Author Archives: NativityNiagara

Sunday Prayers – May 16, 2021

This week we will keep the Feast of the Ascension. Our Sunday Prayers will be live-streamed to the parish Facebook page. Our director of music will play from about 9:15, and the service will begin at 9:30.

The order of service is available here.

The Chapel of the Ascension, in Jerusalem.

Here’s what Sundays and Seasons has to say about the readings for this week:
In today’s readings the risen Christ ascends into heaven and his followers are assured that the Spirit will empower them to be witnesses throughout the earth. The disciples are told to not gaze up into heaven to look for Jesus (Acts 1:11); we find his presence among us as we proclaim the word and share the Easter feast. We too long for the Spirit to enliven our faith and invigorate our mission.

This rock, inside the Chapel of the Ascension in Jerusalem, is said to bear the imprint of the final footstep of Jesus as he ascended.

Sunday Prayers – May 9, 2021

Join Canon Matthew, Linda, Peter, and folk connecting online for Sunday Prayers, live-streamed on the parish Facebook page at 9:30 am on May 9th!

(You don’t need to be a Facebook user to stream the video live, or to watch it sometime later.)

Peter will play music for ten to fifteen minutes beforehand, to set the mood for prayer.

The order of service is available here.

In the first reading, we’ll hear about how the Holy Spirit gets impatient with long sermons, and the gospel continues on from last week when Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches.” Here’s what Sundays and Seasons writes about the gospel:

A group of six people of various backgrounds hold hands in a circle.

This Sunday’s image of the life the risen Christ shares with us is the image of friendship. We are called to serve others as Jesus came to serve; but for John’s gospel, the image of servanthood is too hierarchical, too distant, to capture the essence of life with Christ. Friendship captures the love, the joy, the deep mutuality of the relationship into which Christ invites us. The Greeks believed that true friends are willing to die for each other. This is the mutual love of Christian community commanded by Christ and enabled by the Spirit.

Many folk around the world observe this Sunday as Mother’s Day. That can be deeply meaningful for some. It’s also deeply hard for others, and our prayers on Sunday acknowledge both the highs and the lows:

Gracious God, as a mother comforts her child, you comfort us. Bless mothers and mothering people in our lives. Comfort those who miss their mothers, mothers who grieve, those who grieve because they cannot be mothers, and those who have never known a loving mother.

You might be interested to learn that the idea of Mother’s Day didn’t start out as the Hallmark event it has become! In the 1850s, Ann Jarvis and women in West Virginia started Mother’s Day Work Clubs that served mothers who were ill or living in poverty, and their children. One summary by Carol Howard Merritt describes its focus as “hydrating babies, ensuring sanitation, and building hospitals.” During the Civil War, the groups cared for wounded soldiers from the armies of both the United States (North) and the Confederated States (South). Mother’s Friendship Day Picnics began after the war to attempt to forge peace between Union and Confederate loyalists.

To learn more about the history of Mother’s Day in North America, check out this article by Grace Donnelly and Alex Scimecca. For a great overview, visit this page from the United Methodist Women — who are proud to claim Ann Jarvis as one of their own!

Sunday Prayers – May 2, 2021

Join Canon Matthew, Peter, Arlene, and folk connecting online for our Sunday Prayers, live-streamed on the parish Facebook page at 9:30 on May 2nd! (You do not need to have a Facebook page to stream the video live or at a later time.)

While the service begins at 9:30, our director of music will be playing for ten to fifteen minutes beforehand to help us prepare to enter into prayer. The order of service to help you participate fully can be found here on our website.

Here’s how Sundays and Seasons describes the readings for this week:

Jesus speaks with two people in front of grape vines in fruit
from Sundays and Seasons

This Sunday’s image of how the risen Christ shares his life with us is the image of the vine. Christ the vine and we the branches are alive in each other, in the mystery of mutual abiding described in the gospel and the first letter of John. Baptism makes us a part of Christ’s living and life-giving self and makes us alive with Christ’s life. As the vine brings food to the branches, Christ feeds us at his table. We are sent out to bear fruit for the life of the world.

Sunday Prayers – 25 April 2021

A painting from the Mafa Community - Jesus leads sheep, carrying one on his shoulders.

Good Shepherd Sunday!

This coming Sunday is the Fourth Sunday of Easter. It’s often called Good Shepherd Sunday, because the gospel which is proclaimed always comes from the tenth chapter of John’s gospel–Jesus talking about how he is the Good Shepherd.

Our Sunday Prayers will be live-streamed to our Facebook page, beginning at 9:30 am. (There will be a few minutes of music beforehand, to help us prepare for prayer.) You don’t need to have a Facebook account to watch the service.

Join in from home or wherever life finds you! The order of service is available here, to enable everyone to participate.

The image of the good shepherd shows us how the risen Christ brings us to life. It is the relationship between the shepherd and the sheep, one of mutual knowledge and love, that gives the shepherd authority. The shepherd’s willingness to lay down his life for the sheep shows his love.

Sundays and Seasons

[Information for the image used above. JESUS MAFA. The good shepherd, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48288 [retrieved April 20, 2021]. Original source: http://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr (contact page: https://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr/contact). Used under Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial ShareAlike 3.0 License.]

Second Sunday of Easter – 11 April 2021

Sunday Prayers will be live-streamed to Facebook. The service will begin at 9:30, after some music from our organist, Peter. You do not need to be a member of Facebook to see the live-stream–just click on the link!

The order of service is available here, allowing you to follow along from home.

Easter II has sometimes been called “Low Sunday”–a time when many relax after the busy-ness of Holy Week, and when some folk attend the Church of the Holy Mattress. The truth is, it’s a pretty fabulous Sunday! It marks the end of the Easter Octave (the eight days comprising the first week of Easter, and a celebration of God’s re-creating work in the resurrection). On this Sunday we always hear about Jesus appearing to the disciples, re-gathered in the upper room on the evening of the Day of Resurrection, about the gift of the Holy Spirit, and of Thomas both doubting and believing.

Here’s what Sundays and Seasons has to say about the Second Sunday of Easter.

The apostle Thomas sees the wounds in Jesus's hands.The Easter season is a week of weeks, seven Sundays when we play in the mystery of Christ’s presence, mostly through the glorious Gospel of John. Today we gather with the disciples on the first Easter, and Jesus breathes the Spirit on us. With Thomas we ask for a sign, and Jesus offers us his wounded self in the broken bread. From frightened individuals we are transformed into a community of open doors, peace, forgiveness, and material sharing such that no one among us is in need.

Easter Day Prayers

Sunday Prayers on Easter Day, April 4th, will be live-streamed to Facebook. After some music, the service will begin at 9:30 am.

The order of service to help you participate can be found here. You may wish to have a small dish of water with you for the service.

The Aedicule (the tomb of Christ) at the Church of teh Holy Sepulchre, JerusalemThe Great Three Days come to their conclusion: we ring bells and sing alleluias as we listen to the women coming to the tomb and finding it empty. Alleluia, alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia, alleluia!

Sunday of the Palms and the Passion – 28 March 2021

Sunday Prayers will be live-streamed to our Facebook page. The service will begin at 9:30, with music played beforehand.

The order of service is available here.

If you received an Easter letter in the mail this week, you’ll have received a palm cross; we invite you to have it with you during the service.

Here’s what Sundays and Seasons has to say about this day that begins Holy Week.

This week, the centre of the church’s year, is one of striking contrasts: Jesus rides into Jerusalem surrounded by shouts of glory, only to be left alone to die on the cross, abandoned by even his closest friends. Mark’s gospel presents Jesus in his complete human vulnerability: agitated, grieved, scared, forsaken. Though we lament Christ’s suffering and all human suffering, we also expect God’s salvation: in the wine and bread, Jesus promises that his death will mark a new covenant with all people. We enter this holy week thirsty for the completion of God’s astonishing work.

An empty cross is in front of four palm branches.Holy Week is the centre of the Christian year. It’s deeply moving to participate not just in Passion Sunday and Easter Day, but in the whole rhythm of the week. This year, participating is easier than ever! Join Bishop Susan on the evening of Maundy Thursday (6 pm live-stream to Facebook, and posted slightly later to YouTube) and the morning of Good Friday (10 am live-stream to Facebook, and posted slightly later to YouTube) to make this Easter experience even more meaningful.

Sunday Prayers -21 March 2021

Sunday Prayers will be live-streamed to our parish Facebook page beginning at 9:30am on Sunday, 21 March 2021. Music will be offered for a time of quiet preparation for a few minutes beforehand. You don’t need to be a member of Facebook to watch the service!

The order of service so that you can fully participate is available here.

Here’s what Sundays and Seasons has to say about the fifth Sunday in Lent this year:

God promises Jeremiah that a “new covenant” will be made in the future: a covenant that will allow all the people to know God by heart. The church sees this promise fulfilled in Christ, who draws all people to himself when he is lifted up on the cross. Our baptismal covenant draws us to God’s heart through Christ and draws God’s love and truth into our hearts. We join together in worship, sharing in word, song, and meal, and leave strengthened to share God’s love with all the world.

A bible sits on the altar in the Nativity's Chapel of the Holy Family; its middle pages are turned inward to look like a heart.

Sunday Prayers – 14 March – Mothering Sunday

Our weekly service of Sunday Prayers will be live-streamed to Facebook at 9:30. You don’t need to have a Facebook account to watch and pray along!

Our Director of Music will offer music for individual prayer and preparation, and the service will begin at 9:30. You can find the order of service here to participate fully.

a field of pink roses

This coming Sunday is the Fourth Sunday in Lent. It’s the midway point, and has a couple of different names. One of the oldest is Laetare Sunday. The Eucharist began each week with an introit–a couple of verses from scripture. Laetare is the Latin word for “rejoice” that was the beginning of the introit for this Sunday, and so it came to be seen as a day off from the Lenten fast. In some places, the clergy would wear rose-coloured vestments, so it’s also sometimes called Rose Sunday.

The words "Mothering Sunday" in pink script to the left of pink-purple tulips.

Another name for this day is Mothering Sunday. In the 1600s and following, people would go “mothering” on the fourth Sunday in Lent: they’d make a special trip to services at the parish where they were baptized, or to the Cathedral as the mother-church of the diocese they lived in. Later, it became a day off for all servants to go to church with their mothers.

Mothering Sunday grew in popularity in the twentieth century, probably due in large part to a reaction against the new-fangled American “Mothers’ Day” in May. Constance Adelaide Smith worked tirelessly to encourage Mothering Sunday. In 1913, she published a play called In Praise of Mother: A story of Mothering Sunday. Her 1915 book A Short History of Mothering Sunday was published with multiple editions!

Smith’s most influential work was a booklet called The Revival of Mothering Sunday, published in 1921. She was a high-church Anglican, perhaps from her early days; her father was a priest, and all four of her brothers became priests! That Anglo-Catholic viewpoint shows through her writing. Mothering Sunday was a day to honour:

  • Mother Church
  • ‘mothers of earthly homes’
  • Mary, mother of Jesus
  • Mother Nature

It’s a day meant to be about more than child-rearing. By the time Smith died in 1938, Mothering Sunday was observed in every parish in Britain and in every country of the Commonwealth.

Canadian Mothers' Union logo: Mothers' Union (with the /o/ in Union a globe), with the words "Christian care for families" beneath.


There’s a natural alignment with this day and the Mothers’ Union, an international charity founded in 1876 by Mary Sumner. When her first grandchild was born, she remembered the difficulties she’d had when her first child was born. She founded the Mothers’ Union as an organization where mothers of all socio-economic statuses could provide support for one another and be ‘trained in motherhood’–which Sumner saw as a true and important vocation.

The Mothers’ Union has grown in its focus and membership over the years! No longer limited to mothers, it includes people of all genders who share a vision of “a world where everyone prospers. We actively pursue this vision through prayer and action, helping to build confident people and resilient communities. Our movement seeks to bring about justice, challenge prejudice and advocate change.”

You can learn more about the Mothers’ Union on their website.

A simnel cake, cut in half.

There are lots of traditions associated with Mothering Sunday. One is the tasty sharing of Simnel Cake, a traditional light fruit cake (quite different from the Christmas version!). If you want to try making it, here’s Nigella Lawson’s recipe.

A holy card image of St. Anselm

The best reason for continuing to keep Mothering Sunday, though, isn’t about food or flowers. Rather, it’s a celebration of the loving care God has for us in Jesus. There’s a lovely prayer from St. Anselm (the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 to 1109) that reminds us that God–and God in Jesus Christ!–is like a mother:

Jesus, like a mother you gather your people to you; ♦
you are gentle with us as a mother with her children.
Often you weep over our sins and our pride, ♦
tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgement.
You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds, ♦
in sickness you nurse us, and with pure milk you feed us.
Jesus, by your dying we are born to new life; ♦
by your anguish and labour we come forth in joy.
Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness; ♦
through your gentleness we find comfort in fear.
Your warmth gives life to the dead, ♦
your touch makes sinners righteous.
Lord Jesus, in your mercy heal us; ♦
in your love and tenderness remake us.
In your compassion bring grace and forgiveness, ♦
for the beauty of heaven may your love prepare us.

A Song of Anselm

Every blessing on Mothering Sunday!

Moses lifts a staff with a serpent on it, that the Israelites might live. (Numbers 21)

Here at the Nativity, the readings we will hear remind us of these truths in a slightly different way. Here’s what Sundays and Seasons says about the passages we’ll proclaim.

The fourth of the Old Testament promises providing a baptismal lens this Lent is the promise God makes to Moses: those who look on the bronze serpent will live. In today’s gospel Jesus says he will be lifted up on the cross like the serpent, so that those who look to him in faith will live. When we receive the sign of the cross in baptism, that cross becomes the sign we can look to in faith for healing, for restored relationship to God, for hope when we are dying.

Sunday Prayers on March 7th

Sunday Prayers will be live-streamed to our Facebook page. There will be music beforehand, and the service will begin at 9:30. You can find the order of service here. (You can still watch the service even if you don’t have a Facebook account!)

Through the season of Lent this year, we hear covenant stories each week. Two weeks ago we heard the story of Noah; last week, we heard Abraham and Sarah. This Sunday we’ll hear about the giving of the law to the Israelites (Exodus 20), and the gospel passage is the story of Jesus driving the merchants out of the outer court of the temple (John 2.13 and following).

We often use images that have been shared under a Creative Commons License as the cover for our order of services when we’re able to gather in person. Here’s an image from the Jesus MAFA project, entitled Jesus drives out the merchants.

Jesus drives out the merchants – John 2:13-16

JESUS MAFA. Jesus drives out the merchants, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48271 [retrieved March 2, 2021]. Original source: http://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr (contact page: https://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr/contact). Used under the Creative Commons NonCommercial ShareAlike 3.0 license.

Here’s what Sundays and Seasons offers as an introduction to this week’s readings:

The third covenant in this year’s Lenten readings is the central one of Israel’s history: the gift of the law to those God freed from slavery. The commandments begin with the statement that because God alone has freed us from the powers that oppressed us, we are to let nothing else claim first place in our lives. When Jesus throws the merchants out of the temple, he is defending the worship of God alone and rejecting the ways commerce and profit-making can become our gods. The Ten Commandments are essential to our baptismal call: centered first in God’s liberating love, we strive to live out justice and mercy in our communities and the world.