I have met many good Christian leaders throughout my career with Christian Info Society and Church for Vancouver, but I particularly looked forward to a call or meeting with Rob Des Cotes.
Rob was a spiritual director, retreat leader and pastor of Imago Dei, an ecumenical network of Christian faith communities based in Vancouver, with sister groups across Canada, the US, UK and Asia.
He had also been the pastor of Fairview Baptist in Vancouver until moving to the A Rocha Brooksdale environmental farm in South Surrey, BC.
He was the author of [four] books of meditations for spiritual direction. . . . He had taught Contemplative Traditions at Trinity Western University as well as courses on spirituality and the arts at Carey Theological College and Columbia Bible College.
He was an active member of Baptist Peacemakers International and directed Imago Dei’s Vancouver Arts Network, a community of writers, musicians, actors, dancers and visual artists who are in creative dialogue with spiritual issues in the arts, especially as they relate to postmodern culture. He was well known as a flautist and liturgist.
Rob will be much missed for his gentle commitment to encouraging others to deepen their practice of prayer and life of faith that recognizes and welcomes God’s transforming work.
Rob and his wife Ruth began their involvement with A Rocha in its earliest days in Canada, when we operated out of a church basement in North Vancouver. He has been a mentor, friend and spiritual guide to many in our A Rocha community over the years, helping us seek God’s presence and direction in critical moments (from starting A Rocha in the first place to launching the first environmental centre in Surrey).
In more recent years Rob and Ruth resided at A Rocha’s Brooksdale Centre so she could be closer to the children’s education work she leads, and so he could have a base for his ministry of contemplative prayer and spiritual direction.
In addition to his significant pastoral, writing and speaking ministry with Imago Dei, Rob led our community into deeper ways of knowing and experiencing God and experiencing the depth and goodness of community. Rob brought a rare combination of humour, godly wisdom and intentionality to every setting.
In his faithful pursuit of God he shaped the culture of A Rocha and Brooksdale in particular.
He was our Gandalf and we will miss him greatly.
But there is another spirit that accompanies any grief over a loss, it’s the spirit of gratitude – gratitude for the gifts God gave you through these now-gone features of your life. And both these spirits – loss and gratitude – can find expression simultaneously as part of any grieving process.
Our sense of loss, of course, needs to be acknowledged and be given freedom to find expression in us. But gratitude for the gift of whatever has been lost should also be a part of this expression. It will be the ascending spirit that remembers all the goodness that God has blessed us with in the time we enjoyed His gift.
Our gratitude will redeem our loss from the potential of becoming a deep open wound in us. Instead it will serve as a springboard of praise to God for all that we have received through this temporary gift, as well as the ongoing gifts that can continue for the rest of our lives as we remember the blessings the Lord gave us throughout these.
To remain exclusively in a disposition of loss can possibly lead to a desolation where the natural expressions of grief become inordinately focused on the self and on my personal sense of loss. The obvious antidote to prevent this is the consolation of gratitude which turns our attention more to God than to self.
There is nothing wrong with personal grief unless it becomes our sole disposition. Gratitude for God’s gift to us in the things we have lost will ensure that we see our losses from both sides. And this interplay of grief and gratitude will widen our experience, allowing us to include God more fully as we negotiate our grief.