This story is written by Colleen Reid, and will appear in the September print issue of Anglican Life.
The parishioners of St. Peter’s Anglican Church (Upper Gullies) blessed each other with their kind and caring actions during a very difficult year. When the World Health Organization declared a worldwide pandemic, the people of St. Peter’s supported each other in many heartwarming ways. With a lockdown in place and businesses closed, people were restricted to their homes—the churches of the province were closed as well. We were instructed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, to remain socially distant. With our leader, the Rev’d William Strong, and support from the office administrator, Jack Morgan, St. Peter’s parish was creative in the ways we could help each other get through this difficult time.
Early in the pandemic, for those who live close to the church, the chimes became a beacon of hope. They were played weekly during the week days and could be heard far and wide. Parishioners were notified of the day and time that the chimes would ring. People would often take their daily walk to coincide with the ringing of the chimes. It was pleasing to hear the sweet song of the chimes ringing through the air. Many people reported back to the church office that this was comforting to them, and so the chimes have been ringing, other than Sundays, since the pandemic began. The chimes were welcome sounds that lightened the hearts of all the lonely and troubled people during the lockdowns that occurred during the pandemic.
The parishioners of St. Peter’s were very thankful for the frontline workers in our community and surrounding area. One evening, some families came to the church parking lot in their cars, so as we were to remain socially distant, to make a noise in appreciation of these essential workers. The families blew the horns of their cars, the bell rang, and the chimes played. It was a noisy display of appreciation for all those working to keep us safe during the pandemic.
Those in need of food from our local food bank were not forgotten by our parishioners during COVID-19. The church food bank box was placed outside on our hall steps each week. A notice would go out to all telling which day the box would be outside so we could avail of the safe drop off of food items for the food bank.
During the summer months, when outside visiting was appropriate and long awaited, St. Peter’s hired a student to do some work with the seniors in our parish. Darcy Scott was kept busy doing outside visits to the many elderly who were lonely throughout the pandemic. He helped seniors with technology questions, gardening work, sang songs, and played guitar. Darcy was a bright light in the darkness that COVID-19 had cast upon many parishioners.
St. Peter’s shawl ministry continued to be active throughout the pandemic. Shawls were blessed and given to people in need. This was an especially important time to deliver shawls as people who lost loved ones and were grieving, were also heavily laden by the worldwide pandemic.
While the pandemic and lockdown kept us at home our rector held one or two services a week via Facebook Live. This was a platform that was popular on social media, and easily accessible for many parishioners. So, even though we could not worship in person, Rev’d Bill led us in worship, and we could join in or watch at a later time.
During the fall of 2020 our church was able to reopen in a modified manner. A group of Parishioners came together to plan how people could safely return to church. So, with the guidelines from our diocese, we proceeded to plan for less people, more space, masks, no singing and stricter cleaning measures. It was a different time, for sure. Things were looking different, but people wanted to go to church and the “Covid Church Team” made it happen safely. Parishioners registered in advance so contact tracing would be easy, if necessary. There was no denying that people were happy to return, we had just about full capacity for each Sunday service. Those numbers were reduced from normal attendance because of social distancing and restrictions put in place but, we had about 50 people participating in each service.
During COVID-19, our church saw the need to purchase technology equipment (a computer, monitors, and a camera) to better serve the people in our new pandemic world. The monitors helped with the service when people were there in person because the books had been removed from the church as we could not be sharing them. The camera and computer helped broadcast the service live on Facebook to those who were more comfortable watching from their homes. The purchase of this equipment has proven to be beneficial to us all. Parishioners are enjoying watching safely at home. Some of our most senior members have learned to use their home technology and remain safe from COVID-19 while taking part virtually in the church service. What a blessing!
The gestures of kindness that were evident throughout COVID-19 were a blessing to all of us. As with many acts of kindness, sometimes they are often unknown to us. I’m sure there were many more kind gestures and good news stories that I have not mentioned. But I do know that we as a parish witnessed many blessings and the weight of COVID-19 was a little lighter because of our care, kindness, and respect for one another. God Bless St. Peter’s.
“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” Princess Diana