As Christmas approached, the secondary student body gathered together again for something that has become a tradition: a “Lessons and Carols” service. For those unfamiliar with this type of service, it aims to engage participants in the sweeping story of God’s ongoing work to redeem all of Creation. This year, the Worship Leadership class planned the Lessons and Carols chapel – and did an incredible job of pulling together scripture readings, videos and songs that communicated the beauty and hope of God’s redemptive work. They invited youth pastors from 7 different churches to participate in the service, and this served as a reminder of some of the diverse places that God is at work in our city (Thanks to Gateway Baptist, VCRC, Lambrick, City Light Church, Glad Tidings, Friendship Community and Nazarene!)
As we walked through the Christmas season, we considered the similarities between the tumultuous world into which Christ was born and the global conflicts and persecution that have led to unprecedented human displacement in our own time (http://www.unhcr.org/558193896.html). In January, Dennis deGroot (who was a teacher and Principal at Surrey Christian School for many years) posed the question, “How do ‘fruit’ like love, joy, peace, patience and kindness work themselves out into practical acts of hospitality to welcome the stranger and embrace the marginalized?” Drawing from both Old Testament stories and Jesus’ life and teaching, he challenged us to take seriously Jesus’ message that, “…whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)
The week following Dennis deGroot’s presentation, we welcomed visitors from three churches (Saanich Baptist, Church of the Nazarene, and Church of our Lord) to share with us the ways in which their churches are preparing to support refugees. They ranged from just beginning to explore the possibility to waiting with anticipation for the imminent arrival of a family. One of the churches was sponsoring some relatives of a member, so we heard the heartbreaking story of how their peaceful life in Mosul had come under threat when an uncle – who had been a priest in the Syriac Orthodox Church – had been killed by ISIS in 2006. The family’s home in Mosul had eventually been marked as property of ISIS and, last year, they fled in the night to Jordan. As a follow-up to hearing this story, many of our classes watched a video in which Miriam, a young refugee, expresses her longing to return home, her trust in God’s care for her, and her incredible forgiveness for those who caused her displacement. (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=dzLXM_zo2e8.)
To conclude this chapel series, we heard from the mothers of two families who had come to Victoria as refugees a number of years ago. Their children had grown up here (some had attended PCS) and were now young adults. These women shared their experiences and challenges with the students. It was an opportunity to grow in understanding of practical ways that individuals and communities can step in to care for newcomers and of how the fruit of Christ’s spirit in our lives can nurture the life of others.