When one well-dressed gentleman in Minden selected a particularly ugly tie from his wardrobe to donate to St. Paul’s Children’s Christmas Gift Sale, he did not expect to ever see it again. But on Christmas morning when he opened the carefully wrapped gift from his grandson, there it was. The young boy had bought it himself for just $1 earlier in the month.
In 2022, more than 80 children in Minden shopped at the two-day sale held Dec. 2-3 at St. Paul’s, and about another 30 children did so at St. James, Kinmount.
At St. Paul’s, families are welcomed at the church hall and parents can sit comfortably by the fireplace while their offspring shop. The donated items are new or gently used and cost only $1. Volunteers not only help the children find the right gifts for their family members and friends, but also help the young folk wrap and tag their presents.
The Rev. Canon Joan Cavanaugh-Clark greets each child lined up at the door and chats a little about Jesus and Christmas. “Some families are surprised that church is not all gloom and doom,” she says. Some parents tell her that they will drop in on Sunday. “Of course, not many do, but it is an outreach into the community, and two new young families have joined recently.” Other shoppers belong to other churches.
The three-point parish of Minden, Kinmount and Maple Lake is located in the northeastern corner of the diocese, about two-and-a-half hours north of Toronto. Situated in the scenic Haliburton Highlands, the parish serves both summer cottagers and year-round residents.
The sales are advertised not only in church bulletins and on the parish website and Facebook but also in local stores and community newspapers. The event has proven popular with both the churched and unchurched. The sales have been held annually for about seven years; however, the pandemic’s lockdowns forced them to close for the past three.
In December, St. Paul’s sale alone brought in about $500. All the money raised goes back into the parish’s children’s programs to help pay for special trips, as well as the occasional pizza. The parish runs a Messy Church on weekday evenings once a month.
Canon Cavanaugh-Clark, who is well known for her boundless energy and enthusiasm for the gospel, has been serving the three-point parish for 11 years. She has taken courses in innovative missional outreach programs and with the Rev. Martha Waind, her deacon, has begun several outreach ministries besides the Children’s Christmas Gift Sale.
The parish runs a thrift shop called Bountiful Blessings located besides St. Paul’s, which is staffed by volunteers. “The parish does not give away money; we share from the abundance God provides. Other than operation costs, and Bishop McCallister School, all monies are shared to provide for needs in the local community,” says Canon Cavanaugh-Clark.
A few years ago, the profits were used to support Syrian refugees, and more recently school children at the Bishop McAllister School in Kyogyera, Uganda. Last year the thrift shop assisted in making a new girls’ residence at the school secure. (A few days before, the school had been attacked by robbers and three staff members murdered.) This year the thrift shop contributed to the school’s new library building.
This past fall, the parish opened a drop-in centre called The Gathering Place on the main street of Minden for anyone who’d like a coffee or hot chocolate and a quiet place to hang out. Students can use donated computers to help them with their homework. On the afternoon of Dec. 11, a gospel sing-song and worship service was held there.
On Dec. 18 and again on Christmas Eve, some of the children who came to the gift sale attended or performed in the Christmas pageant held annually at St. Paul’s – another popular event in the small but vibrant rural parish.
In 2016, St. Paul’s celebrated 150 years of continuous ministry in Minden. With its sister congregations, the three-point parish has celebrated more than 400 years combined of proclamation of the gospel in Minden and the surrounding area.