On March 13th, we held our annual World Day of Prayer Service at St. John’s Anglican Church, Richmond Corner, New Brunswick, which is 7 km from Woodstock. We have held this special worship service for over 50 years. I was first involved when I was 10 in 1964. Back then, our faith community and that of the United Church of Canada at Richmond Corner hosted alternately. After the United Church in Richmond Corner closed, the combined United Church congregations of Trinity United in Debec and St. Mark’s United in McKenzie Corner, and our St. John’s Anglican continued the practise. Well, COVID has changed things somewhat.
During these COVID times, St. John’s has held the Service as a Sunday Worship Service replacing Morning Prayer, led by a lay reader and helpers. This year, Rev Canon Walter Williams celebrated Holy Eucharist within the service. The addition of Holy Eucharist was even more powerful. We had prayed with others around the world and then, here in community, we shared the bread and wine as we heard the beloved words “This do in remembrance of me’’ while in the shadows of COVID and the evolving Russian war on Ukraine. Gave me chills, the good kind!
The theme this year was “I know the plans I have for you”, God’s promise of hope, in Jeremiah, to his people in exile, people uprooted. For many of us, our families were uprooted a few generations ago. In the past days we have witnessed, on the news, families being uprooted fleeing Ukraine. It all felt surreal making this connection, people in exile, people searching for hope perhaps wondering, how can this be your plan, God?
With all this turmoil, we felt an urge to seek out our roots, the comfort from the strength of those who have gone before. For many of our families their roots go back to this year’s host countries of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The “old countries” for families and for our Anglican faith. To honour these roots, a small tree was placed in the sanctuary, the leaves had family names on them, the green leaves for Northern Irish, the yellow for Welsh, and red for English. Many names were in all three colours. Our families were inter-connected as they left all that was familiar, faced danger, uncertainty, and challenges to carve out lives in this new and foreign land. They became community connected by common challenges, fears, struggles and sometimes celebrations. These people, our families, had all been uprooted searching for hope. God had a plan and knew the plan he had for them.
As only God could plan, the Prayer Book and Bible on the Altar belonged to Goldie Harris Berry and my gram and grandpa’s wedding picture was nearby. My gram, Jennie Carpenter, and Goldie had been good friends raising their children during the Great Depression and WWII. Rosanne Carpenter, a member of our congregation, provided documents for the display from when she and her mom came to Canada, Rosanne as an infant and her mom as a war bride.
Rosanne’s mother-in-law, Mildred Carpenter, was my grams’ sister-in-law, and Mrs. Berry’s neighbour. These strong women, women of faith, bloomed where they were planted. They were community. They are our roots. God had a plan and knew the plan he had for them. God was their hope. God is our hope, but what is our place, our role, in his continuing plan?
Many family heirlooms, treasures from travels to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and books and photos from our church history adorned the front of the church. Our Parish is a three-point Parish – Holy Trinity, St. Marks, and St. John. Congregants from all three churches attended the service. We celebrated our connectedness as we struggle to maintain community during these unusual times.
For me, the World Day of Prayer has always been about building community through prayer and action, and so it has again in 2022. This service, in this time, with those present was no accident…God has a plan, a plan guaranteed to outdo anything we can devise. We are a people of hope. God is faithful, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Thanks be to God.
Diocesan Lay Reader and World Day of Prayer Co-Ordinator