One of my favourite places in Victoria, that everyone should see.

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Christ Church Cathedral, which is the “Episcopal seat for the Bishop of the Diocese of British Columbia”, basically the administrative head and spiritual home for Anglicans within this diocese, a diocese with around 50 or so parishes.

In Victoria this is easily one of my favourite places for a whole variety of reasons. For one thing its open 7 days a week to the public. People can come in and stroll around, take pictures, or if so inclined sit and meditate, pray or simply be quiet and collect their thoughts for a while. It’s also a physically impressive place. The place, as you’ll probably guess from my pictures, is huge. The cathedral itself is a massive structure, but also on the property, that takes up a large city block, is the cathedral offices, Christ Church Cathedral School and an administrative building and the office of the Anglican Bishop of BC. Another reason I love the place is the history. There are all kinds of interesting little historical artifacts, from a stone laid out front by Sir Winston Churchill, to chalices, bibles and prayer books that date back several hundred years.

Its also a very friendly place. In spite of the fact that my expectation was that it would be a bit of a snooty sort of place. That hasn’t been my experience. I’ve always felt very welcome and I’ve been here many times to take advantage of a very quiet and contemplative space. I’ve also attended some services here and never dress up or cover my tattoo sleeved arms. I usually just show up in jeans and a t-shirt. I’ve never felt unwelcome. On one occasion, as an example of the openness here, I was sitting near the back in a fairly crowded service when two men that appeared to be homeless wondered in 15-20 minutes into everything. Instead of being either asked what they were doing or even seated in the back, an usher immediately showed them to a spot near the front row, asking everyone to shove down to make room for them. It’s not a snooty place in my experience at all.

I couldn’t take pictures of everything for obvious reasons. Here is a snippet of the place.

The view as you walk in the front door. Deafening silence.

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Looking back from the alter at the massive organ above the front entrance.

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Pulpit. It was made from a single oak tree that grew in England in Sussex. The tree was over 500 years old and the wood then seasoned 30 years before use.

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The Lady Chapel that sits off to the right of the main Cathedral alter. With a statue of Mary holding the infant Jesus at the entrance. It contains an organ that dates to 1862 and some of the stones at the front of the alter are originally from the high alter screen at Canterbury Cathedral and date back at least 700 years.

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Some old artifacts that can be seen around the Cathedral.

Starting with a stone put in place by Sir Winston Churchill.

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Chalice from 1759

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Chalice from 1684

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Baptistery. Floor made of marble. A white dove in the centre window was included to relay a story of the first baptism done here. The story goes that when the first baptism was done the windows had not yet been put in and a white dove flew in and sat on the ledge for the duration of the ceremony, then flew off.

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The Chapel of the New Jeruselem can be seen through the massive windows behind the main alter. The chapels stained glass windows shining through into the cathedral.

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The cathedral as seen from the Chapel of the New Jerusulem

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A a few other random pictures around the cathedral..

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For those in the city that are not of the Christain persuasion and could use a public space to meditate or pray, but would not feel comfortable in the cathedral itself for religious reasons or otherwise, this space was created at the front entrance. It’s a multi faith chapel and is there for anyone, of any faith (or no faith) to use at their own leisure .

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Outside in the cathedral grounds is a labyrinth constructed by  inmates from William Head Prison. It’s used for walking meditation.

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A few other random pictures from around the property, of the main office, and the school…

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Xenophobia, Christians and the crazy ideas of a homeless dusty ol’ Jewish Rabbi

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This meme has been shared a number of times now on my Facebook newsfeed and funny enough, in each instance, of the times I’ve noticed it shared anyway, it’s been by someone that I know to be a self identified Christian. Which is something that actually perplexes me a great deal. Not even getting into the obvious point that this country is *already* radically different socially, culturally and religiously than it was just 20-30 years ago. Which was different again than the 20-30 years before that, and 20-30 years before that… That’s the whole thing about societies and culture, no matter how hard people try to keep them the same, they change. Always have. Always will. Our culture today even though already changed in almost every way from just decades ago, absolutely and unquestionably will change further again tomorrow. I guarantee it.

But I just wanted to get my thoughts out specifically around this relatively small, but vocal subset of Christians that seem to fear the “other” so much.

A “Christian” is a label that means either a “follower of Christ”, or sometimes translated literally as “little Christ”, which is perhaps an even more descriptive call to action. Not Christian in an “I believe the right things” sense of the word, whatever those right things actually are… but more I think a charge to emulate the actions of, and follow in deeds and the directives of Jesus. To actively work at growing beyond our little selves and become more Christ-like.

That’s where I get confused. This xenophobic and often even racist attitude towards the “other”. This judging without knowing, this hording our blessings and denying them to others, this distrust of our fellow man, is utterly counter to everything Jesus taught during his entire ministry.

He preached repeatedly on not just the importance of, but the expectation of welcoming the stranger. Clothing and feeding the downtrodden and hungry, and treating and loving the “other” as yourself. He in fact lists it as the second greatest of commandments. The whole of the law can be summed up he said, as “love the Lord your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And to love your neighbour as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) That’s all of it in a nut shell.  Simple but not so easy.

I heard the Reverend Martin Brokenleg give a homily today in which he recalled Jesus saying in Luke 9:48 “whoever welcomes this little child in my name, welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me, welcomes the One who sent me.”

In order to understand what makes that statement truly radical, and why his disciples where reportedely confused by it at first, you have to put it into its historical and cultural context. In first century Palestine, children where generally not held in the same regard as they typically are today. About 1 in 3 didn’t survive the first year of life and 60% didn’t live past their teens. Food, which was scarce, was reserved for adults first, if there was any left over after they ate what they needed, that went to the children. It was considered paramount to ensure the survival of the adults. Children were actually very low down on the social order. That is why it made what Jesus said so perplexing and hard to grasp given the accepted social status of children. In today’s culture and given our socially accepted norms, Jesus essentially said the equivalent of “whoever welcomes this *homeless man* *mentally ill woman* * drug addict* *brown skinned Muslim refugee* in my name, welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me, welcomes the One that sent me.”

What some of my Christian brothers and sisters are forgetting, is that Jesus always welcomed the outcast and the despised,the persecuted, and neglected to his table. As a matter of fact, he gave them
preferential treatment. And he commanded that his followers do likewise.

“Whoever welcomes this little child in my name, welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me, welcomes the One that sent me.”