Photographer: Leah Nilson
Reverend Canon Donna Joy interviewed by Misha Pensato
RLN: How would you describe the St. Alban’s Church community to a stranger?
DJ: I would say that St. Alban’s is very committed to nurturing the faith of those who choose to come through meaningful worship. That is something that is extremely important to them: worship that leads to faithful service.
RLN: What does worship look like at St. Alban’s?
DJ: There is regular worship on Fridays at noon that is open to all. For those who may wish to worship more than once per week, there are two services of Sunday worship. One is at 8:00 a.m. and the other one is at 10:00 p.m. At the 8:00 a.m. service we follow the Book of Common Prayer. The 10:00 p.m. service follows the Book of Alternative Services and is a sung Eucharist.
RLN: Who is a part of the St. Alban’s Church community?
DJ: A lot of people who attend St. Alban’s are people who have been there for generations. Some others who attend worship have become connected to the parish more recently. So it’s a mix.
It’s an aging demographic. And currently conversations are taking place in an attempt to discern what kind of worship might be meaningful for those who are not currently worshipping there.
I’m there as an intentional interim leader and I only arrived in January. It’s probably going to be a two year contract position. Part of my role there is to help them discern where God is calling them as they prepare to move into the future.
These conversations are embryonic at this point. The leadership teams have had a handful of conversations recently about how our current services at Friday noon and Sunday mornings are speaking to a particular demographic, but we want to explore what kind of worship might be meaningful to those who are not yet attending.
It’s a process of discernment in an attempt to draw the circle wider in terms of worship opportunities.
RLN: Could you tell me more about St. Alban’s emphasis on faithful service?
DJ: The parish has a long history of extremely faithful outreach ministries. It’s just amazing the work they’ve done. St. Alban’s Cathedral is situated in the heart of downtown Kenora. The context is really important. There’s a lot of addiction and there’s a lot of homelessness and hunger. This has been going on for years.
St. Alban’s has four teams of people who take their turn every week on Friday evenings to serve dinner to the community. They open the doors and anyone can come. It’s called Friday Food with Friends. It’s four very faithful groups that ensure this happens every week and they serve healthy, tasty, delicious, and nutritious meals. It’s great missional work.
They also own the building and run a not-for-profit store called Twice is Nice. It’s affordable second hand clothes that are in really good shape. They also donate gift cards to social agencies who work with people who are freshly out of out of prison, people who are working with social workers in various ways, so that they don’t suffer the humiliation of not having money to pay for clothes. They also do things like mitten trees and comprehensive Christmas hamper program.
It’s one thing to take care of people’s specific needs. It’s important to feed people when they’re hungry, and clothe people when they need clothing. At the same time, I think its also the role of the church to to work proactively to change the systems that are causing people to go hungry and be in need. In the years leading up to COVID, St. Alban’s initiated programs called Bridges Out of Poverty and Getting Ahead In A Just Getting By World.
This community understands the meaning of hospitality in a very deep way.
They also hold monthly dinners. The goals are not the same as the Friday Food with Friends. People pay to be there, but the cost is minimal. They usually have an international theme, the one on Saturday, Oct 28th is based on Oktoberfest.
People pay a bit of money for the ticket, but it’s way beyond that. It’s always hospitality at its finest.