Looking back on his ministerial career, and in particular, looking back at his 18 years as pastor of the Pentecostal Tabernacle in Morrisburg, Rev. Duncan Perry says he cherishes his time here, both in the church and in the community as a whole.
On Sunday, December 30, Rev. Perry delivered his final sermon to his Morrisburg congregation.
He says his decision to retire just weeks after his 65th birthday, in November 2011, was difficult. His wife Sandra, had retired from her career with the Federal government early last fall and so, “we had mixed emotions. It was nuts for awhile, but we made the decision, it was time to go.”
Rev. Perry’s journey to Morrisburg started in a small village in Newfoundland, where he grew up with eight brothers and sisters. “It was a little town with about 300 people. We were raised to work. You didn’t sit around home and not work. We didn’t have running water or electricity.”
When the young Duncan Perry was just 17, he left home in search of work. “There was nothing where I lived. I remember my father going to the bank and borrowing $120 for me. That got me a ticket for the plane and some money for room and board.”
He still remembers the experience of flying into Toronto and marvelling at all the lights. A bit overwhelming for a teenager from Newfoundland.
“I worked in factories in Toronto for a number of years, and I met Sandra in a church on St. Clair Avenue in 1965. We were married in 1966.”
It was in 1987, that Duncan, age 40, with Sandra’s blessing, decided “I was going to go to Bible School.”
Although he says he knew from the age of 14 that his calling was in the ministry, it was something he put off. “I was very shy, and I didn’t want any part of it.”
Bible School was three years at the Eastern Pentecostal Bible College in Peterborough, now Master’s Pentecostal Seminary.
Rev. Perry was 4.5 years in his first church in Beachburg, Ontario, when he began to look around for a new location, only to discover there was nothing available.
But God had a plan.
It began on a trip to visit relatives who were pastoring in Long Sault. “When we reached Highway 2, for some reason we went straight through,” says Rev. Perry. On their foray through Morrisburg they passed the Tabernacle, and Sandra, jokingly remarked “there’s your next church.”
A few days later, Morrisburg Pentecostal Pastor Terry Pitt, announced his intention to retire, and the rest is history.
“We have felt that this is the place ever since,” says Rev. Perry with Sandra adding “We’ve never felt a desire to move.”
Looking back at 18 years in Morrisburg, Rev. Perry lists a number of accomplishments at the church for which both he and Sandra and the congregation are very proud.
In a physical sense, the biggest accomplishment was a 2,400 square foot expansion to the church, which made it wheel chair accessible and added washrooms. “We were there working from daylight to dark,” says Rev. Perry of the year-long project that began in 2002. “Most of it was done with volunteers.”
Rev. Perry also speaks proudly of the Helping Hands clothing depot established by his church and housed at the former Morrisburg High School. “It is too bad it couldn’t have kept going. That was an extremely successful ministry of our church.” Through the Helping Hands, the church connected with the Dundas County Food Bank. Although there were no charges for clothing, Helping Hand clients often left donations most of which went to the Food Bank.
Rev. Perry says a monthly dinner at the church which reaches out to people who don’t regularly attend a church has also been a high point. “We had 80 people out just before Christmas and a lot were kids. That is something else I am very proud of.”
It was Rev. Perry who, in March 1999, began the Perspectives Column that appears weekly in The Leader. “When it first started it was titled From a Biblical Perspective and Rev. Perry wrote it weekly, until he traded his pen for a hammer at the time of the church expansion.
At the encouragement from readers, the column returned as the current Perspectives with a number of the local clergy, along with Rev. Perry, contributing on a rotating schedule.
Rev. Perry highlights his visits to The Hartford where he thoroughly enjoys the singing of “the old hymns” and the beautiful voices of the Hartford seniors, and the church’s involvement in preparing the annual Christmas dinners for the students and staff of Morrisburg Public School.
In October, 2011, Rev. Perry and Sandra, shared a life-changing experience when they travelled with a group to the Village of Hope, a project that provides care for orphaned and impoverished children in Zimbabwe, Africa. There their hearts were deeply touched by the children, the hardships they face and their unwavering belief in God.
As Rev. Perry reflects on his years with the church and his congregation, here in Morrisburg, he says, “they are an awesome congregation. They loved us from the start. They put up with my foolishness and my mistakes, and they have forgiven me when I shouldn’t have been forgiven. Whoever comes in here will be blessed.”
“Besides my congregation, we found ourselves ministering to the community. It’s a fantastic community. People care a lot about each other.”
“We had come to the place of saying ‘our’ church, our congregation,” says Sandra of her husband’s retirement.
“It does in your mind become your church, and all of a sudden you aren’t pastor anymore.”
Through all of his years in the Pentecostal Ministry, Rev. Perry says Sandra has been with him every step of the way. “Sandra has preached for me. She has been a tremendous support. I couldn’t have done this without Sandra, no way.”
Now after just a few weeks, the Perrys haven’t had time to settle quietly into retirement. They are currently preparing their Morrisburg home for sale to complete their plan to live winter months in Florida and the remainder, back home in South Dundas.
Back home plans include lots of time spent with their four grandchildren in South Dundas and two in Burlington.
Although he has retired from full-time pastoring, Rev. Perry says he hopes to have the opportunity, from time to time, to minister where needed.