The Covenanting of Rev. Karen Hollis:
Written by Phyllis Thompson who is the proofreader for the Diocesan Post and also a contributor to it.
On April 15, the atmosphere inside the small church on Gabriola Island was alive with welcoming words and last-minute activity as all awaited the Covenanting Service that would officially bind the congregation to its new incumbent, Rev. Karen Hollis and give that worshipping community its new name.
The church is a shared ministry, melded from the original churches, St. Martin of Tours Anglican and Gabriola United. To read about the history that brought the two congregations together and the process that led up to the April 15 Covenanting service, see the DP’s May 2017 issue and the lead article by Rev. Peggy Jensen. www.bc.anglican.ca/news/may2017-diocesan-post
Andy Gilman, Chair of the ComoxNanaimo Presbytery for the United Church, led the service, opening with words about covenant—how God was a maker and keeper of covenants and was good at keeping the covenants made with humans, whereas humans often fell short. Covenants “bind us together in mutual agreement, where all do their part,” he said. A covenant is a rite of passage for both parties, with promises made one to another. “It celebrates a new relationship, it’s meant to be joyful,” Gilman said.
Gilman also touched on the history this congregation lived and worked through as it decided to be a shared worshipping community and ministry on Gabriola Island. These individuals “by their patience, listening, thoroughness and careful discernment, have paved the way for others,” he said.
After the call to worship and opening prayer, people were thanked for their involvement in the discernment and transition processes, and on the search committee. Then Rev. Gail Miller, representing the B.C. Conference of the United Church, introduced the new incumbent, Rev. Karen Hollis.
After scriptural passages were read, Rev. Jim Holland, Anglican chaplain at Shawnigan Lake School and a member of this church’s transition team, preached. He spoke about tradition and the kinds of difficulties that are always present when change happens, particularly as a group works toward resolution and compromise. He noted this group honoured the “challenging work of bringing together different worship styles” and said it represents the spirit of the early church. He said that as this shared community discerned its future, it has become a safe, welcoming place, now supported by Karen’s commitment to stand with the congregants on this new journey.
Andy Gilman led the actual Act of Covenanting, where Hollis responded to various questions and where the congregation also took part in this exchange of promises. Symbols of Hollis’ new position were presented to her: a bible, a chalice, a pitcher of water, and a piece of driftwood. Gilman said each was “a sign of the new ministry that is ours and yours in this presbytery.”
Anglican Bishop, Logan McMenamie, attended to the final official part of this service. First he offered the support and prayers of this diocese. He then noted that the history leading to this day had been one “of journey, of pilgrimage, of hard work and witness.” He pointed out that in scripture God re-named those who were specially called. “Their new identity reflected a new ministry, reflected a spirit quest to be closer to others,” he said. Here, too. Bishop Logan then officially gave this congregation its new name: Christ Church Gabriola. The service ended with the new incumbent commissioning the entire congregation and offering a benediction. A gracious reception followed.
Here, I add a personal comment about how much music at any liturgical service matters to me. That day offered some special and meaningful pieces. I mention two: a prelude, with pianist Marilyn Smith and guitarist Jim Hollis, accompanying a duet sung by Karen Hollis and husband Jim— Rend Collective’s “Build Your Kingdom Here” with phrases like “Set our hearts ablaze with hope; like wildfire in our very souls, Holy Spirit invade us now.” “We are your church, set your church on fire.” The other: a postlude, again with Marilyn at the piano and Jim singing “Shine On Us” by Deborah and Michael Smith, and phrases like “Light shine on us, grace fall on us, love with no end come over us, that we may have life.” Perfect musical bookends for this service of new ministry.