August 02, 2002 Features & Images » Feature Story

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Bringing people in

Whistler Village Church, like Millennium Place, is experimenting

The parishioners of the Whistler Village Church are on an adventure.

And they are not alone on their journey.

Senior officials of the United, Evangelical Lutheran and Anglican Churches are all watching.

"They want to see it work," said Rev. Stephen Hershey, who came to lead the church last month.

"They want to see how it might work. They want to see what happens if we use this model because the debate that is happening in the larger church is how do we make the best use of the resources that we have?

"The three sponsoring denominations are watching to see what happens. It is a different model of what you might call new church development."

The Whistler Village Church adventure will lead its community to explore an ancient idea in a modern world: worship without denominations.

This development in Christian worship blurs denominational lines. Biblically, explained Hershey, the roots of the idea come from Jesus at the Last Supper. At that time Jesus used the phrase: "We are all one."

"The church has long wrestled with the fact that we don’t know what to do with that (phrase) as it applies to the variety of our buildings and programs and faith statements," said Hershey a United minister who worked in Cloverdale and Sidney on Vancouver Island before coming to Whistler.

"To be post-denominational might have to do with discovering those things of value in each of the sponsoring denominations and honouring them."

But Hershey is not talking about basing worship on the lowest common denominator of all three or simply lumping them altogether.

What he is proposing is something new.

"It is about how can we, out of our different traditions, create something that has integrity, is relevant, is authentic without having to go the way of lowest common denominator or all stir together to be blah," said Hershey.

While shared ministries are nothing new the experiment underway at the Whistler Village Church is, and its quite startling.

If successful it may, in the long run, have a profound effect.

"The success of this place might lead to the death of denominations and all may be one," said Hershey, adding that it was the challenge of this new development which brought him here.

"My limits are being pushed. For 28 years in the ministry I have worn a gown on Sunday mornings. Is that appropriate now? It might be in one of the services but it might not be in another."

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