The Sorrento Centre – Creativity, Adventure and Spirit Since 1986

My wife Kathie and I met at the Sorrento Centre on beautiful Shuswap Lake in the summer of 1986. Adjoining campsites led to the joining of hearts a few months later. This wonderful youth leadership training event launched for us a lifelong journey and affection for the Sorrento Centre, a jewel in the crown of the Anglican Church of Canada (colonial reference noted), a place of learning, community, experimentation and wonder.

The centre itself came into being much earlier though I am unclear about what year it actually launched; its best-known founder, Jim Cruikshank arrived a few years later. I do know that in 2023 the Centre will celebrate sixty years of ministry in the interior of Canada’s westernmost province. Kathie had been on site prior to my arrival; we have continued coming here, with and without our growing family for decades now — and the journey continues to bring opportunity, insight and delight to this day.

Our next stay was for ACPO, a discernment process for clergy seeking ordination — a fellow applicant was the present Bishop of New Westminster, John Stephens. Following seminary we visited at least every second year or more with our young family. I remember our kids jumping out of the car racing towards the playground in what was a safe and secure place of entertainment. In those years, the course offerings spanned eight full weeks of summer; presenters included Hanna Kassis, Herb O’Driscoll, Madeleine L’Engle and other prominent presenters. Later we enjoyed music with John Bell and the Common Cup. I remember clergy conferences with Martin Smith, Kenneth Leech, Lyn Baumann, Mark MacDonald and Alan Jones. In those days, the campus was full to the brim. There were long lineups for meals, queues at the coffee bar (not yet named for the Kinghorn family) and lengthy lineups for morning showers in the campground.

Later we moved up to the Cabanas where we had pre-dinner drinks and evening conversations with future directors including Louise Peters. In those days, the schedule still included evening sessions with occasional movie presentations including 2001: A Space Odyssey at the time I could only imagine what the turn of the century might look like – now I can barely remember.

As I found my way into musical and liturgical leadership I was next housed in the lodges, sometimes luxuriously. (There are benefits to living with a disability – ask anyone who has lived in Richardson (formerly Nova Vita) room 13. I remember when the director of the day would prowl the halls seeking willing officiants for daily liturgies. Such an informal approach became more strategic especially with the arrival of director Chris Lind (a longtime teacher, friend and mentor, gone far too soon). As things progressed I began to offer courses in worship and liturgy followed by environmental justice and advocacy. In recent years I led fall-season youth leadership courses and most recently a marvellous set of three, day-long pilgrimages with Michael Shapcott and the inimitable Phil McIntyre-Paul.

And then, in the summer season . . . there’s Thursday Skit Night. My typical offerings included The Rain Song; Flanders and Swan’s The Gnu, or Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud. I don’t think Louise peters will ever forgive me for my (appreciative) roast – she did admit the next morning that it was “funny.” And of course, The Bricklayer. Remember Chris Lind’s “what would Melissa do” pokes – wristbands and all. And when the O’Driscoll’s and the Elliot’s were on stage, well class acts all.

During a recent trip through Ireland and Northern Ireland I noticed many shop signs which did not bear standard commercial branding – for instance, Boots, The Chemist, W H Smith etc. Many signs would read something like Ron McCormick – Your Local Grocer Since 1937” or something similar. The sign identified the activity, the person and the longevity of the shop. For the Sorrento Centre you will have your own branding, chronology and history of engagement which will be unique to your experience. I encourage you to write it down) For me however, the sign would be Sorrento Centre – Creativity, Adventure and Spirit – Since 1986.

Sorrento is a place where I have met people from across the social and cultural spectrum of the church. I have met friends and strangers here; not all relationships jelled over time, but many have been forged for a lifetime.

Sorrento has been for me daringly experimental. Through the creation of new liturgies and the introduction of new music, through the exploration of iconoclastic approaches to the study of scripture and theology, through the sharing of social and environmental justice initiatives, I have felt the imaginative Real Presence of Christ which I have taken back home to parishes and to other ministries. So many people prayed first, sang first, spoke up first, climbed hills or swam in cold water first while living at Sorrento. Sorrento has been and continues to be a place of firsts. It’s influence on the life of the Anglican Church in Western Canada cannot be overstated.

Finally, Sorrento is a place of great beauty, through all the seasons and through all the years. Sure, the highway and the trains annoy me; they threaten the quiet and disquiet the soul. The truth is you must just live with and through the distraction. For those seeking a greater calm there are the hills above Margaret Falls echoed by the quiet murmurs of the waters of the greater Shuswap. And if necessary, you can always investigate Cannog Ales down the road from the Sunny Brae Winery which is located around the corner from the Tappen COOP, home of the world’s largest ice cream cones, seriously.

In recent years Sorrento has faced tremendous challenges. The Church itself is changing and many of its original supporters can no longer attend. It is presently difficult to recruit staff and of course COVID has dealt Sorrento some horrible blows. Nevertheless Sorrento has re-branded somewhat, as its core activity and income stream have broadened to focus on food security and a deeper connection with those in need locally.

If I must end somewhere, and I must, perhaps a visit to the cross in the memorial garden is a good place to rest. Created by the late Bud Forbes, a former parishioner of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Kamloops, it is a visible reminder of the author and sustainer of our faith, Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus of Sorrento, Jesus amidst all of us who take his person and message out for all the world to discover. I look forward to celebrating with all of you loyal reader. See you, sometime next year, in Sorrento.

3 thoughts on “The Sorrento Centre – Creativity, Adventure and Spirit Since 1986

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    1. Memories for sure. I was the interim Director during the summer of 1978 just before Dirk Reinhardt. It was the height of the Charismatic Movement and the place was so busy that the meetings were held in the hall above the Centre which we rented for that purpose. All motels were booked in Sorrento. Our youth contingent for the summer was about 30 youth. What I remember the most is literally running every day from 7 AM to midnight for five months. My first experience at Sorrento was just a few months earlier attending ACPO. Many memories since. Dan K+

      On Sat, Oct 1, 2022 at 7:52 AM Take Note – Reflections on life, music,

      Liked by 1 person

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