ST PAUL’S ANGLICAN CHURCH
A Brief History to 1993 Historical Outline of life in St Paul’s Parish Fort Erie
A Brief history of St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Fort Erie, Ontario from the early 1800’s to the mid 1990’s.
For many years Bea and Garnet Painter have meticulously worked to collect and preserve a continuing history of our parish, here at St. Paul’s Fort Erie. While this present work is dedicated to all who have worshiped here, and to all those who will worship here in the years to come, it is indeed appropriate that the dedication of the Painters in this task be acknowledged with thanks, in the certainty that their work is now preserved on computer disk for future historians to continue their ongoing task of preserving those special moments in the life of our Parish for the future generations to look back on.
In addition, my thanks to Lillian Howe for her special help in converting these records to computer disk, and in the preparation of this publication.
Philip E. Howe
The Governor General Rideau Hall, Ottawa
On the occasion of the celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of the first Anglican baptisms in St. Paul’s Parish, as well as the 100th anniversary of the current church, I am pleased to send greetings to the Parish’s faithful on behalf of the Canadian people. This important event in the history of your Church is not only a religious milestone, but also a public recognition of the dedication and vision displayed by its founders.
I congratulate you all on the spirit of cooperation and generosity which have marked your congregation and for the important contributions made by your Church to the spiritual and social life of your community. In a world searching for long- lasting values, your dedication is vital to the moral well-being of our nation. I am certain that St. Paul’s Parish will continue to provide its members with guidance, hope and religious enrichment for generations to come. As you gather to share in the joy of your anniversary celebrations, may the courage and love of God which inspired you in the past assist you in meeting the challenges of tomorrow!
Ramon John Hnatyshyn
ST. PAUL’S ANGLICAN CHURCH:
– A Brief History –
Although the first service to be held in our present building took place on 17 September 1893, Anglicans living in this area had been gathering together for worship for over 100 years prior to that date. The Mill of Benjamin Hardison and the home of William Smith were the principal meeting places during those early days in the Village of Waterloo, the original name for this settlement. A missionary sent out from England in 1792, the Reverend Robert Addison, first visited Fort Erie on or about 12 April 1793, when be performed the baptism of some sixteen persons, among them being Mary, daughter of Henry and Catherine Warren. The Reverend Addison had an area of over 1000 square miles to cover, and as such, he could not be counted on for regular services. He did, however, manage two marriages prior to 1800, in our “village”, and served as the official Chaplain to the Fort Erie Garrison. The Reverend William Leeming of Chippawa also made himself available to this community whenever possible, performing marriages, baptisms, and conducting funeral services.
The first step in establishing an Anglican Parish here was taken in 1821, when John Warren, Peter Plato, Benjamin Hardison and others paid William Smith 200 for the plot of land on which our church now stands. This transaction took place on 23 April 1821. Historical data indicates that a small building already existed on site, and this, presumably, served as a House of Worship for the first two to three years. In 1824 Colonel Kirby was instrumental in obtaining a quantity of stone from the ruins of the Fort, and these became the foundation of the wooden church erected later that year. The Reverend John Anderson, brought here as Chaplain to the Garrison, began holding services in the little church on a fairly regular basis, serving in this capacity until 1836, when he was finally inducted as the first Rector of St. Paul’s. He died here in 1849, still a comparatively young man, and was buried in the churchyard.
This wooden structure, our first church, served the congregation for over 50 years, and was sold in 1883 for the sum of $80. By then the one hundred or more families of the Parish were worshipping in their new stone church, the forerunner of the present building. A building fund, started in 1870 by Canon Arnold, made this possible, and when it opened for worship in July 1881, only a small debt of $100 remained to be paid. In spite of a very generous offer from a Mr. Jarvis of Toronto for a free plot of land and a considerable financial contribution if the new church was located in the Village of Victoria, (later Bridgeburg, then later the North end of Fort Erie) it was decided to build on the same land as before, placing the stone structure a little to the front of the old church, and closer to the river. A beautiful little church, it was the pride and joy of the congregation, and one can picture their heartbreak when it was leveled by explosion and fire on 1 March 1892. Once again members of the Parish were forced to seek alternative places for worship, gratefully accepting offers from both the Presbyterians and Oddfellows for the use of their buildings while tackling the difficult job of replacing their own. Except for a few minor changes, the church which rose from the ashes was almost a replica of the one that had preceded it. Without a decade of building fund donations to draw on, it took a little longer to pay off the debt on this building, 16 years to be exact, and it was consecrated on 21 October 1909, debt-free!
The future must have looked very bright in those pre-World War I days, as wheels were almost immediately set in motion to replace the old frame Rectory on the hill, south of the church, with a more modern brick home, and, at the same time, to erect a Parish Hall at the foot of the same property on the Niagara Boulevard. This piece of property had been purchased from a Mrs. Rose in 1891, for the sum of $2500, and the existing home had served as a Rectory since that time. By 1911 both the brick Rectory and the Guild (Parish) Hall had been completed. The Reverend A.C. Mackintosh and his family were installed as the first occupants of the new clergy home. It continued to serve as home to our Rectors for more than sixty years, being replaced briefly by the Rapelje home on High Street, then by our present Rectory, erected adjacent to the church in 1978.
The new hall opened a whole new era in parish life, offering a place for suppers, concerts, and other social events, far different from the cramped and dark confines of the church basement. Considerably enlarged by an addition in 1957, largely to accommodate the ever growing Church School, it served as a meeting place for many organizations and was the scene of countless social and money-raising events until 1984, when it was sold to finance the new Parish Centre. For a time as the Native Friendship Centre, the old hail now serves as the Redstacks Retirement Home. With the opening of the new St. Paul’s Centre in 1984, all of our buildings were conveniently located on one piece of property, and a new era in the life of St. Paul’s had begun.
During the first decade in the life of our present church it became evident that the parish needed a more reliable form of income than that derived from the sporadic offerings on the collection plate and the annual pew rental money. Consequently, in 1903 the ladies of the Junior Guild set out to canvass for pledges, and launched the envelope system that has continued to this day.
Although there was no money owing in those days many problems arose to put a strain on the finances. People complained about the heat, or lack of it, in the new church, and committees were appointed to look into the matter. Electricity was installed in 1917, at considerable expense, and yet, within ten years the wiring was declared unsafe and obsolete and the inspector ordered most of it to be replaced. Further strain was put on the parish in the early years of this century by the retirement of the Rector, the Rev. Percy Smith. He had been here for 16 years, guiding the people through the stress of the fire and rebuilding and his impending departure was viewed with some trepidation by his flock. Although his assistant, The Rev. A. W. Woods, coped adequately for several months it was with great relief that The Rev. Mr. MacKintosh was welcomed as their rector in 1905. His enthusiasm, together with the more dependable income situation, considerably brightened the outlook and the parish moved into the next decade with a new hail and rectory and no money owing on the church building.
It was during the incumbency of the next Rector, The Rev. Russell Smith, that the congregation celebrated their 100th anniversary as a parish. The 23rd of April, 1921 had slipped past unnoticed and so it was on the same date, a year late, that the many special events marking the Centennial took place. The April date fell on a Sunday that year and the Bishop of Niagara, Bishop Clark began by administering the rite of Confirmation to a class of 48, delivering an eloquent sermon in a church packed to capacity. At three o’clock that afternoon the Sunday School pupils and their families once again filled the pews to witness the baptism of 15 children, some of these now grandparents of our present pupils. A third service, this one for veterans was led by a pipe band from Buffalo, and a parade into the churchyard followed. At this time the IODE unveiled a cross on the grave of Private Albert Miller, who was reputed to have carried the ‘cease fire’ orders to the Canadian Army Headquarters on the 11th of November, 1918. Evensong brought the eventful day to a close. 100th Anniversary celebrations continued through the week with a congregational reunion and supper, a second one later in the week for the children of the parish, and a social evening with dancing and refreshments. Although a year late, there was nothing lacking in the 100th Birthday Celebrations!
Canon Smith left the parish in 1926 and was succeeded by the Rev. Wm. Burt, later Canon and Archdeacon. He served here until his retirement in1949, and members of his family are still active in St. Paul’s. His 23 years as Rector encompassed both the depression of the 30’s and the Second World War, days of discouragement and heartache. But there were good years too, especially in the beginning, a time of prosperity and growth. Soon after his arrival here he officiated at the sod-turning for the Ridgeway church which remained under his wing until 1931, when it was strong enough to stand alone as a parish. He also participated in another parish milestone, the opening of the Erie Beach Community Hall, for Sunday school classes in that area of the town. Later becoming St. James Chapel, it has served St. Paul’s people well for 65 years.
Another project inherited from the former rector’s incumbency never did reach fulfillment; that of a second church in Bridgeburg on the northern section of the church-owned lot at the corner of Central and Emerick. Unfortunately money for the completion of this building was not forthcoming; hence the basement was roofed over to become St. Mary’s Hall. For many years this was the scene of a large Sunday school and the meeting place for Scouts, Cubs and other youth groups. The hard working ladies of the St. Mary’s Guild sponsored many a social evening and their St Patrick’s Tea and Bazaar was a spring highlight for many years. In latter years this Guild underwrote many of the maintenance expenses of the hall. An increasing financial burden on the parish, it was sold about 25 years ago to the Presbyterian congregation and later torn down.
During the depression years, St. Paul’s suffered financially, as did the rest of the country. Somehow, though, the debt remaining on the hall and the rectory was finally paid off and an extension added to the cemetery, one of many since 1821. Coming to the parish for confirmation in 1934, the Bishop commented on the splendid appearance of the church grounds, a real tribute to those responsible for maintenance during those lean years. The visit of the Bishop coincided with the 100th Anniversary of the presentation of the communion vessels by Colonel Kirby and he joined in the celebration of the event.
The war years brought changes to the parish with many newcomers arriving for war work at Fleet. To help these young couples feel welcome and bring them into the Life of the parish, Canon Burt encouraged the formation of a Couples’ Club, with the newcomers joining in fellowship with each other and with long-time residents of Fort Erie. From this group and a later group of women brought together in 1946, many lasting friendships were formed.
Following the retirement of the Archdeacon, The Rev. W. B. ‘Basil’ Irwin came to us in the fall of 1949, and remained as our Rector until 1968. Coming during the prosperous ‘babyboom’ years, the new Rector faced many challenges as the parish struggled to cope with a growing membership, especially in the Church School. After much discussion and the weighing of pros and cons, it was decided that a sizeable addition to the hall would solve the problem.
The Wells Professional Money Raising Organization was brought to town and under their guidance a canvass for funds was launched and a contract signed with Gorham Bros. for this work to be done. It was an exciting but rather traumatic time for the people of St. Paul’s who had been basking in the comfort of a ‘debt free’ church for many years, but the need was evident and the response was good. In March of 1957 the first sod for this addition was turned by Mr. Henry Lewis, a descendent of one of the founding Fathers of the parish, and in November of that year Archdeacon Burt officiated at the opening and dedication of the extended hall. The extension provided room for additional Sunday School classes on the main floor, plus a new basement for the Primary Department. The women rejoiced in their lovely new kitchen, moved from the basement to the upstairs, and soon there were many plans afoot for hosting Diocesan and Deanery Meetings, Fashion Shows, and other parish functions not possible in the smaller hall. One event long remembered was the World Mission Exposition, held in 1965, with Bishop Wilkinson as honoured guest and speaker. Hosted by St. Paul’s World Missioners’ Organization it involved people from all areas of parish life and surpassed all expectations in interest generated and in attendance.
Another accomplishment of the 50’s was the purchase of a new Memorial Organ in 1953 for the sum of some $8,000, the old one having out lived its usefulness. There had been a fund in operation towards this purchase for several years. The former organ had been located in the chancel but it was decided to place the new one in the nave, behind the lectern, thus making more room at the rail for communicants. This necessitated moving the heavy stone font to the back of the church, a spot some thought more suitable, anyway, linking the spiritual entrance to the church, through baptism, with the physical entrance through the front doors. It was moved again a few years later to a spot in front of the lectern, where it remained until the addition of the St. Paul’s Centre in 1984, when it was again re-positioned in the location it now occupies.
The new organ manual remained in the same place for thirty years but it also had to be moved at that time; brief consideration was given to relocating it in the balcony, the site of the organ manual in the first stone church. However investigation ruled this out as unsafe and impractical and a short move across the nave where it sits today solved the dilemma.
Other improvements to the church during the ‘Irwin Years’ were a complete renovation of the vestry-sacristy, a project of the Evening Branch of the Women’s Auxiliary. With new furniture, including a metal locker for vestments, new lighting and decorating a special cupboard for the storing of hangings, the room took on a whole new look. The rejuvenated vestry showed up the drabness of the rest of the church and plans were soon in the making for remedying the situation. In 1960 the men of the parish removed all the pews, laid a tile floor, then the repaired and newly varnished pews were replaced. Professional painters were hired soon after to paint the interior of the building, new light fixtures installed and a red carpet laid in the chancel and down the centre aisle, courtesy of the afternoon branch of the Women’s Auxiliary. Not long after, this legacy made possible a complete renovation of the basement, converting the almost unusable space into several useful rooms including a study for the rector, choir rooms and a large room for Sunday morning Nursery and ‘on the spot’ meetings. It was no longer necessary to leave the building for after-service meetings or coffee hours, a welcome change. The last major project undertaken during the 60’s was the removal of the slate roof which had been a continual worry and source of expense for decades. It was replaced with asphalt shingles which in turn were changed again in 1984 to conform to those on the new Centre.
Two of the highlights for the parish during the incumbency of The Rev. Irwin were his appointment as Honourary Canon of the Cathedral and the Ordination to the Diaconate of John Flindall, the first person from St. Paul’s to enter ordained ministry. The Rt. Rev. Eric Munn, Bishop of Caledonia, officiated at this service, the first of its kind to be held in our church, on the 6th of May, 1962. Another important event of that decade took place in April of 1967 when the 146th birthday of the parish was celebrated jointly with Canada’s Centennial. Attended by the Mayor and other important dignitaries, this most impressive service brought members of the Royal Canadian Legion, Sea and Air Cadets and many others to fill the pews that day. Historical brochures were distributed for this event, and again in 1971, on the occasion of the 150th birthday of the parish.
At the time of the Irwin’s’ departure from the rectory in 1968, there were approximately 480 families on our parish list, a Church School enrollment of about 200 and an active Servers’ Guild for the training of teenage boys for chancel duties. The classes formerly meeting in St. Mary’s }all had been moved to St. Paul’s and a number of Erie Beach pupils were still meeting in St. James Chapel, formerly the Community Hall for that district. Canon Irwin had brought Bishop Bagnall here in 1950 for the consecration and re-naming of this building. Worshippers still gather there regularly for Evensong.
Canon Irwin’s retirement brought The Rev. (later Canon) W. 0. Straw to St. Paul’s in September of 1968, beginning another chapter in our history.
One of the first moves to be made by the new rector was to set wheels in motion for the selling of St. Mary’s Hall. No longer needed for parish activities, it had become an unnecessary drain on church finances. The money from this sale was used to ‘update’ the parish hail for greater efficiency, creating a business office for the use of our first secretary, among other improvements. Prior to this, the paperwork had been handled mainly by the rectors with part-time secretarial help called upon when necessary. A survey was also made of the church property, a section of land to the north of the building was purchased, and the first moves were made to convert part of this property into a parking lot, adjacent to the cemetery. Later a sidewalk was lid from this lot along the north side of the church to the upper section of the front steps, thus permitting easier access to the building by eliminating the long climb up from Niagara Blvd. The establishment of St. Paul’s Renovation Fund at t1is time also made possible the paneling of the front vestibule and the laying of a better carpet in that area.
The 150th anniversary of the parish, in 1971, was a gala occasion with over 400 people, among these several Diocesan and Government dignitaries, g attending a Thanksgiving Eucharist celebrated by the Bishop on the 18th of April. A Historical Exhibition in the hail, and a dinner dance at St. Michael’s rounded out the festivities.
Before leaving for his new charge in Port Colborne in November 1973, Cannon Straw was instrumental in the selling of the old rectory on the hill and the purchasing of the house on the corner of High and Queen Streets as a future home for our clergy. This was later realized to have been an unwise purchase as Canon Anthony and his family, who moved here in February of 1974, was the only rector to live here.
The Anthony’s came to us from Thorold. The Canon was Rector of St. Paul’s until early in 1980, and, during his tenure, instigated several sorely needed work projects. With a Government ‘make-work’ Grant, a crew was hired to restore and renew much of the old section of the churchyard, where many grave markers had been damaged by vandals or suffered the deterioration of age. This not only greatly improved the appearance of the cemetery but also unearthed seven very old gravestones hitherto hidden from sight. The brush along the gully at the south side of the churchyard was all cleared away and a stone wall erected. Also, during these years, the ivy was removed from the face of the church building and the stonework cleaned and repaired after years of erosion. It was hoped the removal of the vine would deter the raccoons from climbing to the tower and entering the church and it may have helped the situation a little but these animals continued to be a problem for many years.
By the mid-seventies many of the parishioners had moved from the town proper and were living in the Crescent Park area, and the idea was born to establish another church school in that area, and possibly even another congregation. With this end in view, the Rev. Ron Scott, who came here in 1975 as assistant to Canon Anthony, began a survey of the potential in that section of the community and a brief attempt was made to hold Sunday morning classes in St Philomena School for Anglican children living in the vicinity The venture was short-lived and nothing really developed from this dream of expansion. Health problems suffered by Canon Anthony during his latter years here necessitated a return to the policy of hiring an ordained assistant to the Rector, as had been the practice in the early days of this century, and the Rev. Hope Surdivall succeeded Mr. Scott in this capacity. Our present assistant, the Rev. Stephen Witcher, is the sixth to follow in the footsteps of Canon Anthony’s first assistant.
It was during the Anthony years that the idea of building a hall as an extension to the church was first voiced. A newspaper clipping from 1976 shows a ‘For Sale’ sign on the lawn of the old hall, a tentative move towards the realization of this dream. There were no offers that were acceptable at that time so the dream was put ‘on hold’ for the time being. However, a second dream did become a reality, the building of Rectory near the church, and, the first sod for this, our present rectory, was turned in 1978 by Margaret Doua1l, lifelong member of St. Paul’s. To help finance this building, bricks were ‘said’ and a donation entitled the donor to have a brick imprinted with his name and incorporated in the new building. The Anthony’s moved into their new home but enjoyed it for only a year, as increasingly poor health forced the Canon into semi-retirement. He died in Oakville in May, 1987.
The Rev. David Russell arrived here in the Spring of 1980, fo1loing the departure of Canon Anthony. Although with us for only five and a half years, ‘Father’ David, as he liked to be called, left us with ‘A Gift to Last’, the new Parish Centre. The idea for this had been in the background for many years, the inconvenience of having the hall a long, cold block away, seemed more and more a ‘thorn in the flesh’ with the passing of time. At a gathering of parishioners for a Dream Day, early in 1981, the need for better facilities was put into writing, foremost among other suggestions for improving parish life. Shortly after, committees were formed, plans put down on paper, and ideas were sought from all church groups. The old hall was once again put on the block, Government funding was sought, and the Gift to Last Financial Campaign was launched. By August of 1983 confidence in the project was re-enforced by the congregation as they voted to go ahead with the building. Exciting times! The Canada-Ontario Employment Development Grant of $3 18,000 made possible the hiring of approximately 30 men who worked under Roy Clendening, General Supervisor of the project. With his expertise and the talented design work of architect Stan Butchert, from Port Colborne, construction proceeded through the winter months, in spite of a few financial setbacks, and my May of 1984 the Centre was ready to be opened.
At a total cost of almost $1,000,000 the new addition, built of split-faced block with colour-keyed mortar, blended beautifully with the stone walls of the church, and even those persons least enthusiastic about the project found themselves viewing it with pride. The placement of the stained glass window, removed from the church when the new entrance was created, at the end of the long hallway, and the re-shingling of the Church roof to blend with the new one, further enhanced the structure. Modern in every way, both the Centre and he Church were now handicapped-accessible and presented a welcoming atmosphere to Sunday Morning Worshippers, with lots of room to ‘chat’ after the service. Bishop Mitchell was with us for the Grand Opening on the 31st of My, Ascension Day, which was followed by a reception in the main hall. The reception featured 21 cakes, decorated with green icing, and a special cakes cut by three senior ladies of the parish, Jessie Hooper, Esther Kent and Sadie Walter. The Bulletin of that day expressed special thanks to Mabel Harber for her creation of a new Celebrative Frontal and Vestments, designed by Jan Russell, in use that day for the first time. The following May when Bishop Bothwell visited us for confirmation he blessed the various rooms and furnishings of the Centre that had been gifts of members of the congregation. On the day following the official opening there was Open House at the Centre with guided tours and a week later, B. Branch of the ACW hosted their first Business Luncheon as a way of making the local business community aware of the new facilities we had to offer. The Luncheon has since become an annual event.
Not only will Father David be remembered for turning our big Dream into a Reality, he was also responsible for many other changes and innovations during his short time with us. In November 1981, our 160th Anniversary year, he took us back into the past by arriving at the church in a horse-drawn carriage, accompanied by Bishop Mitchell, to lead us in the Candlelight Evensong in the worship form of the last century. Attics had been ransacked for clothes typical of the same era, and the whole scene was reminiscent of the early days in the Life of the Parish. During Holy Week of 1982 we experienced with him our first Seder Service and a few weeks later celebrated Pentecost in a manner hitherto unknown to St. Paul’s with balloons everywhere and a party to follow. In the Fall of the same year, on the Feast of St. Francis, he invited all family pets to a Service of Blessing, now an annual observance. Under his guidance we were led, somewhat reluctantly, into the mysteries of the Book of Alternative Services, becoming one of the first parishes in the Diocese to adopt this on a regular basis. A request was made for lay people to read the lessons on Sunday mornings and many came forward to volunteer for this. Under his direction, his assistant, The Rev. Brian Collinson restructured the Church School along more modern lines with a New Curriculum, new Leadership and several staff changes. The move into their new classrooms in the Centre completed the ‘makeover’ process, paving the way for the resent school to meet the needs of the children of the 90’s.
In 1983 a lovely Nativity Set, carved by members of the Niagara Wood Carvers’ Association, was presented to the church by the St. Nick’s ladies, a craft group then active in the parish, and this set serves an important role in the Christmas celebrations. A visit by R.C. Sister Veronica O’Reilly, guest preacher one Sunday morning, was the first of its kind to the parish. To use Father David’s favourite expression, this was an exciting era and the inception of a parish newsletter, ‘News and Views’ made us aware of all that was going on. Later called the ‘Communiqué’ and then known as the ‘Heavenly Hash’, the parish newsletter remains an important communication medium to the people of St. Paul’s.
Father David’s untimely death in September of 1985 took him from our midst too soon and plunged the parish into mourning. Fortunately we had an assistant curate at the time. The Rev. Robert Hudson had succeeded The Rev. Brian Collinson in this capacity, and provided capable leadership until April of the following year, when a new Rector, The Rev. Kenneth Cardwell (later Archdeacon), came here from Kapuskasing, in the Diocese of Moosonee.
During his seven years as our rector, Father Ken has shepherded his flock through good times and bad, rejoicing with us when we held a Birthday Party for eight 90-year old members of St. Paul’s, and joining in the celebration of the 60th Anniversary of Canon Basil Irwin’s Ordination, to mention only two happy events in those years. He also shared with us a ‘Clowning Around’ weekend with guests Ron and Rita Baker, and the Moosonee Reunion that saw our centre bursting with activities in the Fall of 1987.
During his time with us he has also Witnessed a number of parish ‘dark days’ foremost among these being the death of Glenn Reddon in October of 1988 and that of Canon Irvin in December of 1991, both beloved and respected members of the parish family.
Although there had been no major liturgical changes under the then Rector, St. James Chapel was privileged to host both Good Friday and Holy Saturday Services, complete with organist and choir from St. Paul’s. We also saw a steady development in the field of Lay Ministry, with many volunteers becoming active participants in Sunday morning worship services, and involved in Parish Outreach through such groups as ‘Caring aid Sharing’ and ‘Hospital Visitors’. Twice-yearly, the ‘Meals on Wheels’ volunteers host a service and social hour for Nursing Home residents and parish shut-ins, an increasingly popular event. Another annual ‘happening’ was the Interdenominational Vacation Bible School that filled our Centre with youngsters for a July week each year. A growing Co-operative Day Nursery has been operating for some years in the lower level of the Centre, providing a much needed service for the community. A further example of Community Outreach was St. Paul’s joint sponsorship with St. Michael’s of an inter-church Refugee House on Central Avenue in 1990, a temporary dwelling place for many displaced people arriving in Canada with nowhere to call home.
Two important events of saw the parish hosting the Deanery Farewell dinner for retiring Bishop (Now Archbishop) John Bothwell and his wife, and only recently the 1993 Youth Synod of the Diocese. Youth work has been a priority here for many years, with organizations such as the Server’s Guild, FOCUS and JYF’s providing opportunities for our younger parish members to participate in the life of their church, and seeing the Centre filled with young people for this Synod seemed most fitting and will be long remembered by those who attended.
Another highlight of the last seven years was the ordination here of the Rev. Carole Grant-White, who trained under both Father David and Father Ken. After her ordination she remained here for some months as a non-stipendiary assistant with the Rev. Tim Bolton, who had followed the Rev. Bob Hudson, leaving for a parish in Guelph. Pastor Carole then went on to become Rector of a parish in the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York. Another milestone in the parish occurred in 1988 when the site of the former Marty’s Fabric shop, adjacent to church property, was purchased to provide additional cemetery plots and also make room for the placement of a columbarium. In October of that year, Bishop Mitchell officiated at the consecration of this newly acquired land and shortly thereafter, the first section of the planned columbarium was in place.
St. Paul’s has been served by 14 rectors during her long history and for over one hundred years these men were also responsible for another parish besides our own. The last of these, St. John’s on Ridgemount Road, severed their connection with St. Paul’s in 1952, forming a link with All Saint’s Ridgeway at that time. Each rector has left his mark on the parish and we have been enriched by the diversity of talent as each contributed in his own way to the growth of this place, spiritually and materially. St. Paul’s has also been the ‘training ground’ for 15 ordained assistants, the last being The Rev. Stephen Witcher, now Rector in Fergus. As a parish, we joined in the celebration of his ordination to the priesthood on the 18th of April 1993, in St. Thomas Church, St. Catharines. The many Youth Programs, of which we can feel justly proud, are largely due to the involvement of our assistants in this area of parish work.
Let us not forget the army of volunteers who have given so much of themselves to our church in the last century. We hesitate to mention any individual at this time for fear of overlooking another whose contribution of time and talent has been of equal importance. We know who you are, and your work has not gone unnoticed. Although the women of the parish have been organized as a work force since the formation of the first Guild in 1880, followed by the W.A. in 1901, it is only during the past decade or so that they have taken their rightful place as co-partners with the men in the whole work of the church. Anglican Women now serve here, as elsewhere, in positions of Warden, Synod Lay Delegate, Lay readers and so on. The hard working Alter Guild members perform the same duties as did their predecessors back at the time of its formation in 1925, but we now have women in the chancel during our worship services as well. As Chalice Bearers and Servers, they work alongside of their male counterparts on Sunday mornings. The traditional ‘women’s role’ has not been abandoned though, and many of them, as Anglican Church Women (ACW), can still be found in the Centre kitchen preparing food for various Parish events or money-raising functions.
As we look back on the achievements of the last 100 years, we have reason to be proud of our accomplishments. The dignity and beauty of this second stone church, built a century ago, has been carefully preserved, enhanced rather than marred by the addition of the Centre. To have the new centre completely paid for in eight years, an occasion marked by the symbolic ‘burning of the mortgage’ at the 1992 Annual Vestry Meeting, is nothing short of a miracle. We hold an important place in the Diocese through both individual and collective contribution of time and money. Our support of National Programs, such as the recent Third World Meal to raise money for the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, shows our rising concern for those in poverty-stricken countries around the world. Community Care and Share Appeals never fail to draw a good response from St. Paul’s as does the local Meals on Wheels program.
A walk through the church reminds us of many of those whose labours in the past brought us to where we are today. Reading the Memorial plates, we learn that we kneel at an altar rail given to the church in 1922, a Centennial gift from the women and girls of the parish in memory of their mothers. The Altar at which the Holy Eucharist is celebrated replaces one that is now in use in St. John’s Ridgemount, and was a memorial gift to his mother from J.C. Clarke. The Alms Basin which receives our offering was given in memory of the wife of The Rev. A. C. Mackintosh, an earlier rector of this parish, and the chancel window is dedicated to all former rectors of St. Paul’s. Walking through the nave of the building we read on memorial windows throughout the church the name Lewis appears in several places, among these on the Front doors of the church, on the lectern and on the processional cross, calling to mind another family with more than six generations of service to their church. Many other families, too, have equally proud records of dedication to this place, and to all of them we owe a great debt.
Other memorials, too numerous to include in this history, keep alive the memory of many of those in whose footsteps we now walk. The name’s of many others who once worshipped and worked in this place can be found inscribed on stones in the churchyard, their final resting place near the church they served so well. For many others only Parish Registers record their place in the history of this church. But we know that for a period of time, no matter how brief, St. Paul’s, Fort Erie, was their spiritual home. Within these wails they found comfort and courage, and something of their spirit remains with us today.
Ours is a proud heritage. Let us guard it well, cherish and nourish it through the many ‘winds of change’ and so preserve it for our children and grandchildren. May they see here not only a treasured memorial of the Past but a symbol of hope for the Future.
Bea Painter, 1993.