Thinking Out Loud

July 29, 2019

Why I Could Never Live in Vancouver

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:06 am

VANCOUVER — This city is a Hades for anyone who owns a car. If you live in Toronto, you can go years without ever having to drive downtown, unless some legal issue requires you to appear before a Superior Court judge. But in Vancouver, if you’re ever going to connect with the Lower Mainland — and the rest of Canada for that matter — you simply must drive through the downtown. There are no freeways, either.

Yet strangely, Vancouverites are greatly invested in their downtown core. Since this is a faith-focused blog, it seems fitting to mention that the downtown churches are healthy. But locals pay anywhere from $2.50 to $12.50 to park — depending on the church — each and every week. But they pay to park just about everywhere. There are no suburbs in the sense of what I grew up with or the neighborhood where we now live back home. Because the density is somewhat equally spread out, there are parking permits required on streets where you wouldn’t expect parking to be an issue.

Want to avoid the whole car thing? Check this out: There’s a bus system and a train system but they aren’t integrated. They’re treated as separate entities. It’s nuts.

Food costs more here.

Housing costs more here.

If you go for a walk there are no places to sit. 

There are no places to refill a water bottle, or any water fountains.

Information is hard to come by. It’s assumed everyone has a phone and can navigate Google maps, even when these maps are ambiguous.

But it’s the driving/traffic thing that really irks me. Our two journeys over the Lion’s Gate Bridge were on Saturdays. No business traffic, right? It was still crazy. Perhaps I need to go to New York City to have a better basis of comparison.

Mind you, Kelowna in rush hour on Friday was no better, and that’s a city of only 190,000 people. The same rush hour was creating havoc in Vernon. Maybe people in this province have never seen a traffic system that works, and they have nothing to aim for.

Heck, we got out of Greater Toronto, even though our daily reality was Scarborough, not the downtown, and now live in a town where three cars waiting for a traffic light to change is a major backup. And those traffic lights are all on vehicle-sensors so they change dynamically with whatever traffic exists at that moment.

No, this would drive me to insanity, and even though I was not behind the wheel today, it pretty much did anyway.

July 22, 2019

Visits to Three Vancouver Churches Shattered Our Stereotypes

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:22 am

I would love to have moved to take pictures showing the attendance at all three churches, but that would have been disruptive. First Baptist will relocate temporarily at some point in 2020 to undergo a seismic upgrade, since this is Vancouver after all.

We visited three different Vancouver Churches on Sunday. God has to let us in to heaven now, right? Our visits were (in order): First Baptist Church, Coastal Church and Tenth Church.

Several stereotypes I had were shattered.

To begin, Evangelicals have not all abdicated the city core and moved out to the suburbs, at the intersection of two freeways. These downtown churches were comfortably filled. At our first stop, people were streaming into First Baptist when we arrived. It was quite a sight to see! But the crowds continued at the other two.

Second, the classic Willow mantra that if people are going to visit, it’s going to be on Sunday morning just didn’t apply. Two of the services were at 1:00 PM and 6:00 PM. If you had told me that a 1:00 PM service would be filled, I would have been skeptical.

Third, it wasn’t a question of scarcity. First Baptist and Coastal were within blocks of each other.

My wife was especially impressed with the level of community involvement at First Baptist. This is the one that had the oldest demographic yet seemed to be most concerned about social justice.

She also noted that each was very different, and each had a number of different foci and different strengths. They all had good singers, they all had good musicians. First Baptist was plagued with audio problems, the sermon precariously perched on the edge of feedback for all 40 minutes.

First Baptist did a high quality mix of blended worship, including an organ postlude for which adherents remained seated and broke out the only applause of the morning at that church. Coastal may have been doing all original songs, we weren’t sure. (I asked the sound guy for his rundown sheet after the service, but he wouldn’t give it to me!) Tenth did CCLI Top 25 songs for which they have to keep the windows closed in order to avoid conflicts with the surrounding neighborhood. The windows get opened during the teaching.

Taken just ten minutes before the service at Coastal Church, latecomers totally filled this section by the third and final worship song. It’s a former Christian Science church. Entrance is on two streets, but some rather narrow hallways on the lower level. (Great bookstore, by the way!)

Two of the churches were using older buildings, and the one which wasn’t went out of their way to incorporate classic elements, i.e. candles and paintings.

No one who wasn’t serving as an official greeter spoke with us at all three churches. We had to be the ones to initiate conversations.

For what it’s worth, all had coffee. (I was given a banana at Coastal, which came in handy later!) Tenth impressed me by having their full kids program running at 6:00 PM. While we’re being superficial, none of these churches had air conditioning, something that would have been unthinkable back east. And what’s with communion on the third Sunday of the month? Must be a Vancouver thing.

The picture at Tenth was also taken ten minutes before the start of the service. The four rows in the center section to the left, which you can’t see, were 100% full by the third worship song, and the other sections filled up comfortably. A few people were sitting in the balcony. Many people are dependent on public transit in Vancouver, so they arrive when they arrive.

All three sermons were high quality. There was a basic scholarship error in an interpretation at First, and also a badly-worded comment about mental illness; and I think the title of this one implied the Bible passage was going to contain an entirely different emphasis.

Coastal mixed three video clips from a popular movie with a sermon that would have made Joel Osteen proud. Tenth had a younger, associate pastor speaking and I wasn’t sure where that would go, but for my wife it was the best of the three. Quite personal and an abundance of application.

By the way, in spite of any minor negative comments, all three would have my recommendation and I would happily visit each one again.


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