Unapologetically Canadian Episode 3: Brian Perron’s Vision for a Mission in the City
This conversation with Brian Perron, the leader behind Verdun’s Church of the Epiphany comes from my archives. We discussed peace, acceptance and being open to connecting with anyone.
This episode is brought to you by Lufa Rooftop Gardens. If you decide to order a basket and use my code, TA50107, we both get $10 off one delivery.
You can also choose baskets from Les Potagers des nues mains If you choose to receive organic vegetables and eggs throughout the summer from Les Potagers des nues mains farm in Sutton using my link, I get $20 worth of vegetables.
Loved Brian’s definition of being Canadian:
Freedom, the chance to do what we want and the chance to make something of ourselves and bring other people along.”
Thanks also to Brian and the Epiphany congregation for donating chairs and tables to the Grand Potager non-profit, which animates Verdun’s municipal greenhouses.
For the latest information, read:
I did a story about a concert at Epiphany in 2014 before Brian was the spiritual leader there.
Here’s the transcript of part of our conversation:
[00:08:04] Maybe on the Internet or just be at peace with the music. The lighting adjustable just so you can feel a little bit of quiet in this busy city. If they want noise, they can go downstairs because it was noisy down there. It’s fun with people but sometimes you need to meet somebody to talk with. Sometimes, you just need to be quiet by yourself or whatever. So that’s what we’d like to do here. This a storage area and that would disappear. There’s a little staircase that goes up there and there’s a little room with windows out onto the street. It’s really just a storage area. But imagine if that space where the windows are in would go into the loft. You could just sit and you could hear people going by on the street and we’d window it all to make it safe. And windows down into the staircase and it would be around the font because we’re not moving the font. And of course, that’s why we would call it the second dip.
[00:08:56] Because because you’ve got the door right where they can actually come up off the street if they want or they can go..
[00:09:06] Exactly. We have to front doors and we have wheelchair access on this side to go up and down. We’re also able to sit and be quiet and of course, we need resources because you can’t just leave people. Right. Well, this is enough of a space especially once this is cleaned out. I saw a picture of it and they were not there because I’ve always seen that there. And even after the service will just sit there talking about me.
[00:09:52] There’s a fellow that I interviewed for the Montrealer and he’s into philanthropy and he gives to mental health research. They have a new program where they’re bringing something that happens in Australia which is these little cafés, but they have health people in them so that they can identify youth with mental health problems when it’s early enough to actually get healing. It’s called Access and there’s going to be one opening up in Dorval and there’s one opening up in the Douglas. You may want to connect with them and see if that can be part of your program because it’s just a wonderful idea by having open easy space for people to come and you yet having just enough resources so that there’s someone who recognizes signs of trouble before it’s actually a problem. He thinks his son would be still alive if he’d had that kind of a resource.
[00:10:37] If it starts at noon I’m usually like 45 minutes ahead of time because you walk in and you see people someone just sitting quietly. And it’s again recognizing the need and to be open to recognizing the need. Very often it’s by the shoulder or by their eyes. So if you can connect with the eyes and you get a sense of what’s happening with them. When I used to do clinical pastoral training in the hospital, I walk up and down the halls and I looked into the various rooms and I could connect with their eyes. One person, I looked at their eyes and they look straight at me. And I looked at the porter and he said, that he didn’t want anything to do with any clergy. Well I was drawn. I walked into the room twice just to make sure.
[00:03:36] I went in and I said hi I’m here to see so and so, do you know where he is. Which was true and he said well he’s off on tests and I said how are you doing today? He said fine. Can I come in? Yes, he said it’s a special day today. Two years ago today, my wife died of cancer. He said, “you may have heard,” and this is a tough story.
[00:12:56] It just shows right about being aware, which was such a lesson to me to listen to that still small voice.
[00:13:03] You may have heard three weeks ago they found a boy inert in the swimming pool. That was my son. I remember hearing it again and I’m thinking who am I who can offer any kind of advice or help to this person? So we start to talk a little bit about and then he says “my two girls, they’re with my mother right now. So when I get better I’ll be able to take them–my little girl wants my wife’s Harley Davidson
[00:13:31] So you drive Harley’s?
[00:13:31] My wife and I always drove Harleys. My brother drives Harleys. I came this close to getting a Harley, but instead, I bought an Audi TT Roadster.
[00:13:42] He says “really. I have a BMW z 4.
[00:13:45] Oh I love European cars. I used to drive SAUBs.
[00:14:47] Really he says. I had a 1993.
[00:14:50] Not a 9000?
[00:14:52] Yeah black with dark tan.
[00:04:53] Yeah me too. I traded it for a 96 dark green with light tan.
[00:14:57] And then we talked about his Corvette. I said I have a Corvette – -a 76 Corvette bright Red. LA2 I said yeah.
[00:15:02] We went through all this. I said “you’re getting tired. Can we pray?
[00:15:08] He says yes. So I closed my eyes and I looked at my hand and he grabs my hand and holds tight and we prayed. What a lesson about connecting.
[00:15:27] And there are so many people that had walked by that room. I’ve heard of other people walking past pastoral trainers etc. So how can we be open when somebody comes in? Indeed they don’t even know how to express their need, whether it’s for food, whether it’s for education or for love or just a place where they can speak to someone.
[00:15:48] I used to get this…I used to be in financial planning. We used to do reports for people and they’d create a powerful bond. Especially after a big project, clients would call me. It’s time for the lunch Bryan. So I’d take them out for lunch and within five minutes they’d start talking about their personal life reaching out and that’s one of the things that led me to become a priest, a minister, a pastor. I was working with Welcome Home Mission thinking wow this would be good to do would I retire. I retired at 52. I quit. And I thought I could go on a mission. Amazing how I went from running a Mission to working in a hospital to working in parishes to compel them to work in missions. Now I’m at a church that is a Mission. The Lord works in mysterious ways.
[00:16:39] How old are you?
[00:16:39] 61. I started seminary at 52 it was five full-time, Sunday included. And I’m a CEGEP dropout. And I did okay at McGill. When I was in high school, we knew the guys going to McGill. Me and my buddies. When I graduated, I went and bought myself a hat and I even wore it in today. I wear that McGill cap because boy I had to work hard for it.
[00:17:05] The last question I have which is the question I ask everyone is do you consider yourself a Canadian?
[00:17:18] And what does it mean to you?
[00:17:24] Freedom. A chance to do anything we want to make something of ourselves and to bring other people along the way. Thank you so much.
About the Author
Tracey Arial helps Canadians grow with notable nonfiction and urban agriculture.