Annie Girard (previously Annie Walker), was the pastor of the Fountain Chapel at 823 Jackson Avenue and gave sermons starting even before she bought the building in 1969. Although the name “Fountain Chapel” originated with the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church in 1921, Annie Girard decided to keep the name for the building, even though her ministry was nondenominational and not associated with AME. She called her ministry the “Cry In The Wilderness” ministry and her style was of a Pentecostal tradition.
Fortunately one of Annie Girard’s sermons survives in audio form. During the interview for the book Opening Doors [unpublished interview, Marlatt and Itter], she played a tape of that sermon that was recorded and is now part of the archive at the Royal BC Museum.
Pastor Girard’s sermon is entitled “Denying The Right To Be A Human Being” and her point in this sermon is that the way many interpret religious doctrine defies common sense and amounts to denying human nature. She advocated for a more experiential approach. Below is an excerpted portion of that sermon:
“God made man and he gave him love in his heart. He gave him common sense. And if we look at it in so many terms, this is what I talk about, don’t be bound by the top of the barrel. Fill your barrel up with water and look down in the bottom. Don’t look on the top of your barrel. You see, the top of the barrel is for people that don’t want much. They just want to get by, just go to church. Just go to church to say I was in church this Sunday, and the preacher gets up and says the same old message every time. And oh, I got a little headache this Sunday. I think I’ll go to church and get the preacher to pray for me.”
“So they’ll come up to the pulpit and the preacher will lay his hand on them and he’ll pray for them. They go back and say, ‘Thank you, preacher.’ And go ahead back and put their little donation into the pot and go ahead. Now they feel much better. And they go out and say, ‘Sister so and so, oh brother, I sure feel good.’ They were on the top of the barrel. But if they had looked down the depths of that barrel, they would’ve found what the real healing was. They would’ve found something deeper in there than the top of that barrel. They would’ve came to church for many different reasons. They wouldn’t have came there just for a little headache. They would’ve came there for something for their soul. They would’ve came there for the healing of their soul. Look down the deep depths of that barrel.”
“Again, a religion, and binding you, denying yourself the right of being a human being because the real human being today is crying for God. God has placed within each one of us himself, within each one of our lives, within each one of our hearts. And that’s what we’re hungering for. And when we can get down and find the Bible speaks of if Christ doesn’t come soon, that there will be no flesh left. If he doesn’t shorten the days, there will be no flesh left. You see, we’re being eat up by all traditions and by bondage. And Christ says, ‘Whom the son has set free, is free indeed.’ It doesn’t mean because you’ve come up here to the altar and said, ‘Lord, forgive me,’ now I am free. No, first you are not free until you have been truly ordained of God, until you have been freed by God.”
“God is perhaps calling you up to that altar, but to his altar. You see, if we go up into man’s altar, we’re putting ourselves in bondage. But if we go to God’s altar, we’re coming to freedom because God works down in the depths of our souls, in the depths of our hearts, and he sees our heart.”
“God does live directly in your heart. And this is where you worship him. This is where you praise him. This is where you curse him. It’s in your heart and in your life. It’s up to you whether you are in bondage or in freedom. Religion is bondage, but Christ is freedom. The Bible says the truth will set you free. And today, the whole world is in bondage, and if Christ doesn’t start coming up into our hearts and into our lives and start feeding this world, it will perish because we’re all being eaten by spirits or by some other means, denying ourselves the right of being a human being.”