Bishop Susan Bell gathered together with the members of All Saints, Hagersville for one last worship service to celebrate the life and witness of the parish community, and to formally mark its disestablishment.
The service, held on Sunday, September 13, was originally scheduled to take place on May 9, but was postponed due to restrictions on public gatherings related to the spread of COVID-19. Attendance at the service was limited to 50 people, in accordance with current public health guidelines.
The Bishop encouraged parishioners to recognize that churches have lives of their own, “good lives, appropriate lives in which they witness to the love of God for a season and then they retire, and the church moves to a different location who has need of the Gospel of love.”
Built in 1870, and remodelled in 1912, All Saints served the people of Hagersville for more than 150 years. Over that time, the parish was constantly engaged in the neighbourhood, with members fondly remembering dances, community dinners, bazaars, and lively worship.
A recent decline in attendance and financial resources led the people of All Saints to pass a motion at its annual vestry meeting recommending that the Bishop disestablish the parish.
Reflecting on the journey towards disestablishment, the parish’s rector, Archdeacon Valerie Kerr, noted that, “even in the midst of the fact that we knew the parish was closing, there was still joy to be found. We found that joy together.”
“We didn’t just talk about closing,” Archdeacon Kerr said. “We talked about all of the things that the parish had been. All of the differences they had made, and all of the differences they were still making.”
Members of synod council passed a motion after the decision to disestablish the parish was shared with them. The motion affirmed the faithful witness of the community, acknowledge the deep bonds of giving and fellowship that have marked their ministry, and celebrate the parish’s commitment to God’s mission.
Marked by that ongoing sense of hope, All Saints managed to find joy even in the midst of pain.
When some 30,000 bees were recently found to have inhabited the church, parish members used the opportunity to have some fun, and care for their neighbours. Experts were brought in to remove the bees, and 15 jars of honey were extracted from the church. Calling it ‘Holy Honey,’ Archdeacon Kerr encouraged the honey to be sold with the proceeds going towards the Hagersville Food Basket and the Six Nations Food Bank.
Archdeacon Kerr felt that it was important for everyone to have something tangible to take away from the service, so she prepared packets of tulip bulbs to be planted as a sign of continuing hope. She included a card, which noted that while sunflowers turn to follow the sun, they turn towards each other to reflect light when the sunlight grows dim.
Going forward, she said, “we will draw energy from each other.”