When you walk through the doors and into the principal place of worship, it’s clear this isn’t any ordinary church.
The late morning sunlight is filtering through the giant, contemporary stained glass windows, glowing across the pews and altar at Our Saviour Lutheran on No. 4 Road.
There is a distinct, relaxed and homely feel about the place that you might not find in some stuffy, traditional religious arenas.
And as the 120-strong congregation prepares for its 60th birthday celebrations in a few weeks, its pastor, Christoph Reiners, and two key church members explained it’s Our Saviour’s open-minded attitude that makes it tick.
“I came two and half years ago, and when I looked at the windows, I realized they don’t just correspond with the elements, they are a window to the world; they let the world come in,” Reiners told the Richmond News.
“Our congregation is a collection of people from many faiths. The sign outside says ‘Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.’ This is a space to think freely and not be restricted.”
Openness, not just to other faiths, but to everyone, “irrespective of their sexual orientation, gender and race,” is what matters to Reiners and his congregation.
“All people are created in God’s image. God is inclusive to all and it’s not our place to judge people. We really mean that. It’s very important to us.”
And having a progressive outlook, added Reiners, is also vital for the sustainability and viability of the church.
“We’ve long moved out of a time that everyone just went to church,” said Reiners, noting that his congregation used to be around 200, before the housing market forced people to move to White Rock and South Surrey.
“People don’t have the same connections anymore, so the only way for the church to make a difference in the community is to be open and seek to get involved.”
Reiners was echoed by church musician Bev Krisch, who has been a member of Our Saviour’s congregation for its entire 60 years when it started out 30 years ago at No. 3 and Francis roads, before outgrowing its space.
“We are a very welcoming church, always have been,” said Krisch.
“In the mid-70s, we had a pastor who did a lot work with grief support and he was instrumental in starting the hospice association in Richmond.
“Another pastor did a lot of work with communicable churches (all-inclusive), so we understand each other and don’t just stick to ourselves and learn from people of other faiths.”
Another character trait at Our Saviour which sets it apart from more traditional places of worship – and is more obvious to the naked eye, or ear – is the unusual musical ensemble woven into its services.
“We are blessed with marvellous musicians (in the congregation). We have the trombone, drums, guitar, flutes and, of course, the piano,” explained Krisch, adding that there’s also a hand-bell choir.
“They accompany the hymns, even the trombone and the drums. There’s a lot of singing. A lot of churches these days try to have good music.”
When asked about his church’s services, Reiners chose to quote Jaroslav Pelikan, saying that “Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living and tradition is the living faith of the dead.”
“So we have a connection to our tradition, but we’re not slavish to it.
“We think that worship should be fun. Maybe there was a time when it was sombre and it was to meditate upon your sinfulness. But we are happy people.
“And we keep the music as upbeat and joyous as we can.”
On Saturday, Sept 14, together with the Richmond Gospel Baptist Church - which uses the church on Sunday afternoons for services in Mandarin – Our Saviour Lutheran is hosting an open house for the neighbourhood to celebrate its 60th anniversary.
From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., there will be entertainment, a barbecue and games for the children.
“Everyone is welcome,” said Reiners.
“You don’t have to sign a statement of faith when you walk in the door, you’re just included.”