Appreciation for the 'church lady'

Jim Day
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Alberta Buntain has a strong connection to St. Mark’s Anglican Church in South Rustico where she has gone for decades to both work and to worship.

Alberta Buntain recognized for her decades of caring attention to St. Mark’s Anglican Church in South Rustico

The church is both near and dear to Alberta Buntain.

Only one house separates St. Mark’s Anglican Church from the home in South Rustico where Buntain has spent all of her 77 years.

In 15 minutes or so, she can walk down her long driveway and a short piece more along Church Road (Rte. 243), through the cemetery, then unlock the church door and be inside the building.

She has made the trek countless times both to worship and to work.

She has been going to service at this church every Sunday all of her life. By 12, she was helping her father, Victor Buntain, with his caretaking duties at the beautiful, small Anglican church.

She would sweep and dust inside St. Mark’s while also helping out on the family’s mixed farm with chores over the years ranging from milking cows, picking potatoes and driving tractors.

Buntain also worked as a dishwasher for 20 years at New Glasgow Lobster Suppers. But it has been St. Mark’s Anglican Church that has held her in its grasp for a lifetime.

Buntain started cutting grass on the church property at 22.

For the next 40 years, she pushed a mower over the grounds, carefully manoeuvring around the gravestones, taking three to four hours to complete the task.

She has always kept an eye on the church and has given hundreds of tourists a peak inside over the years.

She has, for years, also read lessons during church services.

“My whole life was spent in the church here,’’ she says. “We like our church. We’re awful fond of our church. We look after it the best we can look after it.’’

Recently, Buntain received a Certificate of Appreciation for her “long-standing commitment to the life and work of the church and community’’ stretching over 65 years. The Right Rev. Sue Moxley, the Anglican bishop of Nova Scotia and P.E.I., signed the certificate.

Rev. Ralph Moore is the current rector of St. Mark’s Anglican Church under Buntain’s watch.

Moore says the church lady, as she is affectionately called by some, views this church as the most important part of her life.

“She’s just one of those type of people that clergy would always be pleased to have around,’’ he says.

“There is no task that would be too big for her to do or help out with.’’

Buntain, who never married, not only loves to care for the church, but also to share a little history on the special place.

The church, she notes, will turn 173 years old next March.

The building, she adds, went from gaslights to electric lights in 1947.

Also, says Buntain, the congregation has declined considerably over the years to about 15 today, down from 50 to 60 “long before’’ she was born.

And there has been eight different rectors of the church during her time as a very involved neighbour.

“Oh I helped them all the time — all I could,’’ she says.

Organizations: Anglican Church

Geographic location: South Rustico, Alberta, Nova Scotia

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