The other day I got the opportunity to do something that I feel God calls us all to do. I got to build relationships.
I was sitting in my office when a member of staff came in and said that someone from the British Columbia Regiment (BCRs) was outside and wanted to meet with me. So of course I said yes and invited them to join me for a physically-distanced coffee. The visitor was the Honorary L.Col. who is also the owner of a local clothing business and a member of some Canadian-Iranian organizations. We had a delightful conversation hitting on all topics from Alexander the Great to current politics (he jokingly claimed Alexander was Persian, since Greece was a vassal state for a while, but I corrected him gently). Near the end of the conversation he asked me if it was possible to hold a live-stream candle vigil for the passengers who had died on 8 January 2020 when Iran shot down the Ukrainian jet PS752. In the course of the next few minutes I learned the many of the people who died that day were from the Vancouver area and that the brother of a victim would be one of the 8 people who would be present to pray. Because of the restrictions I needed permission to hold this as a Vigil/Memorial livestream. To make a long story short, I made the case for a Memorial Vigil as a livestream and requested permission from the Archbishop and Diocesan safety team. Receiving the needed permission, we planned for the next day at 10.
On Friday at 10AM we had a 20 minute candle-lit vigil with prayers for the dead, including the brother of an individual who was present. It was a mixture of prayers from a vigil for the dying and the funeral service and it was extremely powerful for all present - most who were not Christian, and had also never felt closure about the deaths. I had the opportunity to offer pastoral care and, after the prayers, all had an opportunity to speak about how they felt. They all expressed a sense of greater closure. They also all also referenced the Cathedral as “their cathedral” and said it is a central for all people in Metro Vancouver and beyond.
The vigil was streamed on social media and also on Canadian-Iranian media sites. Those present showed interest in the other ministries of the Cathedral and asked about supporting the Maundy Cafe and other of our outreaches. Overall, the day brought a group of people together into a relationship that can continue to grow and connect us together - regardless of ethnicity, religion - and redefines the idea of “member.” They left after exchanging contact information with me and later I received a link to the Iranian-Canadian communities post of the event.
I believe that God calls us to engage with all others through listening and building relationships. We do this by actively hearing, engaging and relating. These actions are linked with each other into what Eric Law has referred to as the “Currency of Relationships”. To carry out the mission God has given us we need to build relationships through listening and engaging with each other. When Jesus encountered people, relationships were always foremost in the equation.
Eric speaks about two points about this currency and Jesus’ mission..
First is the Divine-Human Network
Jesus called his followers friends and invited them to abide in him and his love so that they may bear fruit. Jesus said he was connected to God who loved him and he in turn loved his friends, telling them to spread this love to others. Jesus emphasized that we are all only two degrees of separation from God through Jesus. If we are all children of God, then we are all siblings to each other. Realizing and living out this network changes every relationship, it forces us to see each other on the same level: face to face and underscores the importance of developing relationships with others. When we make real faithful connections across diverse people of God we are building up the kingdom of God.
Second is that Relationships are Internal & External
Jesus' first network was internal, mostly Jews but he commanded his friends to be witnesses to the ends of the earth. Building and strengthening the internal network is an essential first step in the church today, however in order to fulfill the command to love your neighbours as yourself and to spread this love to the ends of the earth we need to develop relationships outside our community of faith. We need to engage outside our walls connecting with people in our immediate neighbourhood, in the city, and eventually the province, the nation and across the earth.