I have a long and positive history with WPGUC. My parents grew up in Saskatchewan but moved to Vancouver after World War 11. They settled in West Point Grey and joined WPGUC where they made many life-long friends. I have fond memories of Sunday School which filled the Community Hall during church services. I found the Bible stories fascinating as they featured themes and challenges that are equally relevant apply today. Faith threatened by doubt, persistence in the face of adversity, a world with extremes of wealth and poverty, and so many good and bad choices people make in life and their consequences. We even had Sunday School classes when I was in high school. There the focus was on ethics where I had the good fortune to have a teacher who later become Moderator of the United Church of Canada.
After high school I moved to grad school in Ontario, then work in Saskatchewan, Victoria and Prince George. I returned to the Lower Mainland in the 1990’s where I became active in WPGUC. I served as Chair of the Finance Committee for many years and more recently as a Trustee. I have found peace in the wonderful music, inspiration in the sermons and renewal of old friendships.
Today West Point Grey is a totally different demographic community from when I grew up here. In response, we are reinventing ourselves as a church and it is good. WPGUC provides a welcome respite in a world with too much conflict. I am convinced that WPGUC has much to offer the community. I want to see it thrive.
It was exactly on the “Home-Coming Sunday” 4 years ago in September 2019. I joined this WPGUC through joining the choir under the baton of Eileen Padgett. A few months latter in January 2020 COVID-19 struck the whole world. The COVID is still present but the church has persevered as we gather today. Personally, wonderful music and the choir had brought me back to the light from the darkness of my circumstances. .
Some of the congregation may remember that I was chosen as one of three Thanks-giving speakers of the October 18, 2020 service. A part of my speech read:
“Today I am happy to report that I have fully recovered because of your understanding. You kindly waited for me to come out of my cocoon. I have witnessed how hard many of you work for the common cause and good deeds, especially in this COVID-19 era. Now I am strong enough to participate more and contribute.”
Now three years later, I keep my words: You see me not only in the choir, but also working in the garden as a garden club member, shoveling the snow and cracking the ice in the parking lot. Daycare children look down from playhouse to say “Thank you!” I smile and ask, “Won’t you come down and help me?” Then, of course, they shake their heads sideway.
I encourage everyone to get out and join the conversation/discussion. We need your talent. There is a big challenge ahead of us. It is all up to us what the future of UPGUC will be. We are the builders of this church.
Two things happened recently that touched me a lot.
First thing, I was reading a book, “Christianity Without Christ” by Michael Horton
The content of the book is very rich and thought-provoking. There are several points in it that impressed me deeply. The book states that the daily ecology of the American church has almost fallen into a situation:
1. Treating the Bible only to discover “urgently needed verses” from it, while treating the Bible itself as mostly anachronistic and outdated.
2. God is not an object that we need to know, worship and trust, but is used as a resource for personal needs.
3. Jesus Christ is only a coach who has a good action plan and can enable us to win. He is not a savior who has already won for us.
4. Salvation is more about allowing us to live a good life, rather than being saved by God himself from His judgment.
5. The Holy Spirit is just a power socket that allows us to connect with God and receive power, and can become the kind of person we need.
The second thing is that I was deeply moved by the life story of Karen’s mother, Norma Hunter. Norma had lived in WPG since the early 1960s and was a member of WPGUC. She had been associated with WPGUC her whole life. She loved WPGUC and her church. Family, especially caring for Chinese family, she has always supported and cared for cross-cultural churches. It was the strong financial support of Norma, her husband and family that enabled Linda’s “cross-cultural coordination” ministry to establish a relationship between Chinese groups and The bridge of the church allows us Chinese to participate in a variety of community activities. It is seniors like Norma who accept us new immigrants and make us feel that Canada is our home and the church is a big family.
These two things prompted me to reflect:
1. What should I seek in the Christian church?
I seek change in my life. Immigration is a change in lifestyle. From a familiar environment to a strange country, it is just a change in material and environment. But the church changed my spiritual pursuits, turning me from an atheist to a Christian with faith. From coveting the vanity of this life to realizing my own shallowness and sinfulness, I hope that I will not be obsessed with temptation and piously Study the Bible, especially learn from the seniors in the church around you, and be yourself.
2. What should I do to become a qualified Christian? What should I give to the church? I learned from the life story of Norma (affectionately called Canadian Mom by us Chinese) that when doing volunteer, start with small things. It is easy to do one thing well, but it is difficult to do it well in a lifetime. We should all do it continuously and faithfully. Every little thing serves the church and the community in a lasting way. Love your neighbors, love your community, become a member of the church family, and give your love.
Over the years I have often thought about what West Point Grey United Church means to me. In doing so, I remember events, experiences, names and faces that have intersected with my life from childhood to the present. Indeed, I am blessed that to me, this place and the people within is literally a lifetime relationship.
I grew up here. I came to nursery (I don’t remember that) but I do remember Sunday school, junior choir, Brownies and Girl Guides. As a youngster, I understand that I was one of more than 300 children, all of us in Sunday School which was administered by a lay Superintendent of Sunday School and led many Sunday School teachers. I loved every minute of Junior Choir and we sang regularly at family services once a month. There was also an Organist and an adult choir with its’ own Choral Director. The pews came to the front of the church and filled both transepts and there was a need for 3 services two in the morning and another in the evening as the congregation was so large.
In the neighbouring ‘Christian Education Centre’, besides children’s activities, there was a Men’s group (all Dad’s attended that), and five different groups within United Church Women (all Mums attended one of these). These groups often formed the social gatherings where families became life long friends. The community hall was hive of spiritual and social gatherings for individuals and families and the relationships spilled over into our living rooms and kitchens. Regardless of the large number of members of the church, it was a very close community and one that personally was quite simply extension of my family at home. Indeed, I had a lot of chosen ‘Aunties’ and ‘Uncles’ within this congregation that provided me with many, many life lessons and a lot of love.
Although this sanctuary has been reconfigured over the years, it quite literally is the only physical structure has been a constant place of comfort, safety, peace, love and community throughout my life. It is the place where I feel my deepest emotions, including joy and grief. And it is the place where I feel the most comfort and peace.
Reading from Proverbs 24 verses 3 to 5
“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established.
Through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasurers.
The wise prevail through great power and those who have knowledge muster their strength”
In one word, West Point Grey United Church to me is ‘family’. This community supported my parents with wisdom and strength, teaching me core Christian values that have formed a moral, ethical Christian compass to follow throughout my life.
To this day, within this place and with you, I am reminded of a Christian compass that includes values of love, joy, service to others, gratitude, honesty, trust and the acceptance and celebration of diversity.
I am truly blessed.
In closing, reading from Romans 12 Verse 5
We are one body in Christ ! We are connected in Christ ! We are family. Amen!