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Published March 2021
By An Interview with Tony Kulpa

Peter Andersen (left) and his family have been members of St. Aidan’s Anglican Church for the last ten years. In 2015, he started keeping bees at the church’s pollinator garden and they’ve been selling the honey ever since. In 2020, Peter and St. Aidan’s donated the proceeds from the honey, $7577, to LUSO’s cross-cultural community resource centre. I had the opportunity to sit down with Peter and talk to him about his bees, his passions, and about LUSO.

What can you tell us about the pollination gardens program?
The pollinator gardens were started by the Julia Hunter Foundation. Murray Hunter is involved with the Anglican Church here in London. He started the Julia Hunter Foundation in memory of his daughter, and part of that turned into these pollinator gardens. He’s really been promoting them and they’ve gotten into a lot of churches and schools.

Murray comes and installs the garden. The foundation provides the money for all the plants and they have recommendations for plantings. Murray then works with volunteers from the church to dig the garden and plant and maintain everything.

How did the beekeeping get started?
Those pollinator gardens must have lit a little flame for me. Me and a friend of mine, Chris Harle, felt that we needed to be keeping bees in the garden. We took some beekeeping courses through the University of Guelph, and we got our first nucleus hive in 2015, which we put with some friends out in the country to see how it went. When it was successful, we moved it to St. Aidan’s. The church property backs onto the Sifton Bog, so there’s lots of space.

You see, there’s a long-standing tradition of Anglicans and bees, going back to the abbeys. For me there’s a romanticism to it that I really enjoy. The bees we keep are a strain called the Buckfast bee, developed in Buckfast Abbey in 1919 by a German monk named Brother Adam. The abbey is right next to Dartmoor National Park in South-West England, so he was able to isolate a bee strain, which is really hard to do, especially when bees are meeting other bees all the time. We like that historic link a lot. Buckfast bees are very gentle, good honey producers, and pretty cold resistant. There is also a queen-rearing program here in Ontario, supported by Munro’s Honey down in Alvinston.

How did you process and sell the honey?
We process all the honey by hand. We cut the caps off and spin them in a hand-spinner. We do it all at the church. It’s very simple, but very hard work.

It has been very expensive to maintain our six hives, so this is actually the first year we’ve been profitable. It costs a lot to replace queens, lost hives, and woodwork. The people at St. Aidan’s buy all of our honey each year. The first year we only had maybe 50 small jars of honey, and this last year we sold 240 half-litre jars, almost all to the congregation. We sell them at Thanksgiving, with all the celebration of harvest, and people take home jars to put on their tables. All of our sales are out of the church, because we do farm-gate sales.

This time around, maybe a quarter of our sales came out of the public. People just came up and wanted to buy our honey, which is the first time that’s happened. That’s great, because we’re so small that we don’t know what will happen with our hives from year to year. We could be barren by next year, or we could have 200 litres of honey to sell.

The idea has always been to grow this into something viable and sustainable, and we’ve always been clear that the proceeds would always be used for outreach. That’s a big thing to us. Sometimes the church gets too mired in taking care of its own little world, but I don’t feel that’s actually what we’ve been called to do. We’ve somehow ended up there anyway. And I get it. Some of our closest relationships are there and our celebrations centre around the church, but we have to guard against becoming insular. The Anglican Church has been working hard, making changes, to become more outward focused, and I really approve of that. This was always intended to be outreach.

Can you share what LUSO’s community resource centre was doing that so inspired you?

LUSO does work in North-East London, the Kipps Lane, Boulee, and Adelaide areas. It is an area with a high concentration of needs, and they work directly in that community. They also work with newcomers. We’ve worked with Syrian families here several years ago, settling new families here in London. Most recently we’ve worked settling Yazidi families from Iraq in those areas. Working with these families has made it more personal. That’s really just a piece of what LUSO does.

They also continued to provide the school lunch programs even after schools shut down because of COVID. I found that thoroughly impressive. LUSO is a small, local, boots-on-the-ground, community-based charity, and everything goes outward. And I had connections to Leroy Hibbert through other areas of life that I didn’t even know about until this. Golden threads really do connect us.

Do you have anything else you want to share or any advice for people who want to do something to make a difference?
If you’re able to, you should give. That’s what I say.

If you’re interested in the Churchyard Bees, or want to buy some of their honey next fall, follow them on Twitter or Facebook.


Twitter: @ChurchyardBees

Click HERE for more information on LUSO Community Services.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

About Interviewer, Tony Kupla, Christian Life in London Contributing Editor.

Tony is the second oldest child in a family of 11, and, in his words, “I absolutely adored being the big brother and the “responsible one” in the family. As a result I’ve had a lifelong love of children and of leadership.” Tony has always felt that service lies at the heart of the true Christian experience. Even as a youngster, he was deeply sensitive to others’ needs and hurts, and felt drawn to help. He also has always had a passion for Biblical teaching. More than anything else, he is delighted and excited by exploration and exposition of the universal truths found in Scripture, and the application of those truths in practical ways to problems both global and day-to-day.

It was no surprise that he wound up teaching for most of his career. The first school he taught at was Quisqueya Christian School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. In addition to the Caribbean, Tony has taught in South America and East Asia, as well as in Canada. Mostly Tony’s teaching has been at Christian schools, though he also had the notable opportunity to teach at an Islamic school for a few years.

In 2015, Tony completed a Master of Biblical Studies from Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary in Cochrane, Alberta. He actually started the degree in person and finished it while living and teaching in Asuncion, Paraguay. His specialization was in Biblical languages, especially Greek.

Since 2016, Tony has been a London resident.

“I am excited by what God and the Church is doing here. I have learned so much about the community and the everyday heroes that the Lord is using for great things through the Christian Life in London publication