As people have slowly strayed away from organized religion, even before the COVID-19 pandemic worship spaces like the Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Sooke were finding it hard to keep their doors open.
Father Dimas Canjura, the church’s pastor since 2014, said Sooke’s church is no different than churches across the country that are struggling to survive.
Canjura said the current congregation is comprised of roughly 20 people who come regularly, but the church is still facing financial struggles. And now, with the spread of COVID-19 forcing churches to temporarily close their doors, the historical Anglican church faces an uncertain future.
Elizabeth Johnson, the rector’s warden at the church, said the church has seen a dwindling in participation over the years, but she’s hopeful they can enjoy “a renaissance” once the pandemic is over.
Since the social distancing measures have been put in place and services are no longer being held, the church stays present in Sooke by ringing its bell on Wednesday evenings, showing appreciation for frontline workers.
“We are trying to think of different ways to present our faith,” said Johnson. “Perhaps people will realize during this time that they do need something besides themselves.”
Johnson noted the church has been a part of her life for many years, and she enjoys the sense of community and belonging it has brought in to her life.
“On Sunday it is so nice to see everyone and greet them,” said Johnson, adding she chose the Anglican church because of its rich and long-lasting history in Sooke.
Sooke resident Vibeke Vaerum, a fairly new member of the congregation, reached out to the Sooke News Mirror on behalf of the church, expressing her concerns.
“I would be so pleased if there were a little more awareness around this building, I see so much potential in it,” said Vaerum.
Vaerum explained she comes with a bit of a different background as far as religion, focusing more on meditation and having Christianity in her childhood, but she still enjoys attending the Anglican church.
“When I go to a service I really pay attention to the energy in the church. It’s an absolutely stunning, bright, sacred space, and Rev. Dimas’ presence is so beautiful and welcoming.”
The church is a key social support for Sooke seniors who attend the church, can offer people spiritual support regardless of their beliefs, and helps serve the community at large by giving back, Vareum added.
Another role the church plays in the community is through its Vital Vittles program, where volunteers serve lunch on Fridays to those in need. The outreach initiative has been running since 2004.
“We are all anxiously waiting for the pandemic to be over so we can get the kitchen open again,” said Johnson.
Both Canjura and Johnson said the Vital Vittles program is important to Sooke because it gives people in need a chance to come together, have a hot meal, and feel supported.
“That program is also very powerful to our believers, because for us, that is what is most important, serving the community,” said Canjura.
Canjura and Johnson said they hope the church will be able to continue forward, and more people will participate once the pandemic is over.
“It is important to continue praying to our Lord, to bring people together and give them hope, and to give back to those in need,” said Canjura. “Because God is there, and God is helping, especially in these hard times.
“God bless the community for all they are doing in this dark time.”