I am sitting in the airport in Vancouver again this Sunday Evening with a long lay-over from Cranbrook. What should be a four or five hour flight through Vancouver is turning out to be an eight to nine hour one. The arrangement was an attempt at being a good steward of the trust given to me. But these times need not be lost. I am tired and anxious to get home to see my wife, Carolyn, after being apart for two weeks. But as a brother used to often remind me, “good things come to those who wait.” I know it’s not quite that simple, but patience is virtuous.
The sun was shining in Vancouver when I arrived in the late afternoon, and the signs of spring were everywhere. (It really is a beautiful city — when the sun shines!) I decided to spend the five-hour layover by up-dating my Blog (if I had time!!) but not before taking the train to St. John’s Anglican Church for their Evening Service. I knew it would involve a small walk, but I needed the exercise and thought I would enjoy the cool spring air, the sunshine, the green grass, and the blossoms. I grabbed a quick bite to eat and was on my way — but not before running into an acquaintance on the train platform. The small trip in uncharted territory went well, and I arrived only a few minutes late.
The reason I wanted to go to St. John’s, if they had a service in the evening, was to engage with a church community that I knew as being traditional, but soundly evangelical, as well as one that had gone through a good deal of difficulty in the last number of years. During the greeting time in which we were asked to greet folks around us who were defined by either being under or over thirty years of age, I talked to a gentleman who has been part of the church for some time. He informed me that the church had to vacate their beautiful building on Burrard Street a couple of years ago because they lost a Supreme Court challenge regarding the right of the congregation to retain a conservative theological conviction regarding homosexual practice as well as the property they used for worship. Presumably the members of the congregation had paid for the property but their disagreement with the diocese in regard to homosexuality raised the issue of property title which no doubt was held in the name of the diocese.
In the end, the church opted to rent a comparable facility not too far from the site of the original worship centre from the Seventh Day Adventist Denomination. Of course, they no longer belong to the diocese of New Westminster and have since formed or joined a new Canadian Anglican fellowship with several other churches in the same situation across the nation. In reading the Rector’s Annual Report, it is evident that the experience for the congregation was significantly unsettling for many, but not enough to put it out of existence. In fact, the congregation has rallied and is moving forward with four services every Sunday and a ministry budget in excess of $2 million per year. In his report, the Rector calls for renewed commitment to making the Gospel known.
As I engaged in the liturgical form of worship with these sincere believers, I was impressed by their sense of persistence in the face of a definite kind of persecution. By taking a stand for truth, they were seriously censored by peers within their former fellowship. Though the Service was advertised as being “contemporary,” it was definitely subdued and liturgical compared to anything in my experience by that designation. Yet it was obvious that the congregation this evening consisted largely of younger families. There was a short series of contemplative worship songs before the congregation was engaged in liturgical prayer and church announcements. The sermon was based on the prophetic passage of Mark 13. The young speaker struggled with providing a good explanation of Jesus prophetic references but emphasized the need to live our lives in the light of Jesus sure commitment to draw everything to a conclusion.
This turned out to be a great lay-over experience. It affirmed for me the value of seeking constructive use of “down-time,” the beauty of diversity in God’s world and His church, the glory of persistence in the midst of suffering, and the importance of Jesus’ promise regarding His return. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to connect with a very special church in the heart of Vancouver’s west-side. No doubt, as is the case of so many large evangelical churches, there are people who attend out of a sense of traditional value, but there are many others who sincerely love the Lord and find meaningful worship, fellowship, and service.