lives.

The white supremacist/white nationalist/neo-confederate/neo-nazi protests,the anti-racist/anti-fascist counter-protests, violence and fatalities in Charlottesville, Virginia and the hate-speech graffiti on a multicultural church right here in Guelph show that there is hate, fear, and oppression in so many places, both above and right below the surface. But like Rev William Barber said last year, “...there are some issues that are not Left versus Right, Liberal versus Conservative, they are 'right versus wrong.'"

Unfortunately, too many church leaders have either excused these protests and the violence that it incites as free speech or have simply been silent on this issue. But silence is complicity and we cannot be silent on this issue. Our church is anti-racist and pro-reconciling. Our church believes that all are welcome to the table. So, in loud, clear, and unequivocal terms this is our stand:

Racism is sin. White supremacy is sin. Neo-Nazism and "Alt-Right"ism is sin. Hate speech is sin. Intentionally driving a car into a crowd of people is sin. 

Paul wrote the words "do not grow weary of doing what is good" to the Galatians (6:9) and this might speak to a lot of us right now who are weary. But know that if this is how we feel, there are those who are more weary and we cannot burden them with dismantling this hate, fear, and oppression alone.

So, let's pray together for the victims of this hate, fear, and oppression, for those who died and were injured, for advocates of peace and justice, and for all of us ordinary people. 

Let's pray...and then let's do something in response to this prayer! Let's read about what's happening in our communities and in other communities, what's happening to other people even if, and especially if, it doesn't directly affect us. Let's volunteer and/or donate to a local solidarity, anti-hate group. Let's stand up for one another. Let's raise our voices against white supremacy. Let's hold ourselves, our family and friends accountable for the racist things they say and do. And let's do all of this together out of love for God and all of our neighbours.

This is not just something that we should do because it's nice, it's what's required of us as people of faith: "to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God" (Micah 6:8).

Below, I've included a few articles to read regarding the Charlottesville riots, nazism, and the hate crime in Guelph.

Thank you for your time, prayers, and leadership in this community!

- Pastor Awit

5 things you should know about Sugarbush.

5 things you should know about Sugarbush.

We have a lot of folks asking who we are, who the Disciples are, what we are up to, what makes us different and a host of other things (all great questions!).  So I thought I would take a minute to think deeply about what the answers to some of those questions might be.