In the Diocese of New Westminster we are blessed with many places of worship attractively and creatively designed, well-constructed (for the most part) and situated on gorgeous plots of land. These churches were built at a time when that land wasn’t worth the many of millions of dollars that it is today. The St Matthias building and location (the congregation merged with the congregation of St. Luke in the early 1990’s and is now known as St. Matthias and St. Luke) is truly one of the brightest and most attractive church buildings in the diocese and its location in the Oakridge neighbourhood (a neighbourhood that has always been one of the most desirable in the City of Vancouver) is a perfect setting for this streamlined and welcoming building with the bright interior and distinctive spire.
A new piece has now been added to the property and that is a new sign built in a traditional lychgate style of wood and glass, with a message board, a stylized cross pattee in diocesan colours and the church name and website url in an attractive font accompanied by the equivalent in Chinese characters. The sign is also a memorial, a memorial to two of the community’s best-loved members, Robert Sheng, ODNW and Isaac Farn. It is an intentional invitation to the neighbourhood and to all who pass by communicating a message of welcome. The message displayed on the sign that day was a topical one making reference to the Pokeman Go craze: “FIND POKEBALLS & GOD HERE TOO…ALL WELCOME”
The Eucharist on August 14, 2016, the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost was attended by more than 100 worshippers, the core congregation was boosted by many in attendance who were there to honour the memories of Robert and Isaac, friends and family members.
Taking the Epistle, Hebrews 11: 29-12:2 for her text, the rector, the Reverend Vivian Lam explored the concept of the “whole story” by first setting the scene and developing context through a brief discussion of the victories of Canadian swimmer, Penny Oleksiak and her story. Not just the current, well publicized story of her remarkable Olympic triumphs but the backstory about her life as a 16 year old in Toronto’s suburbs. Reverend Lam also talked about the two people being honoured that day, Robert and Isaac, “two sometimes larger than life characters…they were our brothers in Christ, beloved members of our community here at St. Matthias and St. Luke and they were connected to each of us sitting her in so many different ways…So many people were affected positively by them being in their lives in so many different ways, and it is easy to forget that these ‘larger than life’ things are only aspects of them, we forget the ordinariness that was in their lives too…it is sometimes the small things that are most poignant and most effective.”
In unpacking the Scripture reading, Reverend Lam pointed out that the author is writing a letter to people in need of encouragement, the writer ensures that they are not alone that they are being supported and encouraged, “cheered on” so through faith they may “run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith…” We are mentored, guided and given examples by those who have gone before.
Following the sermon, the rest of the Eucharist unfolded and concluded with the singing of “Amazing Grace”. But worship was not over, the procession continued out through the west facing doors of the church turned to the north leading the congregation toward the new sign and everyone gathered for the blessing of the new sign: “O God, the sign of all that is holy, all that is true, all that is life; bless this church sign, that it may be a beacon of hospitality and welcome to all who pass by and for all who enter St. Matthias & St Luke Anglican Church. May you always be our companion on the way; bless us on our departure and our returning, so that in both coming and going we may be sustained by your presence, and know that you are God, through Jesus Christ our Saviour.”
Children of the parish helped the Reverend Vivian Lam with the Asperges as Holy Water was sprinkled energetically on the sign. This was followed by the congregation gathering for a photo. Rev. Lam then said grace and everyone went into the parish hall to share a bountiful luncheon together and to also share some memories of Robert and Isaac.