When the theme Nostalgia was chosen for our annual Holiday Issue I knew Andrea Brennan would be the perfect Fernie resident to interview. As the Reverend of the Christ Church Anglican in Fernie for the last three years, she has already had a such a positive impact in our community in unique and thoughtful ways.
This fall alone her involvement and presence warmed our hearts. In October, we watched as she spoke with open arms at the opening of the Elk Valley Pride Festival at City Hall. November, she started a fundraiser for her birthday. Instead of gifts, she asked others to donate to the Fernie Women’s Resource and Drop In Centre. “Their mission means a lot to me, and I hope you'll consider contributing as a way to celebrate with me,” she said on the donation page.
Smitten to finally meet this woman I have heard so much about, I head over to the Seniors Centre for tea and one of the nicest hugs I have ever received. We chat for a while, getting to know one another and it’s like being with an old friend. Throughout our two-hour tea break, Andrea shares with me her journey.
It was 2000 when she decided to go into the priesthood. “I was working as a lay person and spoke with my priest about becoming a licensed minister. He suggested becoming a priest,” Andrea says. “I went to a convent and while I was there decided there was something to it.” A year later she returned torn between the monastic life and priesthood. She spoke it over with the reverend, and spent five days in silence. “I was sitting outside under the statue of St. Joseph and heard a voice say, ‘you will serve me.’ I ran for my life!” Andrea says, adding that she continued to look for any logical answer as she didn’t like how it made her feel. “On the last day I returned, and sat in the same place and said, ‘well if we’re supposed to surrender this is it’ and this time the voice said, ‘Andrea you will serve me.’”
Having already completed a BA, Andrea was accepted to a masters program at a theological college. Five years later, she was ordained at St. Paul’s Cathedral, “the same place I was baptised, three days after my 40th birthday,” she adds. She worked in Church Camps, and then in Dorchester for nine years until she felt like she had completed her mandate there. She applied across Canada, and fell in love with her last application - Fernie, BC. “I was flown out in December of 2015 for an interview and knew it was where I was meant to be. In January, I drove across Canada with my spiritual advisor and arrived on the 30th.”
What Andrea remembers most is that she anticipated it taking five years to feel as though she was a part of the community, but she felt it nearly immediately. Her mandate in Fernie was, “go and be with them” and that is what she has done. On the main page of the Christ Church Fernie webpage it says, “Come as you are: All are welcome!” Andrea recognises the changes in regards to Church, “people come when they can, the days of Sundays are Church days are gone. It’s moved from ‘you have to come to church’ to ‘we’ll meet you where you are.’” Christ Church Fernie has hosted Outdoor Church on the lawn at City Hall, where they play games, sing songs, a story is told from the Bible in an unusual way, and they go to the Church for a meal. “Folks who come are given a challenge - go and be kind! Kind is the new cool,” she adds. “It’s universal - kindness, love and acceptance. We are trying to broaden our horizons and trying to do it really well. We want people to feel okay coming in, providing a quiet space for them to be.” They’ve even hosted a pet blessing every year on the first Sunday of October!
So, what’s to come? “I’d like to see us as the Christ Church become more well known in the community. For our inclusion, for the love that we give. That we’re a safe place to come. That chances are you will find someone with an opinion similar to yours and if not, you will not be judged if your opinion is different.”
Thank you, Andrea. For recognising the nostalgia surrounding Church. For creating a space for everyone. For helping us all to feel welcome. For being a loving, caring resident in our community.
1. When did you first arrive in Fernie and what brought you here? First arrived on the 20th of January and I came here for work.
2. Who did you first meet in town? Catherine Ripley, she is my warden.
3. Do you remember your first general impression of Fernie? I just kept saying, “wow” over and over. It was the first time I had ever seen mountains.
4. What keeps you here? The community. I am head over heals in love with the community, the congregation and the mountains have become a part of me.
5. Do you have a favourite Fernie memory or pastime? I love walking around Maiden Lake and exploring all of that area.
6. What time of the year do you love most in Fernie, and why? I love fall, when the days are getting shorter, time to put on your cozy sweater, crunch in the leaves while the earth gets ready for her winter slumber.
7. Where do you see or hope to see Fernie in 5 years? I hope to see it continue as fabulous as it is now.
8. How do you start your day or what is one of your daily rituals? Wake up and the first thing I do is offer prayers of thanks for the day. Meditation or devotion, and then get out of bed.
9. Tell us something people might be surprised to learn about you. I did stand up comedy as an under graduate.
10. Quote to live by: “Ring the bells that still can ring, Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen