Our incredible weekend of discovery started on day one in the town of Port McNeill. Situated on north Vancouver Island on the north-east shore on Queen Charlotte Strait, this wonderful community is home to roughly 2,500 folks who love and appreciate the lifestyle of ocean-side living in a remote community. We traveled close to 1,000 kilometers over the course of this weekend, and as we left Sayward headed towards Port McNeill the trappings from the modern world melted away, leaving us with a strong sense of nature as the rugged landscapes of Vancouver Island dominated our views. A short while later we arrived in the town of Port McNeill and in that moment we were immersed in an area of Vancouver Island that has left a permanent mark on us.
During our visit to the north end of Vancouver Island, we visited three distinct communities. This feature blog post is part of a series titled “North Island Toads” that will document and share our experiences on this trip of a lifetime, so please feel free to check out the other posts. It was truly a whirlwind trip that found us profoundly moved. Since our return we have thought fondly of our time up north and cannot wait to return again.
This trip was intended to be a working vacation for us. As those who follow us regularly know, we have been working with the Anglican Diocese of BC on a long-running project titled “The Anglican Church Project” that finds us visiting all the parishes under the Diocese, photographing the buildings and surroundings both inside and out. We anticipate this project will be continuing for quite some time as some of the churches are in very remote areas. Our visit to the north end of Vancouver Island was such a monumental undertaking in terms of scheduling and travel, we had scheduled visits to two of the churches in the area, St. John Gualbert Anglican United Church in Port McNeill and Christ Church, Alert Bay.
Upon our landing in Port McNeill after a long drive, we had a bit of time to explore the town. We popped into a local coffee shop and enjoyed a quick coffee and then headed out to reconnoitre the surroundings. We’ll share more of our experiences and photos of Port McNeill in a future post, so please stay tuned. We only had a short time before we were due to visit our first official stop, St. John Gualbert Anglican United Church.
Time spent at St. John Gualbert was the perfect way to start the process of exploration of the area. Being a part of such a tight-knit community, the feeling of fellowship struck us immediately. There is a tiny bookstore attached to the church creating a source of revenue. The day we visited, a group of really nice ladies were in the store and they did a wonderful job of inviting us into the community and the parish, and we immediately felt like we were at home with friends.
The distinctive A-Frame architectural design of the church lends itself to the west coast feel of the church and community, and shares a hint of the wonder that we were to find inside. A lovely garden sitting just behind the church was carefully tended to and had a gorgeous view of the port and the ocean in the distance. We can think of no better way to spend time gardening than in a place like this.
Once inside, the warmth, the feel and the smell of the rich woodwork that comprises the space greets you in a welcome embrace. Even though this church serves a tiny community, the spirit it held within its walls was rich. This is the first of this style of church we’ve encountered during the time of our project, and was a space we were able to take our time in exploring.
Winters in this area can certainly be rough, with icy cold temperatures and incredible snowfalls. This would likely cut the community off at times, making travel in this remote part of the island quite the challenge even today. Having a parish such as this serving as a place of personal refuge and fellowship would be paramount to the longevity and happiness of those living in the territory.
The time seemed to fly by for us, leaving us with the profound experience of our visit and still yearning for more. This was just the very beginning of our incredible trip, yet it was remarkable in its own right. It’s very difficult to properly describe the love and reverence we found in Port McNeill, both in the people who live there and the incredible limitless landscapes that surrounds the town. Life is short and fast-paced in these contemporary times, and having a chance to step out of the madness we find in hurried everyday life has left us changed forever.
This is just the second post in what is likely to turn into a lengthy feature showcasing our experience in the northern end of Vancouver Island. Our inaugural post “Alert Bay – A Visit Of A Lifetime” is available here, and if you would like to see all 19 photographs featuring St. John Gualbert Anglican United Church, please visit our gallery here.
Thank you very much for taking the time to visit us at The Hollow today. Please stay tuned as we have many more exciting photographs and posts to share from our trip in the coming months. As always, we love to hear from all our visitors, so please feel free to leave us any comments you may have below.