2015 Annual Letter

Dear Friends at Briarwood

Over 6 years ago we discerned as a congregation to make reaching out to our community in new ways a main priority.   This last year has felt like a consolidation of that vision.  We are now established with two worship services.  We have had over a full year of full-time ministry to youth and children with our CYD.  There continue to be new households to the congregation, at least one a month.  Our giving to mission is strong.

One thing I’ve noticed in particular this year is how leadership is beginning to be shared by people who attend the 10 a.m. and the 11:30 a.m. services.  On the Session, the Board, the Children’s Faith program team, the Space Committee, in music leadership, in hospitality and congregational lunches leadership, there is a cross section of the whole congregation now.

And this is ongoing, and particularly healthy and natural.  I would welcome everyone to continue in this.  If you attend the 10 a.m. service, why not invite a family from the 11:30 a.m. for lunch  at 12:30 p.m.?  They would love that.  If you attend, the 11:30 a.m. service, why not have someone from the 10 a.m. service over for dinner?  Would be a ball.

Briarwood is an incredibly diverse congregation in ages, backgrounds, and worship styles.  As we come to the end of a calendar year, we can ask how God is calling us to use our range of age, background and modes of worship to glorify God now, today, and in the year ahead.

Everything is changing.  All the time.  And Briarwood is part of that, as we seek to connect to our post-Christian, post-Christendom slice of Canada.  As we seek to be faithful together in growing God’s Kingdom here, remember Paul’s words to the church:

“So…whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.”  1 Corinthians 10:31

And I say it again,

“So…whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.”  1 Corinthians 10:31



The Rev. Dr. Gregory Davidson

Annual Letter from Rev. Greg Davidson

Dear Friends & Congregation of Briarwood

It’s hard to believe another year has gone by at Briarwood!  We are a congregation on a journey and 2013 brought many joys and some challenges.  First, is to remember some of the amazing people who died this last year.  People with whom we worshipped.  Prayed.  Built relationships.  Loved.  Thank God for them.  Let’s be inspired by their examples of faithfulness.

Second, is to give God thanks for what God has been doing in our midst.  Four years ago the Presbyterian Church in Canada held the national Emmaus Conference, about changing times and healthy churches.  At the same time, we as congregation supported the addition of a second worship service at the church and later, a full-time Children & Youth Director position.  This last year, 2013, was the first full year of that vision; and I wish to thank everyone for their prayers, patience, good wishes and participation in it.  We can celebrate together the 36 children registered in our Sunday morning faith programs.  We can celebrate the 15 youth registered for Youth Group.  We can celebrate the music we offer to God.  We can celebrate a strong year of giving to mission and to Presbyterian World Service & Development.  We can celebrate the 6 baptisms, and 23 new members to this community.  We can give thanks also in 2013 for the major gift we received from a beloved (anonymous) member towards Christ’s ministry at Briarwood of  $29, 000.  A blessing and encouragement.  At the Emmaus Conference, which provided much confidence to churches to try new things, no one ever said our work would be easy.  But a look at the faces on the bulletin board by the kitchen will quickly remind us that God is using our work and patience and prayers.

Third, and finally, is to commit ourselves to prayerfulness for 2014.  Before we speak, let us pray.  Before we act, let us pray.  Before we worship, let us pray.  Recently an elder who has been at Briarwood for some time invited the Session to the sanctuary to pray before a Session meeting.  We divided in three groups and spent 20 minutes giving God praise, 20 minutes giving God thanks for this church, and 20 minutes asking God for guiding and blessing.  I’ve been to a lot of meetings, but that one stands out for how uplifting it was.  It is almost as if even now, I still am because of it.

In everything for 2014, let us bow down, let us pray, then let us act, worship, give and serve as Christ calls us.  With love, with joy, with peace and with hope for God’s future for us.

“The joy of the Lord will be our strength.”  Nehemiah 8:10

With thanks and best wishes,

Greg Davidson, pastor

September 2013 Newsletter letter

2 Peter 1:4 – “Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises…”

It might be a strange way of starting a letter for the new church program year, but I can’t help thinking of the people we’ve lost in the last little while to eternal life.  Over the summer, there was Jean Thomas, Fred Holderness and Betty Williams.  Earlier in the year, Audrey McLelland.  Others too.

I’m not saying this to be depressing, but because I’m reminded of how precious community is.

We thank God for their lives.  We thank God for the lives of others we’ve come to grow close to at Briarwood.  We thank God for the lives of those who’ll be back or find themselves here for the first time this year.

At Danielle and Andre’s wedding last Saturday I was, (absolutely and in the best way), tripping over kids from Briarwood!  New gifts.  Precious gifts.  As precious as the people we’ve lost this year.

It’s amazing how a Christian community is completely out of our hands.  How God is at work in ways we’ll never know.  That’s the mystery, that’s the good, that’s the wonder and joy we live in as we start a new year at Briarwood.

This month I thank God for Cathy Anderson, who is heading up Briarwood’s Community Corn Roast on September 7th.  I thank God for Li-Peng W., a McGill student from the 11:30 service, who will be sharing part of her faith journey and recent mission trip on September 22nd.  I thank God for Briarwood’s Session, who will gather for their annual mini-retreat, on September 11th, for 5 1/2 hours of prayer, study, discussion and a meal.  Please pray for them as they hold up to Christ the congregational year of mission and service on your behalf.  Please also keep in prayer our children and youth director, Danielle, and her new hubby Andre!

Wishing everyone an excellent September.

May the grace of Jesus Christ be with you always.

Rev. Greg



April 2013 Newsletter Letter

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In this study guide on the Book of Acts, N.T. Wright opens with this, “…Acts is full of energy the and excitement of the early Christians as they found God doing new things all over the place and learned to take the good news of Jesus around the world.  It’s also full of the puzzles…that churches faced then and faced today….It’s comforting to know that “normal church life”, even in the time of the first apostles was not plain sailing, just as it’s encouraging to know that…the early church was able to take the gospel forward in such dynamic ways.”  (Wright, Acts, 1).

What is “normal church life”?  What is a normal church?  This month we’re going to hear from our Children and Youth Director, on ministry with kids and youth, from the director of Action Réfugiés Montréal, and we’ll also have the opportunity to bike to church (April 21st) for Earth Day.  Is that normal?

Briarwood doesn’t have a “normal church life”.  No church does.  The witness to Jesus Christ and his love for all people and for the world, is full of his resurrection life and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  Expressions of this witness are different everywhere.

What is normal, what we do have in common, is the power of the risen Christ in our midst.  This we share with all our brothers and sisters around the world.

As we look at the Book of Acts this April and May, leading all the way up to the election of elders on May 26th, may we be empowered once more to grow in and to spread the love of Jesus Christ as a church every day.

With best wishes,



March 2013 Newsletter Letter

“The point of the resurrection…is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die….What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it….What you do in the present—by painting, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it…). They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.”
― N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church

Greetings Friends,

As we begin the month of Easter, we are in the middle of a set of services focused on the Kingdom of God.  The kids’ faith program at both morning services is following the same themes.  In the quote above, Tom Wright links the resurrection – the main Easter event – with the Kingdom of God.

What we are doing now matters.

What we are doing now as a church matters.

Briarwood, in the last 4 years, has discerned as one of its main priorities reaching out to the wider community – with a special focus on children, youth and their families.  We have begun that journey together as a church.  And others have been joining in the journey month by month.

The point of Christian faith is not ‘to get into heaven’, with no connection to what we’re doing now.  Eternal life – resurrection life – starts now.  In how we treat each other.  How we work for God’s kingdom where lives are transformed in the radical love of Jesus.

How we pass on the heritage of faith to the next generation.

This is a high and holy calling.  And it’s one we’re taking together.

May the grace of Jesus attend each of you, as we enter this Easter month and Holy Week (services:  March 24th 10 a.m. and 11:30; Maundy Thursday 8 p.m.; Good Friday 11 a.m. (worship band) and 7:30 p.m. (choir, organ); Easter Sunday 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.)

You’ll find many amazing events and opportunities for growth and service in this newsletter.  Please keep our Youth Group in prayers, and our Children and Youth Director Danielle Pierre, for their Youth Retreat March 15-17.

With all good wishes,

Rev. Greg


February Newsletter Letter

Greetings Friends,

February 13th marks the beginning of Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter.  Did you know…

…that Lent is historically a time of prayer and fasting to prepare for the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus

…that Lent is 40 days long, not including Sundays (which are all little Easters)

…that Lent’s 40 days are like Moses’ journey at Mount Sinai, Jonah’s call to Ninevah and Jesus’ testing in the wilderness

…that in the early church Lent focused on preparing for baptism at the Easter Vigil (which lasted Saturday all-night through to Sunday morning).

What is God doing among us here at Briarwood this Lent?  In which ways is God inviting us to prepare for Easter?  One answer comes from asking where we need the power of the resurrected and risen Jesus most.  Where is God calling you and us as a church to live in the power of the risen Jesus?  During Lent we confess that we are a lot like dust, ash.  Fairly moveable when life comes at in with challenge.  But we also confess that our lives don’t end with ourselves.  We confess that we are broken-but-being-healed creatures of the living God, alive in the life of Christ.

To mark the beginning of Lent this year there will be the annual start to the Lenten lunches at Christ Church (Briarwood serves Feb. 13th).

Later that evening at 7:30 p.m., February 13th, there will be a special worship service of prayer, confession, the imposition of ashes and Holy Communion.

You’ll from this newsletter that there are many excellent events and opportunities this month.  Including flyers from our Children and Youth Director, Danielle Pierre, for incredible Youth Group plans and a Kids March Break Camp.

Thank you to Jennifer Gibb for publishing this newsletter.

Finally, I wish to highlight the Blended Service, International Potluck and Annual General Meeting on February 17th, at 10:30 a.m.  This is a chance to worship and enjoy a meal together as we pray and plan for where God is calling us in 2013.

With all good wishes,



January 2013 Newsletter Letter

“Jesus of Nazareth poses a question and a challenge two thousand years after his lifetime.  The question is fairly simple:  who exactly was he?  This includes the questions, What did he think he was up to?  What did he do and say, why was he killed, and did he rise from the dead?  The challenge is likewise fairly simple:  since he called people to follow him, and since people have been trying to do that ever since, what might ‘following him’ entail?  How can we know if we are on the right track?”   N.T. Wright, Simply Jesus, 1.

Friends at Briarwood,

This winter we’ll spend some time with those questions, and more importantly, with that Jesus, as we reflect on Living the Kingdom.  We’ll look at some of the famous and puzzling teachings of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.   I hope and pray that through these scriptures God will work renewed and fresh faith in our lives and bring God’s strengthening love to our very center.

It is a great time for this church right now.  We often have the tendency to look back, don’t we.  To remember days gone by.  When things were different, better!, we say.  But one of the mysteries of life is that it keeps going on, and so does Christ’s church.

Our call as Christians is to keep our lives focuced not on the past or even the future – those are in God’s hands and we entrust them to God. Our call is live each day in trust of Jesus of Nazareth.  His Kingdom is among us.  And we’re invited to enjoy it.

Friends, we rejoice this month in the birth of a second baby for Alejandro and France (Daniel).  We rejoice in another Danielle, our full-time Children and Youth Director, ministering among us and in this community is so many creative and impactful ways.  We rejoice in the Christmas offering support for the Missional Learning Center at the Presbyterian College.  We rejoice in Rob Pemberton taking up leadership of a third worship band for the 11:30 service.  And we rejoice this month at the third anniversary of the 11:30 service:  in the creative ways we see the love and joy of Christ reaching out there and the steadfast support this congregation has given for that service to be a successful ministry.

Brothers and sisters, I believe God has much to say to us this winter, and has much to do among and through us still.  May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you always.

Rev. Greg


December 2012 Newsletter Letter

O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by thine advent here:
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”
Latin, c. 12th century

It is hard to imagine better words than this to begin the season of Advent.  Our hope is in the God who is here and who promises to come on the final day.  Our rejoicing this Advent and Christmas is tied to God’s whole story, from its beginning in the Messiah to end.

I rejoice this season for the ways I see Christ coming here in our midst:

for the life of Gladys Gaston, and her faithful witness to God’s love and grace for 93 years; for the new life of Alejandro and France’s new baby and the incredible miracle he is;  for the upcoming blended service this Sunday, with Communion and a meal together with everyone; for the Parents & Tots group sending care packages to students and those in prison; for the arrival and settling in of Danielle Pierre, our full-time Children and Youth Director; for the good news and affirmation of the lives of Virginia Bell and Jim Murray, being awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal; for Rob Pemberton, raised up by God to lead a third worship band for the 11:30 service;  for Eudora, the grader 5er who played Djembe there and Katie, Kim and Hannah too;  for the small group who meet weekly at the Heusers for prayer and study;  for the opportunity to give thanks for the strong ministry of Principal John Vissers, preaching December 16th; for the more than $24,000 we’ve given to mission already this year; for the blessing to parents and 26 children in the community of the PED Day Camp last week; for the worship and witness of this community; for the grace of God in Jesus.

May each of us know the presence of Jesus in our lives this season, and the hope of the world to come.

Grace and peace,



October 2012 Newsletter letter

Greetings Friends,

This Fall we are listening for God’s word for our lives through the book of Genesis.  A book of new creation. A book of new beginning.  A book where there is a God who becomes known to the families of the earth as faithful, as good, and very much alive.

I’d like to celebrate some of creative, generative things going on at Briarwood right now and into the Fall.  In them, we can celebrate the work of this same God among us.

I’d like to celebrate the work of Nabih Saikaly, who has taken over as Briarwood’s new Facebook page administrator.  This is a reaching out through one of the the new social operating systems in our society.

I’d like to celebrate Kathy Anderson and Cheryl Steer, who will be working madly off in all directions and behind the scenes to bring us the Briarwood Brunch.  A meal together to enjoy October 14th after the one, 10:30 a.m., service.

I’d like to celebrate Hannes du Preez, who will be leading a new mid-week small group at the Heusers’ home each Wednesday evening.  “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayers.”  (Acts 2:42).  As we discussed at length and with depth at the final Introduction to Christianity course this week, “Does somebody have to go ‘to church’ to be a Christian?”  Someone answered, “I don’t know, but you need to be around Christians to grow as one.”

I’d like to celebrate Dr. Alejandro Durán, who is organizing an Advent Children’s Choir, and who will have practices for children 3-12 from 11:05-11:25 a.m. every Sunday in November.  There are plenty more celebrations.

These are just a few that come to mind when I consider how God is at work, creating new community, and bringing hope in this place and in this community.

The central story of the Christian church is that God has come to us in Jesus Christ, and offers us life and salvation. (C. Irvine).  This Fall, we’ve begun at the beginning of that story, in Genesis.  What a privilege it is to walk together in this world, to open the stories of our lives to God’s great story, and great work of love and forgiveness in Jesus.

By the power of the Holy Spirit may we live the life of Christian faith and mission together this Fall.  Two services.  One church.  Working for one kingdom of love and justice for all.

With many blessings,


September 2012 newsletter letter

Dear Friends at Briarwood.

This Fall, all the way to Advent, we will be studying and exploring the stories of the Book of Genesis. As we do so, we will mirror the themes in each Sunday morning children’s faith program. For those interested, I can recommend an accessbile commentary on this first book of the Bible that you may wish to follow throughout the Autumn in your own study and reflection. Genesis for Everyone by John Goldingay (2 vols.). Available through thebookroom.ca.

In addition to beginning at the beginning with Genesis each Sunday morning, this September there is also on offer a refresher course on Christianity each Wednesday evening from 7:15-9 p.m. I will be leading this and all are invited.

As many of you know, Judy Pemberton, Briarwood’s Director of Family Ministries (a position made possible through your pledges, prayers and a Presbytery grant) has been working with the Christian Education committee with a focus of growing our witness of passing on Christian faith to children in the church and community. On September 16th between services, we’ll celebrate a related initiative, the acquisition of a SmartBoard for the children’s faith program. For those who have yet to see this resource in use, come and see; and for all, come at 11 a.m. for a short service of dedication in the Hall. Also on September 16th, we will dedicate with thanksgiving all those working in the ministry of teaching or music in the year ahead.

Finally, let me highlight “Welcome back to church Sunday” on September 9th. This is not to say we haven’t been at the church over the summer. (In fact, with two services all July and August, our average attendance was 111 kids and adults.) But it is a Sunday to celebrate together the beginning of a new church year. We are blessed that Grace Wurah will be baptized in the family of God at Briarwood at 10 a.m. this Sunday too. A reminder for all us that we belong to God through the covenant of God’s grace and love in Jesus; a story of covenant and love that begins, where….you guessed it; Genesis.

On a personal note, our family enjoyed a good summer, minus a broken arm and with it (it seems) our customary summer hospital ER visit.

Since we’ll begin with Creation on September 9th, I’ll sign off now with a quote from C.S. Lewis on beauty:

“Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise….

We do not want to merely “see” beauty–though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words–to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.”

Wishing all the very best.