For the Observer
Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God”.
The Agassiz All Saints Church celebrated its 6th annual Peace Officers and First Responders Appreciation Day on Sun. Oct. 26 with a record attendance, spilling over from the 119-year-old church into the connecting Hall. The idea of celebrating such an occasion came to parishioner Leroy Burden years ago while working as a civilian employee at the Agassiz and Hope police detachments. Working closely with the officers he soon realized they were not getting credit for what they were doing. For months Leroy has again worked towards getting representatives of the various services that provide our day-to-day security and support interested in attending this year’s event.
Prior to the Service of Holy Eucharist, the Agassiz Legion donated a box of poppies so that each member of the congregation could wear one in respect for the two fallen soldiers. The service began with “The Lament” (piped by Fred Hansford) for the tragic deaths of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, struck in a targeted hit-and-run in Quebec, and the shooting of Corporal Nathan Cirillo at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa, both within the past week. The music dates back to the Jacobite uprising of 1745 composed by a piper afraid he might not return, who was actually killed at Moy the following year. The haunting sound of the bagpipes express feelings words alone cannot convey. The Vicar, The Reverend David Price presiding followed the Lament with the names of the Peace Officers who lost their lives this past year across Canada and a two-minute silence.
After a solemn start, the Service continued in a more joyous mode as we were led in worship by T.H.E. Group (standing for “To Heaven Eventually”). Thirteen singers and a guitarist come together representing Anglican churches from Abbotsford to Agassiz, along with a parishioner of St. Mary’s RC, Chilliwack.
As Communion came to an end the reverently repetitive song “Alleluia” rose to a crescendo with sounds of praise. The Sermon, preached by Father Price focused on the Restorative love of Jesus for all people reminding us that as Canadians, we are to stand beside one another regardless of our Religious and Spiritual choices. The Collect, Prayer after Communion, Blessing and Dismissal chosen not only spoke of courage, justice, compassion and freedom, they also reflected two of the five Marks of Mission so important to the Anglican Church today; “To respond to human need by loving service” and “To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind, and to pursue peace and reconciliation”.
The Harrison Highlanders Pipe Band piped the officers and guests into the hall and entertained us after the lunch. Several Highlanders are also Correction officers, as is Kevin Phenix who for the sixth year provided us with succulent meat barbecued overnight. Thank you to Anne Burden and the Ladies Group for hosting and all those who provided delicious food – like the parable of the Loaves and the Fishes there was ample to feed everyone present.
The Reverend Mike Watkins prayed a blessing before lunch. Wandering amongst our guests I had a chance to speak with a few as we waited for a variety of appetizing dishes. On Oct. 23, Harrison Hot Springs councillor Zoltan Kiss thought of Hungary marking the 58th anniversary of the Revolution of 1956 and in the light of the past week noted that it is ironic, we are still fighting for the same basic principles today. “We can’t stop ‘fighting’…. as Winston Churchill said we’ll never give up”. Agassiz resident Quinn Hooper, a relative of Leroy Burden, attended with his family. Quinn, now with the Vancouver Police Dept. and one-time officer of the Metropolitan Police, London, England, had a message for all Canadians: “Keep our head up and walk with pride.”
The Canadian Pacific Railroad Police were present again this year; their ‘local’ officers protect the area Vancouver Waterfront to Delta Roberts Bank to Boston Bar. In B.C. there are a total of five detachments. The CPR Police also cover across Canada and into the United States. Sgt. Clark Rutledge said their mandate is to keep the public safe and railway operations secure.
Commercial Vehicle Safety & Enforcement supervisor Cindy Hogg, along with her 11-year old daughter Megan, attended for the fourth consecutive year. She was accompanied by several members of her team. Every day they make the roads safer, one truck at a time!
Also present was Bruce Malfait from the Harrison Hot Springs Fire Department. Bruce advised the importance of checking our fire detectors twice a year, suggesting a great time to do so would be at the beginning and end of Daylight Saving Time.
After lunch Vicar David Price introduced the two Mayors who spoke briefly. Agassiz mayor John Van Laerhoven referred to all peace officers and first responders, saying “we appreciate you have our backs, we as Canadians have your backs as well…we are indebted for the service you give….you are appreciated.”
Harrison Hot Springs Mayor Leo Facio praised them also for watching out for us 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. He finished, “as Canadians we are going to stand strong!”
The Reverend David Price followed by inviting a spokesperson from each group to say a few words. An officer on behalf of the RCMP Agassiz & Upper Fraser Valley detachment thanked Leroy Burden for all his energy in putting together this event each year. A letter of appreciation from Prime Minister Stephen Harper for the commitment of all those special members in our communities was read in its entirety. The event closed with a selection of popular piping tunes performed by the Harrison Highlanders.
As far as we know All Saints, Agassiz is among the few churches in Canada acknowledging the tremendous service and contribution the officers and first responders are providing in our communities. It needs to be said. Thank you to all those who keep us safe!