Timing was the key to a visit made by Primate Linda Nicholls in mid-October.
“I was coming to the Vital Church conference [in Nova Scotia],” she said. “And I am a speaker at the Queens College convocation in St. John’s, so I had time between Saturday and Thursday.”
There was no point in flying back to Ontario, and she’d never visited the diocese as primate, so she contacted Archbishop David Edwards about making the visit.
She got a ride to the diocese with parish development officer Shawn Branch, who also attended the Vital Church conference. She stayed with Abp. David and his wife, Debbie, in Fredericton.
On Sunday, Oct. 17, she preached at St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Gondola Point, and had a tour of Rothesay Netherwood School in Rothesay, and Outflow Ministries and Safe Harbour House in Saint John.
On Monday, Abp. David took the Primate to Moncton to visit St. George’s, which operates many programs for marginalized people in the city. After the visit, she flew to St. John's.
At St. George’s, they arrived just as the daily takeout breakfast for 60 was winding up. Breakfast is prepared five days a week for whomever needs it. They also offer breakfast one Saturday a month, and a dinner one Sunday a month.
The Rev. Norm Dupuis guided the Primate on a tour that included St. George’s garden, where produce is donated to the nearby soup kitchen; and the laundry ministry, where people in need can leave their clothes for Norm to wash and dry. Norm does seven or eight loads a day.
“You just feel differently when you put on clean clothes. You feel more human,” said Norm.
Those services are in addition to the hot showers they offer to many of the same people who partake of their other forms of outreach. Both mental illness and addiction to crystal meth are common denominators in the people they see, said Norm.
The Primate was thrilled to witness the thriving outreach in the downtown parish.
“I love seeing the engagement of the church with the greater community,” she said. “The mission field is on the doorstep. Learning that, as Anglicans, has been a new experience.”
Norm explained that as much as St. George’s is committed to the community, first it is committed to the Daily Offices.
“The Daily Offices are the heart of the work here,” he said. “Everything else flows from the altar.”
The Primate had some encouraging words for the people of St. George’s and beyond:
“God loves the whole community. The opportunity to connect people with the love of God is there.
“Find the gifts your group has. We need to be using our property and buildings not just on Sunday. It can be a gathering place, a place of healing, a safe place.
“We’re called to love people who’ll never come in our doors. They are our brothers and sisters, and we are called to meet their needs.”
The Primate enjoyed her trip, noting this was only the second time in a year that she’d been out of Ontario.
Of her time at St. Luke’s, she said: “It was lovely to be in an actual church with a real congregation, worshipping, having communion. What a gift!”
1. The Rev. Norm Dupuis and Abp. David Edwards speak to the Primate, Linda Nicholls, in the garden at St. George's in Moncton.
2. The Rev. Canon Chris VanBuskirk speaks with Primate Linda Nicholls while in the background, Gregory VanBuskirk and Marion Bembridge clean up after the breakfast.
3. Archbishop David Edwards, Primate Linda Nicholls and the Rev. Rob Montgomery at St. Luke's in Gondola Point. The Primate preached during the Oct. 17 service.
Photo credits: Gisele McKnight & Debbie Edwards