When a former Burns Lake resident couldn’t find a church service that felt comfortable, little did she imagine that she would be able to reconnect with her old church via Zoom.
But then the pandemic happened, and Joan Clancy, who left Burns Lake in 2011, was able to reconnect with St. Paul’s United Church.
“A true blessing in my life has been the Zoom meetings for church services. When Gerry and I moved from Burns Lake to Alberta in 2011, I became a member of the small United Church congregation held in a storefront here in Beaumont which unfortunately had to be closed due to lack of funding,” said Clancy.
While she attended a local church service in Alberta, it never felt comfortable for her.
“Then COVID happened and I heard of the Zoom services. St. Paul’s has always been my ‘church family’ and I am so thrilled to be able to come home.” said Clancy, who had gotten married 46 years ago at Trinity Lutheran United Church before St. Paul’s was built.
“As soon as St. Paul’s opened its doors in 1982, I became a member and our children grew up in that church family. Even today, with these zoom services, seeing all the familiar and loving faces again makes us feel we are still a part of this community.”
There are several more like Clancy who have been enjoying the church services from afar, said church board chair and chair of trustees, Betty Stewart.
“We have had many people join-in via Zoom, who no longer live in Burns Lake. We even have someone from Ontario who comes to our church services via Zoom,” she said.
While the church has opened its doors for in-person services, they aren’t functioning at their full capacity yet. They still have masking restrictions and are allowing only the vaccinated members to attend in-person services, to keep everyone safe.
“We aren’t able to have members come in-person; not as many as we would like as we are still faced with the tail-end of the pandemic. Gradually, we would love to have more people come in, in-person,” said Stewart.
Does that mean the church will move away from Zoom services?
Unlikely, said Stewart.
“In the long run, we should still look at having both – in person, and via Zoom. We have many members who aren’t able to connect via Zoom, due to where they live and how difficult it is to find good connectivity, for those, in-person services are crucial, but for others, like those who left Burns Lake when they were young, and want to reconnect with the church, our doors are open, and should remain so, via Zoom,” she said.
“We are definitely hoping to maintain the online services,” assured Stewart.
While the Zoom meetings have been a blessing for many, due to the pandemic, and the lack of in-person services, an important milestone for the church was however missed. St. Paul’s United Church, which has been in the community on Fourth Avenue since 1921, turned 100 last year in November.
When asked whether the church would have any celebrations in store this year to celebrate a century of standing tall, Stewart said that while there weren’t any plans yet, there have been talks around it.
“And if we are able to put together a celebration, we will definitely want people to come in-person,” she said, adding that she will soon be able to share what the church’s plans are to mark the major milestone.