Lutherans triumph in Survivor, church-style

Published April 1, 2004

New Denmark, N.B.

“LUTHERANS RULE” read the giant blue letters painted on the snowbank in front of St. Peter’s Lutheran church and Pastor Kimber’s house. That is the snowbank on the side of the Main New Denmark Road at the top of what passes for a mountain in northern New Brunswick, the one that faces St. Ansgar’s Anglican church and Pastor Julie’s house.

The message was presumptuous, to say the least, and surely not prophetic; the weekend Survivor challenge had barely begun and the Anglicans looked like a shoo-in.

Pastor Julie’s tent had all the comforts of home – including a giant double air mattress with puffy comforter, mini-stereo, down-filled slippers, a book case and reading lamp – not to mention one of the comforts of a Tibetan monastery, a Lhasa apso named Ellie, descended from a long-line of dogs bred and trained to sleep on monks’ feet.

Pastor Kimber’s hovel was a blue tarpaulin draped over a dug-out mound of snow, just big enough to accommodate her sleeping bag.

These shelters, a shared campfire and the offerings of their respective congregations (200 Lutherans and 60 Anglicans), were all that stood between Rev. Julie Armstrong and Rev. Kimber McNabb and the elements for an entire February weekend.

Tired of planning funerals – it was a tough winter in New Denmark: not enough snow, too much cold, too much flu and too many frail seniors – the women decided to plan something fun. A mid-winter break. A Survivor challenge. Just like on TV, maybe. (Neither has seen the reality television program.)

Pastor Kimber suggested a winter camp-out. Her first. Pastor Julie, winter camper extraordinaire, jumped at the chance. Their spiritual flocks, including Pastor Julie’s flesh-and-blood flock of Shetland sheep, would compete in snowshoe, human dog-sled and sheep races, snow-sculpture competitions, Bible spelling-bees and other events. Each win was worth a point, with five bonus points for the team that raised the most money.

As it turns out, Lutherans do rule, by one point. They swept most of the events, but the Anglicans raised the most cash.

“Christians can have fun,” said Pastor Kimber. “I’m a Christian even in my flannel pyjamas. People know that now.”

“We really needed the money,” said Pastor Julie. “I tried to talk Kimber into calling it a tie. One of the Lutherans broke a snowshoe and finished the race at a walk. We would have won under Olympic rules.”

“Would not.”

“Would so.”


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