alex-mcconnell-90-photoSubmitted by Imelda Cuthbertson

The Gabriola Ecumenical Society congratulates a founding member, Alex McConnell, on his 90th birthday.

In 1987 Gabriola was blest with the arrival Alex and Eileen McConnell. Their involvement in the churches on Gabriola and subsequently the Ecumenical Society has been an outstanding gift. Alex was raised a staunch Presbyterian in Belfast, Ireland and Eileen was an Anglican from Shropshire, England.

A chance meeting with Rev Donald Gordon and his wife and subsequently their daughter, Heather Gray, led them to join the United Church on Gabriola. Alex became a Board member, a position he still holds. From 1990 to 2004 Alex and Eileen were active members of the Ecumenical
Community of Our Lady of Victory and St. Martin, and attended both the Anglican and Roman Catholic services held on alternate Wednesdays. Alex was often co-opted to serve as ‘altar boy’ for both Rev Gordon and Fr Kevin!

Alex and Eileen talk about their travels from the British Isles to Zimbabwe, and then to Canada. They lived in various places from Ontario through to BC. In every place, whether large or small they worshipped where it felt ‘good’ and at whichever church was in the community. Their children were raised the same way being christened in one church and confirmed in another because at the centre of their Faith were Christ’s two commandments, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind…………” and, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself……” (Matthew 22 vs 37 – 40)

When the Ecumenical Society started in 2004 Alex and Eileen were founding members. Alex recalls how his beliefs and understanding were nourished and expanded by the type of programmes which were run. He particularly enjoyed the opportunity to learn how other people worshipped, including non Christians. He found himself scouring the libraries for more information on Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Sikhism, First Nations as well as the other Christian denominations who came and spoke to us. An invitation to a Sikh wedding and prayer service were further enhanced by a GES invitation to a service at the Sikh Temple in Nanaimo followed by a lovely meal and a question and answer session. The more Alex studied the more he noticed the similarities between faiths including connections to some which predated Christianity.

Not only has Alex been a member but he has served as GES Board Secretary for 8 years and our Treasurer for two. He was our liaison ‘officer’ between GES and the United Church in which venue many of our programmes were run.  His valuable input into the direction and focus of our programmes has been invaluable and though he may be 90 his enthusiasm, commitment and daily example have been an inspiration to all of us. Thank you Alex.