On Easter Sunday I’ll be in our historic village church, singing my head off.
First built in 1869, it’s Anglican (aka Episcopalian or Church of England).
For our church community, Easter Sunday is the happiest day of the year, happier even than Christmas. It’s the day of the miracle of the resurrection.
When our priest Claire (a Guyanese-Canadian woman who joined us a few years ago) says “Christ is risen”, I ring my hand-bell till my husband begs me to stop.
When the time comes to sing hymns (singing is a rare thing in this contemplative Anglican service), I do so more loudly, more off-key than anyone else.
My husband is probably embarrassed.
But I’m too busy singing to notice.
I’ll be ringing and singing along with about 35 or 36 other souls at the 8:30 a.m. service.
“ONLY 36 other people?” you ask.
Actually, 36 is huge – for the 8:30 service.
When I first entered the tiny board and batten building for the 8:30 service, only 9 people attended, and sometimes — if the weather was bad — only five. Then the village grew and the little building was suddenly bursting at the seams — well, at the 10:30 service, that is.
The whole parish – 8:30 and 10:30 folks together — raised funds to build a bigger church. We love our big new church and are grateful that it accommodates newcomers and old-timers alike.
But we 8:30 folk – there are more of us now — still worship in “the chapel”.
If you’ve read my book, “A Good Home”, you know that I arrived at this church full of doubt. In fact, one of the things that drew me? The name. It was named for the Bible’s great doubter: Thomas. He could have been the patron saint of journalists like me — who are taught to doubt everything and everyone till proven otherwise.
But I found peace. In the pastel-coloured stained-glass windows, the timeworn wooden pews, the threadbare carpet, the small carved wooden altar, the communion rail overlooked by a simple cross.
In the warm welcome from everyone I met.
In the words of the priest and the small, burgundy cloth-covered Book of Common Prayer, beautifully written.
Even in the glorious confusion calledtheblessing of the animals. On that day, dogs, cats, gerbils, horses — and strange things under blankets — come to church. Rev. Claire’s voice gets drowned out by yapping, yelping, barking — and strange sounds from things under blankets.
“I’ll hold anything but snakes!” says our priest loudly, prompting a fresh round of laughter.
The people here have supported me in bad times.. They’ve helped lessen my doubt and build my faith – in God and in myself. They’ve made our family soup, given us flowers, helped me up the stairs. When my husband and I miss a service or two, someone always calls. I teasingly reply: “Is this the church police?”
No-one seems upset when I question parts of the Old Testament that I don’t understand or believe in. Not even when I ask, just before the service, “Should I take a walk when it comes to this horrible part of the reading, or just plug my ears?”
Smart woman that she is, Claire uses the opportunity to share more insights with all of us.
But at Easter and Christmas, my questions take a hike.
Everyone who’s read my book knows about St. Thomas’ Anglican in Brooklin, Ontario – the tiny, old, white board-and-batten church with the fascinating history and the big heart.
Just how big a heart, our family found out in the years after the car accident that changed our lives. Soup, prayers, encouragement – and a helping hand up the steps – are just some of the ways the people of this parish showed us their love and support.
And when the stories I’d been writing about “home” for 20+ years were turned into a book, that same little church (by now a bigger church) came out swinging on my behalf yet again. Yes, the good people at St. Thomas’ Anglican threw a fabulous launch for my book at an elegant event that drew nearly 80 people on the Saturday morning of a long weekend.
I was nervous! These are people who’ve helped me through some very rough times, and I didn’t want to embarrass them in what would be my first appearance since the release of the book.
Was it rough in parts? Oh, yes. If you’ve read my book, you may already know why speaking in public scares me, and if you haven’t yet, I won’t spoil the book for you. But the St. Thomas’ audience couldn’t have been more supportive and responsive.
Parts of the book are very funny, and the audience howled with laughter, repeatedly. When I said my faith gets shaky at times, no-one threw anything at me (smile) – in fact, some people nodded encouragingly. And when I broke down in tears, they quietly waited me out. Then, the next morning, several people turned up in church with very red eyes – turned out they stayed awake all night reading the book. I blurted: “I’m so sorry!” And then realized: what a compliment! Every author loves to hear that their readers “just couldn’t put down the book.”
My editor and publisher Don Bastion, of BPS Books had such kind words for me. He was patient and supportive throughout the process; from manuscript to book.
Huge thanks go to Rev. Claire Wade, the event organizers and the entire congregation of St. Thomas’ for their great support. You’re remarkable people who live your faith through your actions, and I love you.