The Cathedral Church of St Michael and All Angels, Kelowna BC
Recently, the Cathedral Church of St. Michael and All Angels in Kelowna welcomed the visit of four former parishioners and siblings at Sunday worship. In town for a family reunion, they shared a number of fond memories of growing up in the parish, including that they had all been baptised and confirmed at St. Michael’s under the direction of Archdeacon Desmond Catchpole, who served as rector from 1942-1966.
Such visits are delightful occasions connecting past and present in ways that highlight the significance and continuity of a congregation’s history. To encounter those whose lives have been shaped by the life of the church past, and who now carry the faith in the present, is testimony to the faithfulness of God through our various histories.
In The HighWay’s Jubilee Issue of 1960, Archdeacon Catchpole wrote of the development and situation of the Diocese of Kootenay to that point, noting: “I would not have thought that I should live to see a revival of religion and of responsibility towards the Christian Church, but it has happened.”
What a delightful note! Catchpole’s words assume that the churches of the Diocese of Kootenay had been living through a variety of challenges, but also that new life was emerging to carry them forward in new ways. Catchpole’s words bear witness to the troughs and crests of the waves within which the church and its people make their way in the faith, hope, and love to which we are called.
Since then, much has unfolded and the recent work of the diocese has included attention to our post-pandemic situation in the midst of the changes and challenges of a shifting society, with the Province of British Columbia reporting the highest levels of “no religious affiliation” in the country, at 52.4% as of the 2021 census published by Statistics Canada. The work of the Structures Working Group and the recent endorsement at the Special Synod of hiring a Coordinator to work with Archbishop Lynne McNaughton and parishes across the diocese with an eye to implementing new plans and patterns in light of a new vision. It will be an important endeavour for our own time “co-creating a world where all experience and share the transforming power of God’s love” and a mission to “cultivate thriving communities embodying and bearing witness to God’s love through Christ for all of Creation.”
In the midst of this, such shifts and changes do not diminish the faithful involvement of our churches in their communities. At St. Michael’s, the Cathedral Cupboard welcomes up to fifty people each Friday to enjoy refreshments and conversation (including a bi-weekly brunch) and to choose from a variety of food and clothing to help meet the needs of our neighbourhood – which increasingly includes migrant farmworkers, new Canadians and refugees starting new lives in Kelowna. Seasonally, there is much fresh produce, both from the Cathedral vegetable garden and from the shared “Gift Farm Garden” spearheaded by St Andrew’s, Kelowna, and tended and harvested by many from different communities, both religious and not.
There have been six incumbents subsequent to Catchpole at St. Michael’s. In 1987 the parish was designated the cathedral for the diocese during the tenure of the Very Rev Jonathan Greenhalgh, who continues to serve as an Honorary Assistant and Dean Emeritus. In 1990, the Cathedral served for the first time as the place from which a Bishop of Kootenay was consecrated, with Bishop David Crawley beginning his tenure as Bishop and subsequently as Archbishop as the Metropolitan of British Columbia until 2004. Three deans to this point have followed Greenhalgh: the Very Rev Allan Reed (2001-2009), the Very Rev Nissa Basbaum (2009-2020), and myself, as of July 2021. Most recently, Dean Nissa oversaw renewed attention to the worship space itself, with renovations to the Nave to facilitate use of the space for both worship services and for events of the wider community, thus enabling a vision of a Cathedral at the interface of the spiritual and cultural life of a city. Part of that vision includes a deliberate welcome and inclusivity in the name of the God of all Creation, with members of the congregation participating in the annual Kelowna Pride Parade and in the ecumenical Interfaith Collective of the ‘Journey Home Society’. Attention to and learning from the Sylix Okanagan peoples, on whose traditional and unceded territory the Cathedral sits, continues to unfold. From beautiful worship in a beautiful church and grounds, artistic and musical engagement and a thoughtful faith, to being a hospitable place of welcome, friendship, support, and a presence in the neighbourhood and beyond: these are the ingredients of a Cathedral that carries faith, hope, and love with joy.
In 2017, two members of St. Michael’s – Stuart Richardson and Dorothy Zoellner – spearheaded a historical project that resulted in a lovely book on the history of the Cathedral, titled ‘On Our Way Rejoicing’. The cover includes a detail from one of the stained-glass windows. Together, that image and the title highlight both the beauty of the Cathedral and of its people as those who carry the spirit of rejoicing forward in the midst of the “changes and chances of this life.” May that spirit ever be!