Five days. That’s all. In five short days we’ll be out of the sanctuary and construction will begin, Monday, February 4th.
As you can imagine, it’s rather a big deal for our congregation as we’ll not be able to return to the sanctuary for another 18 months or more due to the complex and significant seismic upgrade and restoration project soon underway.
This is a significant moment in the life of the church because for 85 years people have come to St. Andrew’s Wesley for worship and other community events. Here’s what “The Western Recorder” claimed at the opening of the sanctuary in May, 1933:
It may be safely said that no event in the ecclesiastical life of Vancouver during this past many years has attracted so much popular interest as the Dedication and opening for public worship of the beautiful and commodious new United Church Sanctuary, to be known as St. Andrew’s Wesley, situated on a commanding site at Burrard and Nelson Streets.
The bulletin from the Dedication service contained these words:
We cherish the assurance today of an almost unanimous satisfaction with this building. Dignity without ostentation, greatness combined with simplicity, beauty that conveys a friendly invitation, and restfulness of line and colour, which suggest that Peace of God is here in large measure. We thank God for it.
Our forbearers generously gave time and money to build this church. The progress was slowed and cost-measures needed to be taken due to the Depression. That the church, which started building in 1929, had the determination to see the project through even in those hard and lean years serves as inspiration today.
The first minister called to St. Andrew’s Wesley, Dr. Willard Brewing, offered these words at the opening service:
A place of hospitality for the human spirit, a wayside inn for souls on their long and important journey through life. The building in which we worship is not only the fruit of fine planting, watering and cultivation through the years, it is the seed of far greater things to be. We have built spaciously and solidly, taking for granted that this beautiful city is going to have a great future…
(All quotes are from the excellent little book on the history of St. Andrew’s Wesley, Reflections, p.19)
“…it is the seed of far greater things to be.” Could that be us? Are we part of “the far greater things…”? The prospect is humbling.
How might we live into “greater things”? Especially in this interlude of 18 months, without our “beautiful and commodious sanctuary,” how are we called to be the Body of Christ in the world?
I don’t know if this is “far greater” than what the congregation was up to in the 1930s, but I suggest we start where we are: We help bring and support refugees. We help finance a school in Guatemala. We engage in the ongoing process of reconciliation. We offer programs and spiritual formation for all ages. We continue to be a congregation of radical hospitality. We worship and learn, pray and play and work together to further the Spirit of Christ’s love and compassion and justice for all.
I suggest we start where we are and then see what “far greater things” may be inspired. I trust we’re on the right track.
Hope to see you on Sunday for our celebrative and final services in the sanctuary until sometime, 2020.