Several years ago, our fellowship at Marineview realized that our neighbours in Dunbar were simply not open to invitations to church outreach events. Their lives were already over-resourced and over-committed. So when we approached them with invitations to join us for “community”, all they were hearing was more commitment and obligation.
They didn’t want us knocking on their door, inviting them to a Carol Sing. Even handing them a flyer at the local grocery store about a Family Fun Day at the church was perceived as an unwelcome intrusion. We were ignoring their signals that they weren’t hungry for what we were offering. We were speaking to needs they weren’t expressing.
This raised the question, what are our neighbours’ REAL needs that we can meet? We realized that, although our neighbourhood gives the impression of wealth and success, many people here still battle with loneliness, self-doubt, and a deep sense of not measuring up. We stopped inviting them to events and programs and instead began to develop real relationships with no strings attached. We asked our people simply to get together with unchurched neighbours they really liked, with whom they wanted to spend time even if they knew beforehand that these would never come to church. In short, we asked them to initiate genuine friendships.
We discovered that many of our neighbours expect to be judged by others around them – and that they perceive church people have a whole extra lens through which to judge them. We tried to make it clear that we just wanted to get to know them and that we didn’t see it as our role to tell people what they were doing wrong. By demonstrating we weren’t in approve/disapprove mode, not only did we make friendships but our neighbours told us they were delighted to find people who were so open and gracious.
Building these relationships took years. This is a time-consuming, labour-intensive way to share the gospel. Yet eventually these genuine friendships became strong enough for us to share the difference that faith in Jesus makes to us day by day. We are not better than everyone else, but we do rely on God to help us. The gospel begins with “I’m a sinner,” not “You’re a sinner.” The message is not “Come to my church and be like me,” but rather, “I have found a God Who loves me, and I’m sure He loves you too.” Eventually, some of these friends began trickling towards the church … not on Sunday mornings, but to social gatherings where we could introduce them to our church friends. Our neighbours are still hesitant to officially call themselves “Christian” but they are very much enjoying Christian fellowship and being a part of other Kingdom initiatives we invite them to.
We feel like we have shifted from asking God to bless our outreach plans to answering His invitation to incarnate His Presence to our neighbours.
Dr. Craig O’Brien leads Origin Church (West Coast Baptist Association) in the University of British Columbia campus community. Previously, he planted and pastored Cityview Baptist Church in Riley Park – Little Mountain. He completed his DMin from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in 2003 with a focus on raising cross-cultural competence in urban leaders. He also serves as the coordinating chaplain with the University MultiFaith Chaplains Association. Craig has kindly permitted us to repost this May 28th, 2012, entry from his blog, Urban Foot: Another Step with Jesus, in honour of Father’s Day and the Indigenous people who have so much to teach us about this place we call Vancouver.
Two enjoyments: a family walk along the seawall at Stanley Park and a good story.
One of the stories I most appreciate in Pauline Johnson’s collection of coastal First Nations’ stories is associated with the Siwash Rock in Stanley Park. In the story told by a local chief over a hundred years ago, a young-chief-father-to-be persists in the pursuit of purity that will be imputed to his child; he persists in a decision that will benefit his child and make a future for the child. He continues even when confronted by power and personalities who believe he is in their way.
Johnson records the tillicum’s account:
“Do you dare disobey us,” they cried–”we, the men of the Sagalie Tyee? We can turn you into a fish, or a tree, or a stone for this; do you dare disobey the Great Tyee?”
“I dare anything for the cleanliness and purity of my coming child. I dare even the Sagalie Tyee Himself, but my child must be born to a spotless life.”
The four men were astounded. They consulted together, lighted their pipes, and sat in council. Never had they, the men of the Sagalie Tyee, been defied before. Now, for the sake of a little unborn child, they were ignored, disobeyed, almost despised. The lithe young copper-coloured body still disported itself in the cool waters; superstition held that should their canoe, or even their paddle-blades, touch a human being, their marvellous power would be lost. The handsome young chief swam directly in their course. They dared not run him down; if so, they would become as other men. While they yet counselled what to do, there floated from out the forest a faint, strange, compelling sound. They listened, and the young chief ceased his stroke as he listened also. The faint sound drifted out across the waters once more. It was the cry of a little, little child. Then one of the four men, he that steered the canoe, the strongest and tallest of them all, arose, and, standing erect, stretched out his arms towards the rising sun and chanted, not a curse on the young chief’s disobedience, but a promise of everlasting days and freedom from death.
“Because you have defied all things that come in your path we promise this to you,” he chanted: “you have defied what interferes with your child’s chance for a clean life, you have lived as you wish your son to live, you have defied us when we would have stopped your swimming and hampered your child’s future. You have placed that child’s future before all things, and for this the Sagalie Tyee commands us to make you for ever a pattern for your tribe. You shall never die, but you shall stand through all the thousands of years to come, where all eyes can see you. You shall live, live, live as an indestructible monument to Clean Fatherhood.”
The four men lifted their paddles and the handsome young chief swam inshore; as his feet touched the line where sea and land met he was transformed into stone.
Then the four men said, “His wife and child must ever be near him; they shall not die, but live also.” And they, too, were turned into stone. If you penetrate the hollows in the woods near Siwash Rock you will find a large rock and a smaller one beside it. They are the shy little bride-wife from the north, with her hour-old baby beside her. And from the uttermost parts of the world vessels come daily throbbing and sailing up the Narrows. From far trans-Pacific ports, from the frozen North, from the lands of the Southern Cross, they pass and repass the living rock that was there before their hulls were shaped, that will be there when their very names are forgotten, when their crews and their captains have taken their long last voyage, when their merchandise has rotted, and their owners are known no more. But the tall, grey column of stone will still be there–a monument to one man’s fidelity to a generation yet unborn–and will endure from everlasting to everlasting.
Read the whole story here.
The majesty and beauty of the story has grown on me and is one that I read out loud to my family at least once a year. But more than that, every time I see the Siwash Rock I have had to hear again in my heart what I believe is God’s call to “clean fatherhood.” I could choose to live only for myself, but the most challenging and noble way to live is to persist in a way of life that creates opportunity for the generation coming behind me.
I wish every resident of Vancouver and every walker along the Stanley Park seawall knew the story of Siwash Rock. The stone and its history calls out to us as individuals and as a society to conduct ourselves in ways that value purity, perseverance, and self-sacrifice for the benefit of others.
Gordie & Kathleen Lagore have pastored Vancouver Eastside Vineyard Church in the Grandiew-Woodland neighbourhood for more than two decades. After taking an extended sabbatical last year, Gordie began a blog to reflect on what it means to join in God’s mission there. He kindly gave us permission to repost these thoughts from March 3, 2016.
In the Vineyard, we have a strong priority of “doing what the Father is doing.” What this means practically is that because we believe that God is always working, our role is to be attentive so that we can join him in this work, rather than coming up with our own projects and trying to get his blessing. Our capacity for being attentive to what God is doing is greatly enhanced when we obey the biblical injunction to, “[keep on being] filled with the Spirit…” (Ephesians 5:18-19). I sense that God’s first invitation to us in this post-sabbatical year is to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit, resting from our work and entering more fully into His work. Implied is the willingness to slow down, to wait, and to listen.
Related to this, I hear the Spirit’s invitation to communal contemplation. What do we mean by that? Contemplation is the art of paying attention, to God, to ourselves, and to others. It means paying attention to how you listen, even while you are listening to others. We are in a culture that is not good at listening. We are bombarded with so much media and so many distractions while trying to get a word in edgewise. We suffer communal attention deficit disorder. It is costing us our health – in mind, in body, and in relationship. Added to this is the lack of margin for meaningful conversations and relational time due to the high cost of living in our major cities. Given the times we are in, we can’t afford not to slow down – as Bill Hybels wrote, we are “too busy not to pray.”
Practically, this means continuing in appropriate soul training practices as well as setting aside one night a month where we continue to come together for corporate listening prayer, sometimes joining with other congregations in the city. A lot of these corporate listening events will be spent in communal silence and contemplation, but we will include some time for liturgy, spoken prayer and worship. The goal is to simply pay attention to what the Father is doing and to then respond accordingly. Being faithful to do this is a humble acknowledgement of Jesus’ words, “Without me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Last but not least, let’s not forget that it also means holding the tension between an expectation of the kingdom breaking in at any moment, while refusing to manipulate or trying to make it happen.
A deeper sense of “place” and putting down our roots.
The second invitation is also related to paying attention, but specifically to where God has placed us, including our current physical placement at St. David of Wales. There has been such a sense of us coming “home” since our move here in 2014. This has been evident in so many ways, including the “Let’s Grow Together” community garden team, led by Gloria and Will, giving us favour and deeper connection to the neighbourhood. It has been evident in the rapport we have enjoyed with the Anglican diocese and the St. David’s warden, Dan Attridge, as we have sought to be faithful to the story that they began here a long time before we ever arrived. It has been evident in a much greater sense of pride and ownership that our congregation has experienced in taking up residence here. I have enjoyed a greater sense of connection with pastors of churches within a few blocks of us. These factors alone have greatly increased our sense of “place” as a community.
As we move forward together, we want to implement and encourage practices that will help us as a congregation to be more attentive to our place. This raises a dilemma for us as a community. What does having this “sense of place” look like for those of us who love to worship here, but do not live in the neighbourhood? Some of us commute from as far as North Delta! Yet, as a congregation, as we are faithful to be attentive to our sense of place with those of us who live in this neighbourhood (Hastings Sunrise), this will cultivate practices that will help all of us be more attentive to where we live in our own neighbourhood. Indeed, this will provide a model or “prototype” that will encourage each member of our congregation to be more rooted and attentive to where they live while being faithful to our church home. This will include continuing to “beautify our worship space,” while we develop our vision for the “art of neighbouring” where each of us live. Indeed, our vision is for numerous communal expressions to be birthed from our church around the city and region, each of which becoming a faithful presence to their surrounding neighbourhood, yet closely connected to other neighbourhood hubs.
St David of Wales – Honoring the Place and the Story
Related to the first two invitations, we want to be attentive to God’s invitation to lovingly steward the remarkable heritage building and property that he has entrusted to us. We have a remarkable window of opportunity before us. We have already had community work bees with plans for more. Another exciting development in progress is that the first six months of this year are being devoted to prayerfully gathering a team that can take responsibility for the care and the upkeep of the property on behalf of the diocese. We have already had our first team gathering. This team will engage in a season of mentoring under the church warden, Dan Attridge, with a view to full stewardship of the property by September 1, 2016.
“Stewardship” in the biblical sense is the acknowledgement that we own nothing, but are simply stewards of all that God has entrusted to us. This is his strong invitation to us this year. “And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own” (Luke 16:12)?
“Lord, awaken us, make us aware, and help us to be attentive to the remarkable invitations you are extending to us this year, and to respond appropriately. Amen.”
Conclusion and Reflection
As you reflect on this invitation to pay attention, what are the biggest barriers to your own listening – to God, others, as well as to yourself? What are the biggest challenges to your being attentive to your place? What are signs of God at work in your neighbourhood?