In the spring of 1975, I fell head-over-heels in love with my future wife. Janice and I used to take the bus home together from UBC. I noticed that something was different. Her eyes sparkled. It turns out that she had been powerfully touched by the Holy Spirit at the previous BC Christian Ashram retreat.
That year on the bus, we discussed the person and work of the Holy Spirit. She would often let me ‘win’ the conversation. Seeing her as just a good friend, I had no idea that Janice was pursuing me. When Janice invited me to attend the Summer BC Christian Ashram retreat, I naturally said yes. Being young and impetuous, the discipline of the Christian Ashram of maintaining silence from 11pm to 8am was difficult.
Over the years, I have read all 28 books of the Christian Ashram founder Dr. E. Stanley Jones. Initially I wondered why Dr. Jones seemed to take a while to get to the point. Later I realized that like Nicky Gumbel of the Alpha Course, his focus is helping the unchurched to find Jesus at their own pace. Because Dr. Jones spent over fifty years as a missionary in India, he learned how to be gentle and respectful to other religions without compromising on the essentials of the Gospel.
Jones’ first book was called ‘Christ of the Indian Road’. In 1930 he organized the first Christian Ashram with just three people in attendance. Since then, the Christian Ashram has spread all around the world, especially in North America. The largest Christian Ashram in the world in held in Berwick, Nova Scotia with over 800 participants. The theme of every Christian Ashram is ‘Jesus is Lord!’
In Canada, we have seven Christian Ashrams from coast to coast, including BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland. There are many renewed Anglicans that take part on an interdenominational basis. My wife and I have had the privilege of either speaking at or attending four different Canadian Christian Ashrams. While all Christian Ashrams are unique, they share a common framework of Christian community and the disciplines of the Holy Spirit.
Our original speaker, The Rev David Rich, an Anglican priest from Mississippi, was forced to cancel unexpectedly, in light of an unavoidable need for a hip replacement. We were so blessed that our good friend Pastor David Carson stepped in at the last minute as our keynote speaker for the 36th Annual BC Christian Ashram retreat. David Carson’s theme was “Jesus the High Priest: The New and Living Way” from the Book of Hebrews. David is a very dynamic and insightful speaker who left us with many fresh insights into God’s Word. The joy and power of the Holy Spirit was bubbling from David the whole weekend. I have never met anyone so contagiously excited about Melchizedek, and how it relates to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The Rev Rod Ellis of the Church of our Lord, Victoria, our Bible teacher, taught on Nehemiah. He made Nehemiah come alive, showing us how we all need to play our part in ‘rebuilding the walls’.
Throughout the entire four days, there is a 24-hour Prayer Vigil that everyone is invited to take part in for an hour at a time. This non-stop prayer focus seems to really soften our hearts to God’s Holy Spirit. The two ‘pillars’ of the Christian Ashram are the initial ‘Open Heart’ session where people are invited to share three things: “Why have I come? What do I want? What do I need?” At the end of the Ashram, we have the ‘Overflowing Heart’ session where people are invited to share what Jesus has done for them during the retreat. In their testimonies, the adults, youth and children were overflowing with love and gratitude to Christ. Many had experienced significant physical and/or emotional healings through the work of the Holy Spirit. I have never been to a Christian Ashram where people were not powerfully healed in body, mind and spirit.
As Director of the BC Christian Ashram retreat, I am so grateful for God’s sovereign hand from coast to coast, renewing and refreshing his people.
The Reverend Ed Hird, Rector,
St Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada
author of ‘Battle For the Soul of Canada’
-previously published in the Autumn 2009 Anglicans for Renewal Magazine