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Why We Moved Downtown

Our living room downtown, cozy and quaint.

1) Not everyone is called to the journey we are now walking.
2) This is a chapter for us, not the book. It could change someday.

On April 1, Sara and I relocated to our house in downtown Fort St. John. It’s a definite change in lifestyle, and outside our norm.

From 1996 - 2000 (Kamloops, BC) we lived in a ‘burb called Valleyview - quaint, quiet. Definitely a nice spot to raise our 2 kids (soon to be four). In 2000 we moved to Sparwood, BC where I took my first lead role. We bought a split level in a quiet residential area about 10 minutes drive from town, backing onto pristine woodland. And then in 2003 we moved to God’s country :). For 13 years we made our abode in a veritable "Home on the Range”, about 10 minutes outside of Fort St. John. It was a great ride, open country in every direction, amazing views of the Beatton coulee and the city, hobby-farming, fun around the backyard pond, horses, a rocking chair on the deck with a guitar - no shoes, no shirt, no problem. The word “epic” doesn’t qualify as a good enough descriptive.

Just Luke missing, probably shooting skeets with friends :).

Last week that all changed.

You’ll now find us on 96 Street right downtown. We’ve quartered our living quarters, from 4000 to 1000 sqft. We so central now that it’s a 30 second walk to anywhere (mall, sports centre, Brown’s Social House).

People surround us in close proximity on all sides. Sounds of traffic, crows, city events, domestic disputes, and sirens have replaced the chirping of crickets and knicker of horses. Our yard is the size of our former patio.

We’ve arrived, boy, have we arrived.

There are two MAIN REASONS why our family made the choice to relocate:

1) Life MUST slow down.

Sara and I on our sabbatical last summer. This pic was taken on a 3 day hike on the coast of Olympic National Park.

Over our Sabbatical in 2015 we tasted something pretty sweet, a life steered by the rhythms of rest and grace. We want that back - at literally any cost. Ironic, eh? Leave the quiet country for the city bustle and call that slowing down?!

There are a few brilliant reasons why the city life can actually be slower than the country life:

First, the idea of WALKABILITY.

We’ve almost permanently parked our vehicles.

Just finished this book, great read! And highly recommended for anyone engaging the downtown scene like we are.

It actually takes longer for me to drive to my workplace than walk (factoring in warming up the car, finding the keys, finding a parking spot, etc.). I’m a 6.2 minute walk to Evangel.

There’s something incredibly centring in the simple act of walking; I’m part of a growing movement that think it’s pretty epic (and incredibly freeing) to use the car less. I’m genuinely disappointed if I have to drive anywhere.

Here’s the point:

It turns out that the way we move largely determines the way we live.

We were created to move around on our own two feet, and something’s been lost with the advent of the prosthetic we call the automobile. It’s made us lazy, unhealthy, and fast (too fast in my opinion). If you don’t watch the animated feature Wally (Disney) with some fear and trembling, you should. It’s a prophetic picture of what’s happening in our culture: a car that moves you, a smartphone that entertains you, and almost-free-fast-food vendors that feed you. The future is bleakly fat. 30 years ago 1 in 10 people were obese. Today in North America, the stat is closer to 2 in 3. And dietary issues are now the leading cause of death over things like smoking and vehicle accidents.

God intended us to move ourselves, at a reasonable 5km/h. It’s a beautiful thing, and obviously, it has slowed us down. Score.

The second reason is equally “slowing” and it’s the concept of Place.

A concept around our new building that is still catching.

One of the most popular motivators to choose city-living over country-living is the luxury of having everything within reach. Church, work, school, shopping, entertainment, dining, socializing, recreation - it’s all within a 5 minute walk.

For the Warriners, life now takes place within an area half the size of our 1/4 section in the country. Back then, “place" was all over the map, literally. You had the work place, the home place, the recreation place, the spiritual place, the education place. Now it’s delightfully centred. We are rooted in a way, like the massive tree in our front yard (need way more of those in FSJ). We don’t have to go anywhere.

Ironically, take a drive in the country and you’ll find people are generally not home. I’m convinced the country life can be and is very good (we hope to go back there some day!), but you have to stay put, cutting out things that draw you away from home as much as possible. We homeschooled, I often worked from home, and we made the trips into town really count.

Lastly, and not necessarily related to the the dichotomy of country vs. city living, is the concept of living minimally.

We’ve been thinking a lot about the alarming trend in North America to acquire more, bigger, and better stuff. The places we live are not immune from this consumer trend. Well, we wanted to experiment by going the opposite direction.

So we got rid of a ton of stuff (anything we didn’t really need), downsized our living quarters by 75%, downsized our yard by 95% (I used to spend 5 hours on a rider mowing the lawn). Cleaning the house takes minutes; taking care of the yard is the same. And all the comforts of home are literally within reach. Our cost of living naturally plummets.

Sweet bliss. Pay off some bills, plan a trip somewhere hot, and give more. We’ve been in our city-home for a month, and I’m thrilled to report that it has indeed brought us back to a Sabbatical-type rhythm.

But there’s more to this for us than simply slowing down (though that would be enough).

2) We feel passion for the City.

T-shirt from Evangel's well known "Party in the Park".

And we have dreams for her. This draws us deeper into the arms of Fort St. John.

A few weeks ago at the 9th Annual Community Awards, I was honoured to receive the Humanitarian Award on behalf of our church, Evangel. The reason? I guess it’s evident to our city that Evangel is a church for people, that we really care. They mentioned things like Candy Planet, an event at Halloween where we give away buttloads of candy and welcome Harry Potters into our building.

I was humbled. There’s SO much more we could and should be doing.

When asked to say a few words in response to the packed theatre, the only thing I could think to say was “We love our city". This is what prompted our church to relocate to the downtown core when we needed to enlarge our facilities. And it’s why Sara and I can be excited about moving into a small house on 96 Ave.

Funny thing happened a few weeks before we made the big move. I was standing on our 1500 sqft. deck and look out over the city 8 kms away, and thinking, “God, I’m going to miss praying over the city from this vantage point” (it was really a moment of pity, not piety). Quick as a wink I sense Jesus chuckle, “You’ll be more effective praying from within the city.” Obviously.

So here we are, let the fun begin!

This fall Sara and I will be spear-heading a movement that will be about bringing heaven to earth in our neighbourhoods out of a place of rest and rootedness. We’re stoked to be pushing into things with our church community like radical hospitality, home-centric spirituality, inclusive celebrations, and community service through acts of kindness.

Wanna join us in this adventure?

About the author

Tony Warriner

Tony Warriner

Tony is an author and lead pastor of Evangel Chapel in Fort St. John, and is known for his unique approach to local church & spirituality. Check out his first book, Boondock Church. · Fort St. John, BC ·