Ryan Slifka is in a small minority across Canada, but he’s not letting that stop him from having his message heard.
Slifka is one of only 10 United Church reverends across Canada under 30 years old, and in July, he began his position as full-time minister at St. George’s United Church in downtown Courtenay.
“I felt called early on, it felt like the right fit,” explained the 28-year-old former campus minister at the University of British Columbia, where he graduated from the Vancouver School of Theology at the university.
He was ordained in May, and said after graduation when seeking a church, St. George’s was a good fit.
He and his wife Cheyenne, along with their two sons Abraham, 10 months, and Walter, four, were willing to go anywhere in Canada, but there was a certain allure about the Comox Valley.
He noted as a former resident and tour guide in Revelstoke, the Valley appealed to him because of the beautiful area and how it reminded him of his former home.
He added there was also another reason he wanted to find a church in the province.
“B.C. is the most secular place in Canada. I really like the challenge,” he said. “St. George has always had a sense of purpose; it’s a community pillar and it has always had a history of engagement.”
In 2013, the church celebrated its 100 anniversary, and its Sonshine Lunch Club — which feeds approximately 130 people each week day out of the church kitchen — “is such a lovely part of the life of the church,” Slifka said.
“It’s incredibly moving to be a part of (the Lunch Club). So many of the people have nothing yet their lives are full of joy.”
He explained he hopes to work on an individual level with people.
“The perspective used to be that you have to be a Christian before you come to church. It’s OK to belong before you believe.”
While Slifka admitted his age may present a challenge, “I trust our story and the spirit of our story beyond those struggles.
“There’s an air of excitement (among the congregation); they’re ready to try something new.”
He said looking ahead, he hopes to place an emphasis on spiritual growth, discovering spirit-given gifts and sending people to serve.
“The church isn’t for people who have it all together — it’s a community of grace.”