Gillian and Iain Wallace are easy to spot at coffee hour. They’re among a crowd, reaching out to new faces or catching up with old ones. Gillian’s usually sporting her long dangly earrings and recognizable fun-coloured hair.
Although St. Albans has a high student population with the progressive band music and the proximity to the university, Gillian enthusiastically points out “middle-aged people love it too!”
Gillian and Iain made the transition to St. Albans a few years ago from a church they loved but one that struggled with embracing change. She said it was stuck in the idea of doing things “the way it’s always been done.” This frustration led the pair to St. Albans, which Gillian said is unique because it challenges traditional views people have of church. It launched on social media and was keen on connecting with people online and Gillian said the welcoming people and fun worship music drew them in.
Gillian is a classically trained musician who studied french horn at Western University before pursuing a masters and PhD in the psychology of religion. Classical music isn’t usually heard at St. Albans, but Gillian said there’s a time and place for it.
“I love classical music, but not on Sundays to worship,” she said, adding that the music was a big pull factor in coming to St. Albans.
A writer and academic is what Gillian identifies herself as. She said the St. Albans congregation is abundant with writers, which is telling to the character of the community. She said it shows there is creativity and thinking outside the box in the way things are done. Conversations in the church also lend themselves to “skip the small talk” she said, as we ironically spiral into a conversation about free will.
Gillian and Iain are constant faces around the church. Whether it’s from their hosted community breakfasts, film and faith nights or the harmonies coming loud and clear from midway down the right pew; they’re a big part of the community. For St. Albans newcomers, you can bet they’ll be the first ones to welcome you in.