Around Town: BC appreciates us, Send Network, Born to Shine, ‘215’: A Lament

Dr. Bonnie Henry and several other provincial leaders announced June 14 that BC would transition into Step 2 of BC’s Restart plan. Government of BC photo

“It has been so so valuable to me to be in contact with faith leaders.” Dr. Bonnie Henry repeated a statement she has made many times over the past year, during a conference call with religious leaders June 11. Premier John Horgan and Health Minster Adrian Dix echoed her sentiments.

I do not remember a time when the church (and other faith groups) have received so much attention from any government, especially such positive comment. A June 6 release from the BC Centre for Disease Control (‘Guidance for holding low risk worship services’) reflected the same appreciation:

As pillars of strength, religious organizations and faith-based worship services play a critical role in connecting the community by supporting beneficial and safe social interactions.

As COVID-19 vaccinations are administered throughout the province, we are entering a new phase of the pandemic where we can begin to gather again to share hope, healing, restoration and recovery together.

These guidelines were developed in close collaboration with a diverse spectrum of spiritual and faith leaders and communities from across the province through a process led by SFU’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue. The Office of the Provincial Health Officer and the province are deeply grateful to these leaders.

Is all of this just talk, as the government instructed, cajoled and badgered various sectors of the community through the pandemic? Some will say so. Certainly not all religious leaders have received such sympathetic comments, particularly when they have been critical of provincial restrictions – if they received responses at all.

Others, including me, will argue that no repetition of blandishments will obscure the government’s unwillingness (inability?) to address the way in which they have refused to adequately address the religious freedom rights specifically protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

However, as we emerge from the pandemic (God willing), wise leaders will build on relationships developed and statements made over the past year. We have always known that our faith and our institutions are critical to the well-being of our society. It is encouraging to hear political leaders acknowledge that reality – and we can ask them to remember those kind words in the future.

Back to church

Catholics will be returning to indoor worship immediately.

It is fun to watch the many ways in which churches around Metro Vancouver are ‘re-opening,’ with most taking a cautious approach, and combining traditional practices with some of the online lessons learned during the pandemic.

Provincial leaders announced new guidelines for public gatherings as part of Step 2 of BC’s Restart Plan earlier this week (June 14). Those have been widely disseminated and don’t need further elaboration here, though there have been some clarifications.

Naveen Girn, Director of Strategic Outreach & Stakeholder Relations at the Office of the Premier, emailed religious leaders who have been in contact with the government June 16, pointing to June 15 Variances for both indoor and outdoor worship services.

In terms of indoor services, he highlighted this point, where there had been some uncertainty:

I’d like to draw your attention to one significant change for Indoor gatherings. We can now allow for at least 50 people, or 10% of the capacity – whichever is greater – to attend a worship service.

Jericho Ridge Community Church tweeted June 16 about another significant rule:

ReGathering Update: BCs PHO released guidance for Phase 2 worship gatherings this AM. It is very clear that there is no congregational singing (even when masked). So we will continue our congruence with orders with the view to moving back to in-person indoor gatherings on July 4.

Here are some key sites:

* BC’s Restart Plan (updated June 15)
* Guidance for holding inside worship and lifecycle services (updated June 15)
* Guidance for holding outside worship and lifecycle services (updated June 15)
* Faith-based, spiritual and religious practices, BCCDC (updated June 15)

Step 3 of the BC Restart Plan will be announced July 1 (at the earliest): “Increased capacity at both indoor and outdoor organized gatherings with a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place.”

Dr. Henry stated during the conference call that the plan by that point is to no longer have orders but instead guidelines, though she offered a couple of caveats. She said there can always be unanticipated occurrences, and the return of respiratory viruses in September may make a difference. Also there might be local restrictions, where necessary.

There are innumerable suggestions about how to move forward following the pandemic. One good one is Faith Today’s Living Well After the Pandemic webinar/video, which features four panelists, three of whom are local leaders – Ken Shigematsu, Carolyn Arends and April Yamasaki. The other – Danielle Strickland – used to work in Vancouver. Yamasaki followed up with some more thoughts.

Send Network

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has just weathered a contentious annual meeting this week in Nashville.

The largest Protestant denomination in the United States has been caught up in the American culture wars, and the !6,000-plus messengers (delegates) faced significant choices related to race, politics, sexual abuse and more.

The past couple of years have been tough on the SBC in other ways too; it has faced declines in attendance (down two million from 2006, to 14 million), membership and baptisms. High profile defectors have included Bible teacher Beth Moore, ethicist Russell Moore and several prominent Black pastors. These are all themes of great significance to SBC identity.

However, through all the turmoil, the denomination has kept a firm focus on church planting – this year’s annual meeting was conducted under the banner ‘We Are Great Commission Baptists’ – and that determination shows up even in Vancouver.

Their Send Network (“Planting healthy, multiplying churches everywhere for everyone.”) tweeted June 11:

Check out the growth of red dots(church plants) in @SendVancouver over the past decade. Pray that God will continue to move in Vancouver through our church planters, churches and sending churches. #WeAreSendNetwork

The map above shows that a decade of church planting (2010 – 2020) saw the number of affiliated local church plants grow from six to 13, with four more potential church planting locations identified.

These are the local church plants, the majority of which are ethnic or multi-ethnic: Zoe Church (Vancouver), Burnaby Born Again Church, Zendeh Church (Burnaby), The Family Church (Port Moody), God Rock (Port Coquitlam), New Hope Church (Port Coquitlam), South Asian Community Church (Surrey), Glory Assembly Church (Surrey), Jesus Vision Baptist Church of Vancouver (Surrey), Japanese Bible Church (Surrey), International Baptist Church Langley, Quest Church (Mission) and Movement Church (Abbotsford).

It is important to note that churches planted in Canada are part of the Canadian National Baptist Convention (CNBC), which is an independent entity. The first Canadian church affiliated with the SBC in 1953 and the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptist Churches formed in 1985 with 58 churches. In 2008 the group renamed itself the Canadian National Baptist Convention (CNBC).

The CNBC retains a strong desire to plant and grow churches; they say about themselves:

The CNBC is a network of churches who give themselves away for the kingdom of God. With over 400 churches across Canada, we believe that God’s primary vehicle for impacting the world is the local church.

Our vision is to see a day when every man, woman, boy and girl has multiple opportunities to see, hear and respond to the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Send Network Canada describes itself as “Churches working together to plant churches across Canada, in partnership with Canadian National Baptist Convention & North American Mission Board.” These three June 15 tweets indicate its priorities:

15 Days of Prayer for Canada begins Thursday! “Follow” as we pray across our nation each day leading to Canada Day!

54% of all current @CNBCca churches across Canada were planted since 2010!

Celebrating that more than half of baptisms in @CNBCca churches were in churches planted since 2010!

Send Vancouver is part of the Send Network, but also of the WestCoast Baptist Association, which links CNBC churches in BC.

At the SBC’s annual meeting in Nashville, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) pointed to a bright spot among all the challenges mentioned above:

In the last decade, Southern Baptists have planted more than 8,200 churches. Those congregations make up nearly 17% of all churches across the SBC . . . and, outside the south, 19% of all reported baptisms in 2019.

The SBC messengers have chosen a moderate new President, Ed Litton, and supported a move to launch what would be its biggest investigation into sexual abuse responses and coverup, which – though there are many skeptics – suggests a move away from the culture war / Christian nationalism that has appealed so strongly to a large portion of Southern Baptist churches.

Time will tell, but whatever happens south of the border, the Send Network, WestCoast Baptist Association and the CNBC seem determined to spread the gospel throughout Canada, with enthusiasm.

Born to Shine

Two local non-profits which will be running a free summer day camp for inner-city kids are looking for volunteers as camp leaders. Born to Shine will take place July 26 – 30 (10 am – 3 pm) at Chinatown Peace Church.

This camp is conducted by Vancouver Urban Ministries and Project Shine, sponsored by the Culture Regeneration Research Society (CRRS).

Vancouver Urban Ministries “assists children, youth and families in the East Vancouver communities of Grandview Woodlands and Strathcona. Our community members are mostly of Aboriginal descent or are from immigrant families.”

They offer specialized tutoring, music lessons, community events and scholarships.

 The Culture Regeneration Research Society (CRRS) “was founded in 1994 as a non-profit, non-political, non-denominational, academic organization.” Camp activities include music, stories, outdoor games, dance & exercise, making arts & crafts and more! A free lunch (individually wrapped) will be provided for kids!

Go here to register as a volunteer or to register for the camp.

‘215’: A Lament

Worship leader Brian Doerksen has teamed up with Indigenous leader Cheryl Bear to write a song of lament based on the recent findings at Kamloops Indian Residential School. From the YouTube page:

In late May of 2021, the remains of 215 children were found at the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia that closed in 1978. I was devastated to learn the terrible truth, the truth that elders of Indigenous tribes have known for a long time but we were unable to verify until now.

These schools were run by the Church on behalf of the government. As a Christian and a Canadian – this is my lament and protest song.

Two hundred and fifteen
Two hundred and fifteen
Indigenous children who can’t come home

Two hundred and fifteen
Two hundred and fifteen
Indigenous children who won’t come home

Why did it take so long
Revealing this ancient wrong
When mothers cried through countless nights alone
The Church and the government Complicit in violence
How could such savagery stay unconfessed

If there’s a God in heaven,
You’ve been used again
To subjugate, alienate, eradicate the other
I’m Christian, I’m Canadian Yet now ashamed of both
I weep with the indigenous and stand with all who mourn

Why did it take so long
Revealing this ancient wrong
The elders spoke but we refused to hear
The Church and the government Complicit in violence
How could something so evil happen here

Two hundred and fifteen
Two hundred and fifteen
Indigenous children stolen

The Indian Residential School Survivor Society’s crisis line is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress 1-800-721-0066 or 1-866-925-4419.

Doerksen also just released Hymns for Life.

Jun 2021

Discovering God at Work in Your Neighbourhood: An Introduction – June 17, 2021 at 1:30 pm - 3:00 pm
Places That Matter Plaque Presentation: Mennonite Maids – June 17, 2021 at 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
George Guthrie: Hearing Hebrews – Fresh Thoughts for Critical Times – June 21, 2021 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Running Alpha in Small Groups – June 22, 2021 at 9:00 am - 9:45 am
FaithTech Global Community Meetup: Future Tech and the Gospel – June 22, 2021 at 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Youth Leader Gathering: Summer Session – June 23, 2021 at 9:00 am - 10:00 am
Marion Taylor: 'Restore Thou Me That Am Lost' – Our Foremothers of Faith – June 23, 2021 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Run Alpha Q & A – June 24, 2021 at 10:00 am - 11:00 am
Hinge Point: Learning to Navigate a Racialized Society, Together – June 24, 2021 at 10:30 am - 12:00 pm
Pointing to Things Unseen: A Gestural Approach to Religious Signs – June 24, 2021 at 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
A Conversation: Acting Together in Canadian Churches to Observe International Decade for People of African Descent – June 24, 2021 at 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
What Do Missionaries Do and Why? – June 24, 2021 at 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Three Ways Your Church Can Prepare to Welcome Refugee Claimants in the Post-Pandemic World – June 24, 2021 at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Regent College 50th Anniversary Online Reunion (two events) – June 25, 2021 - June 26, 2021 at All Day
Indian Horse: Film Screening – June 25, 2021 at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
One With Them: A Day for Christian Captives – June 27, 2021 at All Day
World Refugee Sunday – June 27, 2021 at All Day
AC Literary Expedition: Discussing Progressive Christianity – June 27, 2021 at 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Past, Present and Future: Reconciliation as an Everyday Reality – June 28, 2021 at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Mark Roberts: Lifelong Flourishing – Surprising Wisdom from Scripture & Science – June 28, 2021 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
The Gospels: A New Translation – a Conversation with Sarah Ruden – June 29, 2021 at 10:00 am - 11:00 am
David deSilva: The Indispensable Circularity of Grace – June 30, 2021 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

Jul 2021

Voices Together Online 2021 – July 1, 2021 at 10:00 am - 11:30 am
Kickers Soccer Camp – July 5, 2021 - July 9, 2021 at 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
FLO Summer Soccer Camp 2021 (two camps) – July 5, 2021 - July 9, 2021 at 1:00 pm - 4:30 pm
John Walton: The Hand Writing on the Wall – Deciphering the Narrative of Daniel – July 5, 2021 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Miroslav Volf: Debt of Gratitude? How (not) to be grateful to God – July 6, 2021 at 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Mariam Kovalishyn: The Brothers of Life – How Reading James May Help Us Hear Jesus Better – July 7, 2021 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
SIM Canada: Building Resilience in Stressful Times – July 8, 2021 at 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Christine Bochen: Come, Dance in “the water of life”: Thomas Merton’s Call to Joy – July 8, 2021 at 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
BC Christian Ashram Retreat (online) – July 9, 2021 - July 11, 2021 at 6:30 pm - 12:00 pm
Wesley Hill: Logs and Specks – Culture Wars & the Imperative of Christian Self-Examination – July 12, 2021 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
John Swinton: The “Hidden” Side Effects of COVID 19 – July 13, 2021 at 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Bruce Hindmarsh: 'You Have Never Talked to a Mere Mortal' – the Implications of a 'Negative' Theological Anthropology – July 14, 2021 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Rikk Watts: Paul – Theologian, Historian or Something Else? – July 19, 2021 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Diane Stinton: 'Universal Sister' – Dynamics of Spirituality Illuminated in St. Josephine Bakhita – July 21, 2021 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Christian Climate Observers Program (CCOP) 2021 (application period for November 1 - 2 event) – July 22, 2021 - August 1, 2021 at All Day
Bullies & Saints: A Conversation with John Dickson – July 22, 2021 at 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
GROW (Summer Edition) – July 25, 2021 at 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Gordon T. Smith: Communities of Hope –Sustaining Hopeful Resilience – July 26, 2021 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Malcolm Guite: River Deep, Mountain High – the Gospel in the Psalms – July 28, 2021 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
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