The communion of saints

By Ian Hugh Clary

I’ve been away from home for exactly a week. The last seven days have been spent in Victoria and Vancouver where I have had the joyful privilege of teaching church history on behalf of Toronto Baptist Seminary. I’m only here for a few days more, and I want to drink my fill of the surrounding environs; the mountains in particular. In spite of the overwhelming beauty of this place, I sorely miss my family. I haven’t been away from them for such a length of time—in some ways, my Sunday evening flight east can’t come quick enough.

Yet my trip to the west coast has reminded me of a few basic facts about Christian experience, one I want to highlight for a moment. I have been thinking about the bond that Christians share in the Spirit, what has evocatively been called the “communion of the saints.” Maybe it’s that I’ve stumbled on some uniquely wonderful people in British Columbia—which I have—but I suspect that there is something more fundamentally spiritual about my relationship with those whom I have spent time with on the west coast. The very kind folk that I am staying with, though I have only known them for a few days, immediately feel like family to me. The students I teach each night feel like old friends. Even the afternoon coffee with an old friend I only just met (oh the wonders of the internet), was a treasure. When I go home I know I will miss these people deeply.

We are the body of Christ. We share in a mystical union with our saviour. We are the company of the Spirit. We have a bond with each other more basic than blood. We are in covenant together. We are working toward the same goal, and encourage each other on the way.

This experience has reinforced for me my desire to teach church history and theology—I want to be with people like this. My brothers and sisters who find some value in what I have to share with them, but who in turn pour themselves into me. This is mutual encouragement, this is familial, this is Christian friendship. And I am so thankful to God for such grace.


Ian Hugh Clary is finishing doctoral studies under Adriaan Neele at Universiteit van die Vrystaat (Blomfontein), where he is writing a dissertation on the evangelical historiography of Arnold Dallimore. He has co-authored two local church histories with Michael Haykin and contributed articles to numerous scholarly journals. Ian serves as a pastor of BridgeWay Covenant Church in Toronto where he lives with his wife and two children.