You probably think you know all about St. Philip’s – it’s been one of the cornerstones of Dunbar for well over 90 years. You probably know all about what happens ‘under our roof’ – all the many activities that take place here, the worshipping community, the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, community groups, exercise classes, the rummage sales, the Christmas fair, not to mention the two preschools that have been part of the fabric of the church centre for generations… and don’t forget about those two bowling alleys! You probably also know that Dunbar Life described us as the ‘Champions of Dunbar Village,’ which made us blush a little! And that the new Rector, The Rev’d Stuart Hallam, quite unusually for your typical Anglican Priest, was for the last 16 years a Royal Marine Commando Chaplain, serving around the globe.
But there are also things you might not know about St. Philip’s…
Just as Dunbar has changed and grown, so have we. We aspire to be an open and inclusive community.
The people who make St. Philip’s what it is, make it a place of welcoming care, a place where we are surprised by God and are changed for good. A place where everyone can explore how to live a rewarding life, learn to forgive each other, and learn to forgive ourselves. We are a community which inspires to be inclusive and welcoming regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age or background. Sometimes we meet our aspirations, sometimes we don’t, but our aspiration remains the same, to be open, even when we are closed.
One wonderful thing that has recently changed, and what we as a parish have advocated for many years, is that we are now allowed to perform same sex weddings at St. Philip’s. We are overjoyed about this because we believe that God makes us who we are and wishes to bless all our relationships. Indeed, as the ‘Good Book’ says, ‘God is love and those who live in love, live in God and God lives in them’ – we couldn’t agree more!
We believe God makes herself present when people join together in community – dreaming of a new world, as some people in Scripture dreamt before us and as many people, of all faiths or none, have dreamt throughout history. Sometimes we meet God when we pray and sing, and when we share bread and wine. Sometimes we meet God in the street, in a conversation with a stranger or when we are inspired to get together to change things…. and sometimes we miss seeing him.
We find that you don’t need to believe in God to encounter God. Often, it’s the week by week, ordinary habits of trying to live together in a community of faith, and doubt, that matter most. Some people in our community are accidental Christians who inadvertently stumbled into faith after a funeral or baptism, or made a friend who was part of this crowd of witnesses and found they became friends too. Some people at St. Philip’s have been here a long time, and now bring their children or grandchildren. Some are people recovering from bad experiences of church and are slowly learning how to come back. Others have never been to church before, but have found a home here. All – including you – are welcome and accepted.
We are grateful to be part of the Anglican Church of Canada and we recognize the privilege of being a church for the whole neighbourhood, not just a church for those to come along on Sunday. The Anglican Church is not perfect by any means, but it is at its best when it stands with people who society seems to have forgotten, or when it works to make our world fairer, or when it suggests following a different path to finding peace, joy, and meaning in this life.
We are made up of a rich blend of active volunteers (treasurers, pastoral visitors, youth and children’s leaders, teachers, singers, cooks, gardeners… and many more besides) and paid staff, including our Clergy, our Parish Manager, Beth, and our Director of Music, Michael. We are passionate about the many issues we are already involved with, such as sponsoring a Syrian refugee family to settle in Canada, working with local homeless people on the Westside, and striving for reconciliation with our indigenous neighbours. But we would like to be passionate about other issues within our community too, and want to join together with others who want to make Dunbar, and the world, a better place for everyone. We want to teach and be taught, to serve and be served, by everyone who is on this journey of life together.
St. Philip’s may look like a traditional Anglican church in lots of ways, but that’s definitely not the whole story.
We harness liturgy, music and traditions from a rich treasure trove of Anglican Spirituality, which we sometimes adapt in order to reflect who we are and what our community stands for. We believe in God’s love for each and every one of us. We try to embrace differences, and one of the only things we’re strict about is our conviction that everyone is welcome at the communion table to receive the bread and the wine, because the invitation to participate is not ours but Jesus of Nazareth’s, who didn’t turn anyone away.
Music is a big part of our main service at 10 o’clock on Sundays. We have a very talented Music Director, a magnificent pipe organ, a wonderful choir, a hymnbook full of traditional and familiar hymns, and on many Sundays much of the liturgy is sung. On the other hand, the first Sunday of every month is “family worship” with a church band to lead the music. Music also plays a huge part of our wider spiritual programs and we host many wonderful concerts, usually on Sunday afternoons.
We also have two quieter, more contemplative services. On Sunday mornings at 8 o’clock we have said Holy Eucharist, which uses the traditional language of the Anglican Prayer Book, and on Wednesdays we have a lovely little gathering at 10 o’clock, which has its focus on prayers for healing, followed by coffee and cake! But you don’t need to come to a service or a concert to enjoy St Philip’s. One thing we now do is have the church open during the day (between 8am & 6pm) so that anyone can just drop by and enjoy the wonderful sacred space – to sit, pray, meditate, think or light a candle.
We value children and young people very highly and they are included in all our services each and every Sunday. We have age-appropriate activities, ‘Godly Play’ for the younger ones and ‘Godly Say’ for the older, that take them out of the service for a while before returning to share the Eucharist with the whole church family. We have a fantastic youth group for older teens which is run by adult volunteers, and we gather together once a month for an all-parish potluck dinner and games night. We think it’s important that children and young people own their own spirituality, question their faith, and learn – whether it be in Sunday morning programs, 24-hour weekend retreats, Saturday night youth group, or just in casual conversation with each other and with more mature members of our parish community. Honesty is important to us – there are no dumb questions or wrong answers, and there are no easy answers either.
We are a spiritual community with a holistic outlook, a liberal heart, a progressive theology, a social conscience, and an increasingly eclectic liturgy.
But we recognize that for many people ‘beyond our walls,’ traditional church services simply do not scratch where they itch! So we are striving to offer new ways of encountering God for those around us who believe themselves to be spiritual, but not religious. We are constantly seeking new ways to help people’s spiritual journey – not hinder them – such as using meditation, or the Labyrinth, or art to explore our spiritual core and feed our inner hunger.
We try to be generous and engaged, distinctive, but not arrogant, learning from one another and journeying together – a place where those who can, do, and those who can’t are carried. On a good day we are welcoming, non-judgmental, inclusive, fun, friendly and relevant. On a bad day, we remind ourselves of our good days and move on!
In order to continue what we already do and to achieve what we would like to do in the future, we are currently engaged in Capital Fundraising Campaign called Under Our Roof and Beyond Our Walls, seeking to raise $1.5 million over the next three years.
Most of the money raised will help us restore and maintain our buildings for another generation of Dunbarites to enjoy. The rest will help us develop programmes and services to continue serving our quickly-changing community and meet the spiritual needs of this generation in new and innovative ways.
We realize that what made us the ‘Champions of Dunbar Village’ in the past probably will not be the same things that make us central to the quickly changing needs of Dunbar Village moving forward. Neither do we want to act alone, but rather in partnership with others, as we recognize that God is at work throughout our community in ways seen and unseen. As our community changes and develops, we hope to show a warm welcome to everyone who walks through our door.
So why not take another look at St Philip’s? Whether it is ‘Under Our Roof’ or ‘Beyond Our Walls’, we look forward to meeting you. Together, we can work to ensure that Dunbar remains the vibrant, unique community that it always has been. Together we can find meaning in our busy lives, feed our souls, and serve each other. Together we can be the Champions of Dunbar Village!
St. Philip’s Anglican Church
3737 W 27th Avenue, Vancouver BC V6S 1R2