What could possibly be held in common by a former student, someone I worked with at a denominational formation event, the CBC television show Still Standing, and my vacation?
I don’t normally write about my holidays, but when all of these disparate things came together, I thought it would be worth a post.
One of our favourite TV shows is Still Standing, wherein comedian and actor Jonny Harris (of Murdoch Mysteries fame) visits small, struggling towns in Canada to get to know the people and the difficulties they face with industry closures and the like. It’s informative and funny, the two things I like best about television. I knew that this season, Jonny would be visiting Fort-Coulonge, Québec, because an online student of mine last winter, Jane Pitfield, told me that she was having to deal with preparations for his visit to her little town not far from Pembroke, Ontario. So I really enjoyed watching that particular episode, aired earlier this summer, because someone I knew would be in it.
My wife and I decided that it would be interesting to see what Jane was doing in the little town where her great-great-grandfather was responsible for bringing the logging industry (and thus prosperity). So we arranged a visit as part of our holidays.
When we arrived, the hostess at the inn run by Jane (in the house built by her great-grandfather), we were told to go across the street to the Presbyterian church, where the student minister was waiting for us for a visit. That was where we met Dave McFarlane, whom I had gotten to know at our denomination’s guidance conference for students last summer. We caught up and chatted a bit, saw the historic building, and, not wanting to keep him from sermon preparation, we went back to the inn to await Jane’s return from a trip to Ottawa.
Claire, the delightful young hostess, kindly gave us a tour of the inn and the additional facilities that Jane had added on only in the past few years, including a bistro, contained in a barn that had been in her family which she had rebuilt on the site of the inn, and a reception hall (where the community show for Still Standing was taped). It was so interesting to see such rich history brought back to life in a modern context.
We waited in the bistro for Jane, and shared a tasty supper and conversation with her there. Knowing we had a campsite to get to before dark, Jane then took us to her home, which comprises an old log cabin that had been in her family many years ago, at the mouth of the Coulonge River, where it meets the Ottawa River – a site where many logs were moved for transport downstream.
We were amazed and astounded at the work Jane has undertaken to help to revitalize this small community where her ancestors had made such a difference. The inn, the bistro and the conference hall have the opportunity to bring much tourism to Fort-Coulonge, and that fact that she is directly related to someone who is a much-honoured founder of the community has meant she is not considered “from away”, and can have a real impact.
That impact has been shown not only in the revitalization of buildings and industry, but in the skill Jane brings to her community as a politician; she is a former Toronto City Councillor, so she knows how to “get things done” in a political sense. Though she does not hold the family name – Bryson – she is known as one of them. Her great-great-grandfather and her great-grandfather were both members of the Québec Legislative Council in the early days of Confederation, right through to the early part of the twentieth century. Some 70 years of continuous public service were rendered by those two men. In her own way, Jane now carries that tradition on.
It’s not often one gets a front-row seat to such efforts, and we were glad to see what God is doing through Jane – for as one with a spiritual gift of hospitality, she longs to use that gift to make a difference for the Lord among the people of her community.
“Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another” (1 Peter 4.9-10, NLT).
To learn more about Jane’s work, visit http://www.spruceholmeinn.com/