Reflections on Our Journey to Experience Hope Growing

By Karen Dunlop in partnership with The Reverend Deacon Di Panting

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Photo by Fenella Temmerman

As supporters of the Anglican Grow Hope Project, a group of 25 parishioners and friends, from as far away as Germany and the United States, gathered early Sunday morning, June 3 at St. Peter’s in preparation for a 2 hour road trip to St. Luke’s Pembina Crossing. We were heading to a worship service and community gathering with many other rural and urban parishes from the Diocese, a BBQ lunch and celebration of the Grow Hope Project in the Pembina Valley. A key opportunity for us was to see the living Grow Hope crop we are supporting. A sense of comradery and anticipation was in the air, with a buzz of voices filling the narthex. Margaret Clarke, our trip coordinator extraordinaire, distributed a map with tips for our travels to St. Luke’s. Off we went with vehicles filled to capacity, some driving in a caravan as we started on our journey. Our travellers were asked for their insights on our experience and these are woven into the story we share with you. Our story is about strengthening community, building relationships, togetherness, hospitality, gratitude, the awesomeness of creation, mission, love, sharing, serving, helping, hope and the amazing goodness of God.

Upon arrival, many participants indicated they felt God’s presence as they reached the crest of the hill overlooking the lush Pembina Valley and saw the historic church nestled below. The sky cleared, the sun was shining and everything was beautiful for a wonderful celebratory day. The church is located near the Pembina River amongst rich agricultural lands and rolling hills.

St. Luke’s Pembina Crossing parish was founded by pioneers in 1885 and the present structure, replacing 2 previous ones, was built in 1922 almost 100 years ago. Today, the St. Luke’s building, churchyard and cemetery are maintained by volunteers most of whom have family members buried there. Currently only two services a year are held at St. Luke’s - Rogation service in the spring and Harvest Thanksgiving in the fall. Rogation Sunday is the day when the Church has traditionally offered prayer for God’s blessings on the fruits of the earth and the labours of those who produce our food. The lovely church building, which holds approximately 50 people, was too small to hold the large group anticipated – indeed almost 200 people of all ages from various rural and urban parishes turned out.

Many of our parishioners expressed the opportunity of coming together with “City and Country” folk was a favorite part of their journey. One of our participants shared: “Having this opportunity to be physically placed on the land that, with God’s help, is in the process of offering hope to those who are hungry - provided me with a profound sense of God’s presence. I was aware of the hand of God recognizing that this is possible because urban and rural individuals and communities are working together. For me, there is a growing hope for surprising and enriching possibilities through the unity that is developing in the midst of geographical distance”.

The outside service was held beside the church building with all of us gathering on lawn chairs under a huge tent covering. There were displays from the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and the Primate’s World Development and Relief Fund. A number of St. Peter’s participants felt the presence of God as so many people from various places throughout the diocese gathered in one place, for one purpose, with God at the Centre. Another felt the presence of God in worship, the music and conversations. There was a definite sense of togetherness with people from different parishes and walks of life coming together to give thanks to God. The Lea family, Rev. Chris, Leianne and Jonathan reside in the home that is closest to the Church some half a km away. The 15 acres of farmland that the Lea family have provided to the Grow Hope Project surrounded us as we worshiped. Many participants felt we were in the perfect spot to celebrate God’s blessings.

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The Rev. Chris Lea with Gordon Janzen, Canadian Food Grains Bank
Photo by Jim Ellis

The Rev. Chris Lea, of the Parish of St. Mary’s Kaleida (and our partner farmer in this Diocesan Grow Hope Project) and The Rev. Canon Dr. Cathy Campbell, the PWRDF Representative were Presiders of the Rogation service. The Rev. Canon Donna Joy was one of three who assisted the Presiders with Communion. Rev. Lea indicated his two goals for the project are “to bring urban and rural parishes together and to feed the hungry around the world”. Thanks were given for the labour of those who grow food on the land, those who manufacture the machinery necessary for successful farming, those who provide the seed and fertilizer, for those who provide labour, and those who get the food to market.

The Rev. Canon Dr. Cathy Campbell provided us with her inspirational sermon and spoke of:

  • the revealing of the three great C’s – creation, community and Christ coming together and connecting to the soil we were on which she noted will bring forth the crops that will feed the hungry.
  • “that the Kingdom comes often as surprise. It’s not planned or engineered. It comes as gift – not as reward for good work. It comes as God’s grace – unconditionally – for free, for all, for ever. It is our deepest, fiercest hope –the kind of hope we are growing today in this Anglican Grow Hope project.”
  • how the Kingdom of God connects us to help people around the world in need – the role of the farmer, PWRDF’s work and our partner the Canada Foodgrains Bank - all allowing us to help those around the world in need.
  • the critical response of “yes” to the call before us. All of the various people and groups who came together and said “yes to come to this table” in support of the Grow Hope project: from the Lea family, to the diocesan community, our Bishop and Diocesan council, the Foodgrains Bank and to “each of you who said yes I’ll come”. The message - this indeed is saying yes to Jesus.

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Photo by Jim Ellis

Many of the St. Peter’s participants felt the presence of God as these words were being spoken while looking out at the sky and the surrounding lands and the lovely rolling hills. A small choir filled with young people sang the moving offertory hymn. Beautiful organ music was provided throughout the service. No doubt a lot of people power was involved in bringing the organ and sound system under the tent covering! Some felt God’s presence during the words of the Eucharistic celebration, where we were connected to the earth. Rev. Cannon Donna Joy stated

“In sharing this experience with my Grandson, I recognized the hand of God in the opportunity to share with the next generation the significance of this project and this day. My hope and prayer is it helps shape the understanding of the importance of connecting our God-given passions with the needs of the world. I would be more assertive in encouraging more of our young families to participate in such an event as this in the future”.

Following the service, a delicious lunch was provided by the Lea family with hamburgers, hot dogs, salads, desserts and refreshments served. Groups congregated in the sun while enjoying the food and conversation amongst those in attendance. As an added bonus we got to enjoy the presence of the most adorable black lab puppies in our midst and a cow and calf nearby. Many expressed their gratitude to the Lea family and community for their hospitality.

St. Peter’s participants shared their favourite parts of the day including:

  • “to be able to worship in the open air
  • to see faith in the young people singing during the offertory hymn
  • to enjoy the hospitality of the Lea family and those who worked at the wonderful BBQ
  • the special feeling experienced with being outdoors in this beautiful location
  • the conversations in the car on the way there and back
  • the sense of participation in something bigger than ourselves: connecting with other parishes urban and rural
  • connecting with folks I knew and meeting new people
  • seeing the Grow Hope crop and the beautiful community gathered for worship”.

Our participants said they learned many things like:

  • “a Church can be anywhere where people are gathered
  • connecting with the land nourishes us and through the generous sharing of the land for the Grow Hope Project, nourishment will be given in a very tangible way where needed
  • the many biblical references to agriculture and our many connections to agriculture
  • how connected we all are – both urban and rural and Canada with countries around the world
  • after decades of struggling with the challenge of learning how rural and urban communities may live interdependently within the context of a diocesan church, this day solidified for me this new insight that what we’ve primarily needed all along is a common purpose
  • this God-centred, mission focused project has united us in ways that other attempts have not
  • Rogation Sunday, I had never heard of it before and our ancestors certainly had a great idea
  • a little about the history of St. Luke’s Pembina Crossing
  • what it means to strive
  • about the connection of Grow Hope, the Foodgrains Bank and the PWRDF – a great interconnection
  • how very lucky we are to have freedom to worship our God in community”.

When participants were asked “would you consider joining another Mission and Outreach adventure in the future?”, the answers were a resounding “yes”. Comments included, “absolutely in a heartbeat; I believe strongly that we need to reach beyond ourselves as a church, through something that connects us to a wider body; perhaps at Harvest time”.

St. Peter’s participants shared positive descriptions about how they felt about the experience including: “memories; hopeful; serenity; gratitude; joy: relaxing; awesome; wonderful; grateful; abundance; hope; thankful, content, touching”.
What an amazing day in God’s kingdom! Some final thought from our group include:

  • Ray Temmerman noted: “I believe strongly that we need to reach out beyond ourselves as a church, through something that connects us with a wider body”.
  • Lucinda Williams shared being inspired: “Feeling the sun and the fresh air and singing “All Things Bright and Beautiful”, driving in and seeing the church nestled at the foot of the hill and looking out over the fields”.
  • Junior Jackson shared his thankfulness for “meeting new people and interacting with them”.
  • Rev. Canon Donna Joy summed up the community’s hospitality with the following words “God is love and it seems clear to me that the radical hospitality given and received was a tangible expression of this deep and abiding love. Every detail of this day was lovingly and carefully prepared, a clear extension of God’s love and care for us all”.

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Photo by Fenella Temmerman

Our journey together revealed how, through shared mission experiences, we can come to understand and appreciate each other in new ways and, at the same time, extend God’s love through intentional action. Thanks be to God!
Follow this link for more information on the Grow Hope initiative 

To see more photos of the June 3 Worship and Lunch, please go to our Photo Gallery.