The following sermon was preached on October 23, 2022 at St George’s Transcona. You can learn more about St George’s and find links to their YouTube channel by clicking here.


May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable and pleasing in your sight O God, for you are our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

After our service today you’re all invited to join us downstairs where we will enjoy a good lunch and a chance to tell stories about our experiences of being a part of St George’s. You are welcome if you’ve been coming to St George’s since before you were born or if this is your first Sunday or anywhere in between.

The story of St George’s begins a very long time ago, in the time of our scripture readings and this morning I am going to offer you a very quick trip through church history.

So here we go.   Jesus came, lived on earth, was crucified, rose again and went to heaven.   The stories of his life are recorded in the first four books of the New Testament called the gospels.  We read a selection from the gospel stories every single week in our Sunday services.

The events of Jesus’ life on earth take us through the first 35 years or so of the period in history we call the Common Era which is given the shorthand, CE or sometimes A.D. for “In the year of our lord.”

The next book in the New Testament is Acts which tells the story of the first group of people who tried to follow Jesus after he had returned to heaven.  Their stories are inspiring and instructive, but those early followers were far from perfect.  Most of the rest of the New Testament is filled with letters that tell the stories of people stumbling and bumbling in their attempt to follow Jesus.

The Jesus movement began to spread quickly which is amazing as in this early period Christianity was illegal and Christians were persecuted and killed for their faith.  The movement grew even though joining it meant you were likely to die.

But it did continue to grow and to spread despite the fact that joining was a practically a death sentence and then after about 300 years a man named Constantine(306-337) became Emperor of Rome and everything began to change.

Under Constantine it was no longer illegal to be a Christian. In fact, Constantine believed that the Christian church would be the cement that would hold his empire together. But Christians weren’t unified and they weren’t organized.  Until this time they had been a movement that met mostly in secret to avoid persecution so they weren’t exactly having annual conventions.

Constantine used his power to force Christians to come to agreement on certain issues. He never told them what to agree on, he just insisted that they come to an agreement -any agreement – on certain issues and that they make some things more official.

This is how we move from a general understanding of which texts are sacred to having an “official” New Testament.  Constantine didn’t tell them which books to include, but he did tell them to pick some and stick to that decision.  Prior to this, books like the gospels were recognized as sacred, but this process finalized which books and letters were “in” and which were “out.”

We also get the creation of the creeds -short, simple statements outlining the core beliefs of the Christian faith.  We still say one of these creeds  – typically the Apostle’s Creed – at most services.

One thing that I find really interesting about the creeds is that they tell us which ideas were controversial at the time and which were not.  If the church leaders tasked with creating the creeds were in general agreement, then a huge and complicated theological idea will get only a simple mention.

I believe in the resurrection of the body, for example.

One line – no explanation of what on earth that actually means.

But when there were ideas where they perhaps didn’t all agree or there was more room for error, you get more words.  When we say the creed a little later in the service, look at what gets little to no description, and what ideas they thought required more detail.

And for those of you who thought the debates at Synod over a single word were intense, just be glad we weren’t trying to create a creed!

One of the positive things that happened when Constantine began to view Christianity favourably was that Christians were no longer persecuted and didn’t have to fear for their lives.  The church also moved from being an outsider fringe group to being a socially acceptable organization. Because the Emperor supported the church, if you wanted to get on the Emperor’s good side it was a good idea to support the church as well.

This led to the inclusion of many upper class converts and also a significant increase in funds.

In short, in this period the church became increasingly institutionalized, it because socially acceptable, and it became rich.

What this a good thing?

It really depends on your point of view.

If you read the writings of Christian leaders from this period, you’ll see a fair bit of anxiety about these changes and a deep concern for the future of the church.  These were dramatic changes and not everyone embraced them fully.

For example, theologians were seriously asking questions like, “Is it possible for a Christian to be rich?” or “Can the Christian faith be socially acceptable without being diluted and deformed?” Isn’t it necessary for the true expression of the faith that it remain on the fringes of “acceptable society?”

While I’m not an expert and I haven’t read as deeply as I would like, I find this period and many of its writers to be fascinating because they are people whose lives demonstrate a clear commitment to following Jesus – in some cases to their deaths – and they think that a wealthy and socially acceptable church might be directly opposed to the basic values Jesus came to teach us.

Which is interesting for a host of reasons but one of which is we are part of the Anglican church – a church that was once rich and very socially acceptable – but is no longer that way. We are a church in decline in terms of funds, numbers and social status.  And even though right now that can feel like a very hard thing, what if it might actually be a good thing?  What if by shedding those things we are actually becoming closer to the kind of community that Jesus wanted us to be in the first place?

In this early part of church history, people of faith decided what was important to uphold and what was not. They accepted some things and rejected others.  And about every 500 years or so they would do a major sort and have a garage sale.   They didn’t put it in their day planner or anything, it just seems to be a natural part of the evolution of the church that every 500 years or so we have a giant garage sale where we decide what we are going to keep, and what we are going to get rid of.  This happens at all levels of church life, from international institutions to individual parishes.  It happens about every 500 years or so and it’s happening right now.[1]

By around 1500 we were ready for our third garage sale.  We no longer had one unified Christian church united under a Roman emperor, but instead we have three main streams:  Eastern or Greek Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, and Western Christianity. [i]

All three of those streams are important, but as we’re sitting in an Anglican Church today with limited time, let’s focus on the one we come from, the Western church.

In the 1500s it was time to do some more sifting and sorting and have a garage sale. This is when Martin Luther comes on the scene, and when he does, the Western church doesn’t really split, it begins to splinter.  Imagine hammering a spike into a frozen lake and all the ice around it begins to splinter and crack and the once smooth surface now looks like a series of veins – some large, some small.  Just think of how many different types of churches we have today. This is where most of that began.

The driving of that spike happened on October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his ideas for church reform to the door of a church in Germany.

17 years later, an English King named Henry wanted to get divorced and the pope refused to grant the request so Henry went off in a huff and started the Church of England.

Or did he?  Those things did happen, but given the reforming spirit that was in the air, it’s highly likely that a new church would have developed in England even if Henry hadn’t wanted to get re-married.

The same reforming ideas that led to the creation of other new expressions of Christianity like the Lutheran church were also present in England and those ideas were highly influential in what the Church of England, or the Anglican church would become.

So the church in England has a garage sale –  they kept some things from the Roman Catholic Church, added some things from the new reform movements,  and got rid of some things as well and in doing so they created the Anglican church.

One other thing that influenced the creation of the Anglican church was colonialism.  Despite being created as a state church for English people, English people had a habit of leaving England and settling in other places, and when they did, they brought their faith with them, and gradually as places like Canada became home, local expressions of the Anglican Church developed as well.

It is important to note that this colonizing endeavor caused harm to many people, especially the indigenous folks who lived in the places that British people later claimed as their own. This history is worth exploring and should not be forgotten, even if it is not our main focus today.

A key part of the creation of the country of Canada was the creation of a railroad that allowed people and goods to travel all across the country.

In 1907, the Canadian Pacific company built a rail line that separated South Transcona from the area that would become Transcona.

In 1908 the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad chose the area that we now call Transcona to build its railway shops.  They purchased 800 acres of land and named the area Transcona.  Trans as in Transcontinental, and ‘cona’ from Lord Strathcona who hammered the last spike for the Canadian Pacific Railway.

In 1910 there was a census. Transcona was made up of eight men, three women and 15 dogs. By the time that Transcona was incorporated as a town in 1912 – only two years later – the population was 1,600.  The actual population was much higher, however, because there were a lot of itinerant workers not included in those numbers like the Italian men who came in the summer to work on the railway and returned home to Italy for the winter.  Many of them would eventually bring their families and settle in Transcona.

On September 11, 1911, the Anglicans of Transcona held their first service in Campbell’s Hall and on the same day, they decided to build a church and rectory.  So they got to work, built a church in about three months and had their first service on December 7th!

The new church, located at 6 Kern Dr., was built using materials from another church building no longer in use including an organ.  Receiving items like an organ without having to have them shipped in certainly helped speed up the process but I honestly can’t decide if I think it would have been easier to take a church apart to build a new one or to start with fresh materials.

Either way it was an impressive accomplishment.

The rectory would take a few more years and was completed in 1913 and on February 11, 1928 the parish officially paid off the mortgage.

The mortgage was retired but the church was still in debt. In fact, the first time the parish was ever debt free was 1939!   Maybe even the only time?  Debts and deficits have been a common part of this parish’s story to this very day.

This may explain why it took a further twenty years for the church to be consecrated by Archbishop Sherman on June 26th, 1949.  You don’t typically consecrate a church when it’s not in good financial shape and might not make it.

By 1961 the church had 425 families on the rolls and plans began to build a bigger space to accommodate all those people. Over the next few years land was purchased to build a new church but building costs had soared and the parish found itself unable to afford the new building.

What to do?

The church continued to grow and the church continued to be unable to afford to build a new worship space so they began to think creatively.

In 1967 a confirmation service was held in the much larger Blessed Sacrament Church, a Roman Catholic parish.   A little while later, the priest from St George’s (Tom Maxwell) had coffee with the priest at Blessed Sacrament (Oliver Valcourt).  St George’s was invited to use Blessed Sacrament’s facilities.   Our parish began meeting at Blessed Sacrament on September 7th, 1969 and continued to do so for 31 years.

In 2000, St George’s purchased the building we are worshipping in today.  It was renovated to add a kitchen and stained glass windows, some from our original parish church, were also added.

The 22 years in this building are familiar to many people in attendance today and I’m looking forward to hearing your stories and reflections on your experiences here over lunch at our story telling event.

A lot of things have changed over the years, and especially in the past 3 or so. Over COVID you weren’t able to meet regularly in this building,  Helen Kennedy, who had been with you for almost 15 years left to become a Bishop and I joined you as your interim priest.

Additionally in those 22 years some of you also joined the parish or celebrated a key milestone here – baptisms, weddings, funerals and endless conversations over cups of coffee in the hall.

And it’s garage sale time – for the church around the world and for this parish. It’s a time of sifting and sorting. What to keep? What do we need to let go of?

There is much to be thankful for, and there are also a lot of things to be curious about.   As St George’s enters this new chapter in our life, what is God calling us to do? Who is God calling us to be?

I don’t have answers for you today, those are things we have to discern together, but I do believe that the faithful, ecumenical and outside the box thinking that has been demonstrated through the life of the parish are a strong foundation on which to begin this new chapter.

Which is good news.

In the strong name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity. Amen.


[1] For an excellent description of this process, see The Great Emergence by Phyllis Tickle

[i] Eastern Orthodoxy (also called Greek Orthodoxy) – which traditionally is thought of as existing primarily in Greece, Asia Minor, Eastern Europe and Russia but today has a firm and increasingly secure footing in North America, China, Finland, and Japan


Oriental Orthodoxy (Oriental Orthodox Church depending on one’s point of view ) which is in our time also growing in strength and is usually subtitled as Coptic, Ethiopian, Armenian, or Syrian Christianity.)


Western Christianity– which at the opening of the 20th century is comprised largely of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism