St. Al's Stories: Juliana
She’s a student intern helping with St. Albans Young Adult group. She sits on parish council and sometimes sings on Sunday mornings. Juliana Colwell is as involved at St. Albans as you can get.
Juliana found the church through Open Table, a free monthly meal at St. Albans for students hosted by various churches. She was church-shopping at the time, trying out a few different churches in Ottawa but decided to give St. Albans a try one Sunday morning and continued going ever since.
She said she was intrigued by the young adult focus and the large number of students at the Sunday services. Now it’s come full circle as Juliana is the Young Adults group intern where she helps run the Tuesday night discussions on “the questions you can’t ask in church.” These topics have included free will, the concepts of heaven and hell, the importance of silence and how to spread faith without being an asshole. But Juliana said she wants to ensure it’s a group that extends past the weekly meetings.
“We have a community focus so it’s very inclusive and welcoming and everyone can speak their mind whatever way they see fit. There’s also the presence of being in the community itself,” she said, adding how events this year have included garbage community clean-up, a night at Winterlude and a retreat in Quebec.
Every Tuesday night, there’s new faces at the Young Adults group and Juliana said it’s important to make sure everyone feels included, regardless of where they’re from and what got them there.
“Sometimes it can be a bit daunting to walk into a church if you’ve never been before, but it’s also something quite wonderful and it’s not as scary as people make it sometimes,” she said.
Juliana struggled to find the right words to describe the feeling of community at St. Albans and what she felt that made her immediately want to get involved. She said it’s the feeling of being included and part of something bigger, a feeling she strives to create for all newcomers at the young adult group.
“You’re always welcome,” she said. “That’s the thing I really like about it because no matter what your background is, you’re accepted, you are part of the group and you are part of the community.”
St. Al's Stories: Our DJ Meganne
Meganne Woronchak, a classical pianist all her life, walked into a St. Albans band practice rocking out to Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee and said she felt a bit overwhelmed. She was impressed with the loudness and the progressive sound of the guitars, something she’d never experienced before.
“I was somehow drawn to it,” she said. Since that practice in July 2014, she’s been part of the band. And now she said “they make fun of me and say, not many people come on their first week and just never leave!”
Sunday mornings Meganne is on stage playing keyboard, organ on special occasions and recently some electronic synth mixed in. Within a year at St. Albans, she learned their entire roster of songs and has had a steep learning curve in a different kind of music.
“As a classical artist, sometimes it’s very isolating and there was something very exciting to me about being in a band. I guess you can call it a childhood dream,” she said with a smile.
Meganne is a musician finishing up her masters in piano pedagogy at the University of Ottawa. She recently got accepted to do her PhD in music. Before moving to Ottawa, she searched for a church online and admired the young adult focus and the friendliness of the staff when she reached out to ask what St. Albans was all about. Being an introvert and moving to a new city, is a big jump but Meganne said after her first Sunday morning with the band, they told her “welcome to the family.”
“I was touched by that because I’m really shy and it was mostly me laughing at them bickering about whatever and they considered me just as valuable even if I wasn’t contributing to the conversation,” she said. “Even just my presence, my being there, made me part of the group and that’s really special.”
For Meganne, Ottawa was a place she was going for school but she said St. Albans has provided a community and “surrogate family.” She said she doesn’t usually believe it signs, but when she was on stage with the band blasting Home by Phillip Phillips to an energetic congregation, she felt something.
“I took it as a feeling that it was going to mean more to me than I had bargained for,” she said. “I was definitely struggling between Ottawa being a temporary and permanent home and somehow in that moment I knew that it would become more than that in the end.”
St. Al's Stories: Gillian and Iain
Gillian and Iain Wallace are easy to spot at coffee hour. They’re among a crowd, reaching out to new faces or catching up with old ones. Gillian’s usually sporting her long dangly earrings and recognizable fun-coloured hair.
Although St. Albans has a high student population with the progressive band music and the proximity to the university, Gillian enthusiastically points out “middle-aged people love it too!”
Gillian and Iain made the transition to St. Albans a few years ago from a church they loved but one that struggled with embracing change. She said it was stuck in the idea of doing things “the way it’s always been done.” This frustration led the pair to St. Albans, which Gillian said is unique because it challenges traditional views people have of church. It launched on social media and was keen on connecting with people online and Gillian said the welcoming people and fun worship music drew them in.
Gillian is a classically trained musician who studied french horn at Western University before pursuing a masters and PhD in the psychology of religion. Classical music isn’t usually heard at St. Albans, but Gillian said there’s a time and place for it.
“I love classical music, but not on Sundays to worship,” she said, adding that the music was a big pull factor in coming to St. Albans.
A writer and academic is what Gillian identifies herself as. She said the St. Albans congregation is abundant with writers, which is telling to the character of the community. She said it shows there is creativity and thinking outside the box in the way things are done. Conversations in the church also lend themselves to “skip the small talk” she said, as we ironically spiral into a conversation about free will.
Gillian and Iain are constant faces around the church. Whether it’s from their hosted community breakfasts, film and faith nights or the harmonies coming loud and clear from midway down the right pew; they’re a big part of the community. For St. Albans newcomers, you can bet they’ll be the first ones to welcome you in.
St. Al's Stories: Taylor & Travis
Taylor Stokes and Travis Holmes came to St. Albans one Sunday morning with one purpose in mind: to see if it was a suitable church to get married in.
They were nervous about arriving late. As soon as they sat down someone introduced themselves and invited them to grab a coffee. It was past 10 a.m. already but they were told at St. Albans you can never be late. People were still chatting with friends or searching for the service program on their phones. It didn’t take them long to realize this church was different.
“People are genuinely interested in you and your life and supporting you and your life and making you part of what they have too. People want to include you in what they’re doing. Not for any personal gain but because they want you to be part of it,” said Taylor.
Both grew up in rural, more traditional Anglican churches and they said the St. Albans service was a shock. The music was upbeat and from this century. People filtered in throughout the service and there was no real shame in tardiness. And the long list of announcements showed the congregation “wants to actually change something and be involved.” Taylor is an environmental technician and after hearing about St. Albans involvement in the Climate March and other social justice initiatives, she was hooked.
“We were driving home… and decided we’d go back next Sunday, that was the conversation. There wasn’t really one, we both just felt it,” said Travis, adding how they drive 40 minutes to church from Almont and discuss the sermon on the way home.
They said they felt the community and knew they would stay. Looking back, they said they only have one regret.
“We wish we had found it sooner. We were always saying we’ll wait until we have children to go back to church, and as soon as we came to St. Albans, we realized why wait? There’s no reason to,” said Travis.
Travis and Taylor will be married at St. Albans in August. But now they’re familiar faces around the church and most Sundays you can find them in a far right pew, grabbing a coffee and chatting with friends.
“We found church without really looking for it,” said Travis.
“It found us?” wondered Taylor aloud.
They looked at each other and laughed, a kind of silent agreement.
“I suppose so.”
Welcome Back Students!
Mission Volunteers Welcome Students at St. Albans BBQ Sunday September 13
September is here, and uOttawa students are back in Lowertown and Sandy Hill. Many are new in town, still finding their way around, hoping
“It’s a big job trying to figure out how to feed over a hundred hungry students,” says event coordinator Juliana Colwell, one of the St. Albans Church Student Interns. “That’s why we’re so grateful that every year volunteers from The Ottawa Mission’s Food Services Training Program come and help us out by doing the cooking.” to get to know our community. And many of them will be finding their way to St. Albans Church’s annual Welcome Student BBQ on Sunday September 13.
Food Services Training is a five month program at The Ottawa Mission which teaches trainees how to cook and much more. Its graduates have become cooks in restaurants and commercial kitchens or have continued their culinary education at Algonquin College. And every September, volunteers from the program serve up delicious burgers to hungry students at the St. Albans Welcome Student BBQ.
According to Chef Ric Allen-Watson, Manager of Food Services at the Ottawa Mission, there’s never any problem getting volunteers who want to take part.
“The men and women in our job training program are always looking for ways to give back to the community, and we enjoy working with the people at St. Albans to welcome students to our neighbourhood. And besides it’s a great event and lots of fun!”
This Sunday’s BBQ looks like it will be the biggest ever. Juliana expects an increase due to the new uOttawa Rideau residence that opened this year beside the church. “With 372 new first year students having just moved into the Rideau residence, that definitely should boost our numbers at the BBQ.”
Many of the students will join St. Albans Church for its 10am Sunday service and many more will go straight to the BBQ which starts at 11:15am in the church garden. Ministry to university and college students is a priority for St. Albans Church, which is located at 454 King Edward and Daly, close to the University of Ottawa. There are large student contingents at both the 10am and 5pm services on Sundays, and the student and young adult club meets every Tuesday at 7pm at the church. St. Albans also runs a Student Leadership Program. This year there are five Student Interns who will participate in leadership training, faith formation and community placements.
September is a busy time of year for St. Albans campus ministry, with orientation activities at both the University of Ottawa and Carleton University, and the first Open Table of the new school year scheduled for Sunday, September 27. The Open Table is a free meal and an opportunity to build community and meet new friends for students and young adults. It takes place at Centre 454 in the basement of St. Albans Church, doors open at 5:30pm, meal at 6pm. The Open Table is an initiative of the Anglican, United, Presbyterian and Lutheran churches and meals are provided by a partnership of local congregations.