St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church

Vancouver, B.C.

Phone: 604-877-1788


The Anglican Parish of St. Mary Magdalene

2950 Laurel Street at West 14th Avenue

Vancouver, BC, V5Z  3T3

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Diocese of New Westminster Anglican Church of Canada

Home Who We Are UAM What Is On Sermons Contact Us

Due to COVID-19 pandemic the church is closed until May 2020

 Welcome to virtual church!

If you need pastoral care, call or e-mail the office

Phone: 604-877-1788   E-mail:


May 28th  Easter 6, 2019                           John Marsh

Acts 16:9-15; Psalm 67; Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5; John 14:23-29

Lydia, oh Lydia, have you met Lydia?
Lydia, the Tattooed Lady.¹

Sorry, that’s a different Lydia…

So, let’s begin again with Lydia from the book of Acts.

Who is Lydia?

Little can be said for sure…

She is a dyer of purple cloth and notably her house is her own; but whether she is rich or not, widowed or not, are questions left unanswered.

However, that she is named is of significance.

Generally, women are not mentioned and, if mentioned, they are usually not named - Lydia is named.

As a woman with a household she is unconventional and perhaps, because of her ‘otherness’, she and her

household were primed to become the first converts in Philippi. As a follower of the way she opens her home to Paul and Silas and later in the chapter (see Acts 16:40) it is clear that she is the key figure in founding the first community of believers in Philippi. As such, she and her household are living as a contrast community within a patriarchal and hierarchical culture.

Lydia is perhaps named because she is an exemplar of living counter culturally, of living the alternative way of Jesus which does not play by the rules of conventional imperial culture: gender, class and economic status are of no consequence.

Lydia is an enigmatic yet compelling follower of the way, one who stands as a beacon today: Lydia and her household understood when most did not; Lydia and her household acted differently in forming a community when most saw no point.

Over against the compelling draw of conventional culture, Lydia and her household point to the alternative draw of the way of Jesus.

This is the otherness of the reign of god, the otherness of the way of Jesus suggesting other ways, that perhaps another vision is calling us today.

So, what is this vision or, at least, what is it in part?

Let’s begin to unpack this vision in series of questions:

What if things are different than convention suggests?

What if church is not best understood as a noun – ‘the church’?

What if it is not really a place or a structure – the most conventional understanding?

What if it is not even the people gathered - admittedly an improvement over church as building or location?

What if church is not a separate, static, structural entity?

What if it is moving, emerging sets of processes or activities?

What if church is a verb – ‘churching’

What if churching are those processes or sets of activities which attempt to make real the way of Jesus in new and ever emerging contexts?

What if churching happens whenever we open to the possibilities of spirit, whenever we seize hold of the potential for living and life or whenever and wherever we flow with the currents of transformation?

Or in the words of the gospel of John:

“Those who love me will keep my word, and the Holy One will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:23)

What if churching is living communally and personally ever responsive to varieties of spirit’s call?

And what if spirit’s call is always multidimensional, multidisciplinary?

What if spirit involves both conservation and creativity?

What if spirit enables the community to remember, to restore and refresh ourselves; to honour and learn from the traditions of our story?³

And what if spirit is also a creative impulse drawing us forward into ever new situations of divinity unfolding, ever inviting the new ears and eyes of discernment?

Or in the words of the gospel of John:

“… the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Holy One will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26)

What if churching is an affirmation and celebration that the presence of Jesus is more than past memory, more than future hope?

What if it is a luring creative presence of divinity expressed within the everydayness of life?

What if churching is spirit’s creative role in the continual re-interpretation necessary for god’s reign - now? (Consider again John 14:23)

What if churching requires god emptied into the world, astir within life?

What if churching requires a weakening, letting go of our addiction to power and magical thinking?

What if churching requires the barbs of life, this life, to interact with hopes and dreams, responding, daring impossible possibilities?

What if churching requires renouncing ‘the faith’ in order save faith, hope and love?

What if churching requires response to calls stirring within the world, this world?

What if churching requires taking seriously the kingdom of god, the calls of the kingdom, the calls of a kingdom of bodies, calls of animal needs?

If this is the case, then churching expands the nature and the work of the way of Jesus to include how we all live in the world, how we all interact with others, how we all interrelate, how we all deal with difference, conflict and violence…

Churching therefore includes practical and pragmatic questions and concerns about inclusion, organization, justice, political policy and economic strategy.

Churching is counter cultural in that it dismantles professional exclusivism extending the involvement of all in making real the way of Jesus.

Churching is therefore diffuse, different, and dispersed; it is gathering and sending, gathering to pray, converse, learn, share and lead, sending to engage, to engage varieties of action, acts of justice making, acts daring the risky openness of hospitality.

Churching changes everything: it changes us; it changes how we view ourselves, structures, budgets, authority, priesthood, ministry and mission.

Churching opens doors and windows and invites us outside to play.

Churching is a paradox: it is old yet ever new, gathering yet dispersing.

So, does it come as a surprise that those involved in churching are often neither seen seen nor understood?

Is it a surprise that they are often judged by forms and structures which make little sense in the light of emerging realities?

I think not!

 ¹ "Lydia, the Tattooed Lady" Music by Harold Arlen and Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg; the song was first performed in the Marx brother’s movie “At the Circus” (1939).

² The term ‘churching’ is from a brief blog by Timothy Murphy on the website ‘Process and Faith’.

³ Notice that I said traditions, for there have always been varieties of traditions: sacramental, liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions – different and diffuse – each attempting to point the way!