(OK, Steve, here is my best shot...)
One of the most important things for Katie and me as we move to Vancouver is finding a new community of faith to participate with. Upon Jeremy Rios' recommendation, the first church we visited was Tenth Avenue Alliance.
Tenth is located in the heart of Vancouver-- about 15 min from the University of British Columbia (where Katie and I live). The first thing we noticed about this church was the diversity of the body. Now, given the diversity of Vancouver, it would have been troubling to see a homogenous congregation-- but I was impressed with the range of diversity of the people: There were a myriad of age, socioeconomic, and sociocultural groups represented in the church-- and it didn't feel clique-ish to me in the least. We sat among seniors, business professionals that appeared to be my father's age, dread-locked folks my age, homeless people, and countless children.
Given the texture of the congregation, I think one of the highest compliments that I could pay the church is that it was anything but "cool". We felt the presence of the Holy Spirit there. We could look around at a mix of people united in mission around the person of Jesus for the glory of God. We heard testimonies demonstrating the reality that this community of people lives the Gospel in a holistic way. But "hip", or "cutting edge" were not words that came to my mind.
Though we have yet to experience a church as warm and welcoming as Grace (Joe-- I'm not trying to stroke you), people at Tenth were friendly to us. And, as my radar has been up after reading Joseph Myers book, The Search to Belong , we weren't given any clues that we didn't "belong" there.
One of the most amazing things to me was not just the mix of people, but the diversity of people that participated from the platform during the service. There was a time during the service that teenage girls read poetic prayers they had created -- and a ten year-old girl casted vision over the whole church. She had no qualms following a man who identified himself as the "executive pastor of tenth" with, "Well, my name is ____, and I don't have a flashy title, but I'm just as valuable to the life and ministry of this church..." I cried as I listened to a little girl speak over the people who they were and what God had called them as a church to do. Powerful. (you can read their vision statement here)
There were two baptisms during the service-- and I was humbled at the testimonies that these two women offered of their journeys. They were deep, Christ centered, God exalting, and incredibly well articulated. Each women was baptized by a woman who was on staff at the church, and another woman who had been significant in their spiritual journey.
The pastor of Tenth is Ken Shigematsu. We were impressed with his demeanor, his gentleness, his humility, his humor, and the passion with which he called his people to trust God. He is currently preaching through the Sermon on the Mount, and he preached from Mt. 6:19-34 (you can stream the sermon from their audio page). His sermon was amazing, and I took notes furiously-- but my goal is not to give you the outline here.
I'm aware that this post is approaching a novella, but I wanted to mention one more thing about our visit to Tenth that landed us back there just hours after we left. The church had invited Dr. Margaret Cottle to participate in a conversation on Developing An Integrated Biblical Perspective on Abortion. As the invitation was issued, Dr. Cottle challenged the community to come to terms with abortion as a Gospel issue. She went on to say that if individuals didn't feel like the abortion issue was "their thing", would we consider coming as an act of solidarity for those whom God had burdened their hearts for women who had undergone abortion.
Katie and I were moved by the invitation and decided to go.
We loved the evening conversation, the hearts of the people, and the community they are striving to be for women struggling with post abortion stress. I had never stopped to think about the fact that women who have abortions aren't really permitted to grieve. They are either told that "they are a murderer"; or that "they have nothing to be upset about-- move on". The focus of the conversation was how this particular church could develop a third response-- one that directed women to the person of Jesus and welcomed them into a community of grace and reconciliation.
I love the privilege of being welcomed in to other local bodies and getting to worship with them and experience the things they treasure most deeply. Katie and I were deeply blessed as Tenth allowed us to participate with them.