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Cold Calls and Joyful Colours: Interview With Rev. Gary van der Meer

St. John’s Incumbent, Sept. 2001 - September 2011

As was reported in the May 27th newsletter, I conducted a 60-minute video interview with Reverend Gary van der Meer, St. John’s Incumbent from September 2001 through September 2011. This interview took place at St. John’s on May 23rd and is now available for public viewing via this

YouTube link,

It was a wide-ranging interview of particular interest to current members of St. John’s who also attended during some or all of the decade when Gary was Incumbent. The interview should also be of interest to newer members of St. John’s as it provides important insights into a critical period in St. John’s history during which many distinctive features of our building and worship originated, particularly the bold interior colours, the movable pews, and the musical variety in our services.

It was also a pioneering period in broadening St. John’s identity of inclusivity, particularly with respect to the LGBT+ community. In the context of Pride Month this month, this aspect of the discussion with Gary is of special relevance to St. John’s history and also closely linked to his personal story of coming out as a gay man during his time at St. John’s.

Further to the Pride Month theme, elsewhere in this newsletter is an article by Sheila Crummey, a member of St. John’s since 1983, and a current warden. Sheila provides some insightful personal perspective on the journey St. John’s took in the welcoming of the LGBT+ community into the congregation, and more significantly in playing a pioneering role within the diocese in performing same-sex blessings and then same-sex weddings.

More generally, the interview with Gary underscores a unique style of leadership he had while at St. John’s, and then subsequently exhibited while Incumbent at St. Anne’s, and currently at St. John’s The Evangelist in Ottawa. It is bold style of leadership highlighted in the interview by how he often made seminal “cold calls,” most notably with respect to bringing in expertise far beyond his own when it came to the process of arriving at distinctive “easter colours” for the church, and in seeking advice about the selection of a widely varied roster of musicians for Sunday services.

The interview covers many other topics and concludes with Gary describing how he attended the funeral of Bill Dunford at St. John’s on July 30, 2022. He sat in the back of the church and despite the solemn occasion, couldn’t help noticing how the church’s colours still instilled in him a joyful feeling. “There was something about these yellows and greens and this purple that shimmers out of the windows. It was hard to put language to it. You just feel joy.” He recalled that the first question Stuart Reid, expert colour theorist, asked before he started the re-painting project: “How do you want to feel when you’re sitting in this church?” As Gary emphasized, “To come back 20 years later, I feel joy.”

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