It’s almost time to board the train which will begin to take us back east from this most westerly point on our Canadian journey. I’ve loved Vancouver and I’m sure that I’ll equally love the other places that we will see. The views from the hotel room are fantastic and especially this morning as the sun has shone brightly. You can even see the mountains that surround the city and the light glinting off the water.
There is a tall tower in the city, amongst many, that has on top a circular viewing area which contains a revolving restaurant (the kind of thing we had in the Post Office Tower). The other evening we ate dinner there and enjoyed almost three revolutions of the restaurant, the sun going down as we ate the meal and the city getting into night mode. It was a fantastic opportunity to get a 360 degree view of the place.
It’s only 113 days until the celebrations in Canada begin. I had not realised that 2017 is the 150th anniversary of Canada being a nation. In its modern incarnation this is a young country. Of course, there have been First Nations people living here for millennia and thank goodness their rights and their primacy are being recognised and everywhere their art and heritage are being celebrated. But the youth of this nation is something that I was unaware of.
Perhaps that explains something of the willingness of the people and of the church to embrace the radical and to think differently. The final evening in this city included dinner with the Dean of Vancouver, the Very Revd Dr Peter Elliott and the Vicar of the Cathedral, the Revd Dr Ellen Clark-King, both accompanied by their husbands. Just saying that makes you realise how different things are over here. As Dorothy so rightly said in the ‘Wizard of Oz’
“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
The Diocese of New Westminster, of which Christ Church Vancouver is the cathedral, was the first to authorise the blessing of same-sex unions. The diocese was in danger of being thrown out of the Anglican Communion and was at the centre of the storm that has waged since then on the issues that we continue to struggle with in the CofE about how we treat LGBT+ people and not least in church and not least liturgically. This year, of course, the Canadian church took the first stage of the decision which will, I’m sure, be ratified in three years time, to amend the Canon relating to marriage to allow for same-sex marriage in church. But there are married gay people in the church already and that is not the reason why they’re having to replace the roof of the Cathedral! The roof has stayed on and the church continues to grow. There are people who are opposed, of course, and initially there were battles in the courts and, in some ways, the predecessor as bishop to Bishop Melissa was a victim of all of this. But the Canadian church with the courage of the young has persisted in what it believes to be God’s will for the church in its mission and ministry in this young country.
This is a big country, you can see a long way.
The air is fresh and even in a high-rise city it is easy to breathe as excellent town planning sets buildings back from the edge of the pavement and all major developments have to include public art! It is also a country of loggers and miners and fishermen, of prospectors and determination. I recently read Patrick Gale’s fantastic and disturbing novel ‘A Place called Winter’. It is a hard story of a hard place and yet in that very rugged environment there is the ability to think differently and be brave. Perhaps that has something to do with youth. As the prophet Joel wrote
I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.(Joel 2.28)
I’m very conscious that whilst I’m here taking this 360 degree view of things back at home the whole issue of the place of LGBT+ people in the life of the church and even on the bench of bishops seems to create more heat than light. Well, there is plenty of light here!
Lord, may we value the courage and vision of the young
alongside the long view and wisdom of the old.