A winter scene through an Atlin window

There is a place where an eleven-year-old "mushes" her dog team into town to check her email. It is a place where gold miners once gathered and paddle wheelers brought thousands.

That place is Atlin, British Columbia. Just below the border where British Columbia borders Yukon Territory, Atlin, a town of about 400 people in the winter, is known as "little Switzerland" with its stunning mountain-scapes and crystal clear lake waters.

I had the privilege of visiting this hamlet with Archbishop Terry Buckle, his wife Blanche and assistant Rob Christie as part of a recent trip to Yukon. After consulting in my role as provincial archivist about some archives in Whitehorse, I caught a ride south to Atlin with the Archbishop in his truck.

Deacon Vera Kirkwood and Archivist Melanie Wallace. (Dorothy Odion photo)

Although Atlin is in British Columbia, and by canon in the Diocese of Caledonia, for the past 40 years or so it has been administered by Yukon diocese by agreement.

I had heard that the area was gorgeous, but what has seared itself in my heart even more deeply than the larger than life views is the depth of love, generosity and hospitality of the people who live, work, and serve the small community.

I had the honor of dining and worshiping with the parishioners of St. Martin's, Atlin, led by the Rev. Vera Kirkwood (Deacon).

Our service had 13 people in attendance, but I don't know that I have ever experienced a more "full" service. Tears sprung to my eyes in the first bars of the first hymn as the small church with its breathtaking stained glass window erupted in song.

The church runs a thrift store where local people can shop and stop in for tea on Tuesdays - adding to the income of the parish and allowing it to be self-sustaining. The rectory has been made available to become a facility to support seniors and the disabled, including clinics and meals on wheels programs.

Another parishioner is the local historian and keeps the town's historical legacy alive by taking newcomers and visitors through a historical walking tour. There is no member of the congregation not involved. There is no one taking a back seat.

Vera has taken on epic proportions in my mind and heart. Though I spent only 24 hours with her, she had an impact on me beyond measure with her quiet grace, beautiful smile and joyful sense of life and purpose.

Near Atlin, British Columbia (Melanie Wallace photo)

Before I left, she presented me with a "peace candle" to bring home to my local parish - a symbol of the spreading of peace and love throughout the world - one candle, one parish at a time.