Paul Derkach was asked to provide answers to a big question Saturday.
How are he and the Salmon Arm Church of Christ doing four months after the horrific shooting that jolted the church and community?
Members of the local church’s sister congregation in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho came to Salmon Arm on Aug. 24 to put on a picnic at Blackburn Park for the community. They staffed the picnic so local church members could visit with community members.
The purpose was to thank the community for its support following the tragic shooting, and to “feel normal again as a grateful church,” as Idaho minister Michael Lewis put it.
Derkach, who was shot in the leg during the incident that killed church leader Gordon Parmenter, said he and the congregation are actually still in process.
“This is not something that happened and now everything’s changed and we’re carrying on… This is something that is a long process for us, both collectively as a church and individually, because a lot of different things have happened to each of us.”
He said one word church members have repeated in reference to the shooting is awareness.
“First of all, the amount of media attention that happened because of the shooting made a lot of people aware of us, not just here in Salmon Arm, but all around the world, because we received letters and messages from people all over the place.”
He said church members are also more aware of their connection with the community.
“This wasn’t just an incident that happened to that little church over there in the corner of the fairground. This affected everybody here in Salmon Arm.”
He said the congregation is also growing in appreciation for all the community support it has received, from the churches in town, the medical people who were involved, the RCMP who are still working with them, Victim Services, neighbours and friends.
“It’s been wonderfully overwhelming.”
And commitment. Church members are more serious about their faith and serious about the fact they’re mortal – “we’re not here forever.”
Attendance at the church has grown. And people are stepping up and taking leadership, after the huge loss of leader Gord Parmenter, who Derkach admired.
He said there has been great personal loss from the death, especially for Peggy Parmenter, Gord’s spouse.
“She lost her home and her husband.”
Derkach, who currently walks with crutches, said he’s experienced loss, “a change of life for me at this point.”
Everyone has been affected and is working through emotional trauma, he says.
“The help we’re getting is great, but that’s still a process and it’s going to take some time.”
Mayor Alan Harrison also spoke to Peggy, offering condolences to her and admiration for her husband.
“He was someone that was helping, always giving, putting himself second. That’s a lesson for us all.”
Harrison also spoke of the loss for the whole community.
He said he was contacted by media from all over Canada.
“I was so proud to be mayor of our city and to be able to say the residents of Salmon Arm, the congregation and the church are supporting each other. They’re really standing beside each other to try to help.”
He also noted that helping each other in the short term is important, but also in the long haul.
“This is a forever thing. It doesn’t just go away. I’ve experienced it in my schools as a school principal. When there’s a loss, as time goes along the support needs to be stronger, and I can feel it here.”