What brings a French-born, former church organist, businessman-turned-priest to pull up stakes in central London, UK and put down roots in Montreal? The short answer is Christ Church Cathedral. For the longer answer, read on. The Very Reverend Bertrand Olivier became the new Dean of our cathedral on February 8. He preached his last sermon at his former parish, All Hallows-by-the-Tower on February 4, hopped on a plane headed for Montreal, and hit the ground running – an appropriate analogy, as he is also a keen marathon runner. Not that it was a hasty decision. Dean Olivier was very happy at All Hallows, actively involved in the local community, and married to Paul, who has a good job in London. But he was raised in France, and only later joined the Anglican Church and became a priest in England. “My spiritual journey has all been in English. I felt called to bring my two life journeys to completion together, and Montreal is a good place to do this.”
Montreal offered the opportunity to work in a bilingual city, in a church with a growing bilingual congregation. “I’m also interested in the North American experience. I was involved in the twinning of All Hallows with a parish in New York. I wanted to fill my eyes with different landscapes and fill myself with the can-do spirit. Montreal seemed the ideal cross between Paris, London and New York.”
Reshaping ministry in a new culture
“I’m excited at learning a new culture,” says Bertrand, who has lived and worked in several countries. “It energizes me. I feel a drive to refresh, to reshape my ministry.”
But the main pull was the Deanship at Christ Church Cathedral. Bertrand was attracted to the cathedral because of its varied congregation—children, young adults, families, elderly. He was also impressed by its focus on social justice, inclusiveness, liturgy, and rich musical tradition: “I want to continue working on these issues and learn more about how it’s done here.”
Something old, something new
All Hallows and Christ Church are both located in the heart of their city’s financial districts. They also both minister to a diverse clientele, which includes the homeless, business people, and people of all ages. Another common trait is that both buildings are heritage sites, which makes them popular tourist destinations. All Hallows, however, was built by the Anglo-Saxons in 675 A.D. and contains reused Roman tiles! In comparison, Christ Church’s 155 years make it truly part of the New World.
Fundraising experience a boon for ongoing cathedral campaign
Partly because of the similar ministries of the two churches, Bertrand brings exactly the expertise that Christ Church Cathedral needs. He has, of course, been involved in fundraising, both for his church and for community causes. This experience will be essential, as he arrives in the middle of the cathedral’s Major Fundraising Campaign.
Bertrand attended business school in France, so he “can balance figures”, which he did very successfully at All Hallows. During his 13-year tenure there, Bertrand was also deeply involved in issues of social justice, peace, and inclusivity. He also worked closely with his parishioners and with the business, civic, and church communities to advance a number of significant causes.
Marathon runs have helped causes in a range of countries
Through the 13 marathons he ran in London, he raised the equivalent of more than $200,000 CDN for charitable causes ranging from the building of the Anglican church in Doha, the setting up of an orphanage in Kenya, supporting a medical and eye clinic in Aden, Yemen, as well as the local food bank and parish projects—including the introduction of a full live-streaming system for the church.
Settling into a new home
Dean Olivier was officially inducted as Rector of Christ Church Cathedral and installed as Dean of Montreal in a bilingual ceremony on Sunday, March 11.
Paul, currently working in IT for an investment bank in London, will join him later this year, when they look forward to beginning their new life in a new city. Montreal has a lot to offer of what they like to do: entertaining, theatre-going, visiting art exhibits. And then there’s the Montreal Marathon.
In the meantime, Bertrand is looking for a long-term place to live and getting used to the Montreal winter. So far, since he arrived, it has been relatively mild. “But they tell me,” he says with a wry smile, “that this is not the end.”
No Bertrand, it is not the end. But it is a wonderful new beginning.
Photos by Janet Best
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