Thursday, 8 December 2011

Vacuum Cleaners and Telephone Books

When I arrived back in the Vancouver area I was badly shaken and feeling bruised. My Mom, brother Dan, neighbors and friends all welcomed me but I felt so ashamed. However, there were four friends who stood beside me and gave me both moral and spiritual support.

The Rev. Gordon Taylor had left St Andrews United in Prince George and had become Pastor of South Hill United Church in Vancouver. He - a very heterosexual man - embraced me and gave me a number of suggestions as to whom to call and what to do. There was no judgment at all.

Bob Ross was an older gay man whom I met while strolling in Stanley Park. He was retired and a recovering alcoholic - through him I met a number of men who were also recovering alcoholics. While I am not an alcoholic - I rarely drink - they embraced me warmly and made sure that I was included in dinner parties and the like.

The Rev. John Palmer - whom I had met at Union College where we became friends - was serving as the Assistant at Ryerson United Church in the Kerrisdale district of Vancouver. If I didn't go to worship at South Hill, I went to Ryerson. Often both Gord and John invited me to assume minor roles in the Sunday services.

The fourth person was, I would say, the biggest help of all.

Before I mention him in particular, I will return to when I was a resident in Union College at UBC. One day I went into the Common Room and, among the papers and magazines laid out on coffee tables, was a copy of 'The Advocate'. This paper is published in San Francisco and is/was the special source of news for the LGBT community in the US and elsewhere.

In that issue was an article about a new church and denomination - UFMCC (The Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches). The first - "Mother Church" - was in Los Angeles and was pastored by the Rev. Troy Perry. That article intrigued me but I never dreamed of the impact that it would have upon my life.

A couple of years after the formation of UFMCC, the Rev. Bob Wolfe felt led to come to Toronto to look to the spiritual needs of LGBT folk here. He founded the church in Toronto and was the pastor for a few years. As there were others in the wings who were capable of taking over, he decided to go to Vancouver to found another congregation.

I should add here an anecdote from Bob's ministry in Toronto that was related to me after I had returned to Vancouver. An illness had left Bob lame - he walked with a noticeable limp. An ice storm had descended upon Toronto which made going anywhere somewhat treacherous. A young gay man who was tired of trying to fight who he was decided to commit suicide and made his way to the roof of City Hall from where he threatened to jump. The authorities had heard of the Rev. Bob Wolfe and that his pastorate was the Toronto LGBT Community so they telephoned him. Bob arrived, made his way up to that very icy roof and talked the young man down.   

At first I kept my distance but soon became involved myself and began my own healing process. The first services were held in the apartment rented by Bob and his partner, Larry. Soon, though, the Sunday evening gathering had grown large enough to create a need for another space and the church moved to the Scottish Auditorium which was a three story older building at  the corner of West 16th Avenue and Burrard Street.

There were many small organizations that rented space there and, while MCC Vancouver was holding worship in the auditorium on the third floor, a Hare Krishna group rented the room directly underneath. This created an interesting mixture (cacophony?) of hymns and East Indian chants!. The church flourished for a number of years.

The pay out that I had received from Westboro United Church soon began to run out so I had to look for other employment - especially something that would generate income fairly quickly.

Through agencies I found three different jobs.

The first was conducting surveys for a polling company on behalf of the French language CBC. I had to canvas streets in the older part of Maillardville (Coquitlam) seeking French speaking folk who watched CBFT (the French television network). I was assigned to a particular area and a particular number of homes looking for French speakers. They weren't there - they had prospered enough to move to the newer subdivisions and were replaced by folk of other ethnicities who did not speak French. At least I was paid for calling at the prescribed number of homes even without garnering the requisite number of statistics.

A vacuum cleaner company advertised for sales persons so I tried that. Now, 40 years later, I cannot remember the trade name of those machines - but I know that I am not a good salesman! I believe that I sold one vacuum cleaner - maybe two - but no more. The areas to which I was assigned were all over suburban Vancouver. It was very discouraging.

The next job was more enjoyable - delivering telephone directories to homes and to small businesses. While I never delivered to homes in the North Shore I was everywhere else in the metropolitan area.

This was strenuous work (I placed bundles of directories in the back of my Ford Maverick and drove to the area where I was assigned to deliver) but it was good exercise, decent money and I did not have to knock on doors and try to sell something that the residents did not want.

Excitement? Yes - I was bitten by two dogs and chased by a gaggle of geese. So help me, those geese worried me more than the dogs did!

Two directory drops were particularly memorable. One of them was to a bare yard in front of a mean dwelling. I did not notice that there was a dog sleeping in the yard - it was a pit bull! He did not wake up as I tiptoed by and back again. The second was to the home of Michael J. Fox's parents in Burnaby. I don't think that anybody was home - least of all the TV star.

Eventualy there was an advertisement in the 'Help Wanted' section of the Vancouver Sun - a fabric wholesale company needed an experienced bookkeeper. As it so happened, the Office manager and the family which owned the business were all faithful United Church folk so that went a long way in my being hired.

I worked there for four years.

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