Monday, September 13, 2010

St. Margaret's 30th Anniversary - letters from previous rectors

On Sunday September 12th our parish celebrated 30 years as a Christian community on the south side of Edmonton.

As part of our celebrations we received letters from two previous rectors: Kim Murray (who was the founding rector of St. Margaret's in September 1980), and Ed McNeill, under whose leadership the present church building was built.

Here's Kim's letter:

To the Parishioners of St. Margaret’s, Edmonton:

Greetings, congratulations and best wishes on the occasion of your 30th anniversary as a parish family! It may sound a bit of a cliché, but the truth is that it really does not seem that anything like thirty years has passed since we offered our first celebration of the Holy Eucharist together in the chapel at Providence Centre. That it was also our wedding anniversary (the 15th of September) and we’d been married just a year, reminds us that it was a time of many new beginnings in God’s grace, for which Janet and I continue to be thankful.

The four years that we shared with you in what was then called St. Margaret’s Mission were some of the most fulfilling and exciting years that we have known. We were sent into a new neighborhood, underwritten by St. John’s and the diocese, and enthusiastically supported by a team of twenty volunteers who, if I recall correctly, in addition to being the working core of everything from altar guild to Sunday school, also did something like 4,000 house visits, spreading the word that the Anglican Church of Canada was starting a new parish in southwest Edmonton. We had a system, of sorts, regarding those visits. The visitors went out each evening, on pre-determined routes, making over-the-threshold contacts. When they got what we called a “live one” (someone who indicated interest and would welcome a follow-up visit from the clergy) the name, address and telephone number were recorded by the visitor and dropped off in the mailbox at our house. I would then go forth to clinch the deal. It was a system which worked remarkably well. It also brings an illustrative anecdote to mind.

When it came to the team of volunteers, I had a problem. Two “old guys” had signed up. Looking back now they don’t seem old at all. They were in their late sixties. But I was twenty- seven and they seemed impossibly old at the time. I really didn’t know what to do with Wilf Pilkington and George Hartley. In the end, I decided to assign them to a set of walk-up apartment complexes, thinking that this would mean less walking, since all that they would probably be able to do was to leave a handful of brochures with each of the building managers. Even in those days most apartment buildings had rules against door-to-door soliciting and were generally thought to be a “hard-sell” from the point of view of the business of evangelism. But George and Wilf bucked the trend. They turned out to be among our most productive visitors. Eventually, over coffee after the service one Sunday, I asked them how this came to be the case. After exchanging a sheepish grin, they confessed to their modus operandi. George, who had been a door-to-door salesman for a company which dealt in fire extinguishers, would ring up the building manager’s suite and engage him in an over-the-doorstep discussion about fire extinguishers. While this was happening (and while the door just happened to be open because George was wedged in, so to speak) Wilf, a retired professor of English Literature, dressed for the part, would enter the building looking like he knew one of the residents and was making a personal visit. By the time that George’s fire extinguisher spiel had run out, Wilf had made contact with the residents and had left by way of the rear door of the building. I recall telling them that if they were ever caught, I did not know them. It gave a new twist to St. Paul’s dictum regarding becoming all things to all people that some might be saved!

The time that we shared with you at St. Margaret’s was truly like no other time during the rest of the last thirty years. It was a time when everything the parish possessed could be containedin one cupboard. It was a time when our finances were so tight that when Ian McCrum delivered my paycheck he would more often than not ask me to hold off cashing it until we had received the coming Sunday’s collection. It was a time when half or more of the parishioners were under the age of five years and when literally everything from parish council meetings to pot-luck suppers happened in members’ homes. It was truly an amazing four years, and we are both profoundly grateful to God for the gift of sharing them with you.

When we left St. Margaret’s it was for study leave in England. Janet worked as a physio while I did two years of intensive research at the University of Durham, working toward a Ph.D. in early modern English History. We left the UK for Victoria in 1986, and after completing the doctorate I returned to work as a parish priest, serving in Victoria, Parksville and Salt Spring Island. Janet worked in geriatrics and neurology until we moved to Salt Spring, and there, until I opted for early retirement in 2008, she coordinated the parish’s soup-kitchen program. It has truly been a wonderful adventure - and now we have entered into a new phase called retirement!

We regret that commitments here on Salt Spring have precluded the possibility of being with you for this anniversary event. We want to assure you of our prayers for you on the day, and for God’s continued grace and blessing of your life as a parish family.

Yours in Jesus Christ, Kim and Janet Murray

And here is Ed's letter:

Dear Friends in Christ,

May God’s blessing be upon you on the occasion of your thirtieth Anniversary. I regret I cannot be with you in person. My duties at St. James preclude me from attending the celebration.

I thank God for your continuing witness and pray that the next thirty years will be filled with great blessings for St. Margaret’s and the wider community.

I give thanks for the many ways Evelyn and I were blessed during our years at St. Margaret’s. It was a privilege to be part of God’s work as we were led out of Providence Renewal Centre to the new building on Ellerslie Road. Those were stressful years that led to a season of blessings. I will never forget framing the basement in -40 weather!

A Church is not a building but is made of living stones. I give thanks for the many friendships and the challenges we faced together. “Iron sharpens iron and people sharpen each other”. I know I was sharpened and made more useful to God through the work we did together. Thank you.

I have many wonderful memories that I cherish. Thank you and may God Bless you on this auspicious occasion.

Yours in Christ,

Ed McNeill

We thank God for Kim and for Ed and for their part in the story of our parish!

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