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Churches reaching out to Whistler community



Taize service introduced by Whistler Village Church; New priest at Catholic Church

For many years Christians have been struggling to find ways to bring their message to the younger generation, and now two churches in Whistler have taken steps to publicly rejoin the struggle.

Whistler Village Church, which is a multi-denominational church led by Reverend Stephen Hershey, has started a service on Mondays at 6 p.m. based on a European youth movement called Taize.

And for the first time in three years Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church on Lorimer Road has hired a full time priest. Father Jan Gal, who was born in Slovakia, will now host Catholic services in Pemberton, Whistler and Mount Currie.

Reverend Hershey said it was important for all denominations to be dynamic and seek new methods of reaching their communities.

"This (the changes) goes back to recognizing that churches can’t sit back and assume that people will find them; you’ve got to work at it," Hershey said.

The Taize program has a large world wide following but Reverend Hershey said it was attractive because, unlike some modern techniques, Taize also "maintained the integrity of the church".

"In churches we call this evangelizing, which is proclaiming the good news, but I guess the contemporary term for it is marketing," he said.

A Swiss monk called Brother Roger created this method of teaching the gospel in the 1940s when he was living in the French town of Taize.

Reverend Hershey said the Taize movement holds appeal on several levels.

"The first reason is that there are a lot of young seasonal locals in town at the moment who could be looking for a place to really just slow down and be quiet for a while," Hershey said.

"The second is that we really wanted to solidify a mandate for the church because Whistler Village Church came from the Skiers Chapel in Creekside.

"We work full time at the Whistler Village Church and the Skiers Chapel had previously not had a full time priest, plus we’re multi-denominational and we wanted to start something that reflected that.

"The third reason is that I saw an interview with a doctor about two or three years ago and he said the spiritual part of your brain is right beside the musical centre of your brain.

"I decided to look for something that incorporated music – in an intimate, calm atmosphere – with learning about God."

Reverend Hershey said that Taize services usually began with a bible reading followed by a series of short, and often repetitive, songs that allow the congregation to focus on the message.