This is the first full essay submitted to the Renovating Holiness Project.
Grant Zweigle pastored in Kansas City, MO; Seattle, WA; and currently in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Grant and his wife Aisling are relocating to Manila, Philippines with their two boys in 2015. Grant is completing a Doctor of Ministry at Nazarene Theological Seminary.
My grandmother lived in a German Mennonite Brethren community in Southern Russia as a young girl. When her parents immigrated to Canada they made their new home in a German Mennonite Brethren community in Yarrow, British Columbia. My grandmother learned some English in school, but spoke German at home and in church. Her family maintained their cultural distinctiveness in their new home, even as they adapted to a new way of life in Canada.
My mother spoke some German in home and in church, but English was her first language. Her parents brought her up in the German Mennonite way, but as a young adult she forged her own way and more fully embraced the life and culture of Canada than her parents did.
My mother never spoke German to me. When I was 2, my Canadian mom and American dad moved to the United States. I am culturally an American and an English speaker. I tried studying German in high school and college, but it didn’t stick. I’ve always known my ancestry is German Mennonite with a Canadian flavour, but it didn’t seem to have much bearing in my everyday life.
Eight and a half years ago, I moved back to Canada to pastor First Church of the Nazarene in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Since coming back to Canada, I’ve been able to spend more time with my grandmother who is now 95. When I visit my grandmother, she shares stories with me about her childhood in Southern Russia; about why and how her family came to Canada; and about the joys and struggles of making a new life in a new land.
Over the course of her lifetime, my grandmother has learned to adapt to the cultural changes taking place around her. Some of these changes were forced upon her, but some she willingly embraced. As I’ve listened to her stories, I’ve discovered that many of the values that are dear to my grandmother are dear to me as well. Some of these values transcend culture. These include hospitality, generosity, stewardship, courage, diligence, faith, hope and love. As a dad, I now want to instil these values into my two boys. I like to take my boys to visit their great-grandmother so they can hear her stories and be inspired by the values that have shaped our family.
Our spiritual grandparents and great-grandparents in the Church of the Nazarene had to adapt to cultural changes taking place around them. Some of these changes were forced upon them, while others they willingly embraced. As the spiritual grandchildren of these holiness pioneers, we would do well to listen to their stories, and in doing so we might discover values that we can embrace and pass on as well.
Vancouver First Church of the Nazarene is a traditional Nazarene church in the midst of a rapidly changing urban context. Many of the core members of our church are of that generation of spiritual grandparents who lived a life of holiness in the midst of changing and challenging circumstances.