This is the sixth post in this series of twelve. In the past fifty years “church” has been something we have mostly imported from our neighbour to the south. Our imagination about what it means to be God’s people has been shaped by a variety of traditions — you can name the one you know — but those traditions themselves have been conditioned by the preachers, leaders, books and churches that have dominated the scene in the U.S.A. The most prominent of these, we all know, being Willow Creek.

We are now in the intriguing place of recognizing the limits of an imported imagination of ecclesial life. There are signs that the work of theology, and of mission, in place — in THIS place — and the interaction of these two, is being taken with new seriousness by Canadians. Thus this series of posts on the work of Canadian authors.

My last post considered “The Missionary Letters of Vincent Donovan.” This time we’ll talk to Tim Dickau, Plunging into the Kingdom Way.

NR: Tell us a bit about yourself and about Grandview Calvary Baptist church.

I have been a pastor at Grandview for over 23 years. My wife and I moved into the neighbourhood when we were 26 years old and started to participate in the life of our church and neighbourhood. We have witnessed how the church has become engaged with its neighbourhood and contribute to it through establishing things like social enterprises, community and social housing, retreat space, arts programs for children, support for single moms and a community meal and shelter. We have raised our three boys here and have lived with 41 people over these years.

NR: Do Canadian Christians need to be gospelized?

Yes. Part of our transformation from a dying, conservative church to a vibrant missional church has come about through the rediscovery of the gospel as the story of God’s mission of restoration and reconciliation through Jesus and by the Spirit. We have and continue to recover the breadth and depth of the kingdom vision that transforms all of life.

NR: Why is the missional and monastic movement making its appearance now: and what does it offer to the larger church?

I would say that both offer something different. The missional movement has offered a rediscovery of the depth and breadth of the gospel while the monastic movement has offered a focus on common practices in a particular place that both re-form followers of Christ and re-engage them in their neighbourhoods as salt and light.

NR: What is “justice” and how does it relate to spiritual formation?

Justice is a part of the vision of the kingdom of God, God’s dream for a new world. Pursuing spiritual formation without justice in my experience tends to lead to a more dualistic and less holistic gospel which fails to transform structures or bring systemic liberation. Pursuing justice without formation in Christ tends to lead to anger, burnout and an unsustainable ideology. We need to hold them together.

NR: Canadians are known for their tolerance. How is this different from a true catholicity? Is there hope for a truly multi-cultural church in Canada?

Tolerance tends to play out in passive individualism: I’ll let you do what you want if you let me do what we want, and we can still occupy a shared space. A multi-cultural church starts to re-shape its practices to reflect the treasures of the kingdom unearthed in different cultures; it is a church full of dialogue, diverse leadership and difficulties.

NR: Tell us about the discipline of confession and how it operates in a faith community.

Confession is at the core of tranformation in our experience. We practice personal and corporate confession in our worship, personal confession with a confessor, and move through deeper confession in healing prayer. Confessing our idolatries has been a key way in which we have invited the Spirit to do the work of change in us.

NR: Do you consider yourself an Anabaptist? (In a time when many of the historically Anabaptist movements are more Evangelical than Anabaptist).

We hold to many Anabaptist commitments (eg. shared communal life, distance from and engagement with culture, commitment to non-violent life and action). We however have tried to incorporate treasures of many traditions of the church. (One Anglican priest calls us a bapto-catholic church).

Simon Carey Holt in “God Next Door” suggests that the old practice of parish offers hope for a recover of placed-ness in local mission and ministry. “The term parish, derived from the Greek noun paroikia — meaning those living near or beside — was used from the second century to describe the intimate relationship between the congregation and its neighborhood.” Does “parish” offer us something special as the intersection of neighbourhood and place? Can “parish” help us recover a spiritual practice of place, an invitation to invest and dwell in our neighbourhoods?

NR: Does Grandview Calvary operate in a parish model? In what ways are you engaging your neighbours?

Over 50 % of our 300 regular worshippers live within 10 blocks of the church and 65% live within 25 blocks so we are very much a parish church. We engage our neighbours in the course of life, working together on neighbourhood issues, serving them through our ministries (eg. justrenos, justcatering,), sharing the life of God with them (eg. prayer tent during commercial drive car free day) and sometimes by opposing them (their resistance to social housing as an example).

NR: Why do we need to do local theology?

Local theologies (which need to be in dialectical engagement with other theologies in my view) invite us to identify and reflect upon the specific work of God in our lives and neigbourhood. They help us imagine what the kingdom can look like in our particular place.

NR: What would you want to say to the church in Canada? In Vancouver?

Gosh. Tons! I wrote a book to talk about our moves towards radical hospitality, integrated multicultural life, seeking justice for the least and confessing our idolatries as important practices for the church, so that is a place to start.

Cascade Books

Previous posts in this “Made in Canada” series:

A Happy Ending, published by The Story in Sarnia, Ontario.
Beautiful Mercy, published by St. Benedict’s Table in Winnipeg.
The Cost of Community, by Jamie Arpin-Ricci in Winnipeg.
Where Mortals Dwell, by Craig Bartholomew in Hamilton
The Missionary Letters of Vincent Donovan, by John Bowen in Toronto