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New minister begins at St. Andrew’s United Church in Nanaimo

Sarah Fanning was previously at Campbell River
Sarah Fanning, the new minister of St. Andrew’s United at Nanaimo’s Old City Quarter. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)

The new minister of a historical church in Nanaimo is settling in to her new parish.

Sarah Fanning took on the position at St. Andrew’s United Church last month, after previously working at Campbell River, preceded by communities in Alberta and southwestern Ontario. Among her duties are preparing and leading Sunday worship, visiting people in care facilities and crisis care. Revitalization, which she says consists of “helping people make connections” is one of her goals.

The parish’s Wednesday morning coffee group, from 9:30-11:30 a.m., was one of things that drew her to the church in Nanaimo’s Old City Quarter.

“It is the most broad and dynamic glimpse of society that is imaginable,” said Fanning. “We have folk who work in the community who come, we have folk connected with the congregation who come, we have folk who are adult residents of some of our day programs for folks with disabilities and folks who are experiencing homelessness, and everything in between. It’s a time [to] grab a coffee, grab a treat, and stay for conversation and live music.”

The recent Statistics Canada census revealed Nanaimo is the least religious metropolitan area in Canada, which doesn’t surprise Fanning. One of the challenges, she said, is some think of religion as “stuffy” or “very rigid,” and many haven’t had positive experiences with church as an institution.

“I think folks are open to the sense of spirit and to talk about what [is] nourishing your soul…” she said. “What are some things we can do to connect with another human being? For some of us it might be going and walking in nature, for some it might be tai chi, for some it might be coming for a coffee, for some it happens in music and coming and being part of a worship service. For me, it’s how do we connect with wider Nanaimo to say … come check us out. We’re maybe not a stuffy as you think we are, and to say that there is a degree of openness and love that you will find.”

The minister described her posting in Nanaimo as open-ended.

“We don’t very often get the 25-, 30-year tenure anymore,” said Fanning. “It does happen, but it’s it’s not as common, although Vancouver Island does lend itself to staying longer. It’s like ‘I’m here now. I don’t want to leave.’”

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Karl Yu

About the Author: Karl Yu

After interning at Vancouver Metro free daily newspaper, I joined Black Press in 2010.
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