ARNOLD’S COVE, NL — Not long after being newly appointed as the reverend at St. Michaels Anglican Church in Arnold’s Cove about four years ago, Reverend Fred Marshall noticed something about his congregation.
“One Sunday morning I was at the altar and I was looking down upon the congregation, and I thought to myself, ‘where’s all the men?’ Marshall told the Packet.
There were a few men in attendance, he noted, but the congregation was mostly women.
This was a concern for Marshall.
“If the men don’t come to church, how can I go to the men?” he asked himself. “Then I thought to myself, ‘what do men do?’”
The answer came to Marshall pretty quickly.
“Men enjoy the shed.”
There’s a shed behind the rectory, so Marshall set up a woodstove and began to host a weekly fellowship time for men in the shed.
The meetings, which have been dubbed “In the Shed with Rev. Fred,” proved to be a success as about a dozen men would gather for a Bible study and time of fellowship
Last year, Marshall wanted to add a little something to the “shed time.”
Realizing a lot of men enjoy working with their hands, Marshall incorporated some woodworking into the meetings, building small wooden figurines to donate to other churches to use in their Sunday School programs.
“We did hundreds of those,” says Marshall.
Just a little over a year ago, Marshall was invited by fellow clergy member David Burrows to a boat-building conference hosted by the Marine Institute.
“That sparked something in my head about boat building,” said Marshall.
“So, I thought, well, why don’t we do that in the shed?”
He held a community meeting attended by some of the speakers from the conference to gauge the community’s interest in the project.
“There was definitely an interest— we decided we would build a 14-foot-long rodney. That was our goal, our dream,” says Marshall.
The parish agreed to purchase the necessary materials for the boat, and the plan was a go.
There was one obstacle from the get go.
The rectory shed only measured 15 feet, just barely enough room to fit the boat, and certainly not enough to accommodate any people comfortably.
Fortunately, Marshall found an answer in Lloyd Wareham, a parishioner and experienced boat builder himself.
“Lloyd Wareham offered his shed. He has a big shed, and all the tools, so it only makes sense to go there,” explained Marshall.
The group of men meet every Thursday at Wareham’s shed. Some are eager to put their hands to the work, while others enjoy having a chat over a cup of tea and watching the progress.
Marshall says there’s usually about 25 men each Thursday— some older, some younger, and even some boys as young as eight and nine.
Marshall says it’s a time to grow together as a community, and that they don’t talk “church stuff.”
“It’s to bring the community together… It’s about fellowship and building a community — which is what the church is about.”
Marshall says the goal is to have the rodney constructed by the end of April, when it will be paraded to the water and launched into the harbour
From there, the men have agreed the boat will be donated to Arnold’s Cove’s volunteer fire department, which is currently fundraising for a new emergency vehicle to respond to non-fire related incidents or emergencies without having to use the fire truck.
The department will sell tickets on the boat, with some of the proceeds going back to the church as reimbursement for money spent on materials – money Marshall says will go towards a new project next year, while the remainder will go towards the fire department’s new vehicle.