I was asked the other day what attracts me most about St James’: this gives me the opportunity to reflect on the past three years, and why I am thankful and privileged to be Rector in this remarkable community.
Two things continue to stand out. First, the centrality and beauty of worship: the Eucharist, be it the splendour of High Mass, with full privileges of ceremonial and music, or the simplicity of a weekday Mass in the Lady or Blessed Sacrament Chapel; the quiet, regular rhythm of the daily recitation of Morning and Evening Prayer. Secondly, the great diversity of our community and neighbourhood, those who worship regularly and those who visit now and then. I find in both our worship and our diversity something of the mystery, wonder and glory of God.
The Downtown Eastside is a neighbourhood notorious for poverty and homelessness, drug and mental health challenges, and at the same time a community of tolerance, mutual care and support. St James’ in its worship, alongside the Street Outreach and the practical ministry of other faith communities, brings before God in prayer the needs of our neighbourhood and the cry for social justice, and offers to all a welcome in God’s name, a glimpse, we hope and pray, of a loving and all-embracing God, and an invitation to share in a community seeking, however falteringly, to live the Gospel, the Good News, of God’s love for each and everyone.
Then there is our diversity, of ethnicity and nationality, of wealth or lack of it, of gender and sexuality, of education and talent, those from the neighbourhood and those who travel some distance. In these and so many other ways our diversity moulds us into the inclusive community we are called to be, reflecting the inclusive love of God for all.
The Corpus Christi Mass the other week demonstrated this vividly to me: our worship offered beautifully in church, and then our lively and joyful Procession of the Sacrament accompanied by the Carnival Band, with our neighbours dancing alongside in celebration.
There is something here for me, both in St. James’ and in our neighbourhood, of Jacob waking from his dream in Genesis 28.16-17: “Surely the Lord is in this place – and I did not know it! How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”