It was a pretty typical Saturday in March in Manitoba when I loaded my family into the car to make the 125 km trip from our home in Winnipeg to Lundar, Man., where I am currently serving as interim regional pastor to participate in the opening ceremonies and blessing of the new community arena.
Lundar is a community nestled against the shores of Lake Manitoba, and the town was bustling with excitement as they celebrated the grand opening of a new arena that has been years in the making.
Anyone who watches Hockey Night in Canada and the annual Kraft Hockeyville will know how central the local arena is to small and rural communities. They are gathering places for the community. Children grow up in these places, friendships are made, generations of young and old come together to support, encourage and cheer one another on.
As people of faith, we know the importance of community, the value of knowing others and being known. We have experienced what it means to be connected to one another, to family and friends, to friendswho become family. Week after week we practice coming together as community in worship, prayer, and song, to hear the Word and receive the sacraments, and are sent out into the world to share God’s grace in our world.
But sometimes we have a hard time knowing how to share our faith in the world; of making the connections to people and places outside our sanctuaries or potluck lunches.
When I was asked by a member of Lundar Lutheran to participate in the opening ceremonies by offering a blessing, it seemed like a natural way for the church to connect to the wider community. For the church to have a visible presence alongside local politicians and RCMP, members of the Legion, local dignitaries, and those who were central to getting the new arena built. And it was.
My family joined a group of members from the church for an Alumni Jets game before the official opening. Then we gathered and processed onto the ice, and two youth from Lundar Lutheran led us in singing O Canada. People spoke about the long labour of love the arena was, and to the spirit of community that brought people together to build a place to gather not just the community of Lundar together, but communities from around the province. And a God’s blessing was proclaimed on the arena, and those who laboured to see it built, and those who will use it for years to come.
After it was all over, the confirmation class met rinkside to talk about faith, what itmeans to be a baptized child of God, and to watch the Lundar Figure Skating Clubsolos.
Gracious God, you blessed your people through all generations and guided them in life and death: 100 years ago, two families introduced the sport of hockey to this community. Over the years, this community has gathered around rinks and ponds, the Memorial Arena in 1953 and now, the Lundar Arena. You have brought people together through sport and recreation, friendships have been formed, big wins celebrated and losses and adversities overcome together. We give you thanks, O God, for the hands who have laboured to bring this place into reality as we set apart and dedicate this arena to your glory and praise. We give you thanks for the gift of sport and recreation, and for gathering places where we can practice and play, watch and cheer one another on, and grow in community together.
—Rev. Courtenay Reedman Parker