Due to copyright limitations, we are unable to print the words to the songs.  However, our musicians have chosen music to fit the scriptures.  We invite you to look up the words in your worship book and ponder them.  If you do not have a worship book, ponder the words to one of your favourite hymns and listen for God’s voice. Those who have internet may find the songs on YouTube.

Our liturgy today has been partially taken from the service, The International Decade for People of African Descent A Service of Word and Sacrament.

A reminder that Ash Wednesday is this coming Wednesday, February 17th.  There will be a service done up in print and video.  If you would like to burn a piece of paper and impose the ashes on your forehead at the appropriate time in the service, please feel free to do so.  If you do not wish to use ashes, just make the sign of the cross on your forehead.


“If I could have convinced more slaves that they were slaves, I could have freed thousands more.”
Harriet Tubman



Raphael’s painting of the transfiguration juxtaposes the glory of Christ on the mountaintop with a scene of chaos below. Immediately following today’s story, Jesus and his disciples descend the mount only to find the rest of the disciples in the midst of a mess. A man has come to them seeking their help with his possessed son, but they have been unable to do anything. Contrasting these two scenes, we are reminded that “mountaintop experiences” are often followed by a return to the confusion and failures we face in our everyday lives as Christians. Moments when the disciples seem to finally understand Christ’s identity come side by side with others showing they still have much to learn. The season of Lent continues this journey that is often two steps forward, one step back. Yet, Christ leads the way for us with patience, courage, and hope.



God is our refuge and home.

God is our strength and center.

God is a very present help.

God has always been and always will be, our very present help.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth has changed; though the world has changed; though our lives have been shaped by history out of our control and by present realities that threaten us.

There is a river whose streams make glad, the diaspora of God. God is in her midst. They shall not be moved. God will be present to help wherever morning dawns.

CHILDREN’S SONG   WOV 651  Shine, Jesus, Shine


Loving God, today in our worship we recognize people of African Descent and lament anti-Black racism and violence.  We pray that the Spirit will reorient us: challenging us to live by grace rather than entitlement;      expecting us to be a blessing to the earth.  We pray that by acknowledging our brokenness, we will be closer to becoming a church where the good news is lived out:  faith nurtured and hearts comforted, gifts shared for the good of all, resistance to the forces that exploit and marginalize, fierce love in the face of violence, human dignity defended, members of a community held and inspired by God.  Through the living out of our faith, may we witness to your love and grace.


We are not alone; we live in God’s world.

We believe in God:  who has created and is creating, who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh, to reconcile and make new, who works in us and others by the Spirit.

We trust in God.

We are called to be the Church:  to celebrate God’s presence, to live with respect in Creation, to love and serve others, to seek justice and resist evil, to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen, our judge and our hope.

In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us.  We are not alone.  Thanks be to God.


     When I began my parish ministry in Saskatchewan, I was given a handmade quilt.  It had flannel on the back so that it would not slide off my bed.  The pattern was called “Around The World”.   

     The quilt was made by two senior women in the congregation.  It is very heavy and very warm!  In the history of that congregation there had been women’s quilting groups.  In my memory, pretty much all the quilting I had seen in my life was done by women.  However,…

     There is a period in history when the Black peoples of Africa were captured by white people and forced to come to North America as slaves on slaving ships.  These people did not have a written language.  They taught their history by sharing their stories with their families and communities.  They taught their children their history and then those children told their children.  Nothing was written down, yet people remembered the stories in great detail.  One of those stories is about quilting. 

     The tradition is taught that it was the male slaves who were mostly responsible for creating quilts.  It is told that some of the quilts had secret codes sewn into the design to help runaway slaves find safe houses. While there are those who say it isn’t true, many of the Black people state that since their tradition was by word of mouth, there is no way to prove that story isn’t true.

     What is important is that these stories were shared and, even more important, remembered!

     We give thanks that quilts are no longer needed to guide black slaves to freedom.  Sadly, this does not mean that slavery no longer exists.  It definitely does exist, and it is the constant struggle of many in the world to put an end to every form of slavery. 

     Today, quilts are made not only to decorate a bed and keep people warm, they are designed to tell the stories of those who are modern day slaves.  They are made to make certain people remember the suffering of Black slaves in the past and remind us that, as followers of Jesus, we have a responsibility to our neighbours, wherever they may be, to make certain no one is put into slavery ever again. 

     Jesus, teach us to respect all people.  Give us courage to stand up to any who would put another in bondage, and the strength to enforce the laws that help all people to remain free.  Amen.



Sharing stories of life, faith, and ministry in the United Church and beyond.

Rev. Dr. Paul Douglas Walfall reflects on the truths unmasked by 2020 and hopes what we have seen will bring change in 2021.

I recently read a Facebook post from a colleague in which he stated his opposition to the description of “unprecedented” used for the year 2020. I agree with much of what he said, if for no other reason than the description has been overused and, for the sake of effective variety in communication, there must be other words which we can use. Yet to be sure, this year will be long remembered for many things, and sadly some of those things are not positive.

For me I will describe 2020 as the year that “unmasked issues while making it necessary for us to wear masks.” There is an implicit contradiction as I reflect on this year, a contradiction that offers us lessons to learn if we are willing to learn them. The writer of the letter of James offers to his readers a similar challenge, But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, ongoing away, immediately forget what they were like.” (James 1: 22-24, NRSV). My fear is that 2020 will be remembered primarily about the negatives of the COVID-19 pandemic and we will forget the many necessary lessons that were offered through the year. As members of the church, we are called to be doers of the word, and so live the lessons learned.

I described 2020 as having an implicit contradiction. This was the year when we were required to wear masks for our health’s sake. Indeed, in almost all public places wearing masks was required. Masks were required not simply for our own sake, but more so for the health and wellbeing of those around us. Even with the rolling out of the various vaccines, the requirement to wear masks will continue with us well into 2021.

At the same time 2020 unmasked several social issues. By unmask, I wish to note that these issues were always there; they were just revealed in 2020. It seemed that in some cases we lived with these issues and they seemed normative, as we tolerated them by simply saying nothing. In the interest of time let me highlight just two of these.

The first one is the care of the senior members of our society. Unfortunately, among those hardest affected by the COVID-19 virus has been the elderly and those who live in senior care facilities. The pandemic revealed several issues about the provisions society makes to care for the elderly.  In many cases, the effective care of persons has become an issue of economics and wealth. The news that has emanated from some senior care facilities has caused deep concern for many of us. What is of further concern is that these issues have existed well before 2020 began.

The concern for me is what now? Now that we know there are serious concerns about the care of our elderly, what will be done? Will it become another news item that causes outrage, so long as it makes headline news, or will it lead to changes being made? The prophetic and pastoral voice of the church cannot be caught up in the media hype about this situation. Ours must be a voice that constantly demands change until change is made. Ours must be the voice that is willing to work with government and other agencies towards the change that is needed. What has been unmasked remains unmasked, yet it is too easy, as the letter of James says, to turn away and forget what has been revealed.

The year 2020 will also be known for the outrage caused by issues of racism in our society. The death of George Floyd was among those issues which unmasked the reality of systemic racism in United States and Canada. Many were deeply outraged and demands for change arose in Canada, and elsewhere, as calls were made for anti-racism measures to be put in place. The voices were loud, the emotions poured out were real, and the discussions were meaningful.

It was interesting to hear the debate about whether there was systemic racism in Canada and in some institutions of our country. Some of our leaders were loud in their insistence that systemic racism is not part of the Canadian landscape, and others were willing to acknowledge the reality. Still, some kept silent, and their silence spoke volumes.

When the issue was headline news it was the topic of the day. Now that it is not headline news one could be fooled into believing the issues have been resolved. But they have not, and at least here in Alberta at the time of writing this, we have had three cases of racism-based violence reported by the news media. Now that this issue has been unmasked, what are we doing about it?

For institutions like The United Church of Canada, work is being done to develop an anti-racism strategy that will guide the work of the church. Yes, this is taking time, but I can assure you work is being done. But I wonder about the rest of society? I wonder too about those who vehemently deny the existence of racism in their province or institution? Will we need another major event to unmask this issue? And at what cost to human life will that unmasking involve? Here also, is it that we have forgotten what we have seen?

So, I look forward to 2021, in large part because I am eager to see what we have really learned coming out of the issues of 2020. For some 2020 may have been the “un-year.” But for me, it will be the year we were required to wear masks even as several issues were unmasked. May 2021 find us being doers and not simply hearers.

            —Rev. Dr. Paul Douglas Walfall is the ministry personnel in the Fort Saskatchewan Pastoral Charge in Northern Spirit Regional Council.



Almighty God, the resplendent light of your truth shines from the mountaintop into our hearts. Transfigure us by your beloved Son, and illumine the world with your image, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Readings and Psalm

First Reading: 2 Kings 2:1-12

Today’s reading centers on the transfer of power and authority from the prophet Elijah to Elisha. Their travels, which retrace the path of Joshua back to Moab (the place where Moses died) and the parting of the waters, demonstrate that Elisha and Elijah are legitimate successors of the great prophet Moses.

      1Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. 3The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” And he said, “Yes, I know; keep silent.”
  4Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here; for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. 5The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be silent.”
  6Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. 7Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. 8Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.

  9When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” 10He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” 11As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. 12Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

  • Psalm 50:1-6

Out of Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth in glory. (Ps. 50:2)

1The mighty one, God the Lord, has spoken;
  calling the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.
2Out of Zion, perfect in its beauty,
  God shines forth in glory. R
3Our God will come and will not keep silence;
  with a consuming flame before, and round about a raging storm.
4God calls the heavens and the earth from above
  to witness the judgment of the people.
5“Gather before me my loyal followers,
  those who have made a covenant with me and sealed it with sacrifice.”
6The heavens declare the rightness of God’s cause,
  for it is God who is judge. R

  • Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:3-6

The spotlight of Christian ministry is not on the people who carry out ministry but on the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as God made light shine at creation, God makes the light of Jesus Christ shine in our lives through Christian ministry.

3Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

  • Gospel: Mark 9:2-9

Mark’s gospel presents the transfiguration as a preview of what would become apparent to Jesus’ followers after he rose from the dead. Confused disciples are given a vision of God’s glory manifest in the beloved Son.

2Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

  9As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

SONG:  WOV 784  You Have Come Down To The Lakeshore



I confess I was disappointed.

After a seeming lifetime of financial insecurity, multiple part-time jobs, nine years of post secondary education, a car accident, an inner-city internship in Toledo, Ohio, three months of Clinical Pastoral Education at the University Hospital in Vancouver, mental and physical exhaustion, psychotherapy and numerous situations in which I was concerned for my physical well being; here I was, kneeling on the steps to the altar at Zion Lutheran Church, Saskatoon, numerous hands upon my head pressing down, the moment of my ordination where I thought for sure there would be some divine acknowledgement, a sign of some sort, a zapping of divine energy – something that would indicate that the past nine years had been worth it!  I had remained faithful, I had not lost hope, I had experienced misogyny, sexism, disparaging comments about whether or not I would make it as a pastor.  I held my breath, and…nothing.  No double measure of anyone’s spirit was vested upon me.  What was granted to me in that moment, however, was something far greater than a dramatic sign from the heavens.  I was given – clarity.

God and I have always been pretty tight.  Our conversations open, deep, without boundaries.  In that moment of kneeling, my head weighed down by the hands of my colleagues, friends and family, I heard God, who said to me, “Here is your sign.  You are here!  I have been with you every step of the way.  I want you to proclaim the Good News on my behalf.  I have chosen you.  You are here!”

When I was finally able to stand up and face the congregation, I saw a sanctuary of people who were close to my heart.  This was December 4, 1992.  It was winter on the bald, Saskatchewan prairie, and it was cold!  Yet, here they were!  All these beautiful people who had come to celebrate my ordination, who had supported me throughout the years, prayed for me, cheered me on, loved me.  Now there was a sign from heaven!!

I feel for the disciples, I do.  They had this incredible, otherworldly experience – they even heard the voice of God!!  Wow!  Yet, they had no clarity.  There was only fear and confusion.  Sure, Jesus was with them, but did they have any more insight after being nearly blinded?!  No.  To add insult to injury, they were told they could not share the experience!  They were just in the presence of God and they were not allowed to share that!  Well then, what were they supposed to do?

They did what Jesus did.  He carried on with his ministry as if nothing had happened.  From all accounts, the experience was for his disciples more so than for Jesus.  Still, one would think that Jesus would have taken some measure of comfort and strength from the conversation he had with Moses and Elijah.  His face was set toward Jerusalem and his crucifixion.  Nothing would deter him from the path.

When they get down the mountain, there is a child who is possessed by a demon.  His father begs Jesus to heal his son, “If you can.”

“What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked.  “Anything is possible if a person believes.”

And then comes the cry of the child’s father which is a cry repeated by many of the faithful: “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”

This is the cry of the disciples.  They have just experienced the transfiguration and are now on their way to Jerusalem.  The unspeakable will happen at the end of this journey.  In spite of witnessing the transfiguration, miracles, exorcisms, and hearing Jesus preach, these hand-picked followers believe, yet are stuck in unbelief.  They comprehend Jesus’ power, his connection to God and how that relationship empowers others.  They are eye witnesses to all of this.  Then why can they not perform miracles like Jesus?  The answer, says Jesus, is in believing in your relationship with God and praying for what you need.  It is trusting the presence of God that has been experienced.  It is letting go of doubt. 

Have I been a pillar of doubt-free faith the past 29 years?  Not on your life!  I have remained faithful; doubting at times, yet faithful.  It is keeping on the path, putting one foot in front of the other, that carries one out of the times of doubt.  I may not have experienced the transfiguration; I did experience my ordination.

In those times of believing yet not believing, I am reminded of God’s words to me as I knelt before the altar.  I see in my mind’s eye all those wonderful people, and I am reminded that, like the disciples, God has chosen me.  I have a calling.  God has never left me, and never will.  I know this.

Think of a moment where God felt so close, there was no doubt as to God’s existence.  Hold on to that moment.  It is your anchor.  You have been baptized into the body of Christ.  You are a child of God.  Nothing can take that away.

God is here.

HYMN OF THE MONTH     Lord, I Lift Your Name On High (sung twice)



Recommitting to Justice, Equity, and Peace – a prayer by Alydia Smith

God of peace, give us the courage, strength, and perseverance needed to challenge the systems of racism, so that we can clear a path for your justice, peace, and equity.

We believe racism is present in our society and in our church, and throughout time has manifested itself in many forms and in varying degrees.

We know racism is alive in our language and in our structures, and through our systems it actively works to deconstruct your glorious design, blocking the path to justice, equity, and peace that Jesus


Racism exists, and it challenges the gospel message that we cry.

We cry abundant life for all, knowing that we are slowly being suffocated by the pervasive evil of racism:

some of us are choking; some of us cannot breathe; some of us are dead.

We cry peace, knowing that we are the instruments of God’s peace and that such peace cannot exist without justice, equity, compassion, and God’s grace.

We cry Emmanuel, God-with-us, knowing that to God, every life matters—God is with all people—even though as a community and as a society we have stated through our actions that some lives matter more than others.

Compassionate One, help us to understand how racism finds life in our hearts and in our cries.  In this time of tense anticipation, may we commit ourselves to be people of your way crying and creating a path for justice, equity, and peace for all people in this wilderness of hatred and racism.  Amen.



In Uganda there is a saying:  One who experiences something good must share it.

We who have received, felt, tasted and experienced the good news must share it.

Go, then, into the world to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, in your words, actions, and deeds.


SENDING SONG  VU 87  I Am The Light Of The World

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