A Future With Hope – Reflection from Paul Stanwood

Back in fall, St James’ held a three-week campaign where we asked parishioners to share their experiences of the parish and the church, in light of the pandemic situation as well as looking towards the future with hope.

One of the reflections that was shared during an in-person service is the one which is being posted today, in the hopes that it might be a timely message for those who are still wondering where the church is going, and an inspiration to those who may read it now and in the future.

Our heartfelt thanks to Paul Stanwood for sharing this thoughtful reflection, which was a beautiful and impactful message then, and continues to be now.

A Future With Hope

On this last Sunday of the liturgical year — the Feast of Christ the King — I’m pleased to offer a few words on behalf of our stewardship group. I’m Paul, a member of this unique Christian congregation for many years, so I’ve been witness to and participant of the many comings and goings of this parish of St. James’— the first Anglican church in Vancouver, organized in 1881 before the diocese existed. I moved to Vancouver just 56 years ago from Boston where I had been teaching, and where I was a member of the Church of the Advent, one of the best and earliest expressions of Tractarianism and of the High Church movement in the United States, established in the 1840s. When I arrived in Vancouver, I looked for a similar kind of worshipping place, and I found an advertisement in the local newspaper for an Anglican/Episcopal church that offered a High Mass on Sundays. That was St. James’, and I went there on my first Sunday in town, tentatively looked in — but I knew at once that this was my church.

And so it has remained for 56 years; and in these years there have been many opportunities for service and worship — especially worship, for St. James’ is committed to celebrating the Eucharist — if possible, every day. The liturgy on Sundays and special Feast days was and is still usually filled with music and beautiful ritual and ceremony. But the essential celebration, with or without ceremony or richness, ever remains the Sacrament of the Altar. “Everything we do comes from the Altar.” Those are the words of May Gutteridge, who organized St. James’ Social Service, some fifty and more years ago, beginning with the old Pensioners’ Room in the church basement. Her persistence and genius brought fulfillment to St. James’ historic concern for social justice and outreach. And these concerns continue today in our street outreach ministry and our desire for common justice.

November is a gloomy month in this part of the world, a time of much remembering. But one can think of ‘remembering’ as a coming together of members or rejoining. Some of our most remarkable events and seasons, the times that brought us together I remember joyfully with some of you — the Canterbury Fayre of the ‘70s when we turned the crypt into an elaborate village; later there was the Nativity pageant, brilliantly recollecting late Renaissance iconography; and our splendid Centennial celebrations of 1981, with the long and celebratory procession to the site of our first church on Alexander Street. St. James’ is a treasure by God’s grace, a community of faith which is gathered and renewed by the life-giving sacraments that are celebrated in this remarkable building, itself an aid to prayer — an icon of holiness, a temple where all may tread on holy ground and encounter God, a place where catholic faith is taught and practiced. We are living in times of grief and upheaval, urging us of the centrality of a life anchored in prayer, and sending us to this place where prayer is ever valid, and pointing to a fundamental truth — that as followers of Jesus we are a people of hope. Prayerful hope allows us to recognize that even these tumultuous days offer an opportunity to meet the Risen Christ who travels ahead of us.

Let us continue in our commitment to St. James’, and pray:
LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy household the Church in continual godliness; that through thy protection it may be free from all adversities, and devoutly given to serve thee in good works, to the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Paul Stanwood
November 21, 2021