My family spent last weekend on Vancouver Island, connecting with Presbyterian colleagues and their families and preaching on the Sunday. We stayed in Cook Street Village, a cute as pie little neighbourhood on the other side of Cobble Hill Park from James Bay. It’s a trendy spot, with hipsters and homeless, boutique shops and cafes, an organic grocery store and an obligatory Starbucks.
Oh, and there was one more establishment that caught my eye. In fact, as I stood there it was clear that the children were confused but I was speechless. No, don’t worry it wasn’t a medical marijuana dispensary, we’re used to seeing those on the west coast all the time. What I saw was called Pick-a-flik.
The children asked me, “Dad, what are those people doing?” I stammered, “Well, they appear to be going into a store where they look at DVD’s and pay money to rent them, take them home and watch them on a DVD player. And then return them to this store.” Silence. “Like in person…” the children asked in a confused tone, “where they have to carry it back and forth?” Nodding in astonishment I said,“Yes, in fact, if they’re late returning the video they have to pay extra money in fines.” Wheels turning. Blank expressions. And then,“Why don’t they just get Netflix?” the children asked innocently.
“I don’t know,” I replied and then the words just slipped out of my mouth, “I didn’t realize that people did that kind of thing anymore.”
As soon as the words were out of my mouth I realized that I had heard them before…here in Vancouver…in coffee shops, on the soccer pitch, chatting to parents at swimming lessons. “Where do you work?” “Oh the church…I’m a pastor.” “Really, I didn’t realize that people do that anymore?”
The funny thing about being Christian in this secular, west coast context is not that we do battle all the time with angry atheists. Oh yes, there are those around and it is a helpful reminder of the end of our privileged Christendom legacy to be mocked and derided for faith (it just happened recently in my own neighbourhood). But I don’t bump into angry atheists all the time. No, I meet a lot of affable agnostics. People for whom participation in a Christian community seems as foreign and antiquated as renting a DVD or, heaven forbid, a VHS from a pick-a-flik store down the street.
How might our witness as a Christian community not strike people as quaint or old-fashioned but daring and hopeful as an alternative path of living and loving in this world? How might the good news of Easter strike people not as “old news” or “odd news” for this world but as news worthy to be describe as, “love so amazing, so divine, it demands my life, my love, my all…”
Ross Lockhart is Associate Professor at St. Andrew’s Hall/VST in Vancouver, British Columbia.