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Margaret Kelly, one of the true matriarchs of the Parish of St. Alban the Martyr, Burnaby died on February 25. In November of 2018, Margaret was invested into the Order of the Diocese of New Westminster. In addition to her service listed in the Citation, Margaret, ran the St. Alban's Daycare for decades and continued to volunteer there until shortly before her death.  

Here is the Citation:

Margaret has been part of St Alban’s for over 40 years and has served in almost every capacity possible. She’s been a Warden and member of Parish Council many times. She’s taught Sunday School, been a member of the ACW, Choir and Altar Guild. She’s a Lay Assistant, Reader, Intercessor, and Prayer Companion. She’s led Bible study groups and Alpha. She was the Chair of the 100th Anniversary Celebration Committee and has organized many parish events. This names just some of her ministry.

On March 5, 2021, Vancouver General Hospital Chaplain and Honorary Assistant at St. Alban’s, the Reverend Bryan Rivers wrote the following memorial piece about Margaret for Parish Communications.

By now the news has sunk in that our lovely Margaret Kelly has gone to be with the Lord.  When we can finally meet on Sundays, in some post-COVID world, her lovely smile and lilting Irish accent will be sorely missed.  How do we collectively grieve when we are not able to fellowship together? For now, our treasured memories of Margaret must suffice to comfort and console us; and, because they are memories of Margaret, make us laugh.

I first met Margaret in 2012 and we compared notes about our first experiences of Canada as visitors.  She related how she and Jim were on holiday here, and went into a large department store, stood in the lobby, and put their hands up in the air waiting to be frisked by security guards. This was the standard protocol in Ireland during the “Troubles” when bombs and IRA attacks were common. They stood there for a while, as customers came in, walked around them, gave them funny looks and kept going. Eventually, feeling rather foolish, they put their hand down and went shopping in a temporarily (for them) un-“Troubled” world.

We all have “muscle memory”, where our bodies respond automatically to training, like ice skaters and gymnasts.  But our souls have a type of muscle memory too -- what you might call a reflex of the heart.  For Margaret, this meant not putting her spiritual arms up in the air, but spreading them wide in welcome.  Welcome to children, parents, new-comers, homeless persons, and yes, even new clergy.  The reflex of her soul was instinctual loving outreach to others.

I have mental snapshots of Margaret: outside with the day-care kids, in all types of weather; walking over to Harmony Court with the kids to visit the seniors; fixing scrapped knees; wiping away tears; soothing the restless child; reassuring parents; often with a little one holding her hand, or coat, just sheltering by her side; reading stories; serving food; bustling in the kitchen; and always with a smile.

Margaret could be very persuasive too - (ask Jim {her husband}). Somehow, the first year we were here, she persuaded me to be the Easter Bunny and distribute eggs to the Daycare kids. (I never could discover whether this was the highest honour, or just that no one else was foolish enough to agree). I also wondered what the Bishop might think of an ordained clergy playing the part of the Easter Bunny; all sorts of doctrinal issues there!  I finally embraced Paul’s dictum that we should be “all things to all men”, and resolved that this covered the situation.  Besides, who could resist the costume with the long floppy ears?  We had a blast, and the delight on the kid’s faces was priceless.  Let’s face it: there are worse alter egos than the Easter Bunny.

In Acts 9, we see a faith community grieving the loss of a very godly woman named Dorcas.  She is described as “always doing good and helping the poor”; when Peter arrives they are weeping, and they show him “the robes and other clothing that Dorcas made while she was still with them”.  

Dorcas is unique in the New Testament: she is the only woman who is ever described as a “disciple”; high praise indeed. Peter raised her from death, and “presented her to them alive”.  Oh how much we too would love to be able to do that for our loved ones who pass away.  But, as Christians, we look to our Lord Jesus to raise our loved ones who died in faith; not just for a few more years, but for eternity.

Like Dorcas, Margaret was a true disciple; a powerful blend of Martha and Mary. Not just busy in the kitchen, but also sitting at the feet of Jesus, absorbing His teachings. That was clear from her carefully crafted prayers of the people, her comments in Bible Studies, her participation on the prayer teams, and her love of the scriptures.

Margaret enriched our lives and our faith community. She also challenges us, by her example, to pick up the torch of love, hold it high, and carry on in faith and hope. Our hearts go out to Jim and the family, and with them we echo the words of our heavenly Father: “Well done, you good and faithful servant”. By now, there many saints in Heaven, but if there are kitchens or daycares there, that’s where you will probably find our sister. Unless, of course, she is standing at the gates, smiling, with her arms outstretched in welcome…

Photo by Wayne Chose