“It’s a good time to begin.”
That’s how Reverend Anne Privett characterizes her Thanksgiving Day sermon to the congregation of St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church. It will be her first sermon to the parishioners and it will come only a few days after her arrival at the 101-year-old Oak Bay institution.
Privett is taking over from Reverend John Macquarrie, who recently retired from his duties at St. Mary.
“Reverend Macquarrie did a wonderful job at revitalizing the church,” said Rosemary Cameron, a longtime parishioner. “We have a children’s choir now and the Canadian College of Performing Arts is using our parish hall. We even have a preschool sharing our space, so a lot is happening.”
That wasn’t always the case. In 2011, when St. Mary was celebrating its centenary, Macquarrie acknowledged that a few years earlier the attendance at Sunday services had been sparse. In fact, St. Mary had survived what Macquarrie called a near death experience.
The Anglican diocese of B.C. had contemplated merging the congregations of St. Philip Church and St. Mary, amalgamating them under a different name. That consideration was ultimately discarded and by the time of the centenary, the drop in attendance at St. Mary had been reversed, with the church showing a strong and sustained increase in the number of parishioners attending its services. That improved attendance has been maintained, and today the attitude at the church is buoyant.
Catherine Young, the Rector’s warden at St. Mary, feels that despite the congregation’s sadness at losing Macquarrie, they are looking to the future with a grateful and hopeful attitude. “Every last person (in the congregation) is excited and pleased,” said Young. “We have so much to be grateful for.”
It’s a gratitude that’s shared by Privett. “I’m very pleased and very grateful to be called to St. Mary,” she said.
“Newness often brings perspective,” Privett wrote in her Thanksgiving letter to parishioners. “It heightens how we see things, how we interact with what we observe and, as I have learned in these last few days, it can indeed bring forth gratitude.”
That newness, and new perspective, will certainly face the congregation of St. Mary when Privett begins her Thanksgiving service. She is 28-years-old, female and as the new spiritual leader for a congregation that is still predominately made up of older adults, she knows that there may be a period of adjustment for some. “That’s yet to be seen,” she said. “I’m not concerned.”
Borrowing from the Book of Common Prayer, Privett writes that this is an opportunity for everyone to give thanks, “not only with our lips, but in our lives.” She writes that giving thanks is not simply a matter of cultivating an attitude of gratitude but (involves) seeing things again.”
For Privett, that new attitude is intricately linked to her faith in Christ. “It’s a whole new way of beholding life, one another and the world that challenges the predominant narrative of our society,” she said.
“It’s a lesson that might be taken, not just by the parishioners of St. Mary, but by everyone. … A lesson that gratitude can often come from looking at things with new eyes, a new attitude and an appreciation for what we’ve been given.”
Information on St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church can be found at stmarysoakbay.bc.anglican.ca.