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COFFFEE WITH: Meet the new minister
His new congregation at West Vancouver Presbyterian Church is, admittedly, slightly more reserved than his last.
“Everybody remains in their seat,” jokes minister Glenn Inglis. “And there’s no dancing.”
Inglis became interim minister at West Vancouver Presbyterian Church this past July.
His last church was in Malawi, a small country in southeast Africa where the churches are always packed on any given Sunday and there’s always an uptempo vibe inside.
For instance, when it’s time to take up the offering, the parishioners usually dance their way to the front.
“The church is very vibrant there,” Inglis says.
But, whether in Malawi or West Van, his message is the same. As he explains, Presbyterian churches in Canada and Malawi both have origins in the mission work of the Church of Scotland and the liturgy, with an emphasis on preaching, the importance of music/choirs and a deep concern for pastoral care and social justice.
Inglis has been sermonizing on Sundays for the past 30 years, in churches in Nanaimo, Langley, Kerrisdale, Africa and now West Vancouver.
Malawi was, by far, his longest stint. In total, he, his wife Linda and their children spent 17 years there, living mainly in the country’s second-largest city, Blantyre, which has a population of around 730,000 and was founded by missionaries from the Church of Scotland in the 19th century.
When he arrived in the 1980s he was immediately confronted by the high levels of poverty.
“It’s one of the poorer countries,” he says, explaining that 60 per cent of the population earns less than $2 per day. “People are scrambling to find work.”
His church was inside an old brick mission named St. Andrews located in the centre of town. Along with his regular Sunday services, for the last five years of his stay in Malawi Inglis worked as a director of development programs for the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian, focusing primarily on working with HIV-AIDS orphans and issues related to food security.
In the late 1990s the HIV infection rate in Malawi was over 20 per cent and there were close to one million AIDS orphans, he explains.
Inglis and the church, along with other agencies, helped to offer community-based support for about 4,000 orphans on a daily basis.
“It’s wonderful to see these little children survive and then thrive,” he says of the work.
Another major initiative for his denomination was ensuring food was readily available in the country.
Maize corn is the staple crop in Malawi but the soil has become depleted because it’s a mono crop grown year after year. The church and other aid organizations helped by introducing organic farming using “green manure” — essentially using plant matter as fertilizer — to replenish soil, as well as implementing sustainable water solutions.
Despite the occasional bout of malaria, the stay in Malawi was a positive experience for the minister and his family.
“A major part of our lives [was spent there],” he says, noting that one of their three children was born there and all three attended an international school in the city.
In 2012, Inglis and his wife finally decided to return to Vancouver. Once they began house hunting they realized the Sunshine Coast offered more affordable properties for them to finally settle down after years of constant uprooting.
“[I’ve been] moving all my life,” he says.
They found a home in the quaint seaside town of Sechelt that, along with the pastoral setting, offers all the conveniences and amenities — including one daily staple that he craved while living in Malawi, good coffee. “Malawi is producing coffee but not on the international level yet,” he says.
But lately, he hasn’t had a lot of time for chatting with the baristas in his new community — he’s too busy commuting by ferry to West Van. Not long after moving to Sechelt he got a call from the West Van Presbyterian Church wondering if he’d be interested in participating in a visioning process for the church. Shortly after, the church’s minister position became vacant. Inglis was happy to step in, but says he’s not seeking a permanent role — “not at my age” — but he’s willing to stay on as long as it takes to find the right full-time minister.
For now Inglis — described by one church elder as a minister with grace and a sense of humour, sometimes uses humorous analogies involving sports and politics — is just enjoying delivering Sunday sermons and getting to know his new congregation. “[They are] lovely, warm people,” he says.