Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Tale of Two Cathedrals

Vancouver is a beautiful city of rivers and lakes, high-rise glass buildings that reflect the sun, and snow-capped mountains. It's over 12,000 kilometres from Christchurch and in late April 2015, I boarded an aircraft to fly there for a few days.

To backtrack a few years, in 2012 I put together a book entitled Magnitude 7.1 & 6.3 which was a compilation of people's experiences about the Christchurch earthquakes. When searching for stories, I put word out on my Facebook page and a lady by the name of Diane Jones responded. At the time, Diane and I both wrote for a Canadian website by the name of Suite101 - now We emailed back and forward and it turned out that Diane was a member of Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver.  On hearing of the earthquakes in Christchurch and the damage to our cathedral, the church community over there prayed for us and collected money to help the relief efforts in our city. Vancouver is situated on the ring of fire and also earthquake-prone so I felt a real connection to Diane - and her story touched my heart - and also made it into the book.

Once my trip was arranged, I sent Diane a message on Facebook. "I'm going to be in Vancouver for a few days. Would you like to meet up?" Her response was positive and a few weeks later, she and her husband, Frank, picked me up from my hotel. It was like visiting an old friend and stories flowed freely over a delicious lunch. Then Diane asked if I had any plans for the afternoon. On hearing that I didn’t, she made an offer. "Would you like to visit Christ Church Cathedral?" Of course I did and after a short drive and parking five storeys underground, we emerged onto the street a few metres from the church. Like our cathedral, the Vancouver building was built in the late 1800’s of stone Gothic construction, is situated in the heart of the city and each part of it is soaked in history. Ironically, it was surrounded by scaffolding when I visited as the roof was being replaced as part of earthquake-strengthening measures. If I had visited a week later, I would not have been able to enter the building.

As I walked through the doors, a sense of warmth engulfed me. This was more than just a stone church; it was home to a congregation who had cared enough to send an offering halfway around the world to a city and congregation on their knees. Diane and Frank showed me around the cathedral that was softly lit by lamps and light that filtered through magnificent stained glass windows. Wooden pews and chairs sat on a polished wood floor and dark beams supported the vaulted ceilings. I couldn’t help but think of our cathedral before the earthquakes. The weekly services, floral festivals, climbing the tower, magnificent views across Christchurch, the bells pealing out at New Year’s. I remembered the day the cathedral was deconsecrated and I was there in a journalistic capacity. It was a sad occasion as prayers were offered in front of the ruined building. Earthquake fences kept us from walking more than a few metres in any direction and people wept openly.

Many more memories wound through my mind as I walked through the cathedral in Vancouver and I prayed that their city be kept safe from earthquakes. It was one of the highlights of my trip to Canada and an experience I will always treasure. I came away humbled and realising how small the world is in many ways. That what happened in our little corner of the Southern Hemisphere has impacted people far beyond our borders. I will always have warm memories of our cathedral in Christchurch – and as a result of what happened here, I now have new friends in Vancouver and a heart full of memories of another cathedral and congregation that have touched my life.


  1. Thank you for this beautiful article and the photos. I also felt a warm feeling of friendship during your brief visit. Again, thank you!

    1. Thank you, Diane. It was lovely to meet you and visit the cathedral. I will always have a place in my heart for Vancouver and my time with you :)