Thursday, 15 December 2011

MCC Vancouver

I should make notes for myself before beginning these blogs as, sometimes, I omit to include relevant material. I am beginning this blog by sharing items that should have been included in an earlier entry.

1981 was the year when I assumed the Pastorate of MCC Vancouver and, by coincidence, it was the year of the notorious raids on male bathhouses by the Toronto Police Department. The year when I am writing this is 2011 - 30 years later - yet that horrific event is still very much in the collective psyche here in Toronto.

There was a meeting of the Vancouver Police/Gay Committee shortly thereafter and I vividly remember a comment by one of the officers who was meeting with us. As events, thought patterns and the like usually worked their way from east to west across Canada, the worry of the officer was that pressure would be put upon them to follow up in Vancouver with what had happened in Toronto. Fortunately, what he feared never materialized.

After the 'Bath Raids' there was an influx of LGBT folk from Toronto and they brought their memories with them. A friend of mine (who was one of them) was severely roughed up in a 'Gay bashing'. I asked him if he had reported the incident to the Police? He replied, "No. I am too afraid of the Police to do so." That saddened me no end and, when I mentioned this chat to the officers meeting with us, they were saddened too.

I had my apartment burgled twice - but different apartments. The second happened one Saturday evening not long after I had moved into that address. I rented a two bedroom apartment on the ground floor just off of the lobby. The windows on one side looked out upon the driveway to the upper level of the parking facility while the front windows - including those in the master bedroom - looked out upon the decorative shrubbery beside the curved driveway.

It was Mom's birthday and I had taken her out for dinner. After dining I brought her back to the apartment so she could see my new place. I put my key in the lock but the door would not open - the deadbolt had been moved into place. Mom was in her 70s and was becoming infirm so, not wanting to distress her (and not knowing exactly what/who was on the other side of the door) I suggested that she see the apartment at another time and that I take her home.

When I returned - about an hour later - my roommate was home and had managed to get the door open. Little had been stolen but the thief's entry - and escape - were obvious. The prime window looking out onto the ramp had a small sliding part at the bottom. The felon must have been really tiny as he had squeezed himself in through there and when nobody was coming or going from that part of the parking facility. He had exited out of the window in my roommate's area falling into a large bush and then escaping up the street.

I mentioned this at a meeting of the Police/Gay Committee and one of the officers present asked if he could come by my place to look at my security. I gave permission and he came by. My security was adequate - I was just a victim of a one in a million chance.

Now to return to what I intended to be the theme of this blog.

I believe that the ministry is my true calling and I was grateful to be able to return.

Pastoring a church in a new denomination which caters mainly to the spiritual needs of a special group of people scorned or ignored by most other churches is not easy. It is surprising how many people flee their 'persecution' but bring all of the baggage with them - and then wonder why it does not fit into the new place. One of my biggest problems in leading the congregation was that very fact.

However, it would be false - and completely unfair - for me to say that that was the prime concern of my life - let alone of the congregation.

We were a really diverse lot and included great individuals - and some right royal 'pains in the butt'! Our congregation grew to anywhere from 40 to 75 on a Sunday evening. We had hymns, Scripture, sermon, anthem, communion - and a Coffee Hour - just like practically every other church in the city.

Among these people were some wonderful characters. I wont mention all of them but a few who really stick out.

One was an elderly Jewish gentleman. He had been born and raised in Czechoslovakia, had married and had sired a child. By profession he was a philosopher and he taught philosophy in high schools.

When the Third Reich came to power in Germany and began to invade neighboring countries this man was whisked away by family friends and ended up in Beijing where he had a teaching engagement. When the Communists came to power in China he fled to Vancouver and taught at a couple of private schools until he retired.

We became friends and, every once in a while, he would invite me over for dinner. There was one aspect of the dinner invitation that I found difficult. This good man absolutely adored vodka so, beside our respective plates, were water glasses full of vodka - and neat with no mixers or other additives. I loathe vodka but I had to be as polite as possible. He served wine as well which I could handle.

There were two young men who came to the Sunday evening services dressed in drag - and they - especially one of them - looked stunning in female attire. (The Jewish gentleman refused to believe that they were not real women)! Their relationship blossomed and they decided to have a Holy Union (this preceded legal same gender weddings which were approved in Canada in 2003).

One of the lads was from Agassiz - the community near which are the two prisons mentioned in an earlier blog. Aside from the prisons, the main industry in Agassiz is dairy farming. The mother of the boy from there gave her complete blessing to the Union and agreed that it be held in her living room. All of the neighbors were invited to attend but only the women showed up - the men (including the father of the groom) were no where in sight.

It was a lovely service - and, yes, the cross dresser did cross dress.

I will share more about my ministry in the next blog.

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