Letter from our priest Emilie Smith

Letter to the St. Barnabas Community

May 8, 2020

Beloved Friends, 

Good Heavens! These days are like no others — we keep saying over and over again. Never before have so many people of the earth shuddered to such a screeching halt. Never before have we stopped so many things at once, and watched and wondered, grieved and even found new ways to celebrate.

When Archbishop Melissa told us, well over a month ago, that all church services would need to be cancelled, I couldn’t believe it. How on earth could we do that? And then, the truth sank in, deeper and deeper. We watched as the first countries were consumed in a tidal wave of illness, and then it began its creep across the whole world.

I feel many things: sorrow at the losses so many have experienced, relief that we live in Canada, where public health, science and social equality matter, concern for how or what “normal” will ever be again, anxiety while trying to figure out how to care for the most vulnerable in our communities. I know that we all share some version or another of these things. I know as well that deeper than all of this, our faith must sustain us. We believe, beneath and beyond all things, that we belong to the God who made us. We know that Jesus Christ, our brother and our friend, came to show us the path to love. We know that the Spirit, the Comforter, will never leave us alone. And so, we go on.

What does it mean to be church? As we read these days stories from the Acts of the Apostles, I wonder what it meant to be church in those early days? Nothing was secure, nothing was stable. The first Christians (who didn’t call themselves that — they were followers of The Way) must have struggled with many things: sorrow, concern, anxiety. Yet we hear again and again how they found sustenance in their lives together, in what they knew about Jesus. They committed themselves — despite real hardships — this week we will hear the horrifying story of the death of Stephen, the first Christian martyr — to a way of being where love and concern for all was always greater than every suffering.

So — in practical terms. What are we, the people of St. Barnabas, going to do? Continue to worship, continue to engage in pastoral care, continue to celebrate, continue to love one another! Here are some ways you can connect with what is happening.


  • Our main Sunday services are being pre-recorded, and posted to our website at stbarnabasparish.ca, or on our facebook page. You can watch this at any time, and it will include songs, prayers, the readings for the week, a sermon, and spiritual Eucharist.
  • We are doing our midweek Wednesday service as Morning Prayer via Zoom. Martha is sending out the link every week. Please contact us if you wish to join.
  • Sacred Singing Circle is happening twice a month now, second and last Sundays. The Second Sunday is via Facebook Live, and the last Sunday is a Zoom circle.
  • Children’s Church. With our friends from Shiloh United. Join our Zoom gathering at 10am Sundays. As for all ZOOM meetings, you must receive the link to join in. We really encourage all families to be a part of this important connecting.

Pastoral Care:

  • These are strange times. If you need prayers or just to connect, Emilie is available for phone conversations. Please contact her on her cell: 778 773 2342
  • Thanks to a generous donation from the Vancouver Foundation, and to the tower of work done by the Venerable Mavis Brownlee, City Councillor Chuck Puchmayr and many others, we are able to hand out 80 Emergency Grab and Go bags weekly. Please please let your friends and family members know, and come yourself to this new program, Fridays at 10am, in the St. Barnabas’ courtyard.

Social Time:

One of the things we miss the most about being together is social time. We have launched a “Zoom Coffee Hour”. We will begin this on Sunday, May 17th.  Join us after that on Sundays from 11 – 12noon. We will send out the link, so get in touch with us.

Marvellous News:

In this time of trial, we have been deeply blessed by the offering of the Venerable Mavis Brownlee to stay with us as an Honorary Assistant. We are delighted and look forward to maintaining a strong friendship with Mavis, who has meant so much to St. Barnabas over the years. As soon as they are able, Mavis and her husband, Graeme, will be returning to attend to their vineyard in Quebec. But they will return to us in the fall. We raise our hands in thanks to Mavis!

Financial Support for the Parish:

We still need your support. Though our daily and weekly operations have ceased for now in the normal way, we are still paying our expenses, of course. We rely on your continuing generosity, and love for our precious community. Please mail your cheques to St. Barnabas, or wonderfully, you can now make a donation to our church by e transfer. Here’s how to do it:

1. Open your online banking account, select e-transfer. Add St. Barnabas as a payee. Our email address is stbarna@telus.net.

2. Select e transfer and select St. Barnabas as the recipient.

3. Enter the amount you would like to donate.

4. It is important to put your full name and email address in the message box so that we can send you a tax receipt at the end of the year.

That, friends, is quite a list! As you can see we are still very busy, and we thank you for your prayers. Know that you are each and every one of you in my prayers every day.

May the God of all Love continue to bless and guide our way.


Online Services for Holy Week

Maundy Thursday – our service with The Venerable Mavis Brownlee will be posted on our Facebook page and here on our website on Thursday at 6pm.

Good Friday – Caitlin Beck will be hosting a Stations of the Cross Service on Facebook beginning at 11am.

Easter Sunday – our service with The Venerable Mavis Brownlee will be posted on our Facebook page and here on our website on Sunday at 10am.

Check out our YouTube Channel any time to watch all services.

Friday Letter, January 17, 2020

“There he is, the Lamb of God!”

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! I pray that this week you were able to stay warm and dry, that you weren’t stuck in the white stuff, or pushing your car out of a snow bank. It almost always snows in Vancouver, at least once a year. But somehow we seem to forget, and it catches us by surprise. I am looking out this morning to a real winter wonderland. The sun is shining brightly on the heaps of snow in our church courtyard, the walkways have been shovelled and salted, and then shovelled and salted again – and again. We work hard to make sure this place stays open, so that our neighbours can come in out of the cold. This week we had our regular food cupboard, and our community meal. Now the community choir is raising the roof over in the sanctuary. The show is going on!

This coming Sunday we will be marking and remembering the Second Sunday of the Epiphany. We will sink deeper into our story of faith, and wonder with the disciples, what does it mean to follow Jesus? What does it mean to take this commitment to heart and the live our lives as if all Jesus taught was true? What would it mean to love our neighbours, to set the prisoners free? What would it mean to live in right relationship with the earth, and the creatures of the earth? There is much trouble and strife around us: we mourn with the families who lost loved ones in the terrible air crash, we mourn with the people of Australia, watching their beloved forests burn. My heart broke when I heard that there may be no more koala bears living in the wild. Dear Lord! What are we to do?

This Sunday’s reading from the prophet Isaiah reminds us that we are God’s own from before we were born. As God has sent the prophet to preach truth to the people, we are invited to live boldly. To be unafraid. To recognize the work of God all over the world: in peace, in restoration, in reconciliation. This is our moment, our time here on Earth. Let us pray:

Do not, O LORD, withhold your mercy from me; let your steadfast love and your faithfulness keep me safe forever.

Friday Letter, January 10, 2020

You are my child, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.

Beloved friends,

This date is important to me. On the 10th of January, 1999, I was baptized. I was 35 years old, and the summer before, after many long days of questioning and struggle, I had decided that I could indeed say, “Yes.” I could become a Christian. I wasn’t raised in a Christian household, though my grandmother, Marjorie Benson, had been a Catholic, and had thrown her lot in with Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement. She had lived a life committed to justice and challenging all ways of human cruelty. Grandma Benson was the person who had the greatest influence on me as a girl.

This Sunday, January 12, we will mark and remember Jesus’ baptism. It may seem a strange thing: indeed it was strange to John, when God, in Jesus’ flesh, came to him for baptism. Who is he to be the one to baptize Jesus? But, no, Jesus’ baptism marks his beginning, the start of something new. Jesus is now ready to embark on his journey: his life and example will overturn the world as it was, structures of exclusion, rejection, injustice have met their match. That’s what Jesus’ baptism means. What our baptism means is that we have thrown our lot in with this simple carpenter, who was also the King of the Universe. Our baptism means that we have said Yes to love and belonging, no matter what our history has been. 

This Sunday we will renew our baptismal covenant: our commitment to be that love in the world. We will promise to a) love God  b) love our neighbours c) love ourselves. Are your ready? I’ll see you Sunday!



Friday Letter, January 3rd, 2020

New Year, New Beginnings, New Friends

It was silly — as I cycled through the sloshing rain on my way to church I was inexplicably singing: Overtures! Curtains, lights! This is it, we’ve hit the heights, and oh what heights we’ve hit. On with the show this is it! 

Many of us who grew up in Canada in the 1970s would know the opening theme song for the Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner Hour on Saturday afternoon television. We’ve been busy at St. Barnabas: Advent, Christmas, the services, the giant meal, our Sacred Singing Circle, and now: our January 5 Epiphany service for neighbours, friends and newcomers. We have been working, a small team of us, Bruce, Bill, Martha and myself, to put together a special “teaching service”. And now everything is ready. 

This Sunday, at our regularly scheduled time, we will be celebrating the sacred meal, and while I preside over the service, our good friend Martha, will be narrating what I am doing. Have you ever wondered: why is she doing that now? What does this word mean? We are hoping that all will be revealed! And you, and all our guests, will be invited to stay for a meal and talk more over in the hall afterwards. 

We have the words of eternal life! Let’s share them with everyone we know! 

I hope you will be able to come to church this Sunday. And bring a friend.

And as we keep busy in these days of chill and damp, there are two Saturday activities tomorrow that will warm our hearts: our Holy Felters group meets at 1pm. And in the evening, at 6pm, we will be showing the film: the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. These are both activities for all ages and varieties of people.

Our prayers continue for our neighbourhood and the world:

Fall on us Heaven from on High
And let the skies rain down your righteousness.


Friday Letter, December 27th, 2019

Beloved Family in Christ,

The baby has arrived. The time of waiting has passed, and now we are busy in a different way, cleaning up and helping the world return to some semblance of order. Christmas, we know, has become loaded with meaning far beyond the original story. It is true: we should emphasize the “Christ” in Christmas, but I think that we should make that statement with a huge amount of compassion and love.

The shopping madness of the season has, of course, nothing to do with our sacred story. But it reflects a longing, a desire for something. We have been told: if we have this thing, or that thing, our lives will be better. We have been told: if you give this person or that person something precious, then they will love you.

We Christians have a completely different story to tell: there is nothing you can do to earn the love of God. You have that already. Nothing material you can give to anyone will express your love for them. So we invite all our beloved families and neighbours to step back from the huge pile of expectations. Let us love one another gently then.

Christmas at St. Barnabas was a wonderful affair. I’m so glad to have seen so many of you, and those who weren’t able to be there, know that we held you in our prayers.

On Christmas Eve we had two services: a wonderful, crazy pageant which told the story of the coming of Christmas to a small Italian town in the 14th century, where people had forgotten the meaning of this festive time. The story was aided by a pack of wild wolves who chased a poor woman around, and were then converted by St. Francis and St. Claire, and there was a grand procession to witness the nativity scene. Thanks to Luz and Luis and baby Jazlyn for being our holy family (and John was a pretty good wolf too!) This first service we shared with our beloved friends from Shiloh-United. Our second Christmas Eve service was a beautiful glowing celebration of the power of love to overcome all hatred, despair and fear.

Christmas Day was the usual unmitigated mayhem! Chef Amber Anderson made turkey for 200 and we invited the whole neighbourhood. While Martha was busy overseeing the fabulous chaos, Chris was helping in the kitchen. Roland was essential too, while Bob and Chuck and Sathia took turns serenading the crowds. Thanks to the dozens of volunteers and donors who make Christmas Dinner happen! Wow! 

This Sunday coming we will be marking the Feast Day of the Holy Innocents at our regular 10am service, and at 2pm we will gather with glorious singing leaders: Caitlin and Patti and I share in the Sacred Singing Circle. Singing can be a spiritual practice and all are invited to share in the song.

Finally NEXT weekend will be a special time, as we wrap up the Christmas Season. We have had to fiddle with the Family Movie night, due to conflicts in scheduling. I apologize for that, but please tell it over the hill and everywhere: Movie Night, January 4th, 6pm. We are showing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe on Wayne’s Wonderful Jumbotron. We’ll have popcorn and snacks and drinks. Bring your friends. We will be having Holy Felters on January 4th as well, at 2pm – come one and all to stab many woolen things!

And SUNDAY, January 5th, we’re inviting the whole town to CHURCH. Many people have many questions about faith and church. We are hosting a “teaching eucharist” where people can come with all of their questions, and we will have some explaining to do. Terry and gang will be preparing a vat of vegetarian chilli for after the service, so plan to come, and invite everyone you know!

That’s it for this week. I pray that you are finding some time for rest and peace in these quiet days. The light is returning!



Friday Letter, December 20th, 2019

Dear Beloved Family,

The countdown is on! When you were little, did you ride a wave of excitement as Christmas approached? Trees coming inside, presents, special food, people we don’t see all the time . . . and church, lots of church! Are you filled with expectation now? Or has the season become a crazy-making month? Many people find this the hardest time of year. So now as a little church community let us draw closer together, and gather around the fire of faith, the warmth of the promise of the Good News.

Ever since I became a priest my own family, my children, and now my grandchildren — and Patti — have had to know that they don’t get Mom on Christmas. Priests sink into this season in a different way — how can we best tell this sacred story, in the midst of the world’s Christmas chaos?

How can we focus on what really matters? At St. Barnabas we offer the story of Jesus’ incarnation — God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, coming in human form to our broken world– both on Christmas Eve, with our two evening services, and Christmas Day with our giant neighbourhood meal. St. Barnabas: a place to pray and serve.

At 6 pm on Christmas Eve, we will gather with our dear church-mates from Shiloh United and present a Pageant. This is a not-so-rehearsed event, but a chance to live out and explore with fun and families — what does it mean to welcome the Christ-child into our hearts and lives?

At 8 pm on Christmas Eve, we will gather in a more traditional Anglican service, with song and prayer, and holy communion while a thousand, thousand candles light the evening and warm our hearts. The story of Christmas is about love — love in the midst of bleakness, cruelness, or just plain consumerism and busy-ness. Our God cannot be held in Heaven, but comes to us to break in to the hardness or the loneliness of our hearts.

Then on Christmas Day Chef Amber Anderson is cooking us her traditional meal: everything will be served, from turkey to goodies, and we’ll be welcoming our neighbours. This is an all-hands-on-deck affair, or just come and eat event. This is a meal for parishioners too, so we hope you will drop by. If you want to help out, please give the office a call, and we’ll get you on a serving team.

AND — I am getting ahead of myself. This coming Sunday, December 22, at our regular 10 am service we will mark Advent Four with a service of Lessons and Carols. Because St. Barnabas is such an amazing place, an uncommon place, we will be offering the readings in seven — or maybe eight — languages. That is who we are: the Anglican church in the world, and in New Westminster, whether we speak Spanish, Tagalog, Ndebele/Zulu or Tamil. And we love to sing. We will be singing some traditional Christmas carols, and some chilling and beautiful ones that you won’t hear in other places.

My heart grows a little bigger every Christmas, especially when I see new and old friends making their way into the church courtyard, and up our worn stairs. I hope to see you! And may the blessing of Jesus’ love, Mary’s wisdom, and Joseph’s courage be upon you in these days.