Welcome to Highlands United Church!

Will Sparks 2016 2 inches


I was kind of feral in my youth. Not that my family did not take care of me. They were great. It is just that I had a level of freedom that young people rarely have today. I would pack a lunch, and hike the hills around Penticton, following the creeks high up into the mountains. My friend Roger and I loved to be in the woods.

I remember one Saturday hike we took up to Baker Lake in Okanagan Mountain Park. There was no trail. We were just following map, compass and instinct. We found the lake, had lunch, had a swim, lay back on a huge rock and drip-dried in the sun. Eventually we thought we should make our descent. Unfortunately, we lost our way, and as the darkness set in, I am not sure which we were more afraid of, a night in the mountains, or parents in the morning. The darker it got, the more desperate we were. Every way down seemed to turn into a canyon and we had to climb back up in the dark and try another way. Eventually we found the road, and Roger’s somewhat traumatized father, and it all turned out fine.

We had not set out to get lost in the dark wood. It just happened. That is true of so many experiences in life. We do not set out to get confused, lost, broken, empty, alone but these experiences happen. We try our best to avoid them, but sometime we will find ourselves in a “dark wood.”

Eric Elnes in his book, “Gifts of the Dark Wood” writes that although we avoid them as best we can “dark wood” experiences have, hidden within them, priceless gifts. In fact, Elnes believes that the “dark wood” is the surest place to meet God.

Between now and Easter at Highlands we will be exploring such experiences in the hopes that we might uncover the gifts hidden within them. Each week in worship we will explore another “dark wood” experience, uncovering another gift. Tuesday study groups will follow Elnes’ book and video series. We all find ourselves in the dark wood at some point in life. We would avoid it if we could, but instead, come discover the hidden gifts within them.


Rev. Will Sparks
Lead Minister, Highlands United Church