G̱ilakas'la. It means “welcome” in Kwakwala, the language of one of our region’s three First Nations, and it also means: “I am here.” We are here between these islands and inlets, on a land rendered by a thousand shades of green and cradled by the Salish Sea. It’s here that we, the people, meet one another and forge our lives by the movement of creation: by tide, breeze, elevation and rising fog. We are a people of contrast, from ‘cultured’ to life-affirmingly raw, but we all meet here.
We are bare-knees-on-the-rocks beachcombers and casual pathway strollers. We are storm watchers and wave riders. We are coffee shops and pubs and brunches, and we are backpacks, walking sticks and rubbings from the bark of old-growth trees.
We are ferry people, bound to the ebb and flow of arrivals and departures. Always bring an umbrella. Dress in layers. If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes, it will change—this is island life, friend.
We live in bustling cities and towns, each one changing with the rhythmic pattern of tourism—always tourism. We live on remote gulf islands woven tightly together by farm markets and traversed by thumb and decency. We live in wide valleys where lavender and olives grow, and we live on remote coast lines where we tip-toe between bear scat and the empty carcasses of crabs and clams discarded by seagulls.
We make our way by dichotomy. We cut down forests but also plant seedlings; we fish the channels but also stand firm to protect our marine environments; we lead with new technology start-ups, but also retain our seafarer traditions; we serve our country proudly, but also challenge our governments with courage and passion. We are creators: artists and vintners, farmers and fromagers, brewers, totem-carvers and cedar basket weavers. Here you’ll find festivals that pay homage to the glory of seafood or the humble ilk of seaweed, to the potential of sand or the salmon that visit each year, and in all its absurdity, even to the joy of bathtub racing.
And slowly, slowly we are learning from those who were here first. The people of the three First Nations—Coast Salish, Nuu-chah-nulth, and Kwakwakaw’akw—are open and honest in living with us who have been here for a while, us who have retired here for temperate days, and us who come here as refugees. We are striving to be open and receiving too—in hearing from the first peoples the assurance that we still have time to say true things, to heal from the past, and to transform our future. We are slow growing like the cedars. We are feeling our way forward like starfish. We are ever-changing like the tides.
And if you wish to be here too, and to follow in the ways being shown to us by the Creator and creation, we wish that these words might ring true for you:
We believe that we can live well together—that unity does not mean uniformity. We together are made stronger by our differences, and each of us has a role in the body.
We believe that everyone is welcome and safe at the table, no matter the creed, colour, gender, sexuality, ability, ethnicity, nationality, age or religious background. All humans are equal. All humans are deserving of the Eucharist and of the rites of baptism, confirmation, ordination, holy matrimony, and holy unction.
We believe in openness and new ways of being church. Our God doesn’t only live in a building; our God is found in the wild and in the personal actions driven by folks’ love for one another. We believe that reconciliation is not just a program we begin and complete, but a life-long practice of spirituality.
We believe we can transform our future, and that it won’t be merely dollars and cents that do so, but a joy and creativity in sharing the good news, caring for creation and each other.
We believe that we can meet our neighbours on these islands and inlets as they meet one another: with curiosity, patience and willingness to learn and be changed.
We are people of islands and inlets. G̱ilakas'la. Will you join us?