I am taut and strung-out. I need to be at the courts by 9am. The courts, the courts, the courts. Anxiety clouds my brain. The city courts, the provincial courts or the federal courts? I don’t know which, but I know I need to be there. My child is having an important custody hearing. My husband has just hopped on his motorcycle. “I’ll meet you there,” he says.
My child’s uncle has done the same with his motorcycle. He’s a key witness. That they both have motorcycles is not surprising to me — that I need to drive there alone without directions is. If we don’t get there in time, the judge won’t look lightly on our tardiness and may not grant us custody. Worry gnaws my gut. I know my husband and I are on the same team, but somehow he has left me behind…I am lost and confused.
I wake up.
I forget about the dream and enter my day, the harried dream-emotions sliding off my consciousness like newts slipping back into the pond.
Today is church tourism day. Our kids will attend church with friends and neighbors. Andrew and I will resume church hopping, visiting the fifth church in our career research project, “Church-Hopping in Vancouver”.
This project will likely end soon with a new job for Andrew and a new church home for our family. In the meantime, before we are again shackled by calling, mission and responsibility, we relish our temporary unmoored-ness and we do the (previously) unthinkable: we church-hop.
There is a light mist in the air. Parking is freely available and the streets are quiet as we pull up to to the old Rio Theatre at Commercial and Broadway, this last Sunday of 2013. Immanuel Church meets here, and here we hope to catch up with Simon, an inner-city-type church planter with whom Andrew has been meaning to connect. But as we come up to the theatre, we see that it is dark.
The door is locked. A Youth Unlimited Trailer is parked outside, lights on and steam coming from the roof, signs of life. A tall lanky British guy wearing a knit scarf sticks his head out of the trailer and intercepts us apologetically. He also intercepts a man in a wheelchair who is wheeling up at the same time, “There’s no church today. I’m so sorry. A bunch of our young adults are away at a retreat, so we didn’t have enough volunteers to run a service. We cancelled. But we regularly have coffee in the trailer with some people who struggle with addictions. You’re welcome to join us.”
So this is Simon. Andrew is glad to meet him, another hip pastor with a social conscience. But no thanks, we won’t stay for coffee—we’re church hopping today. Undeterred, we hit up Google for another church to attend and decide on St. Peter’s Fireside, a downtown church plant. The service will start in another 20 minutes. We drive into the city centre and Andrew turns into a parking garage, right beneath a huge sign that says “Vancouver Courts.”
“The Courts! They’re here!” I shriek.
I can barely believe my wondrous luck. We are going to the very place that my dream so urgently prescribed. The dream tumbles back from memory and falls out of my mouth. I gleefully retrieve details from memory and piece them together out loud for Andrew’s entertainment and for my peace of mind. Soon we are standing at the doors to UBC Robson Square, adjacent to the Vancouver Courts, where St Peter’s Fireside meets. The doors are locked.
A small group of church-goers soon congregates—and we discover amidst mumblings, cell phone checkings and shufflings that church has been cancelled this last Sunday of the year at St Peter’s as well.
“We were going to go to Reality Church first, but we came here because it was cancelled today.”
“We were just at Emmanuel Church. They’ve cancelled service too.”
“Oh really? I usually go to Artisan Church, but I came here because they’ve cancelled service today. And Emmanuel was next on my list to visit.”
We all snicker at the oddity of it, in conspirational wonder at church plants and their closed doors. We bond as strangers will. The small crowd slowly disperses and the last speaker, the one from Artisan Church, lingers. She thrusts out a gloved hand. “I’m Charlene, by the way.”
We launch into small talk. Lo and behold, Charlene is a writer. “You’re a writer?” Andrew asks, gesturing towards me, “My wife is a writer too.”
Charlene’s face brightens.
How likely is that? “We should all go for coffee now,” suggests my chivalrous husband. And so we do. After two shut doors, coffee is a welcome reprieve from the hunt for church.
Coffee is at Faubourg and it is lovely:
The bread-crumb trail began with a dream early this morning, meandered through the city and then landed across the street from the Vancouver Courts.The reward is twofold:
1) It’s officially confirmed that Vancouver pastors need a break too
2) I meet a writing buddy and we conspire to set up a writer’s group
The secret to healthy church-hopping? Indulge sparingly. (Or rack up 6 years straight of dedicated Sundays first so that you can soar —temporarily — like a bird when you’ve been released.)
Because deep down you know you only enjoy true freedom when it comes with boundaries. And once in a blue moon, church-hopping turns out to be simply serendipitous and divine.