FITZROY HARBOUR – It was an event to brighten the village and spirits during the festive season. It was one that was mindful of COVID-19, yet still had to adjust at last minute in the rapidly changing environment that is the age of COVID-19.

Saturday (Nov. 28) evening a small group of around 20, led by Rev. Dr. Christine Johnson and Father John Orban, recited a few prayers, sang a few carols and turned the Christmas lights on at three Fitzroy Harbour churches.

“We’ll sing a carol at a church, turn the lights on and then go to the next church,” Johnson told West Carleton Online a few days before the event. “We’re hoping it’s going to look beautiful and we have some fun.”

Bethel-St. Andrew's music director Rick Leben leads a carol.
Bethel-St. Andrew’s music director Rick Leben leads a carol. Photo by Jake Davies

Its been a long time since Bethel-St. Andrew’s United Church has put Christmas lights up. Since before Johnson’s time and long-time parishioner Walter Veenstra can’t remember how long it’s been.

“It’s the first time they’ve been lit in a long, long time,” he said.

“We hope the community will get involved and light up their own homes,” Johnson said. “Which they usually do.”

Last year, Bethel-St. Andrew’s hosted a luncheon, indoors, with lots of people sitting together. That seems like an eternity ago.

This year, the church lighting was a smaller, more somber event. Held outdoors and limited to around 25 people in accordance with Ottawa Public Health regulations. Coun. Eli El-Chantiry and his wife Maha and MP Karen McCrimmon and her husband Rob were also on hand.

“Even though our churches have been closed for the most part, we wanted to say we are here, our lights are still shining,” Johnson said. “We can’t do much in these times, but maybe we can go for a walk or a drive and enjoy the lights.”

At each of the three churches including St. George’s Anglican Church and St. Michael’s Catholic Church, the group sang a carol or two including Away in a Manger, Silent Night, Hark the Herald Angel Sings and Joy to the World.

“This was a great idea,” Orban said when the group arrived at the last church. “We’ll keep the lights on through Advent and Christmas and if there is a lockdown, through that too.”

Rev. Dr. Christine Johnson recites a prayer in front of Bethel-St. Andrew's church.
Rev. Dr. Christine Johnson recites a prayer in front of St. Michael’s church. Photo by Jake Davies