English Bay in Vancouver, B.C. Photo by Mike Benna via Unsplash

Ministry in Vancouver, B.C.: Setting the stage for General Synod 2019

One year from today, Anglicans from across the country will pour into Vancouver, B.C. for the 42nd General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada. Led by the General Synod Planning Committee, preparations are well underway for the gathering, which will take place from July 10-16, 2019 at the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre.

For those new to Vancouver, the life in and around the coastal seaport city could seem unfamiliar. Let’s explore the context for Anglican ministry today in Vancouver, and how local concerns find expression within the church.

Multiculturalism and diversity

With an estimated population of more than 630,000 in the city and almost 2.5 million residents throughout the Metro Vancouver area, Vancouver is one of the most diverse and multicultural cities in Canada. More than half of city residents’ first language is one other than English.

That cultural diversity also finds expression among local Anglicans. On June 23, the Diocese of New Westminster ordained two deacons and three priests. Notably, all three of the newly ordained priests came from countries other than Canada. The Rev. Hyok Kim was born in Korea, came to Canada to study theatre at Regent College, and resolved to became an Anglican priest after visiting the Episcopal Cathedral in South Korea. The Rev. Marion Man Wai Wong was born in Hong Kong and serves as a curate in a Mandarin and English-speaking congregation. The Rev. Dr. Sharon Smith is an occupational therapist from South Africa.

Meanwhile, the Diocese of New Westminster itself is in a companion relationship with the Episcopal Diocese of the Northern Philippines, and has four Filipino parishes. One of the Anglican priests in the city came directly to Vancouver from the Philippines.

Diverse and inclusive forms of ministry

The diversity of Vancouver’s population is also reflected in the diverse forms of ministry engaged in by Anglicans.

One of the most notable examples of Anglican ministry in the Vancouver area is Salal + Cedar, a community oriented around the Watershed Discipleship Movement and reflecting a commitment to the firth Mark of Mission, “to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.” Coordinated by the Rev. Laurel Dykstra, Salal + Cedar has a strong emphasis on environmental activism and social and ecological justice, and is currently gearing up to support grassroots resistance of the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

Another focal point for Christian community is St. Hildegard’s Sanctuary, which bases its contemplative ministry on the arts and creative expression. Holding services that incorporate creative and kinaesthetic elements such as painting, poetry, and music, St. Hildegard’s recently received a $15,000 grant from the Anglican Foundation to develop a set of trauma-sensitive liturgical resources.

At Christ Church Cathedral, an emerging LGBTQ-affirming ministry can be found in the form of its Sunday evening congregation known as St. Brigids. Though firmly rooted in Anglican liturgical and spiritual traditions, the St. Brigids congregation is slightly less formal, providing an opportunity for participants to question and grapple with the implications of Scripture and tradition in their lives.

Moving that sense of Christian community into the streets, Father Matthew Johnson is the coordinator of the Street Outreach Initiative, which provides frontline pastoral care to residents in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side struggling with poverty, mental illness, violence, alcohol and drug addiction, and dealing with past traumas. Every Sunday morning, as part of the initiative, lay ministers on the front steps of St. James Church invite street-involved newcomers into the church to meet together and to hear the liturgy.

Building community alliances

Concerns of local Anglicans over issues of social and ecological justice often find expression in the Metro Vancouver Alliance (MVA). A coalition of labour, religious, community, academic groups, as well as educational institutions and some small businesses, the MVA provides a forum for local activists to work on issues of concern.

The Anglican Diocese of New Westminster is one of the sponsoring organizations of the MVA, as are five local Anglican parishes. Since its founding in 2014, the MVA has focused on issues such as affordable housing and public transit, social inclusion, and income justice.

Look for more stories on Anglican.ca as we prepare as a church for GS2019.

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