We hope that you will enjoy your virtual visit. We would also love to meet you in person in the church office, at any service, or please join us for refreshments after the 10:30 a.m. service of worship on Sundays. We are a diverse group, serious about hospitality, faith, and devoted to the world God loves. We are also very attentive to stewardship. Our premise is that everything we are and all that we have is a gift from God and entrusted to our care. Everybody is invited to join in strengthening Christian faith and sharing hope through worship, study, and action.
As we neared the end of our 125th anniversary, the congregation of St. Matthias welcomed a new priest. The Reverend Canon John Wilker-Blakley, B.A., M.Div. arrived in January 2014. Just before taking a summer vacation, we asked John to reflect on his first five months with us.
Read the full interview here or click on a question from the following list to read John's answer.
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JWB: While I was born in Winnipeg, I’ve lived all my remembered life in Ottawa and think of myself as an Ottawa person.
JWB: I began my school career at Charles H. Hulse Public School in Alta Vista but moved to Bayview in Riverside Park for Grades 2-6. I went to Fielding Drive Intermediate School for Grades 7 and 8 and Brookfield High for secondary school.
I attended Carleton University where I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies, although I started initially with a Bachelor of Science program. Then on to Huron University College at the University of Western Ontario for my seminary training where I earned a Masters of Divinity.
I’ve also attended Saint Paul University for a course on religious anthropology, and returned to Carleton University to begin an upgrade of my BA to an Honours in French. Those studies are, for the time, suspended. Returning to university as an undergrad again has been interesting. The other students are younger than my kids.
JWB: Like a lot of little boys of my age I wanted to be a fireman.
JWB: I was always a spiritually conscious kid, but while I was in high school there were a series of events that got me thinking about spiritual things:
- A friend of mine died on a training run for track.
- We got a new young assistant at the church my parents attended. He was able to connect faith and life in a way I had not recognized before.
- A fundamentalist friend accused me of not being a Christian — because I was an Anglican Christian. I got angry enough to read about my own faith and fell in love with it.
- In my family we talked about faith and meaning over the dinner table. It was there I learned that doctrines are not stagnant things devoid of meaning but living traditions which call us to thought and life.
JWB: I was ordained 31 years ago. St. Matthias is the sixth parish in which I’ve served. In the early years of my ministry the clergy in this diocese were moved more frequently.
JWB: The building is really big! I came here from a rural parish with three small churches. During the homily, I could reach out and touch the people in the first pew and preach in a conversational voice. It has taken a few weeks, but St. Matthias doesn’t feel so ‘big’ anymore. The warmth, goodwill and passion of the community have made it a lot of fun.
JWB: The determination of the community to see St. Matthias thrive. In the face of what can feel like insurmountable obstacles, the spirit of this parish is still one of giving generously beyond ourselves and of determination in believing there is something valuable and life-giving here.
JWB: This is a community of contrasts and contains the full spectrum of socio-economic status, and ethnic and religious diversity. It is a community where unique and high-end fashion stores and restaurants can exist side by side with thrift shops and pubs. There is a rich tapestry of lifestyles and needs represented.
It is also a community with some stresses right now from the city’s core intensification policy and from re-routing buses during the building of the LRT.
JWB: At this time the church, as a whole, is an interesting place. Having been the dominant religious system in Canada for many years, people think they still know what Christianity is all about. When I actually speak with people about ‘the Church,’ I find what they know is merely the shadow of a Christendom which has not existed for many years.
The church of today, at least in many mainline churches, has shed or is shedding the mantle of the past. The church of today is about meaning, spirituality, compassion, inclusion, and justice — in a way not witnessed to in many other quarters of our society. We still feed the hungry and clothe the naked in our various ministries but also ask the prophetic questions about why unjust structures exist. We are vision holders of a world where these things are turned around through thoughtful service and loving action … there are just too few of us to do the work.
JWB: I am very excited about the spirit of determination I find rising to the surface of all of my conversations here. St. Matthias was founded over 125 years ago by a group of Anglican Christians who truly believed the Gospel needed witnesses in this “new” west-end Ottawa community.
They were willing to worship in theatres, dance halls and basements, and took incredible risks — like starting to build the current building at the end of the Great Depression. They did so because they believed this community needed places of peace, vision, support and worship. Everywhere Christians have gone, we’ve built hospitals, schools, and churches because we believe God meets us where we are and calls us to wellness and excellence.
JWB: Wendy and I have three adult children between us — two girls and a boy aged 24, 23 and 20. Like many people, they struggle to understand faith in our time, but that said, my two girls will both say they are very glad they were raised in the church. They cannot remember a time when they didn’t have the loving presence and support of a Christian community to celebrate their lives and journeys with them. They are both conscious that no matter where they go in the world they can have a community.
One thing which concerns me today is the large number of people who have no spiritual system to support them. In the day-to-day reality and busyness of life they may not miss that. But life is difficult and every one of us, eventually, faces challenges and crisis.
Faith communities give us a context in which to live our lives and people to journey with us. Spiritual disciplines focus our lives and give us direction and a place to look for and search out meaning. Faith communities give us places to grieve, people to support or even carry us, and a trust that in both life and death we are loved.
JWB: I love my Anglican tradition. It’s rooted in the belief that we conduct our lives of faith in the tension between a) Scripture — the ancient writings; b) Tradition — the ongoing expression of those writings in the lives of people; and c) Reason — our God-given ability to think and use science and literature to place our lives in context within our world.
The Anglican faith searches out the ‘via media’ or ‘middle road,’ holding truths in tension and allowing for creativity to emerge. It also means as Anglicans we are, at our best, able to move and evolve as the great trends and movements of our time reveal new things. The church I live in today is not the church of my youth a half century ago. It is my sincere hope that the church my children leave behind will change according to their lives, but what is important, sacred, and life-giving will still be recognizable within it.
JWB: My undergraduate studies were in world religions. As a result I have a deep respect for the faith groups represented in our society. Too often there’s a cultural attitude that portrays religious groups as disagreeable competitors. This is a convenient way of writing off these ancient traditions in the popular culture. “If it bleeds it leads” as the saying goes.
The fact of my experience has been believers in most world religions know that each of us point to greater truths than we ourselves can contain. And we have the humility to know none of us know it all.
My faith as a Christian has always been enriched by working alongside people of different backgrounds. I’ve been involved in many inter-faith dialogues and experiences. One of the great truths of all world religions is, to the best of my knowledge,“life is difficult”. Our religious systems are about finding credible ways to live into this reality. More than that, and not often reported by our country’s media, there is incredible support and cooperation among religious leaders of diverse traditions. We attend each other’s functions and support many of each other’s efforts.
JWB: For relaxation I love to read, walk, paddle, camp, sometimes sing and play guitar, and putter around our cabin near Eganville.
JWB: This is a difficult question to answer. I have not seriously considered anything else in over 30 years. That said, I think I would want to be an educator of some type. I love to see people’s eyes when they ‘get it’ — whatever ‘it’ is.
July 6 through Aug 31
Sunday - 9:00 Holy Eucharist
There will be no Thursday services during the summer
Sept 7 - 8 am and 10:30 am Sunday Services resume