The building that provides sanctuary for the faith community of St. John’s, Squamish is a bit misleading looking from the outside. The exterior resembles a community centre or modern care facility but inside it is exactly what one would hope for in a worship space nestled in the mountains of Canada’s west coast. The architects and designers really “got it right,” with floor to ceiling windows, open floor plan, cedar beams and a large cedar cross at the apex of the chancel bracing the building at its highest point; a powerful architectural and structural symbol.
A capacity congregation had gathered at St. John’s, Squamish, August 26th, 2012, to attend Eucharist for the 13th Sunday after Pentecost, but this would be a special day, “A Celebration of Ministry Service” marking the retirement from full time parish ministry of St. John’s Priest-in-Charge, The Reverend Wendy Eyre-Gray.
Wendy has been very active in ecumenical and multi-faith ministry during her years at St. John’s. To honour her service, representatives of various faith communities were present in the St. John’s congregation that morning. There were people from the B’hai and Unitarian communities, Mohammed Afsar was in attendance, representing the Muslim community and Squamish United Church
cancelled their main Sunday morning service in order that all could attend Eucharist at St. John’s. Squamish United’s minister, Rev. Karen Millard and members of that community’s music in worship ministry were among the group of close to 30 joining the Anglican congregation for worship.
At the beginning of her address, Wendy thanked the members of St. John’s for their tremendous support of her ministry over the past three and a half years. She also joked that worship leaders and wardens at St. John’s had told her that she didn’t have to preach on the Sunday before her retirement and she wasn’t really sure how to take that. Wendy chose three readings from the Gospel for this service: Mark 1: 1-3, 7-8
, Luke 1:26-40
and the official Gospel reading, John 14: 15-20.
For Wendy these three readings have been her three themes of ministry. She referred to them as “touchdowns “in her journey with the Holy Spirit. Although she has struggled with the messages contained in these readings they have helped her to understand that “there’s never just one way with God, there is only breadth and depth and joy and surprise.” They speak to how God prepares the way and how God knows where we are and where we need to go before we do. Wendy emphasized that the greatest gift of church is “walking the path together” and that “ we are never alone”
Following her homily, Wendy read the children’s story, “Journey of the Old Turtle” to a group of youngsters on the chancel steps.
During the Eucharist there was some beautiful music offered to aid prayer and reflection courtesy of music in worship leaders from Squamish United, St. John’s pianist, Lynda Halvorsen, a vocal trio from St. John’s and some excellent singing by parish leader, tenor, Aaron Purdie.
At the conclusion of the Eucharist prior to the dismissal, St. John’s Honorary Assistant, The Reverend William Roberts (who is now temporary part-time Priest-in-Charge at St. John’s) approached the lectern and after a few introductory words focusing on Wendy’s ministry and specifically her call to work in the area of ecumenical and multi-faith understanding he requested that Rev. Karen Millard and Mohammed Afsar join him at the lectern to offer prayers of thanks for Wendy’s ministry and prayers for her future as she enters the next phase of life.
A celebratory luncheon followed with a number of speeches and a presentation to Wendy of an early edition of Mary Oliver’s, Pultizer Prize collection of poetry, American Primitive
. This collection contains the poem The Honey Tree
which was discussed in some detail during a formation series at St. John’s where interested parishioners and others studied the writings of the Franciscan Friar, Richard Rohr.
Please keep Wendy, William and the faith community of St. John’s, Squamish in your prayers as they move forward into the future that God has called them to pursue.
Images: Top, Rev. William Roberts has some opening remarks prior to offering prayers for Wendy, (left to right: Mohammed Afsar, Rev. Karen Millard, Rev. Wendy Eyre-Gray, Rev. William Roberts). Middle right, Wendy prepares to begin her homily. Below, Rev. Karen Millard reads an excerpt of text from the hymn "She Comes Sailing on the Wind" to Wendy.