June 3, 2011
Each Father’s Day we remember and give thanks for the fathers that have impacted our lives. Pastor Bob Birch is one of those fathers that has made me a stronger person, a more prayerful person, and a more hopeful person.
I still vividly remember Bob Birch in his mid-eighties leading a Good Friday Cross Walk procession down Lonsdale, carrying a huge cross on his shoulders. I had the privilege of interviewing Bob four years ago right before his death. He passed away just three weeks short of his 100th birthday. Perhaps his longevity comes in part from his passion for prayer-walking. Bob loved to prayerfully hike up the North Shore mountains. Fittingly for Pastor Bob’s retirement, he was given a pair of walking boots.
As a father of spiritual renewal throughout BC and Canada, Pastor Bob has raised up many spiritual sons and daughters. In 1966, he went down to hear the Rev Dennis Bennett, an Anglican priest in Seattle, Washington. Pastor Bob was deeply transformed by an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. He described this new experience of praying in the Spirit as ‘this very sacred gift, of intimate spiritual communion with God’. His life story is loving recounted by Bev Carson in the biography ‘Pastor Bob’.
One of the unexpected consequences of the spiritual encounter was that hundreds of hippies began to be attracted to Pastor Bob at St Margaret’s Church near the PNE. They knew that he could help them in getting off drugs and putting their lives back together. His wife Margaret noted that Bob was ‘kind but firm’ in establishing healthy boundaries. As a result, said Margaret, there are now ‘outstanding young people all over the world, proclaiming the Lord’.
Without healthy father figures, it is easy to default to cynicism and detachment. Bob Birch lived his life in a way that motivated others to strive for excellence. Bob motivated me to seek first God’s Kingdom in every area of my life. Bob showed me that prayer is not an optional extra, but rather is at the heart of a healthy, vibrant life.
Bob was someone who deeply cared. He was willing to get involved even when it was messy or awkward. Healthy fathers are willing to be there in good times and in tough times. Healthy fathers are willing to go the distance when others disappear.
Fatherhood is costly. Fatherhood is time-consuming. Fatherhood is worth it. I thank God for all the fathers who sacrificially make a difference in the lives of their families. I thank God for Pastor Bob Birch who was willing to pay the price of being a father for many. Happy Father’s Day!
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, Rector, BSW, MDiv, DMin
St Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Mission in the Americas (Canada)
-award-winning author of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’
-previously published in the June 2011 Deep Cove Crier
p.s. In order to obtain a copy of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #1008-555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC V7N 2J7. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD. This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail email@example.com . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $9.99CDN/USD.
-Click to download a complimentary PDF copy of the Battle for the Soul study guide : Seeking God’s Solution for a Spirit-Filled Canada
You can also download the complimentary Leader’s Guide PDF: Battle for the Soul Leaders Guide
September 2, 2010
By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird
Who can forget the classic 1993 comedy ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ where Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks) and Annie Reed (Meg Ryan) find healing and romance through the delightful impetuosity of Jonah Baldwin (Ross Malinger ), Sam’s media-savy son? Seattle is a beautiful coastal city to visit that has much in common with Vancouver BC.
Fifty years later…
A few years ago, my family and a Christian Ashram team had the privilege of ministering at John and Holly Roddam’s Seattle congregation, the original epicentre of Anglican renewal which began fifty years ago in 1960 and continues to impact the world. I believe that the renewal birthed in Seattle is God’s wake-up call to a sleepy, self-absorbed Church. As Paul put it in Romans 13:11, “The hour has come for you to wake up from your sleep…”
You may remember St. Eutychus, the patron saint of teenagers, who was literally bored to death during the Apostle Paul’s all-night sermon (Acts 20:9). You may also remember how Jesus’ closest disciples couldn’t stay awake on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:32) and the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus even had to say to them: “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Luke 22:46).
Blowing the shofar….
I believe that God is blowing the Shofar of renewal across the Anglican Church saying “Wake up, wake up, before it is too late”. Why has so much confusion crept into much of the Anglican Church regarding sexual immorality, new-age syncretism, and mother/father god/dess worship? Clearly we, as clergy and laity, have been asleep at the switch, instead of being watchmen for our nation. “Let us not be like others who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
What is the calling of faithful Anglicans in these perilous times? It is the same calling that many christians parents have on Sunday mornings while attempting to get their teenagers ready for church: “Wake up O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you!” (Ephesians 5:14) Wake up, O Canada; Wake up O Anglicans; rise from the dead and Christ will shine on you!
Awake o Israel, put off thy slumber…
It is little wonder that previous times of renewal (which means new-again) and revival (which means life-again) have been called ‘awakenings’. We think especially of the 18th century First Great Awakening with the Anglican priest George Whitfield and Congregational pastor Jonathan Edwards, and the 19th Century Second Great Awakening with Presbyterian clergyman Charles Finney and Yale President Timothy Dwight.
How deeply we Canadians need to wake up to righteousness (1 Corinthians 15:34). How deeply we Anglicans need to recover the discipline of morning prayer, exemplified in the heritage of our Book of Common Prayer. Then we can cry out like the Psalmist: “Awake my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn.” (Psalm 57:8) Perhaps we can hear Proverbs 6:9-11 as a prophetic calling: “How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?…”God is saying to us: “Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourselves with strength. Put on your garments of splendor…Shake off your dust, rise up…Free yourself from the chains on your neck, O Captive Daughter of Zion.”
Room for the old and the new…
Being in Seattle for the Christian Ashram weekend was a wake-up call to me. Like many churches in renewal, the Roddam’s congregation had both a traditional and then a contemporary service on Sunday mornings. Their congregation proves that the traditional Prayer Book service doesn’t inhibit freedom in the Spirit. It was wonderful to see the gift of prophecy graciously exercised in both services. There is such an anointing on their people who have been soaking in the Spirit for fifty years. Being around such godly people helped me shake off my dust and free myself from the chains on my neck.
What a joy to know that a Canadian Anglican couple, the Rev. John and Holly Roddam, were serving the people of Seattle. Canada, through the ministry of the Rev. Dennis & Rita Bennett, has received so much through the Bennett’s extensive travels across Canada. Many Canadians Anglicans can date their awakening to the reading of the Bennett’s bestsellers like ‘Nine O’clock in the Morning and ‘The Holy Spirit and You’.
Fire from Canada…
I believe that God sent Canadians servant-leaders to Seattle as a way of saying ‘thank you’ to Seattle for all that they have given to so many in Canada and around the world. I thank God that the Rev John and Holly Roddam were powerfully used in helping many to be ‘sleepless in Seattle’. While the Roddams have since move back to the Maritimes, they have left a significant imprint in the hearts and minds of many in Seattle. I pray that for the sake of the Anglican Church and our lost world, we sleepy believers will awaken and ‘not rest until righteousness shines out like the dawn and salvation like a blazing torch’ (Isaiah 62:1). Do it again Lord, wake us up for your glory and honour!
Note: The majority of the people at the Roddam’s congregation have now left the old St Luke’s building, re-aligned with the Global South Anglicans and formed a new congregation Emmanuel Anglican Church . You are encouraged to check out this vibrant congregation led by Rev Dan Rice.