The mid-20th Century structure (sanctuary, offices and recreation space) located across from University Golf Course to the south on the first stretch of University Boulevard before really getting into the Endowment Lands area has been built back from the road and is surrounded by parking to the east and north and gardens to the west and south. In this pastoral but urban setting it is one of the most pleasing and welcoming properties in the Diocese of New Westminster.
On April 18, the third Sunday of Easter, Bishop John Stephens paid his first episcopal visit to the parish to help celebrate their patronal festival, St. Anselm’s Day which by the calendar is celebrated on April 21. Like most current worship around the diocese taking place in a parish’s sanctuary, the service was livestreamed with only the principals present: Bishop John; the vicar, the Reverend Alex Wilson; organist, Sam Zhai and People’s Warden, Naman Paul who was reader, intercessor, sound technician and chef. There were also three other members of the parish present to help with the serving of the take-out lunch scheduled to be distributed at 12:30pm.
The liturgy flowed smoothly punctuated by some very fine playing by Sam Zhai.
Bishop John was the preacher and he began his sermon saying:
“It is so great to be with you here at St. Anslem’s… well sort of with you here at St. Anslem’s, as best as we can be under the circumstances. I have been to this church building numerous times over the years and so despite this being a pandemic it is great to be able to join you as you honour St. Anselm. I am so grateful to your vicar, Alex, for his ministry here at St. Anslem’s and the incredible work of this parish. I am grateful to Alex for his leadership in the Neighbourhood Ministry and serving on Diocesan Council and other places within the diocese. You are blessed to have him as your Vicar, he is blessed by the ministry of so many people here. I do hope that you are all keeping safe, and that some of you are already vaccinated and others will soon be vaccinated. God willing this pandemic will soon be behind us.”
Prior to his homiletic examination of Luke’s gospel he shared a section of a prayer attributed to St. Anselm which in just a few simple lines illustrates the seeker’s desire for a closer relationship with the divine:
O Lord my God. Teach my heart this day, where and how to find you. You have made me and re-made me, and you have bestowed on me all the good things I possess, and still I do not know you. I have not yet done that for which I was made. Amen.
Following worship, Bishop John with his laptop took up occupancy in one of the offices as Rev. Wilson facilitated the Zoom Coffee Hour with the bishop. A good number of parishioners were in attendance online meeting and chatting with the bishop for the better part of an hour.
The third leg of the patronal day was “Take-Out Lunch with the Bishop”. During the preceding month there was an ongoing opportunity to order lunch prepared by the “Chefs” at St. Anslem’s. The orders were prepared and boxed and made available for pick-up after 12:30pm, outside the nave entrance, socially and physically distanced. The menu featured a choice of Tandoori Chicken or Tikka Paneer served with rice pilau, fresh green beans, sprigs of rosemary and a berry cheesecake square. The entrees were freshly prepared, marinated in yogurt and spices and ready for the oven or grill. A label containing cooking instructions was fixed to each box. Upon arrival, the registered recipient of the lunch box gave a donation (a suggested donation of $20 was a bargain) and Bishop John was present to greet them and give them their order. The first to arrive was Sharon Grove who is the Parish Administrator at Holy Trinity, Vancouver and Reverend Wilson’s colleague on Diocesan Council from the Archdeaconry of Granville. Sharon was kind enough to send this great photo of the meal after she had followed the cooking directions.
While gathering outside physically distanced the half dozen of us chatted and enjoyed the beautiful spring sunshine. There were others in the garden area, children playing, people tending to the plants and a few people spent some time in front of a small Cherry tree in full bloom.
Rev. Wilson explains:
"The cherry blossom tree was donated by the preschool which rents from the parish in memory of a long time and much beloved Teacher, Aya, who died suddenly last winter of cancer. Originally from Japan, Teacher Aya was a source of inspiration and dedication to the work of forming future generations of children in patterns of inquisitive play, loving community, and wondering questions. Teacher Aya had a passion for gardening, always teaching the kids the importance of growing their own vegetables and loved being outside- especially during Sakura season. The tree stands as a memorial to her incredible passions and has become a beautiful addition to our parish environment."
All in all, April 18, 2021 was a good morning of worship and fellowship during COVIDTIDE and a testimony to the resilience of faith communities. The food prepared by the folks at St. Anselm’s is FANTASTIC so please consider participating in the Sweet Strawberry Social scheduled for June 19, 2021. Online orders open May 19 so bookmark the St. Anselm’s website for more information.