The Parish of Georgina welcomed Bishop Riscylla Shaw to a service of Evening Prayer on July 7 to celebrate 40 years of outreach ministry in Sibbald Point Provincial Park and the surrounding area. As a former chaplain to the park, Bishop Shaw was a natural choice to be the preacher and special guest. The Rev. Canon Dr. David Neelands and the Rev. Robin Peasgood presided at the service. Former park chaplains read the scripture and Susan Greco, a former parishioner, chaplain, and advocate of the outreach ministry, was the prayer intercessor. The musicians were organist Larry Baguley and trumpeter Andrew Colman.
Following the service, the parish welcomed former park chaplains, former incumbents, guests and parishioners to a barbecue on the waterfront in the provincial park, just a short walk from St. George’s. The church is built on property adjacent to the park, which is located on the south shore of Lake Simcoe.
In 1957, Sibbald Point Provincial Park opened to the public, bringing crowds of visitors to St. George’s every weekend. To accommodate the growing summer congregation, the church instituted a 9:30 a.m. Sunday service the following summer; in August 1959, they became “Campers’ Services”. Young parishioners distributed flyers in the park, announcing the services and indicating that comfortable clothing was welcomed, and ladies were not required to wear hats. The average attendance was 80 persons, the largest service attracted 185 people. The last official “Campers’ Service” occurred in July 1979. A Sunday Morning Prayer service in summer continued until 1990.
In 1978, the Rev. Charles Edwards and Dr. Betty Graham inaugurated the church’s summer chaplaincy program to the park and surrounding area. Since then, 38 people have served as chaplains. They have been lodged in trailers (at campsites in the park and now in the church’s parking lot), the park’s lodge and parishioners’ homes. In the early days, the chaplain’s responsibilities were focused on programming within the park and at the church, as well as assisting with Sunday services. Programming included family softball games and other sports, campfire sing-alongs, nature walks and crafts. The 10-week contract expanded to include ministry within the Town of Sutton, including Vacation Bible School, worship services at River Glen Haven Nursing Home, and home visits to shut-ins.
Today’s chaplaincy is a ministry of presence focused primarily at St. George’s, where thousands of visitors drop by to view the church and cemetery. People come from all walks of life and from throughout the world. It is not unusual for St. George’s to have more than 6,000 visitors during the summer months. The chaplain is available to answer questions, listen to people and pray with them if desired. The chaplain may conduct weekday morning prayer and mid week compline services which are open to both the public and parishioners.
Recent chaplains were involved in weekly Bible studies, Tuesday evening ecumenical community dinners, monthly nursing home services, and two services each Sunday. Many of our chaplains have continued to develop their ministry, leading to ordination.
The Parish of Georgina has been assisted considerably by grants from the Diocese of Toronto, without which this ministry could not continue. We are truly grateful.