Olive Swan

Give Thanks to the Graduates

By Julie Lees

Sitting in her peaceful home, amidst several original pieces of art she has painted, Olive Swan speaks of her joy in volunteering at church, singing in the choir, and being connected in some way to a theological school. “When I first moved to Vancouver from Scotland I attended a few different churches; and once I found out there was a theology school I started to attend their graduation ceremonies.” There is a dignity to the procession, Olive says, “I love the ceremonial aspect of it.” Last year Olive sat beside a family who’s mother was graduating. “When she walked up to be acknowledged, her children beside me stood up and cheered. It was so lovely to witness that.”

Olive has attended at least 20 Vancouver School of Theology convocations. “Going to convocation puts a warmth in my heart that the church is still alive.”

A member of St. Andrew’s Wesley United Church on Burrard St. in Vancouver, Olive is known for greeting the stranger and helping to make people feel welcome. “I’ve been going to church all my life,” she says. And, you never know who you may be greeting. “They could be stopping in from the hospital down the street wanting to find a bit of peace or rest. I want them to feel like they want to come back.”

Now in her 90s, Olive intends to continue serving the church not only with her welcoming smile and humour, but also with her presence at convocation. It is a part of church life to witness and support the ministers who will move into the churches we currently attend.

Even though churches are closing, convocation reminds us that church is not ending. “These graduates are giving their lives to the church at a time when the future of church is unstable,” Olive says. They give of their time and their finances, and they make sacrifices to use their lives in service to the church.

“I go to convocation as an encouragement, I like what they are doing; and they are doing it for me!”

Julie Lees is the Recruitment Coordinator for the Vancouver School of Theology, where she also received her Master of Divinity. Julie is the reserve chaplain for the Seaforth Highlander of Canada.