When I first came to Creston on May 12, I was exhausted. The week before that was one of my busiest. Friday and Saturday I helped run a Christian conference called Refresh. Sunday, I had my last Sunday at St. James Cathedral in Toronto. Monday, I graduated from my master of divinity program at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto. Tuesday, I packed up everything I owned. Wednesday, I moved everything I owned, excluding a suitcase and a backpack, into a twn-by-six storage space. Thursday, I said goodbye to everyone I had known for the last nine years and left for the first church where I would be the main spiritual guide for the people.
It was intimidating. It can be a big challenge to come to a new place, to do something you are not even sure you can do, but Creston has made it a lot easier. I wish everyone could have had the welcoming I received. From the first moment, the church was there. They picked me up at the Cranbrook airport, took me out for supper and then had my apartment furnished, even with breakfast supplies waiting for me. The people in the parish continuously invited me over for tea or supper, but this did not end with just my parishioners at the church. There were tons of others who came forward; before I knew it I was playing soccer, going for potlucks, exploring the farmers market, driving along the windy path of Highway 3A, playing board games, picking cherries, eating pizza by the too cold Goat River, going for hikes and flying over top of Creston with my very newfound friends. There was a lot more to do in the so-called “retirement town” of Creston than I would have thought.
All that being said, I still found a lot of needs in this community. I spent my first few days walking around, praying, watching, listening and talking to anyone that seemed to want a good chat. Most of the time I could hear in their voice a desire, a need for community for friends, and yet at the same time I could hear an apprehension. It surprised me, for a town of about 5,000 how disconnected people still were. People may know each other, but it didn’t always feel like it went much further than that.
One of the things we pray for in the church is God’s kingdom. This is a place where God’s love, justice, goodness and joy flow in abundance. So, we pray for it to be made here on Earth, for people to know Christ so that they can share in the immeasurable bounty of His love. I see a little bit of God’s kingdom here in Creston when I see the hospitality and care of its people and the beauty of the place. Yet, I know we can go further; love is so much more than that.
So, as I pray, I am continually filled with questions. What would make this a place of God’s mercy and love? What is missing?
At the Blossom Festival parade, I saw whole groups of people, masses of families. At the Canada day fireworks, I saw tons of teens and young adults. These are groups that I barely see otherwise and yet they are here.
What kind of community are we building for our teens? Do they have a place of their own? Are there actually things they want to do here? What do we have for them when they graduate? What is there for families? Are there jobs that support parents locally so that they have time for their kids? Are there things for those kids to do on a continual basis? Who is caring for all those that are aging and don’t have community around them? How are we interconnecting them with the booming artistry, agriculture, beauty that I see all around me?
I love this place and I have so many hopes for it. I just pray that we can listen to each other and then work together to make it the kind of place I know it can be, a place where God’s love flows in abundance, a sanctuary to all those that are lost, a gentle breeze on a warm day.
Philip Stonhouse is the interim minister at Christ Church Anglican.