Sharm Powell

To me, St. Olave’s means family, faith, tradition, and hope. These are the cornerstones of my life, and at St. Olave’s, each is nourished and continues to grow. What more could I ask for?

Our family immigrated to Canada in 1970. My parents, Sam and Jessie Powell, left everything they had known behind in Bangalore, India, and moved 13,000 km away to give their children (my brother Sanjiv and I) a life of opportunity in the Western world.

Family always was, and continues to be, extremely important to me. You see, I had a big extended family in India, and such fond memories of large birthday parties, beach outings, picnics and even wildlife safaris. All that changed when we moved to Canada and were ‘just’ a family of four, in a new world.  

One of the first things our parents did in our new homeland was find an Anglican church, where we could continue our spiritual growth as Christians. This was first the Church of the Epiphany, and after it closed, we started worshipping at St. Olave’s.

We had lived just down Windermere Avenue from St. Olave’s since 1972, and I attended Brownies and then Girl Guides with my neighbourhood friends. To me, even at a young age, St. Olave’s felt like home – warm, welcoming, and comfortable. In 1983 it would become our family church and a place where many happy memories were created, and where some of life’s most important milestones took place.

My parents met some of their best friends at St. Olave’s, many of them also neighbours in Swansea. There are too many to name, but I would be remiss not to mention my mother’s best friend and partner-in-crime, Bette Birmingham. Together they were part of the ‘lunch bunch’, a group of St. Olave’s women who faithfully met for lunch after service each Sunday. My mother also met her good friend and ‘twin’ at St. Olave’s – Heather Cosgrave. Heather and Jessie realized, upon meeting, that they were born less than 30 days apart in the same hospital, 13,000 km away, in Madras, India! How is that for a small world?

Both my parents were active at St. Olave’s, in their own special way. My mother, Jessie, joined the Mary Martha Group, the ACW, taught Sunday School, started the annual children’s nativity play (a tradition she brought from India), and helped organize the St. Olave’s Mini Caravan celebration of multiculturalism. My father Sam was a sidesperson, greeting parishioners, collecting the givings and always offering drives home to anyone who needed. He also faithfully supported my mother in all her church endeavours. One special keepsake I have is a St. Olave’s write-up about my parents, which referred to my mother as the “Pageant Lady” and my father as her “Silent Soldier”. Our family of four always felt like we were a part of a much bigger, extended family when we were at St. Olave’s.

Both my brother and I got married at St. Olave’s (by Reverend David Burrows) and eventually brought our own families here. I found my way back to more regular worship after having a child of my own, knowing the importance of having a strong sense of faith.

Kevin, my husband, and our 11-year old daughter Liesl now consider St. Olave’s “our church” and its congregants, “our family”.  We feel truly fortunate to have a wonderful clergy led by Reverend Rob and our Curate, Reverend Alexandra. Our family enjoy all the gatherings at the church, such as the pancake lunch (thank you Jim Shapland), the South Sudanese joint service and lunch celebration (the dancing that often follows is a particular favourite of Liesl’s), the summer BBQ (if we’re really lucky, accompanied with live entertainment from Craig Douglas), the summer lawn sale, the Famous People Players outing, the annual Christmas Craft Show and Bake Sale and of course, the weekly coffee hours in the Ethel Brown Room. More recently, our family really enjoyed hosting a table at the inaugural Christmas Outreach Meal and hosting the occasional Zoom Coffee hour where we can catch up with our fellow parishioners, even during the pandemic.

Liesl was baptized at St. Olave’s, attends Sunday School here, and is looking forward to being confirmed one day. Liesl also enjoys being a Greeter, selling Christmas ornaments with her “Oma Bette”, and participating when possible in the weekly Youth Group meetings with Carol Ambler. Liesl also proudly takes part in the annual Christmas Nativity Play (now helmed by Janice Douglas and Martha Riddell), something that is so special to her.

My involvement with the Stewardship Committee over the past three years, and more recent role as Deputy People’s Warden, have given me both great satisfaction and a deeper appreciation of what St. Olave’s provides parishioners, the broader community of Swansea and those beyond.

I hope this has given you a small sense of why St. Olave’s is so special to me. It is an extension of my family, it embodies and nurtures my faith, it is an important tie to my past, and it offers hope for the future. As I see our daughter grow up in this special place, I know it will give her much of what she needs to continue her journey through life, just as it did, and continues to do, for me.