British Columbia

Salmon Arm congregation gathers for services after traumatic shootings

The community in Salmon Arm continues to grieve after a man with a rifle opened fire at a close-knit, non-denominational Christian church on April 14 around 10:30 a.m. PT, killing 78-year-old Gordon Parmenter and injuring Paul Derkach.

'People really are nervous about having their back to the door,' says church elder

The Church of Christ will be undergoing renovations and repairs for the next six to eight weeks because of the shootings that happened on April 14. In the meantime, the congregation is gathering for services at the Salmar Classic Theatre. (Murray Mitchell/Canadian Press)

The community in Salmon Arm continues to grieve after a man with a rifle opened fire at a close-knit, non-denominational Christian church on April 14 around 10:30 a.m. PT, killing 78-year-old Gordon Parmenter and injuring Paul Derkach.

Witnesses said the man came into the church and took aim at two parishioners.

Parmenter died at the scene. He was an elder at the close-knit church, made up of about 50 members, volunteering his time to help others in the Shuswap community.  Derkach was shot in the leg and taken to hospital in stable condition.

Last week, Matrix Savage Gathergood, 25, was charged with first-degree murder, aggravated assault and disguise with intent to commit an indictable offence in connection with the shooting. On Tuesday, the accused had his case adjourned for two weeks, with his next court date set for May 7. 

In the wake of this traumatic event, the congregation at the Church of Christ has continued to gather and lean on each other for support.

However, the healing process hasn't been easy, said church elder Doug Kendig.

"People are just working through a lot of strong feelings. For example, several different people have mentioned that when they're in a room or an event and their back is to the doorway, they get a very nervous feeling because of what happened," said Kendig.

"People are just slowly recovering. We have a very close knit group. We've been together in people's homes several times and people are very supportive and caring for each other."

Kendig was in Calgary when the shooting happened, but his wife and grandchildren were there.

"I think our family is doing as well as could be expected," he told Daybreak South's Brady Strachan.

Easter Sunday 

On Sunday, members from the Church of Christ in Lumby, Vernon and Kelowna traveled to Salmon Arm to join the local congregation for an Easter service at the Salmar Classic Theatre. 

"It was truly a time when we felt very well cared for and supported both by fellow members of the Church of Christ and those in the community too," said Kendig.

Gordon Parmenter and his wife Peggy in a 2015 photo in front of the family tree.

The community will gather again on Saturday for a celebration of life for Parmenter.

Church repairs

The congregation will continue holding services at the Salmar Classic Theatre for the next six to eight weeks as their church undergoes repairs and renovations due to the shootings.

The chairs and floor were damaged, and the baptistry and screen had pellets in them, said Kendig.

"The other thing is, we're looking at reconfiguring the building because people really are nervous about having their back to the door," he added.

Trauma recovery

Church members have gathered at each other's homes to talk and be there for one another, said Kendig. 

Dr. Manuela Joannou, an emergency physician and the medical director of Project Trauma Support in Perth, Ontario, said after a traumatic event occurs, it's important for people to gather with those they trust.

"Especially when trauma hits a congregation or a community of people such as church members, then they really need to share the burden. They really need to come together and heal together and really carry each other forward," said Joannou.

She thinks it's great that the community has been meeting and trying to find ways to make the church feel safer. One idea she had instead of reconfiguring the church, is to have someone monitor the door, possibly someone in law enforcement, so that members feel safe.

"It's important to understand that these things can happen, that people should take reasonable precautions to protect themselves in the way that they see fit," she said.

"The big challenge is going to be to keep everything in perspective and not let it rock your entire perception of the world and how safe or unsafe it is."

The Salmon Arm Church of Christ held its first Sunday service over the weekend, a week after a deadly shooting at the Shuswap church. 6:03

With files from Daybreak South

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