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FALL 2021
Telling Stories in Vernon
  Tell Me A Story
August 13, 2021
 By the Rev. Dr. Teresa Charlton, Knox Presbyterian Church in Vernon, B.C.
“Tell me a story, Grandma,” is a fa- miliar line between grandparents and grandchildren, sharing well-worn sto- ries at bedtime or reminiscing when
feeling a little blue. Our scriptures are full of stories, time-honoured and treasured, as we pass them from one generation to the next.
During COVID-19, the city of Ver- non in B.C., challenged local busi- nesses and non-profits to find creative ways to bring joy and laughter to the seniors of our community, and those most confined due COVID-19 restric- tions. Knox Presbyterian Church rose to that challenge, offering to publish a magazine filled with stories, pictures, recipes and memories, and distribute the publication to facilities, residences and the public at large, hoping to bring a smile to weary faces.
We received a grant from the North Okanagan Community Foundation in late 2020, which was augmented by a Canada Student Grant in the Spring of 2021. Over the late spring and early summer, a network of in-
vitations was extended to the local Seniors’ Centre, retirement homes, church families and through local news outlets to gather collections of biographies, anecdotes, poems and music. A summer student was also hired to lend their passion and skill in graphic design to the magazine.
While the spirit of Christian princi- ples rings true throughout the pages, we carefully tried to ensure that the collection was well-rounded, inten- tionally focused more on pictures and less on words, and that the words were printed in a larger font size—to accommodate the needs of those we anticipated enjoying the magazine. By its completion, we had gathered together a wide variety of submissions that included stories about black bears eating warm pie from the windowsill, wedding mis- haps, secret recipes for shortbread,
favourite hymns on grandmother’s parlour piano, and tuba practice in the barnyard.
A few months later, we were ready to publish. A local printer completed the process and copies of the first issue of Tell Me A Story were dis- tributed in late August. There is the possibility that this publication will become an annual summer project, as there will always be new stories to tell. Not only did Knox, Vernon, serve as a role model for a young adult stu- dent, we lifted and celebrated many
forgotten stories from the wisest of our community.
Grateful, Thankful, Blessed
      By the Session of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Bowmanville, Ont., and the Rev. Anita Siposne Demeter
Welcome to the story of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Bowmanville, Ont. This story is all about our con- gregational journey of connecting, improving, sustaining, inventing, finding deeper faith and growing dur- ing this past year and a half of pan- demic challenges.
We are a small congregation lo- cated in a town in the Municipality of Clarington, Ontario. The majority of our congregation are senior citizens. The congregation shares a strong Christian faith, as well as a sense of responsibility to serve our commu- nity and to care for one another.
In March 2020, as the province of Ontario declared its first lockdown with suspension of in-person reli- gious services due to the pandemic, we quickly needed a strategy to:
• Keep the congregation informed about ongoing church activities, primarily the commencement of live streamed Sunday Worship Services.
• Promote and maintain sup- portive relationships between church members and adherents and the community.
• Decrease the sense of social isolation caused by pandemic restrictions.
To meet the needs identified above, a three-pronged strategy was developed that we called the Congre- gational Mail Ministry (CMM). The elements of this ministry included: (1) a monthly letter to the congrega- tion, (2) a yearly church anniversary letter, and (3) a weekly document of “screen shots” from our online Sunday Worship Services mailed to those who phoned in to participate in the online service.
Strategy #1: The Letter to the Congregation is a traditional newslet- ter. It quickly expanded into an eight- page letter, which is sent out once a month in print form or by email. Con- tents of the letter reflect the ongoing life and activities of the congregation, and typically include:
• Adver tising of online events, such as our Sunday Worship Service, Hymn Sing, Breakout Rooms for socializing, weekly Prayer Meeting, Advent and Lenten Bible study groups and the Community Prayer Breakfast.
• Bir thday wishes, prayer requests and thank-you recognitions.
• Preparation for the Annual Gen- eral Meeting, including how to vote online.
• Adver tising for church-based food drives and mission projects.
• Mental health resources.
Information regarding the church’s growing electronic footprint is high- lighted on our website at pccweb. ca/standrews-bowmanville, its Face- book page and YouTube channel.
The Letter to the Congregation also provides new content for the church’s website. To date, there have been 20 editions of this con- gregational letter mailed or emailed between April 2020 and July 2021. Printed copies of the letter are mailed out to 43 households and electronic copies are emailed to 19 individuals.
Strategy #2: Once yearly, an An- niversary Letter is sent to people on the Congregational Roll who no longer attend St. Andrew’s but are still interested in the activities of our church. The focus of the Anniversary Letter is to recap the church’s yearly progress and programs. This has been a great way of keeping in touch with former active members.
Strategy #3: Individuals who join the live, online church services by telephone, can hear what is being said, speak with others, and partici- pate in the Hymn Sing, the Worship Service and Breakout Rooms, but they cannot see the variety of im- ages projected during the service. Our minister, the Rev. Anita Siposne Demeter creates and utilizes multiple forms of artwork and printed infor-
Nancy MacMaster (left) and Doreen Gilroy.
mation to support the message she shares with the online participants. Consequently, those joining by tel- ephone have a less-than-optimal ex- perience. They miss out on the visual information that enhances memory and provides a deeper experience of the message presented.
Our solution was to take screen captures during the live services and create a document that includes visual images and limited commen- tary from the service. The Word documents are then either mailed out or sent by email after each Sunday service. All these images keep con- gregants engaged, and recipients appreciate seeing images of other congregants during a time when we could not meet with others in person.
What have we learned from our ex- perience at St. Andrew’s? Quite a lot! We have received positive feedback from the congregation for the letters and screenshots. We feel that we have grown in resilience, learned to endure adversity and now have a “can do” at- titude. Even though we are not in the church building we can still worship and work together through new and
The Rev. Anita Siposne Demeter.
old ways of connecting. These letters make congregants feel that we are all part of an ongoing, small but active and vibrant congregation. We have connected with each other in ways we did not expect to. Our friendships have grown deeper. We even took on a motto this past year of “We are grate- ful; We are thankful; We are blessed.”
It is our hope that anyone reading this article might consider using one or more of the strategies we used to help build and sustain their own church in these difficult times. God bless!

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