Walking into church should be a welcoming experience, especially if it’s the first time through the doors.
A church’s steeple, after all, is a universal beacon for everyone to come in and enjoy fellowship.
But that’s not always been the case, says local retired minister Ken Wotherspoon.
Churches run the risk of becoming closed off to others, and even other churches. It’s something he saw as a minister in Vancouver, and he saw it again when he came to Hope in the mid ’90s.
But it doesn’t happen anymore. At least, not in Hope. A few years after Wotherspoon arrived, a member of one the local churches had heard a story of congregations coming together.
“She had read about a village or a town where the churches tried to break down their differences,” Wotherspoon said. “So they walked from one church to the next church and so on.”
This was the perfect idea to unite the many different parishes, he said.
“There were eight or nine churches here, and they weren’t talking to each other,” he said.
So, Wotherspoon called up members of each of the different churches, and from there they planned the first ever Candle Light Advent Church Walk, to coincide with the advent calendar.
It was popular for a number of years, sometimes attracting more than 100 people to take part.
“The churches were packed,” he said, as the walkers moved from one church to the next, with a candle leading the way. At each stop, the candle would be passed to the minister of the church. And the group would take part in a short celebration that reflected that church’s customs and beliefs.
It’s a way of learning more about the larger religious community, Wotherspoon said. And when you learn about other religions, you also learn tolerance and acceptance.
“It broke down all the craziness of ‘we do this’ and ‘we do that’,” he said.
The popularity of the walk has waned over the last few years, though. Last year, it all but died, and the church community has decided to re-ignite the idea.
This year, the walk will be held on Monday, December 5. It will begin at Hope United Church (at the corner of 3rd and Queen Street) at 5 p.m. The walk is expected to take about three hours, ending at 8 p.m. at the Northwest Harvest Church for a social gathering.
Wotherspoon will light a candle at the Hope United Church, and the congregation will lead a small celebration of songs. Then they’ll carry onto the Roman Catholic Church, for a start. They’ll also visit the two Anglican churches, the Pentecostal church and the Baptist church, among others.
The Candle Light Advent Church Walk is open to everyone, regardless of whether they’re currently a member at a church. Walkers can join in or leave, anywhere along the route.
It’s a chance to see the ways of other churches, if only just for a few minutes, and meet your neighbours, Wotherspoon said.
“We often say there is only one church in Hope, but we have different names,” he added. “You can go into any of theses groups and they welcome you with open arms.”