The passage of Yme Woensdregt, who died suddenly in Cranbrook in August, leaves a great hole in our community, but a great legacy of spirituality, philosophy and community advocacy.
The Rev. Dr. Yme Woensdregt was born in Holland in 1953, and grew up in the Fraser Valley in B.C. He studied music at the University of British Columbia, but switched to the Vancouver School of Theology, an ecumenical divinity school affiliated with the UBC.
He joined the Presbyterian Church after leaving seminary school, but was subsequently drawn to the Anglican Communion.
He moved to Cranbrook in 2004, to become priest at Christ Church Anglican. He was both officially ordained as an Anglican priest and installed at Christ Church at the same service. Under his leadership, Christ Church, small as it was, became one of the prominent churches in the community. Yme served there from 2004 until his retirement in 2020, and he was much loved and highly regarded for his human touch, community engagement, and sense of compassion.
He wrote for almost 20 years for the Cranbrook Townsman, Kimberley Bulletin and other newspapers in southeast B.C., weekly insightful pieces about the human condition, Christianity and Christian principles, and the many ways we can live our lives to help the world move towards an ultimate good. His writings had that universal accessibility in which we could all see ourselves. Yme considered it important to be always searching, and questioning, even of himself, and he invited all of us to consider living our lives this way as well, for the enrichment this would bring to our lives, and the potential to learn new and better things about ourselves and others.
He had a wide readership, in Cranbrook and Kimberley, in southeast B.C., and around the world. Politics and philosophy were never far from his viewpoints, striking chords with readers everywhere, some who agreed wholeheartedly with him, some who disagreed vehemently. Everyone read him, though.
For Yme, ecumenism was an important part of his philosophy — the principle of promoting unity among faiths — he called for this in his writing and in his ministry. He especially put it into community practice with Cranbrook’s annual CrossWalk, which he organized every Easter weekend on Good Friday for more than 15 years. Community members and representatives of different churches gathered downtown, to carry a large cross to different “stations,” representing different institutions of society, offering prayers and readings at each.
His involvement in the community will leave a lasting influence. As long-time director of the Sun Valley Song choir, he was able to share and communicate his passion for music — especially vocal music — and arranged many works for that group.
As an activist, he advocated tirelessly for the marginalized, the poor, the LGBTQ2+, and the homeless, and was lastly working with Summit Community Services on its board.
A service for Yme Woensdregt will be held Wednesday, September 13, at 1 pm in Key City Theatre.