Creating A Lasting Legacy

Joyce Fewer

St. Philip’s Anglican Parish Columbaria Garden

Columbaria were installed in the historic St. Philip’s Church Cemetery in 2016. With the installation of the columbaria the parish envisioned a plan in this area of the cemetery for a naturally sustained, beautifully landscaped, and pristine environment to honour our dearly departed and to give solace to loved ones. Thanks to the Anglican Foundation of Canada and its generous grant of $2,500, the St. Philip’s Columbaria Garden: Creating a Lasting Legacy Project has been a work-in-progress in the parish over the past several years. 

In that time, a lot of work has progressed to complement and adorn the Columbaria area. Since June 2020, parish volunteers have worked intently to actualize the beautification of this area: 

• Trees and bushes were cleared and trimmed at the entrance to the columbaria area.
• A perennial rock garden was created to which many parishioners graciously donated plants from their own gardens.
• Four raised mini gardens were carved out adjacent to each columbarium in which were planted vibrant annual plants, with the addition of Japanese (Nishiki) Willow trees, to add colour and further vibrancy.
• Thirty holes were dug on each side of the walkway to the columbaria where boxwood shrubs were planted to begin the creation of a cultivated hedge and walkway.
• An additional adjacent area behind an existing bench was dug out to create an extension to the perennial garden which has since been fully planted.
• Four additional Japanese Willow trees were planted at the back end of the columbaria in the area of the three existing crosses.
• Each garden area was finished with the addition of garden mulch, regularly watered, and fertilized throughout the season.
• Each flower bed adjacent to the two columbaria were planted with daffodil, hyacinth, and tulip bulbs in anticipation of spring blooming.
• The garden was winterized by covering and securing the boxwood plants and willows from the elements. All of this laid the groundwork for further enhancements to the area which have been carried out by our team of dedicated volunteers since November 2020. Additional ornamental trees, bright yellow luscious Laburnum (Golden Chain) trees, now adorn one of the donated park benches.
• The perennial rock garden has been further enlarged and expanded to another area behind one of the new benches. Parishioners have continued to graciously share plants from their own gardens to this end.
• Several large trees overlooking the columbaria were removed as result of damage incurred from hurricane force winds that compromised both nearby gravestones and the columbaria.
• Three steel crosses were donated, erected, painted, and placed in the area behind the columbaria to remember three unknown infants whose graves were located under the sanctuary of the original St. Philip’s Church, formerly located on this site. 

Each summer, the parish’s cemetery committee avails of a government grant program to hire a student whose responsibility is to assist in the care of the cemetery grounds including the columbaria area. This student is a tremendous help to the volunteers in helping maintain the area, mow the grass, and assist in watering the plants, shrubs, and trees as necessary. 

Two memorial park benches were donated by two parish families and installed on each side of the walkway adorned by brightly coloured annual plants. These provide a peaceful place for prayer, remembrance, solitude, and contemplation. 

As this project continues to be a work-in-progress, the parish envisions more enhancements to the area over time to include the further extension of the boxwood hedge at the entrance to the columbaria, the installation of two large cement planters adjacent to the smaller benches near the columbaria, the construction of a replica of the original St. Philip’s Church and, in the long-term, the installation of two new columbaria behind the original ones.
It is noted that many parishioners value the importance of caring for the resting place of loved ones by coming to spend time in the area. Parishioners, family members, friends, and visitors who have visited the area are the beneficiaries of experiencing a peaceful, safe, and quiet area for prayer and contemplation that is being made into a lasting memorial to those who have gone before us. All this is indicative that the primary recipients of the beautification of the columbaria area are indeed all those present and future generations who take the time to visit and sit in solitude and remembrance of dearly departed family and loved ones of St. Philip’s Parish. 

As a parish, we are proud that this initiative strives to uphold our Baptismal Covenant, “to safe-guard the integrity of God’s creation, and respect, sustain, and renew the life of the earth.” The Parish of St. Philip is committed to addressing the crisis of climate change. By planting trees, shrubs, and plants, this naturalization project helps to further purify the air in this already beautiful area close to the sea overlooking Conception Bay. The work done through this project is a labour of love for our dedicated volunteers. This beautification project serves to enhance the landscape of the cemetery while having created a peaceful, safe, and quiet area for prayer and contemplation for those who visit. It also serves, in part, to enable us as a faith community to actualize our involvement in and commitment to the Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador’s Strategic Plan, called “Set Sail.” While endeavouring to maintain a focus on each of the “ships” outlined in the strategic planning framework: Deepening RelationSHIPS, Transforming DiscipleSHIP, Renewing StewardSHIP, and Strengthening PartnerSHIPS, this initiative, in particular, centres itself around the ship of Renewing Stewardship, and Goals 4 and 5 of this diocesan plan: 

To renew our understanding of the true, holistic nature of our stewardship and responsibility to all of God’s creation both individually and together as faith communities (Goal 4) and 

To examine our current environmental footprint in light of the ongoing climate emergency and take action to tangibly reduce the negative impact we as individuals and faith communities are having on God’s creation (Goal 5). 

Additionally, this project has served to deepen relationships, transform discipleship, and strengthen partnerships amongst parish members, volunteers, and community members by enabling individuals to work towards the shared goal of caring for our environment, God’s creation, while creating a space for all to honour our dearly departed and to give solace to loved ones.
The Parish of St. Philip is truly thankful to the Anglican Foundation of Canada for its generous grant under its 20/20 Vision initiative. This grant, supplemented by countless hours of volunteer work by passionate gardeners, donations of annual and perennial plants, mulch, and fertilizer, and donations from two families to cover the cost of two beautiful memorial park benches, as well as the receipt of numerous compliments, has enabled the parish to fulfill a dream to enhance an already naturally sustained and pristine environment within the parish’s cemetery overlooking the sea. 

The project coordinators are Joyce Fewer Keeping and Dawn Cheeseman. Both are parishioners and the spouses of former rectors of St. Philip’s Parish, Archdeacon E. B. Keeping, and the late Canon E. B. Cheeseman. 

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