By David F. Rooney
Rumours that St. Peter’s Anglican Church is dead or dying are far from being true, say three of the church’s leaders.
“We didn’t have enough to pay for (Rev. Heather Gravells who left in November after about 16 months as the Anglican priest at St. Peter’s) and that’s probably what started the rumours,” Cathleen Busch, the church’s warden, said in an interview Thursday.
She acknowledged that the church, like many other mainline churches, has trouble attracting and keeping congregants but it is not alone in that regard in the 21st century. Nor does that mean it is closing its doors.
“We have a lot of congregation members who have left but we want people to know we’re still here,” she said.
There may be as few as 30 regular worshippers at the 114-year-old church, but that may yet turn around. In other respects the church, as a public institution, remains active. It is the home of the St. Peter’s Thrift Store, it hosts Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings and its hall is hope to the Revelstoke Dance Centre. On another note, the congregation also plans to rent out the church’s traditional manse.
Busch is not only the church warden but is licenced to administer the sacraments. So, too, is congregation treasurer David Johnson. While they can lead regular services and administer the communion sacrament, they cannot consecrate them. Only an ordained priest, like Rev. Dan Meakes of Salmon Arm, who comes here regularly to hold communion services, can consecrate the Hosts consumed by congregants at Sunday services.
Meakes says as many as 2,000 small churches from all mainstream (Anglican, Lutheran, United and Roman Catholic) churches are expected to close in the next 15 years he does not think St. Peter’s will be one of them.
“If there’a key part of the story here it is that there is very strong leadership within this congregation,” he said.
For Johnson the long-term survival of the congregation depends on “laying a significant base of understanding of faith that comes from a shared religious experience.”
That may seem difficult at this particular point in time, but all three leaders of the St. Peter’s community believe that as this generation ages, many will begin seeking the shared joy and comfort that only a religious community can provide.
“We’re happy to be able to let people now that we’re still here and will continue to be here for foreseeable future,” Busch said, adding that she would like to see the congregation recover to the point where, next year, it can once again hold the kind of Christmas pageant for which it was once locally well-known.
This Christmas St. Peter’s will celebrate Christ’s birth with an 11 pm Christmas Eve service on December 24 and a 10 am service on Christmas Day, On Boxing Day, December 26, it will hold a service featuring a Christmas lesson and carols at 10 am. St. Peter’s holds its regular Sunday services at 10 am on Sundays.