She may still be a newbie when it comes to leading the congregation at Church of the Advent in Colwood. But Rev. Sandra Hounsell-Drover has felt at home in her newest community for a while now.
Having lived on Bear Mountain since arriving in Greater Victoria with her military pastor husband, John, and their two sons about a year and a half ago, this native of Newfoundland already has a sense of home.
“I love living on the West Shore. It’s got a small-town feel, but it’s not (a small town). You can run into people at the grocery store, but then not run into anyone some days.” One thing that is true, she says, “there’s a sense of community about the West Shore.”
With her boys in various activities, including West Shore Basketball, there was an instant connection with other parents, she says.
When she led the congregation for the first time on Nov. 27 – Hounsell-Drover is this Anglican church’s first female rector – she got a sense of what her future might be like there. “Every worship space is different, and there’s a certain comfortableness to Church of the Advent. It’s very bright and modern,” she says, unlike some of the churches she led in Atlantic Canada.
Ordained as an Anglican priest 15 years ago after receiving her master’s degree at Queen’s College, the oldest theological school in North America, Hounsell-Drover was stationed most recently in Fredericton. She also served in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and her home province. She brings those Newfoundland sensibilities and matter-of-fact style to her new position.
“I’m very what you see is what you get,” she says. “Invariably my story comes out, it shapes who I am. Why not embrace it?”
Aware that diminishing numbers are a reality for most churches, she comes in with a congregation of roughly 150 parishioners at Church of the Advent, with a relatively young median age between 50 to 55, she figures. But she supports the notion that “it’s not all about the numbers, it’s about what we do with the numbers.”
“My job is to feed them spiritually so that they’re prepared to go out into the world and share that,” she says.
Bringing more people into the fold can certainly help strengthen a church’s ties to and roots in their community.
Hounsell-Drover, who worked with St. Peter’s Church at Quamichan Lake near Duncan, and an Anglican church at Nanoose Bay before taking the job in Colwood, has an idea of how that might happen.
“If we are going to build the congregation, I would likely target my own generation and younger,” says the 43-year-old pastor. She points to studies that have shown millennials are starting to come back to the “quiet, the sacred and the traditional” to make sense of their world.
She admits that reaching out to younger people, using tools like social media, is not where her strengths lie, noting her skill set and comfort zone is in working with seniors and the elderly. Dealing with “death and dying” is where she excels.
A community’s elderly residents can sometimes be under-appreciated or at worst, forgotten, Hounsell-Drover notes.
“Sometimes people just need to have their stories heard,” she says, adding, “I think it’s important for people to know that these people have lived full lives.”
Asked how she feels following former Church of the Advent pastor Rev. Ken Gray, whose passion for combining music and worship resulted in the popular Jazz Vespers concerts, Hounsell-Drover admits she has “big shoes to fill.”
But she’s been in similar situations at her previous churches, she says, replacing longtime or beloved rectors.
With both her sons enrolled in programs at the Victoria Conservatory of Music, and herself a hobbyist on the bass guitar, she looks forward to continuing the tradition of the Jazz Vespers, which happened on Dec. 4 but normally occurs the third Sunday of the month at 7 p.m. at the church.
For more information about Church of the Advent, visit colwoodanglican.ca.