How do you recover from such an unimaginable, horrible experience?
The Salmon Arm Church of Christ congregation thought long and hard on that question in the aftermath of the shooting inside their church this past April.
“We decided the answer for us had to be found in focusing on others instead of ourselves,” said Doug Kendig, a long-time elder of the church.
“The Salmon Arm community has been remarkable in showing us their support,” he continued. “It’s been hard. Gordon Parmenter, killed in the attack, was one of our strongest leaders, and his loss has created a big hole in our congregation. But this community has been there for us in so many ways, and we want—well actually, we need—to express our thanks for being such good neighbours to us when we needed them the most.”
To show its appreciation, the church is hosting a community picnic on Aug. 24, 6 to 7:30 p.m. in Blackburn Park, across the street from the church building. The picnic is free and all members of the community are welcome.
Mayor Alan Harrison will make some brief comments on behalf of the community at the picnic, and Paul Derkach, wounded in the shooting, will give an update on how he and the congregation are doing.
“But primarily the picnic is just about neighbours coming together and getting to know each other better,” Kendig said. “Hundreds of people have asked how they can help over the past weeks, and at times it’s been hard to know what to say. But here’s what our neighbours can do: come share free hot dogs with us, enjoy a fun evening together, and just let us show you our appreciation for your support. That would mean a lot to us.”
Michael Lewis, senior minister for the Salmon Arm church’s sister congregation in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho is bringing a group to help organize the picnic so church members may visit with those who attend.
“I love the community of Salmon Arm and have visited many times always to find friendly, welcoming people. The Salmon Arm church has been blessed by the community’s support in the aftermath of the shooting,” Lewis said. “The first thing the congregation wanted to do was say thanks to the community and this picnic is one effort to just feel normal again as a grateful church.”
He said he hopes community members will allow themselves to be thanked by coming to the picnic.
“It will be good for everyone.”
There will be free hot dogs, bouncy houses for the kids, free door prizes, a special gospel singing quartet and several other activities.
“Anyone and everyone are very welcome to attend,” Lewis said. “Even if they just stop by for a few minutes, they will be most appreciated.”