Amidst the art vendors and the knitted mermaids at the Tofino Public Market, on any summer Saturday you may find St. Columba Anglican/United Church.
Jenny Bradshaw and husband Sandy are the church’s most dedicated representatives at the market, marketing the homemade things the church has become rather famous for: along with St. Columba tea towels, handknitted stuffed toys, homemade jams including
June Hanton’s fabulous Scotch marmalade.
Pastor Will Ferrey finds the market a great place to be.
“It’s a way for us to be present in the community -as a church, people know where building is, but don’t often know who you are. Having a different way of presenting the church can be really helpful,” Ferrey said.
The congregation just marked St. Columba’s 100th anniversary on the Tofino waterfront’s landscape. Like all mainline denominations in Canada, the United States and Britain, the Anglican and United strains are facing the aging up of their congregations in a generation where youth may not be as interested in church.
Still, between summer visitors and new blood – there’s a toddler baptism in August – St. Columba is feeling a new breeze.
There’s the new Wednesday evening summer service, brought by a new pastor who, at 31, holds an M.Div. from University of British Columbia’s Vancouver School of Theology and is one of the younger ministers in the B.C. Diocese.
“I’ve been watching the ebb and flow of the town and I had this realization, there may be people working on Sunday or having trouble getting up, or really wanting to hit the waves,’ the Alberta native said.
Any time he’s over at the church, he’s likely to put the sign outside that says the church is open, so the casual worshipper seeking a peaceful moment can find it.
Then there’s the St. Columba (Acoustic) Jam, set for Sun., Aug.17. The church is inviting acoustic musicians and worshippers of any denomination to come for an acoustically-inspired celebration of faith.
Doors open at 9:45 a.m. for tuning/warmup, songsheet available ahead of time.
Following the service, tea and scones with traditional Englishstyle clotted cream and (what else) homemade JAM made by the ladies of St. Columba.
Visitors from all over the Island and Lower Mainland recently came to Ferrey’s service of covenanting and induction – a formalization of his role in the church. “We’re still looking for ways to reach out in Tofino,” he said.
St. Columba was a sister church to the former St. Aidan’s On the Hill in Ucluelet, the historic old building – since “deconsecrated” and prepared for secular use.
Ferrey’s rooting for developer Leif Hagar, whose plans to develop
the building as a venue have met some challenge at the District of Ucluelet, having to do with inspections and safety.
“I’d really like to see the church restored, and I think what Leif is doing is really needed,” Ferrey said, adding that his congregation still has members in Ucluelet and a weekly Bible study on Thursdays in Ucluelet, and they would be interested in renting back the old St. Aidans on occasion.
“We would have the joy of that beautiful space, without the worry of the upkeep,” he said.
“I don’t know ins and outs of council, but I’m really behind the project … I think it’s like when you move house, a sense that we had a part of it … it’s living memory for us,” he said.
Ferrey also welcomes the chance to pray for West Coast residents through email, and he invites prayer requests and requests for pastoral visits at info@stcolumbatofino.
“A lot of people have traditionally expressed spirituality through the church, but the church is still a resource for them. Just because
people aren’t there Sundays doesn’t mean we can’t pray for them,” he said.