by Rob Howard
Any understanding of St. Paul’s Westdale (Hamilton) requires an appreciation of the neighbourhood in which it sits and of the congregation (or St. Paul’s “family”; more on that in a moment). Westdale is today a diverse community; its residents are mostly well-educated, socially aware, and contains a large number of McMaster students (who are transient and mostly “unchurched”).
The worshippers at St. Paul’s mostly live outside the traditional parish boundaries and “commute” in from Dundas, Ancaster, Hamilton Mountain and other somewhat distant points. As well, a great many of us began our faith journeys in other denominations: Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Mennonite, etc. “Cradle Anglicans” are the exception, not the rule, at St. Paul’s. When we describe ourselves as a “family” we do so with the clear understanding that families today are scattered, diverse, of varying minds, needs and wants, and well aware of their own occasional dysfunction.
St. Paul’s has been in transition itself for the better part of the past three years. A long-serving rector was succeeded by Venerable Rev. Steve Hopkins, a Westdale resident and long known to many at St. Paul’s as a friend and former parishioner. Excitement at his ministry turned to deep, heart-felt grief upon his death, and it has been a sometimes difficult but rewarding journey from desolation back to joy. The St. Paul’s family has been helped greatly in that journey by Priest-in-Charge Archdeacon Jim Sandilands.
The St. Paul’s family is again looking to the future. Our numbers are small (50 or so on a good Sunday) but we are mighty. Almost every member volunteers or participates in church life in one way or another. We see survival of our church not as an end or goal, but as a tool towards service and worship. St. Paul’s is also dealing in the immediate present with a change in our music ministry. Not all are happy with the change, but St. Paul’s has been through enough transformation in the past that we know we shall come through this trial as a loving, supportive and faithful … yes, family. We hugely look forward to gathering again.
Rob Howard, Deputy People’s Warden, St. Paul’s Westdale