This fall, both St. Matthew and Holy Spirit parishes saw a surge of interest from all age groups in Confirmation Preparation and commitment to Christ through the Anglican Church. The Sacraments of Holy Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist were celebrated at the Church of the Holy Spirit, Whonnock, on Sunday afternoon, October 22.
Six confirmands were each blessed by the Right Reverend John Stephens, Bishop of the Diocese of New Westminster. The Reverend Miranda Sutherland, Vicar of Holy Spirit and St. Matthew, Abbotsford, presented the candidates: Maria Davidian and Victor Kalashyan of Holy Spirit; Devon Jules Jensen, Rebekah Palmer, Emmanuel Oludaisi Coker, and Robert Clark from St. Matthew. Devon received double blessings (and a cake), having been baptised that morning at St. Matthew and confirmed in the afternoon at Holy Spirit.
Confirmation does not just happen. Willing hands swept the church, cleaned the windows, arranged flowers, and polished the brass. Fingers had to type up the order of service in detail. Music was selected and rehearsed, with Tearyn Heaven leading the music in worship. The bishop’s office had been notified weeks before, refreshments for after the service being made on the day. Deacon for the liturgy, the Reverend Karen Saunders had to prepare. Trish Martin of St. Matthew and Tom Kerr of Holy Spirit, wardens, practised the lectionary readings. Hartley Seldon was the crucifer for the service. Rector's Warden at Holy Spirit, Deborah Sproule did the fine job of overseeing so many details. All was in order.
The confirmation preparation is the priority. The confirmands spent hours over many weeks learning under the guidance of the Reverend Sutherland. At St. Matthew this was aided by Richard Martin. Each student needed their own time to understand what the sacrament meant personally. To decide to belong to God through Jesus Christ, to be an active member of the Church, to live as a disciple daily, to seek peace and justice with respect for all people, and to safeguard the integrity of God's creation requires commitment. This is what we witnessed in the service from each of those Confirmed.
In his sermon, Bishop John emphasized the message from the Gospel (Matthew 22: 15-22), “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperors, and to God the things that are God's.” The members of the congregation and the confirmands were confronted with the question: What really belongs to God?
The outreach of the Church to the wider world was also realized as Bishop John dedicated the 215 Indigenous Resource Room, located in Holy Spirit Church. In the room are small, knitted orange shirts depicting the fate of too many residential school children, each shirt a memorial made by the artists of Whonnock.
Holy Spirit’s 215 Indigenous Resource Room was created to honour the lost children and survivors of the Residential Schools. We were reminded that we are all responsible for Reconciliation, no matter when or where we were during those dark years. The space invites all who would like to learn and understand more about the stories and the impact of the Residential Schools in Canada. A space for quiet contemplation, study, and healing prayer.
After the service, everyone enjoyed a lovely meal—a two-cake affair—and got to know each other better.
Many thanks to Deborah Sproule and Thomas Kerr of Holy Spirit and the hard-working group of people—Judy Rowbotham, Femke, Richard, and Tearyn Heaven, Jean Davidson, Janet Kerr, Jamie and Ken Mulligan—who lovingly prepared food, cleaned and decorated the church and hall, etc., in preparation for the bishop’s visit. To Mimi Hunfeld and her Sunday School group, thank you for your lovely handmade gifts for Bishop John.
Thanks also to Trish Martin, Linda Burton, Art Turnbull, Margaret Strocel, and the friends and families of the confirmation candidates for their support, presence, and participation. Special thanks and appreciation to Dick Martin for all his time, hard work, and expertise in developing, with the Rev. Sutherland, the Confirmation Preparation program at St. Matthew. Dick spent several weeks instructing and preparing the candidates for this day.
When the liturgy ended, when refreshments had been shared and appreciations said, we all went to our homes, our neighbourhoods, and communities. It is here that the work of Confirmation will be carried out by those now confirmed in the faith. This is where all of us will live out the promises just made. The Holy Spirit will make this happen.
Mother Miranda has ignited something special in our hearts with this program and the parishes can look forward to many more Confirmations, Reaffirmations, and Receptions in the coming years.
The Rev. Miranda Sutherland
The Rev. Art Turnbull