Tuesday, 18 October 2011


I have been wrestling with how I should approach this topic. Those three years at Union College, U.B.C. were very important and did dictate how most of my adult life was to be lived.

As I mentioned previously, 'religion' 'Per Se' was not all that important to our family. Yes, when a Sunday School opened in our community (Ruskin), Dad ensured that Alda and I attended. Then, a year later when we moved to Dawes Hill in Coquitlam, Mom wrote to the Mennonite group to ask if they would be interested in opening another one in our new neighborhood - and they did.

Always I was conscious that we were 'United Church of Canada' people (my parents were married by an itinerant United Church minister in August, 1935) but it wasn't until I was in Grade XII when a schoolmate invited me to attend the Young Peoples' Group at Como Lake United Church that I began to attend and to become involved.

The 1971 Graduating Class (Ordinands) at Union College, U.B.C. As that occasion was more than 40 years ago, I no longer remember the names - at least, to accurately apply each to a face.Where am I in the photo? I am the person who is the third from the right hand side.

As you may have read in my blogs about life in Alice Springs and Brisbane I did become quite involved in church life while there. As a matter of fact, the minister at Kedron Methodist Church in Brisbane did challenge me to consider the ministry. Back home in Canada - and living in Prince George, B.C. - I was seriously challenged again and I responded.

Now it was the spring of 1971 and both graduation and ordination were approaching. I was excited and scared all at the same time.

Somehow the 'Fairy Tale' that seminary was a magic place of spirituality and devotion had not happened (as if it ever would!). I - along with 10 other 'Theologs' - took courses from United Church and Anglican professors. Now came 'crunch time'.

But, before I proceed, I will comment on our professors who were a good group of men (no female theological professors at that time).

Our Principal was the Rev Dr. Taylor - a sweet gentleman. The Dean of Residence was the Rev Valentine -'Val'- Anderson. Other professors were Dr. Wilson, Dr. Larry Toombs and Dr Ed Furcha. Also. as part of the Anglican faculty, was our New Testament Prof Canon "Boom Boom" Bailey. Incidentally, Canon Bailey knew of his nickname and seemed amused by it.

Dr. Larry Toombs, a native of Nova Scotia, had come to Union College from a Methodist seminary in New Jersey. As well as an Old Testament scholar, he was a noted archaeologist. He planned to take some of us with him to an ongoing 'dig' at the site of ancient Shekem in the Holy Land. Unfortunately for us, the financial backing needed for that expedition never came into being in Vancouver. Often I have wondered what that would have been like to go on an archaeological dig instead of a 'Summer Field'. That was one of those "What if" moments in my life.

Dr Furcha also had an impact upon my destiny. He was a close friend of the United Church Chaplain at Memorial University in St John's Newfoundland and, because of that connection, I was astonished to find myself 'settled' at Bell Island, Newfoundland upon my ordination. More about that in a future blog.

There were no family resources for me to fall back upon during my years at Union so I looked for ways to be subsidized. One was by being a dishwasher at the residence (mentioned in the 'Union College' blog).

Another way was by successfully applying to an advertisement posted by Queens Avenue United Church in New Westminster. They needed a leader ('Akela') for the Cub Pack based at that church. I had never had the opportunity to be a part of the Boy Scout movement and did not really have a clue what that would entail. However, one of the other residents at Union had grown up in the Scout Movement from 'Cub' to 'Eagle Scout' so he volunteered to be my assistant and mentor.

That was a great experience. Yes, those boys could be a 'pain in the neck' but, basically, they were a wonderful group of kids. One of them was especially memorable - Terry Weed - who seemed always to be the source of any mischief among those boys. Some years later I was saddened to learn that he had been badly burned. He and his father had been at the town dump when an aerosol can exploded right beside where Terry was standing. Forty years ago town dumps were public and a way to dispose of the garbage was to burn it.

This is one of the larger ferries which sail directly from the mainland to Vancouver Island and return. The craft which we boarded was not as large as this one and it serviced many of the island communities between Tswassen (south of Vancouver in Delta) and Sidney on Vancouver Island.

This is one of the smaller inter-island ferries. When we left one island to go to the next one, we traveled on one of these.

When the year ended I was permitted to take those boys on a special outing. Some of the Dads volunteered to be drivers and they took us to the B.C. Ferries Terminal at Tswassen (south of Vancouver) where we boarded the ferry for the Gulf Islands. Since the boys were all wearing their uniforms - thus recognizable for whom they were - they were invited up to the bridge where one of them was chosen to sound the horn as the ferry approached one of the docks. That boy was so thrilled.

Before leaving this thread, I will mention another volunteer task. I had seen an ad for applicants to become Big Brothers. I applied, was accepted, and mentored two boys.

The first was Jack who lived with his single Mom and older sister in an apartment along False Creek - then across the road from a lumber mill but now (thanks largely to Expo 86) it is an area of marinas and spiffy condominiums.

Jack was quite the lad. He had ambition - not to train for a lofty profession - but to become a gangster!

He belonged to a local Boys and Girls Club at which I began to volunteer as well. The Boys and Girls clubs owned a cabin up on Mount Seymour in North Vancouver and Jack - as well as a couple of buddies - gained permission for us to use the cabin for a few days during Christmas Week. I was able to drive most of the way up to the cabin to where I could park safely and then we had to slog in through fairly deep snow. When we reached the cabin we were dismayed to see that somebody had broken in.

The break in had been accomplished by prying off a few boards where the stove wood was stored, then going up the stairs and into the cabin proper. As a result the cabin was freezing and the wood too damp to burn. Also, the villains had helped themselves to some canned meat from the cabin, had cooked it, and had left the plates and pots in water in the sink which had frozen solid. What a mess! Instead of two or three days up there we remained for only one frigid night.

After Jack ended our friendship I was assigned to another boy. Ron lived with his widowed mother and older sister in a house which they owned. Ron, although not as 'adventurous' as Jack, was another great kid. Back then McDonald Drive-ins were the latest thing so often that was where we went when we wanted a snack.

Also, with Ron we got to go more places - like visiting my family near 100 Mile House - than I ever did with Jack. After returning to Vancouver in 1977 I encountered Ron while walking along a downtown street. We reestablished our friendship but I have not seen him for many years and I now have no idea where he might be.

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