An Interview with Ruth Bugden by Bishop Geoff April 19, 2018
Ruth, tell me about yourself. What is your full name? Okay, my full name is Lillian Ruth Bugden and there’s a story there. Actually, I didn’t think about it until a discussion with Youth Alpha. I’m probably a miracle child. When I was being born the doctor felt that he couldn’t save both of us [my mother and me] ... He went to my father and my father said what can I do? I wasn’t supposed to be here. So anyway, I guess the clergy at the time, which was Reverend Arthur Tulk, he probably figured that mom probably needed a little more recognition. She just wanted to call me Ruth but when he did the baptism he called me Lillian Ruth … her name was Lilly … and she didn’t change it … so anyway I am an only child.
I married Frank Bugden and we have three children. My career was in the secretarial field, I worked in the Department of Veterans Affairs. When our children started to come along, when the second one came along, we figured that my time was best served at home even though at the time I was making probably almost double the money of my husband because I was federal government and he was provincial. That was back in the days when there was a big, big gap. He was a Correctional Officer and he ended up going up on the Salmonier Line, he was gone a week at a time, so I stayed home with the children and I never did regret that. I firmly believe that all this search for all this money … I know things are different now, but you can make do with what you got. You can make do well with what you got.
So I stayed home, we had three children – two boys and a girl – and when they all got into school I started to work part-time at the Post Office, down in Portugal Cove that was, so then that evolved until I was getting almost full-time and then my grandchildren started to come along and I felt I can’t have this, can’t be working and doing all my church work, and then spend time with the grandchildren so something had to go, so you know what went … the Post Office, the work. So, we were back adjusting again but there was no adjusting. We were no better off when I went back to work with the Post Office, we were no worse off when I stopped again. So, I helped raise all my grandchildren. My two oldest ones now are just finishing up first year university. The youngest one is 12 almost 13. They’re all around, thank God for that. One in Mount Pearl, one in Torbay, and Janice is down in the Cove. As you can tell, my family is important to me.
Where and when were you born? I was born in 1944 and my parents were both from the Portugal Cove area. At that time, they were living on Topsail Road but then went right back into Portugal Cove. I was educated in the city though, because when we lived on the farm and we were too far away from Portugal Cove at the time. Actually, it was where Windsor Heights is now. We were right on the end, but I could get into the city and I started my school at Bishop Spencer so when we did move farther down in the Cove I was still a long way from school and it would have been a walk about a mile and a half every day and I was established at Spencer and didn’t want to leave then. So, I stayed there, and I went to Bishop’s College from there, so I was educated in the city.
And home today is “The Cove”? The Cove, yep. That’s the only place I’ve lived. It was just convenient when we decided to build our home to build it on the family property. I was an only child and we had … Frank had … like $200 in the bank and he built the house himself and when it got built we moved in.
Where do you volunteer these days? It’s basically all church. The one thing that I do, I try to walk every day. We have a family history of Town Council and I go to that. And certainly, the things that my grandchildren are involved in. Right now, I am on the Lavrock Board of Management and of course Camp, ACFC (Anglican Charitable Foundation for Children), down in the parish right now I am Rector’s Warden … down there I look after the Youth Alpha, the VBS (Vacation Bible School), and of course GA (Girls’ Auxiliary), and I help out with JA (Junior Auxiliary) and I direct camp. I have a full plate. And the Worship Committee and anything else that comes up.
What was your favourite year? Oh my gosh … they’ve all been good. I’ve been blessed, I’ve been blessed … we’ve never had an excess of anything. We grew up as poor as anything. When I talked about walking, my parents never ever owned a car. I never had access to a car until I finished my education and went to school and bought a car. So, I had very humble beginnings and these things are not really important, which is consequently why I quit two jobs.
Do you have a favourite charity? A favourite charity? Anything involving the church and the mission work we take on … anything through the church.
Who inspires you? Well, I have a little story about that. This is funny. I was in my late teens, I guess, and Frank’s younger sister, she was 14 at the time … they were St. Thomas’ people. She was involved with Vacation Bible School and wanted us to go for the closing … she wanted the family to go … certainly I was in my later teens. You know, I looked at her and said she’s 14 and she spends her time … might have been a week or so at the time … and asked myself what am I doing? And so, I said I guess I’m going to have to get my act together and went right away down to the church and joined the choir. Can’t sing! I was there for a number of years and shortly after that when Canon Smith came, and we decided to start GA that he got me involved with that.
Have you been involved ever since with GA? I have been involved ever since up to my eyebrows and of course GA is my passion ... I just love being around the young people and I think we can learn so much from the young people. And let me tell you, I would much rather sit down and deal with young people … I love especially the teenagers. I love working with the younger ones, but I certainly enjoy the teenagers.
Do you have any hidden talents or hobbies? Not really. I like to write a little bit but nothing that I want printed. Right now, I am trying to do all the family history on my side and Frank’s and write it up in a way as a legacy for my grandchildren. And of course, we did the parish history but that was a long time ago. I knit, and I like to walk outside. Anything I can do with my hands I enjoy.
Do you have a most treasured possession? My family. My most treasured possession is my family. Other than that, I don’t think I have any one thing.
I want to move on now to your faith and your church involvement. Why don’t you tell me a little bit about your faith beginning with your earliest memory of church? My earliest memories of church … unfortunately we didn’t get to church a whole lot because of where we were, and we didn’t have a car, but we got there when we could. I was brought up in a very Christian home. My mother was very spiritual. She was totally involved in the church. One of my early memories is Canon Torraville … I don’t think I could ever forget him. He was like a drill sergeant (laughs) and he was the one who Confirmed me. It’s only been in recent year that I can touch the Communion Rail … He told us “Don’t touch the rail.” I guess some of my early memories were that there was more fear of the clergy probably … that I certainly can remember. I remember the clergy coming to the house and my mother telling me to curtsy and say, “Good morning, Reverend Sir (laughs again).” A far cry from what happens today. You’re not afraid of clergy now. My philosophy is, sure, you get respect, but a clergy has to earn my respect and not get it just because they are clergy. With all due respect, I don’t just automatically see someone with a collar and give them my respect. They have to earn it. A person doing the lowliest job is just as important.
Where did your faith come from? Was it inspired by somebody? Probably by my mother. Other than in that little way I got involved. Probably by my mother, she had a really, really strong faith. And she was somebody that everybody looked up to in the community and she was there for everybody … everybody came to her with their illnesses, this, that and the other thing. Even though we might not have gotten to church we certainly listened to church … I certainly listened to her sing hymns all week long. So, I’d say a good bit of it from my mother. My faith evolved, and it’s gotten stronger.
How has the Anglican Church shaped you as a person? Now that’s a loaded question. I think it certainly made me a better person. It’s certainly given me guidelines. It’s obviously done something to me because it’s basically my whole social life and you certainly have to have faith. If you don’t have faith, what do you believe in? … I’ve always been really proud to be an Anglican because … and I guess maybe that’s because I was brought up that way … I can look around and see things I wouldn’t want to be involved in with some religions …
Who is Jesus to you? Jesus is everybody around. Everybody around. There’s some things that kind of keep resonating. We did this play in GA and it always keeps coming back to me. I’ve quoted it so many times, especially when talking to the kids in Alpha. It was called something like, “Visions and Dreams” and there were these two teenagers. They both had the same dream, the same vision, that Jesus was coming, and they felt they had to clean everything up. She was cleaning up her room and he was cleaning up his locker at school and they kept getting interrupted. The old lady next door needed her medication and the girl’s first reaction was, “I can’t go, I have to clean up my room. There’s a special guest coming.” In the end, she did go. But she kept getting interrupted. A friend wanted to talk to her because her parents had just split up. Somebody wanted help because they were failing their math and they needed that help. And the same thing was happening to him so in the end they both said, “Well, I guess our dream was wrong. Jesus didn’t come.” But then Jesus appears and says “I was here. I was in Mrs. so and so …” And that’s the way I see Jesus. He’s all around in anybody that needs help and it’s all summed up in that little play. And how many times ever since we did that, and that was years ago have I been really, really busy and somebody’s called … And I really don’t think there’s any coincidences in this life. Sometimes when you’re put in a certain place I think you’re put there for a reason.
What is your happiest memory of church? I have many happy moments, I mean, working with the kids, there’s so many happy moments. So much that you can take from that like it just makes me happy to be around them. But I also feel that if I don’t get to church on Sunday I am not fueled for the week.
What is the most important thing you learned from your church? I think humility, probably. We need to be humble and we need to be looking out for those who can’t look out for themselves.
What is your proudest accomplishment of your church involvement? Well it would be GA. And it gives me so much satisfaction when I can give them a reference or something tangible that’s going to help in their life. And it’s getting harder and harder for these kids. Teenagers now, even from 20 years back, oh the problems they have with depression and anxiety. I have parents speak to me … and tell me they didn’t know there was anything wrong … but if we can do anything at all to help them and give them a safe place just for a couple of hours a week … we’re doing something a little bit right if we can help these girls … and that’s got no boundaries … it’s not just the poor kids or the rich kids, it’s everybody.
Are there one or two church leaders who stand out in your memory? That’s absolutely easy for me to say. Reverend Greg [Canon Greg Mercer] absolutely! You talk about being on your faith journey. There’s two things that have strengthened my journey along the way: Reverend Greg being one of them and doing the Alpha Program. Reverend Amanda [Canon Amanda Taylor] is talking about getting it done again. Reverend Greg definitely had a huge influence on me.
Is there anything you miss about the way church used to be? I don’t think so. I wouldn’t want the kids to go in and be as scared of the clergy as I was growing up. There’s something to be said for the traditions and there’s a lot of people who want the traditions and a lot of people who don’t. I’m good with whatever but I’ll admit the Book of Common Prayer is not my favourite. It’s long and repetitive and my mind tends to wander anyway … Church is a little more open now. Going to church when I was younger almost seemed like a punishment (laughs) … you couldn’t move when you went in … that’s how I remember it from way back.
If you could change something in your church today what would it be? It would be the worship, I think. Like I said, there’s lots of space for people who like the traditional but we’re not attracting young people and we need to do something … I know it seems like we do a lot of talking. I spoke up at the Town Hall Meeting and said we are at the mercy of our clergy in our parish. If you have a clergy who is pro-youth and wanting to do work with them that’s fine but then the next one comes and doesn’t have the same interest. I would like to see a little more offered to try and get the kids involved in worship a little more.
Getting back to GA, when we go on Thursday night we start with prayer and we end with the Grace. We don’t get the girls in church every Sunday except for a handful because they are not going if their parents don’t go. To be honest I don’t know the religion of all the GA girls, I figure it doesn’t matter. The fact that we are getting them there on Thursday and having a prayer is something right? Maybe that’s their church, I don’t know. And again, in GA, I mean we do a lot of outreach in the community and beyond and they are learning from that I hope. But I would like to see them involved a little bit more in worship but in order to do that we have to change the standards a little bit.
What are the strengths of the Anglican Church and what are the weaknesses? I think I just said one of the weaknesses … One thing I was always proud of with the Anglican Church was that we were always given our own mind. In some churches people were dictated to … but I always felt really proud that in being an Anglican there was nobody dictating to me … they were leading me I guess and nourishing me, but nobody told me you had to do this or had to do that and that was one of the strengths, kind of middle of the road and I always felt that in some churches there wasn’t enough structure … and I may seem to be contradicting myself but I don’t think I am because some people love structure and tradition and I do too but I also enjoy the other stuff. I can also go in church with a band and the teenagers there …
As for where we are weak … maybe we are too slow to change … before Reverend Amanda was ordained there was a committee and I can’t even remember 100% what it was called but it dealt with youth concerns … we went around to different Deaneries and talked to people but afterward nothing ever changed … it seems like in the church we can recognize the problems and pinpoint the problems, but nothing ever seems to change. We might want to think outside the box, but it seems like it goes right back in the box.
What has been the most important change in the Anglican Church? Maybe that we have female clergy, that’s been a good change. We have also been slowly changing with worship and that’s one area I would like to see more change … not getting rid of what’s there but adding and we’ve actually started now … we had one service where we are focussing on the tiny kids and focussing on activities in church … I get excited about doing anything different like that …
What do you think the Anglican Church will look like in the future? I don’t know. It seems like we’re certainly going to have to give a lot of thought … I know we have this committee going now (The Diocesan Commission on Parish Viability and Renewal) looking at all our buildings and buildings are dragging us down. I’m Rector’s Warden and I sit on Vestry and I know how much money is being poured into buildings and that money could do so much out in the community. Sure, we need a place to meet … you don’t need to go to church to be a Christian, but we need to go to church to support each other and to build each other up … and buildings are essential but to put so much emphasis on buildings … I think we need to revisit that. For instance, our complex [in Portugal Cove] … is constantly used but maybe the church could be more out in the community. It seems we spend a lot keeping buildings going that could be better used. At the Town Hall one of the questions was, “Would your building be missed?” and ours would be missed. Every evening there’s two or three things going on and the place is blocked. I guess we have to do something because what we’re doing now is not working and maybe we need to be seen more out in the community as opposed to sticking to the building. Some of us are out there like GA … we are dealing with people who don’t come into the church building on Sunday … we are going to have to get out there where the need is, as opposed to just staying in our little church.