We awoke on the morning of Advent IV, December 18 to the stillness of softly falling snow. There wasn’t a breath of wind but the snow was substantial and drifts of doubt began to accumulate as to whether we would be able to have a confirmation at St. Helen’s that morning. At 8am Bishop Melissa Skelton rang to say she was on her way just the same. So, the call went out: ‘all hands to shovelling stations’ to do what we could to clear the drive and the parking lot.The bishop and her husband Eric took just 30 minutes to travel the distance to Surrey. The early arrival allowed for Eric to relieve the rector of his shovel so he could join in and enjoy the shovelling himself.
At 10am, with 75 gathered (which also included the Archdeacon of Fraser, the Venerable Stephen Rowe, rector of 'Epiphany' our neighbouring parish to the east), the choir, under Lynn Turner, started us off with the Introit ‘Let the Body of Christ Assemble’. After the introit, the procession, which included the candidates for confirmation, Ayoob Adwar and Kristianne Hendricks, made its way to the chancel step. Ayoob is a priest, originally from Iraq and of the Chaldean Church tradition who was entering the Anglican Church. He has been at St. Helen’s in a liturgical placement since the spring of 2016. Kristi came to St. Helen’s at the end of the summer of 2015 and is a Masters student at SFU.
With everyone in their place, the Advent Candle lit, and Bishop Skelton, having gathered the children, shared a story from her own childhood of the deep love her grandmother had for her. The bishop's grandmother sat her down, looked at her deeply and told her, even though from time to time, she may get herself in trouble, her love would never end. So it is with God. The readings of the day were read by Ayoob and Kristi and the Gospel was read by Deacon, the Rev. Steve Thompson (on loan to us from St. David’s, Delta).
Bishop Melissa focussed her sermon on how important it is to share the stories of a birth, reflecting on how her own son would say, ‘tell me again, the story of when I was born.’ Being born changes everything in a family and the birth of Jesus changes everything for the world. We should never underestimate how important it is for us to tell, and tell again, the story of the birth of Jesus.(Please click this link to access a text version of Bishop Skelton's homily.)
The blessing of confirmation was administered and the Eucharist was celebrated. Nourished by Word and Sacrament, and with the bishop’s blessing, we left the church singing ‘People Look East’; sent out to the world to continue the Advent journey and make our final preparations for Christmas.
A reception followed where everyone had an opportunity to share in refreshments and conversations with Bishop Skelton. Following the reception, the bishop met with the rector, wardens, and members of the parish council to discuss how St. Helen’s is renewing its mission and ministry in the Whalley area particularly around the area of ‘The Strip’, just a few blocks away, where there are many deep needs. St. Helen’s is seeking to deepen its commitment with the Surrey Urban Mission, the Surrey Food Bank, and local schools. There are many homeless and hungry, addicted and hurting of all ages. One does not need to look very far or think very hard about what ministry God is calling us to fulfill. The bishop encouraged the council to continue both its work in developing its ministry and to be prayerfully attentive to where God is leading the community.
The day was transformational and a blessing to us all.
PHOTOS: Jos Laskey (except where noted)