I’ve moved a lot in my life. I don’t come from round these parts. I worked out recently that since I left home at eighteen, my nearly ten years in Victoria is the longest I have ever spent anywhere in one stretch. Even before that I remember living in at least six places as a kid. Since then I’ve lived in Putney, South Kensington, Bayswater, Middlesbrough, Cambridge, Eltisley, Bourn, Kilmington, all in the UK (I put the names in because some of them are worth googling, but I won’t say which) and since coming here I’ve lived in Ross Bay, Oak Bay, North Park, West Bay, and now Cadboro Bay.
It means, I think, that I put roots down very quickly when I arrive somewhere. I like to get to know the neighbourhood, and I find my sense of security in the relationships I make in a place. I still have a deep sense of being connected to Devon, England, where I spent most of my childhood, and returning there always has a sense of still belonging – but I feel more deeply and meaningfully connected to wherever I am right here, right now.
For me, Victoria feels like home. Because of my wife, because of my friends, because of my community, because of my Church. When I moved from the UK in 2013 I immediately felt welcomed by the people of St John the Divine, Quadra Street. I still do.
Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of “Braiding Sweetgrass” and Indigenous teacher was asked what settlers (such as myself) and those of settler descent could do to begin to heal relationships with the First Peoples of the lands of Turtle Island (North America) and she responded (this is my paraphrase of it) “Indigenize yourselves – get to know the land, the waters, the plants, flowers, and flowers, the people of the land. Cultivate gratitude for where you are and what you have and make connections.”
That profound, and challenging, advice is, I believe, connected to learning to belong. It’s something that is best done in community – listening to and learning from the people of this land. Finding ways to connect and grow. It is best done with respect, humility, and openness.
Connection is so important to us as human beings, and that sense of being at home in a place and with people, that sense of belonging, is built into us. In my Faith Forum column on Saturday I reflected how the shape and pattern of worship in the tradition I am a part of, The Anglican Church, gives me a sense of comfort and familiarity. It’s a home for my heart. It’s also the people that are a part of that community that make it so important and valuable to me, the support that so many offer me, the sense of openness, the willingness to ask questions about our faith and to search for answers and meaning in our everyday lives.
I’ve been privileged also to get to know some of the people in our neighbourhood, housed and unhoused, those who share their stories with me, some who ask for a little bit of help, some who help keep the grounds of St John’s clean. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet with local Indigenous people who have taught me something of the history of this place, and the deep roots they have here. I’ve plugged into the arts in the city, and even love Wednesday night karaoke – all these ways help me to feel connected, rooted, a part of this place.
In the end, I think all of this is about connection with the source – with love. Christians use the word God to describe the ultimate source of love and goodness, and we recognize that God, the Divine, is found in many ways: in prayer, in worship, in community, in loving relationships, in one another, in silence, in singing, in words, in nature, even in those who we find unlovely – those on the margins and often discarded by society.
All of us are looking for a place to belong, a place where we can be ourselves, without judgement or without expectations of how we should be or how we should act. We all need a place to simply be. Jesus saw this when he said, in the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 10, verses 28 and 29 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
May we all find the place where we belong, a place to call home.
The Ven. Alastair Singh-McCollum is Rector of St. John the Divine Anglican Church in Victoria and Archdeacon, Diocese of Islands and Inlets. He has a passion for the Gospel, motorbikes and bike culture, worship, philosophy, theology, guitars, single malt whisky, real ale, cinema and all things French. You can find Alastair at the church website: www.stjohnthedivine.bc.ca andon his blog: fracme.blogspot.ca
You can read more articles on our interfaith blog, Faith Forum at https://www.timescolonist.com/blogs/spiritually-speaking