Wearing his clerical collar, Rev. Lon Towstego stands beside two tapered candles flickering on an altar, and smiles.
“If you know anything about church history, we’re making it right now,” he tells the 26 people who gathered last Saturday for the atypical church service in the hall of St. Paul’s Historic Naval and Garrison Church in Esquimalt.
For the first time at the Anglican church, twice-monthly Saturday afternoon services, known as Common Ground gatherings, have been added to the roster.
It’s a progressive move that Towstego hopes will build the parish of St. Peter and St. Paul in Esquimalt, which was formed last November after five former parish churches closed. Today, about 110 people make up the congregation.
This afternoon people are wearing jeans and T-shirts. In future, people are welcome to bring their musical instruments and poetry for open-mic performances – and don’t forget to bring your cup of coffee.
“I’m willing to take a risk to engage the congregation,” Towstego says, adding there may be potential to offer the gatherings on a weekly basis. “For me, this is what church is all about – doing new and different things.”
In addition to offering interactive prayer, during which people can call out the names of people they wish to pray for, the hour-long services will include singing and sometimes a video. On Oct. 1 there will be a live dramatic presentation of a Bible story.
“I think it went really well,” says Drew Brazier, an Esquimalt retiree who has been going to the church for six years.
He enjoyed wearing jeans to the service for the first time, but says, more importantly, the casual gatherings are a way to reach out to people who may be searching for something, hurting or feeling empty or alone.
“I’m quite excited about that,” Brazier says.
Common Ground gatherings happen at 4 p.m. on the first and third Saturdays of the month at St. Paul’s Historic Naval and Garrison Church, 1379 Esquimalt Rd. For details, please call the church office at 250-386-6833, or visit www.stpeterandpaul.ca.