This history of Christ Church, Surrey Centre is based on the Centennial publication "Echoes Through A Century", researched and published, in 1982, by the Parish of Christ Church, Surrey Centre and written by Archbishop Gower.
When the first white settlers came to Surrey Centre in the 1870's, they found it a land of huge trees. There were no roads. The Serpentine River was the only highway to the area which became known as "Surrey Centre". Its boundaries have been somewhat elastic over the years, as it is a neighbourhood, not an organized district. The Serpentine River to the north and the Serpentine canal to the west form natural boundaries, and in pioneer years it extended as far south as the Nicomekl River.
The settlement of Surrey Centre was part of that great wave of migration which brought hundreds of thousands of settlers to open up the western half of the North American continent. Roads gradually appeared. Old McLellan Road was built in 1875. The "coast meridian", (the meridian of longitude closest to the Pacific Ocean at the International Boundary), had been surveyed in 1859 from the 49th parallel to the Fraser River, but not until 1873 was it re–surveyed and portions opened up as a road for the settlers.
Abraham Huck's house and first Surrey Centre Store,
also the first post office in Surrey, opened in 1879.
Surrey was organized as a district municipality in 1879, and the council of 1881 chose Surrey Centre, as being accessible by river and at the crossing of two roads, to build a town hall. The soil was excellent for foundations, and probably the clinching argument was that Abe Huck donated four acres for the hall site.(See the Abraham Huck Family) With this Town Hall, and Christ Church (completed in 1884), Surrey Centre became, for twenty–five years, the central community for all Surrey. By 1891, there was a school, and also the Orange Hall which is still in use. The Orange Lodge itself, was founded in 1877, with some members coming from as far as Murrayville, by boat on the Nicomekl and then on foot.
To complete the picture, Christ Church had its churchyard, and the municipal cemetery was established between the church and the school. Over the years, it has been enlarged to its present sixteen acres.
On the left Rev. William Bell help prepare for Christ Church by building support amongst the scattered parishioners as well as helping to raise subscriptions for the Church. On the right Abraham Huck gave the land in Surrey Centre that became the site of the church.
The first meeting in the Town Hall at Surrey Centre was not large. The Rev. William Bell had prepared the ground well. He visited scattered homesteads, where he held services and aroused interest among the adherents of the Church of England. One wonders, however, what his thoughts were when the meeting was called to order.
"Surrey, April 10th, 1882. A meeting of supporters of the Church of England was held in the Town Hall in the Municipality of Surrey for the transacting of urgent business and also to take into consideration the erection of a church within the said municipality. Present were: the Rev. William Bell, Chairman, Messrs. Joseph Shannon, James Johnston, Abraham Huck, John Latimer and Abraham Jr."
No doubt the Rev. William Bell and his small group of five were also encouraged to action by the fact that they too had the blessing and support of the missionary minded Bishop Sillitoe in New Westminster and a Diocesan Synod willing to help. The meeting opened with prayer and they got down to business quickly. "On motion Messrs. Jas. Johnston and J. Latimer were appointed to act in the capacity of Church Wardens". A congregation was being identified and a mission came to birth. "On motion, Mr. Johnston was elected Lay Delegate to Diocesan Synod". Echoes Through the Century, p11
There seems to have been no debate, or little worth recording, for the next minute reads: "On motion Messrs. Jas. Johnston, J. Shannon, J. Latimer and A. Huck, Sr. are elected a committee of ways and means to collect funds, and build a Church of England on a site to be selected hereafter, and said committee have power to add to their number. The clergyman to be chairman of said committee". This general meeting of "supporters of the "Church of England" was then adjourned on motion, and closed with prayer.
Immediately, those who had been elected to the ways and means committee held their first meeting. Evidently they knew the rules and were precise and orderly in their transactions. With the incumbent in the chair, Mr. A. Huck was elected Treasurer and Secretary and Messrs A. Anderson and Wm. Shannon were added to the committee, which lost no time in laying plans for the collection of funds.
The minutes of the meeting record that "On motion, the Chairman, Messrs. J. Johnston and J. Latimer were appointed to wait on the bishop of the diocese and apply for a grant and to report at the next meeting".
There is no record of the trip to New Westminster to call on Bishop Sillitoe, but the happy result must have given the delegation great satisfaction. There, at the head of the subscription list which contains some one hundred and thirty names, is the statement in Mr. Bell's firm handwriting, "Grant from the Bishop $250". Also recorded is the "Gift of Mr. Abraham Huck, one acre of Land". The Rev. Wm. Bell gave $25, John Latimer $20, Joseph Shannon $20, and from the Johnston family $20.
A year or so previously when petitioners to the Provincial Government for the incorporation of the district as a municipality were being sought, it appears that only some thirty–five were qualified which is indicative of the sparse population.
On Easter Monday, April 14, 1884, the annual meeting of the congregation of Surrey Centre was held in the Town Hall. Mr. Abraham Huck was appointed the incumbent's warden and given instructions to pay over to the Royal City Planing Mills the money in hand for lumber. There was no church building yet, but official responsibilities had to be secured. Mr. Isaac Johnston was elected people's warden; Mr. W.C. Laye, vestry clerk; Mr. G.J. Wade and Mr. John Levis, sidesmen; Mr. Lister junior and Mr. S.J. Wade were chosen as delegates to synod.
Issac Johnston was elected "People's Warden" in 1884 and Mrs. Fanny Johnston.
By the middle of July the work was so far forward that he was able to request the bishop to visit the parish and arrange for the laying of the foundation stone of the church.
The Bishop and Mrs. Sillitoe had been out on the trail for most of June, making one of their long journeys into the interior to visit the Indian missions, during which they covered some fourteen hundred miles, camping with the people. By this time they had become seasoned travelers with a reputation for indifference to dangers and discomforts, and endearing themselves to all by their concern for their fellow travelers.
Rt. Rev. Action Stillitoe and Mrs Stillitoe
After resting for a week or two, they were ready to answer the call from Christ Church, Surrey. The Churchman's Gazette carried the story of the visit. "The Lord Bishop of New Westminster accompanied by Mrs. Sillitoe paid a visit to this part of the diocese on Wednesday July 30th, and remained in Camp here until Thursday Aug. 7th. On Sunday, August 3rd, there was a celebration of the Holy Communion at 8:00 o'clock, the Bishop being the celebrant. Mattins was said and the sermon preached by the Bishop at eleven to a numerous congregation."
"Evensong was said at 7.30 by the Rev. Wm. Bell, Vicar, and the rite of Holy Baptism was conferred upon two adults by the Bishop, after which he held a Confirmation; four adults being presented to him for this holy rite."
On Wednesday, August 6th, 1884, all was in readiness. "The Masons go over to Surrey this morning to lay the cornerstone of the new church". Archdeacon Woods joined the company, a welcome presence whose recent two year visit to the Old Country had been most successful in arousing the generosity of friends there. William Shannon with his brothers Joseph and Thomas, were widely known for their service in the community; Abraham Huck, the Civil War Veteran who gave the land; Isaac Johnston who helped his father open up nearly one thousand acres of wilderness; S.J. Wade of early pioneering stock: all were there with designated duties to render dignity and meaning to the ceremonies.
"Mr. John Buie the Worshipful Master of Union Lodge, No. 9, New Westminster, was presented with a very chaste silver trowel by Mr. William Shannon representing the Church Committee, assisted", said the Columbian, "by the Rt. Rev. Bishop Sillitoe as acting chaplain, and by Brother J.C. Hughes as Secretary".
The "Mainland Guardian" reports in some detail the wording of a most impressive scroll, which was read aloud, before being deposited beneath the cornerstone:
By the favor of Almighty God, the Great Architect of the Universe, on the Sixth Day of August, Anno Domini, 1884, and of the Era of Free Masonry, A.L. 5884, and in the 47th year of the reign of Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria.
There follow the names of high Masonic officers: the Prince of Wales; the Earl of Marr; the Marquis of Lansdowne, Governor General; Clement Francis Cornwall, Lieutenant Governor; Edgar Crow Baker, Most Worshipfull Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia. All, by due proclamation, were thus associated with the laying of the cornerstone of a little mission church in the forest.
Deposited in a metal box beneath the stone were: the scroll, the church records supplied by Archdeacon Woods. An eyewitness account describes what followed; "The stone, a block of granite, was then placed in position, and adjusted in the usual manner and being tried by plumb, level and square, was declared to be well made, truly laid, well proved, true and trusty." This ended an important day in the life of the growing community.
Christ Church in 1884 and the interior of Christ Church
The Christ Church committee in Surrey worked with a will and kept the contractor, Mr. Flood, supplied with materials. Mr. E.T. Wade, recently settled on the McLellan Road, performed great service hauling lumber from the river. Mr. Bell, ever on the move, went farther afield towards Langley, visiting isolated families. All Saints, Ladner, was gaining strength and Mr. Bell was aware of the bishop's intention to separate the Surrey mission from it. He had many thoughts too about a young lady down east who before long would become his wife. A suitable residence must soon be provided. Optimism was in the air as indicated by the committee's decision that a bell tower should be built. Mr. Bell and Mr. J. Shannon continued their solicitations for funds and the diocesan authorities, reminded of the promise of a grant of $250, strained their slender purse and kept their word.
Writing his Memoir of Acton Windeyer Sillitoe, the Rev. H.H. Gowen records that "the people laboured so enthusiastically on their church that on September 29th (1884), the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, it was ready for opening, just seven weeks from the laying of the foundation stone".
It was a day to be remembered. A bit of forest floor was cleared of debris, a quiet place was set apart as a sanctuary in Nature's own cathedral, and an altar was protected by a modest building.
It was also a day of opportunity. Mr. Bell must have been happy that he would be closer to the centre of his large parish and better able to keep in touch with his parishioners. The latter part of the 'eighties and the nineties' were times of steady progress. New settlers of high calibre and often with substantial means were coming in. Farms were changing hands and new homesteads taken up. The heavily forested areas around Tynehead were yielding to the logger. The Surrey Council tackled their problems with quite astonishing vigour and foresight. Roads, schools, mail service, communications, dykes, all these matters were constantly debated in that rustic building hard by the church which was given the dignity of being called the Town Hall, and action generally followed talk.
There was a down–to–earth quality in the Surrey Council's deliberations. It dealt with the important questions of law and order, and the preservation of public health, as best it could. Mr. T.E. Wade was appointed Corporation Constable and given a pair of handcuffs and a revolver. An outbreak of smallpox threatened the community, so Mr. Thrift was appointed Health Officer; he arranged for a Mr. J. MacLean to vaccinate all who had not been vaccinated within the last seven years. His remuneration was $3.00 a day, the council also providing the vaccine.
Surrey was without a doctor until the appointment in 1895 of Dr. Sutherland. Midwifery services were supplied from among the pioneer women, some of whom, like Mrs. Tom Shannon, were professionally trained. These services were a far cry from those which a hundred years later we consider to be necessary for our wellbeing, but to those they benefited they gave hope and spoke of better things to come.
For the Churches of all denominations a promising field was waiting to be cultivated. The missionary societies of the parent bodies were quick to support their clergy, who as they shared the lives of their flock won the confidence and esteem of all.
This 1910 surveyor's map of Bell and McLellan Roads, shows the division of properties including
those provided by Abraham Huck for the sites of Town Hall, Christ Church and Surrey Centre School.
As in the case of Abraham Huck, who gave land to both church and municipality, there was always some settler ready to give land or make it available for the Church on easy terms. The women formed their Aids and Auxiliaries for social and church activities, which could hardly be distinguished from each other, and which provided welcome relief from homestead chores.
The congregation of Christ Church Surrey Centre was happy at the prospect of having a resident minister, and the year 1884 closed on a note of expectancy as many members of the Church of England were among the settlers coming into the district. Perhaps only the parson's horse had no interest in what lay ahead. "My horse", wrote Mr. Bell, "which has done me good service for four years, owing to bad roads and long rides to different stations has broken down, and is almost useless". Poor Tam O'Shanter, thanks all the same for what you did for the Church.
Clergy always have vivid memories of their first parish and the Reverend Bell was no exception. His congregation at All Saints, Trenant, later known as Ladner, had given him enthusiastic support. A well constructed church, the first Anglican Church in the delta, had been erected by Mr. Flood, on land given by Mr. William Ladner. An active group of women was tireless in its efforts, so much so that within four years the bishop was able to declare the church free of debt, making a special journey to consecrate the building and to hold a confirmation service. But a larger field of service awaited Mr. Bell.
As he prepared to leave his bachelor quarters for the home to be built near the new church at Surrey Centre and to lay plans for his marriage to a young lady he had met during a tour of missionary duty in Walters Falls, Ontario, he no doubt would have expressed his gratitude for all the care and kindness shown to him.
The winter of 1884–1885 passed quickly. Services at All Saints had to be maintained until such time as a successor could be found to continue the good work so well begun. The new church at Surrey Centre lacked many amenities. There were bills to pay and promised subscriptions to be collected. At the annual meeting on April 6th, 1885, the parish faced the "counting of the cost". Mr. Flood, the contractor had to be paid $509 and the K.C.P. Mills $133. In a delightful phrase that nevertheless looks the matter squarely in the face the minutes record that, "moved by Mr. J.T. Morton and seconded by Mr. William Shannon the congregation be taxed $150.00 for the Clergyman's stipend". Mr. Bell could take heart, as he went about the urgent business of building a house, a home to welcome his bride, with the knowledge that a substantial part of his income was assured. Throughout his fifteen year ministry the contract between parson and people was faithfully kept. Although on occasions parish finances were in a precarious state and the treasurer would have to report to the annual meeting of the congregation that the stipend had not been paid.
"The vicar's stipend was in arrears S45.00. The proceeds of the lunch held by the ladies of the congregation on Fair Day amounting to $17.30 were paid to the vicar."
Rev. William Bell
Taking advantage of the seasonable weather Mr. Bell enlisted the help of Mr. John Morton and together they set out on foot to Blaine to purchase lumber for his house. Loading the lumber on a raft they brought it to the mouth of the Serpentine and poled it up the river to the landing place, then laboriously hauled it to the site purchased from Abraham Huck, on which the Bell Memorial Hall now stands. The journey was uneventful except for the mischance of running on to a sandbar near Crescent Beach. The vicar confessed "he hadn't said his prayers that morning" God was just reminding him that he didn't like to be forgotten.
With the seven room house completed, or at least habitable, and some clear signals across the three thousand miles that divided them, William Bell and Georgiana Carney arranged a rendezvous at Tacoma Washington. Just to assure Georgiana that his mind was made up he sent her the cost of a one way ticket. On his way to catch the stage coach at Blaine he was hailed by Duncan Mackenzie who asked where he was going. He replied he was going to look for his lost rib! Georgiana did not arrive as expected. She had been delayed a few days on her long journey. But William Bell's daily trip to the station in Tacoma to welcome her was not without its compensations. In fact all things worked together for good. He struck up an acquaintance with the stationmaster, Captain T. Bridgeman and Arthur Richardson, a night watchman at the coal bunkers and a brother–in–law of Bridgeman. A man in love can still be a missionary! Prospects of his own future happiness may have coloured his thoughts but he wasted no time in recommending to his new–found friends the advantages of settling in a part of the country so favoured as that surrounding Surrey Centre. Besides, he was always looking for new parishioners.
William Bell and Georgiana Carney were married in St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Tacoma, on August 27th, 1885.
Arthur and Lucy Richardson were in attendance, Arthur acting as best man.
Two years later the Richardsons purchased property on the east side of Coast Meridian Road between the Old and New McLellan roads. They became very active in church and local affairs and the children of the two families grew up together. The bonds of friendship were further sealed in the intimate relationship of marriage in 1927 between Richardson's eldest son, Guy, and Bell's daughter, Lucy.
Capt. Bridgeman did not succumb to Mr. Bell's pleading but he remained a firm friend, frequently visiting his relatives, the Richardsons, and the Bells taking an interest in the Church's work and on occasion contributing generously to the upkeep of the building.
Many years of happiness lay ahead for William Bell and his bride and whatever flutterings of apprehension she may have had as she crossed the threshold of the sparsely furnished house were no doubt dissolved in the excitement of planning the home of her dreams. Her husband, with his practical bent, thought she ought to improve her culinary skills to meet the needs of pioneer life and as we leave them for awhile we can picture the two of them, she riding his horse down the trail to visit the Chris Brown family in East Delta, where he knew they would receive a warm welcome and where Mrs. Bell stayed for three days learning amongst other things how to make bread.
Now that he was resident almost at the centre of his large parish, and comforted no doubt with a good woman at his side, Mr. Bell could take stock of the work that lay ahead with renewed confidence. There were few parishes in the diocese that offered such promise at that time, but the challenge of ministering to the many new communities springing up would daunt any but a very determined and healthy man.
Mr. Bell, looking out over that one hundred and twenty square miles which he considered his parish, would have added some small print, probably mentioning something about the large areas of wilderness and forest yet to be cleared, and the floods, and the lack of communications, but these were just things to be accepted, and he took them in his stride as he went about his work.
The Annual Vestry meeting of 1886 was very business–like. William and Joseph Shannon accepted office. Duncan Mackenzie was appointed sidesman. J.T. Morton was appointed vicar's warden and lay delegate to synod and J. Levis who was elected people's warden, continued to hold that office for 35 years which must be a record of service rarely equaled.
A report was received from the treasurer to the effect that Mr. Chris Brown had collected the large sum of $115 towards the purchase of an organ. The subscription list is an eloquent commentary on church canvassing. When Mr. Bell reported it to the diocesan synod office he wrote in his matter of fact way: "Subscriptions solicited by Mrs. Brown". This remarkable woman who, with her many gifts of heart and mind became something of a "mother in Israel", seems to have teamed up with her husband. They had given generously to the building fund. Now they topped the list with a donation of S12.00.
As St. Paul would say, things were being "set in order" and the little church was being made a habitation so that God might be given due honour and worship. "A very suitable carpet has just been laid", wrote the vicar. He couldn't let the opportunity pass to give his small congregation a little dig and went on to say; "with a little liberality on the part of this congregation, this church can be made the handsomest rural church on the mainland".
It was very important, too, to set the affairs of the cemetery in order, and the church wardens and secretary were instructed to draft the necessary regulations. Mr. Arthur Richardson was appointed sexton "to take and submit accounts for audit". It was intended to be an annual appointment but twenty years later he was still sexton, caring for the grounds, negotiating with the Surrey Council for removal of trees, submitting plans for enlargement, and receiving grateful thanks from those who called for his services in times of bereavement. His work was faithfully carried on by his son, Guy, who continued until his death in 1979, happy that his efforts to set up a fund for perpetual care had been met with success. Both rest in the place consecrated by their unceasing labours.
Christ Church Cemetery
It was not long before the burial ground was needed, as the first page of the register shows. An incomplete entry, Levis, is followed by the record of the burial of Joseph Figg on Christmas Eve, 1885. He was found dead by his cabin on the north–west corner of North Bluff and Coast Meridian Roads, killed by a falling tree. There is William Mackenzie, twenty–nine year old son of Duncan Mackenzie, friend and staunch supporter of Mr. Bell, and Peter Murphy, aged 19. There, too, is the entry, which still stirs the heart, of Edmund Thomas Wade, aged 13 years, 7 months, 18 days, drowned in the Serpentine, buried April 1st, 1887, his grave shaded by a dogwood tree. Hard by is the grave of another lad, Albert Clarke, aged about 11 years, a victim of the treacherous undertow in the Nicomekl River. There is Robert Beveridge and Andrew Allison and the infant son, first born, of the John Morton family, John Finnemore Morton, aged 28 days.
Edmund and Francis Wade
But happier events were soon taking place in the little church on the hill and a page from the baptismal register tells a story all its own. John L. King, Hotel keeper of Mud Bay, and his wife Sarah, bring their six month old Anna Isabell to the font, and a year later present their six weeks old Violet May. The meticulous Mr. Bell makes a mistake and records the baptism of Helena Jane Culbert as having taken place six months before her birth. The minister himself, with Georgiana his wife, joins the ranks of proud parents on September 4th, 1886 and Gwendoline was baptized three weeks later by Bishop Sillitoe. Harry and Eva Chantrell, well known pioneers, present their son Smithson William. The entry in the register evokes poignant memories. The Chantrells were highly respected in the community. Harry, a deeply religious man was formerly a teacher in the famous Metlakatla Mission established by the strong–willed controversial William Duncan. Harry homesteaded in Mud Bay, was the first president of the Agricultural Society of Surrey and later became Customs Officer at Blaine.
John Starr, blacksmith, hotel–keeper and business man, described as having "laid the foundation stone of Cloverdale" brings his third child, Perry Watson. At that time John and his wife, Agnes, lived in a log cabin at the corner of Coast Meridian Road and the Nicomekl River. What a day it is in the Wade home when Edmund and Frances Wade gather up the family and bring Mary Elizabeth, nearly 13, Samuel John, 10, and Harold George 8, and, as the Book of Common Prayer says, "are made members of Christ, children of God and inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven". Three more children were born to the Wade family whose name is still intimately linked with the church in British Columbia.
Every pioneer settlement had its large quota of bachelors, and prospective brides were not plentiful but romance flourishes everywhere. Whilst in Ladner Mr. Bell had performed his first marriage for an impatient couple eloping from parental restraint. His first marriage in Christ Church was performed for a thirty–four year old bachelor, John Smith of Langley Prairie, born in Ontario, and a nineteen year old colleen from Ireland, Elizabeth Flowers. As the years pass more families are linked together by marriage, the community grows, and the harshness of the early days is softened by the comfort and refinement of home life and wider social contacts.
At least one person cherished these thoughts. There is an entry of a marriage dated December 20, 1892, the sixteenth to be performed since the inception ot the parish in 1882. The brothers James, John and Edward Loney came to Surrey from Dunrobin, Ontario establishing themselves in the Mud Bay district, all making a reputation for themselves as actively concerned in civic and church affairs. Edward, thirty at the time, offered his hand to Melanie Oxenbury, who had came from England to visit he sister in Steveston, and had decided to stay in Canada. They were married in Christ Church and lived on the Loney Farm where their home, at the Crescent and Mud Bay Roads, became known for its hospitality and friendship. They were blessed with a family of six: two daughters and four sons.
Something of this can be seen in the way in which the small congregation began to grow. A report on the Parish for the year 1886 shows there were 83 members and 16 communicants. Financial support can only be described as a gleaning and was obtained in several ways. Sunday offertories were quite small and personal canvassing was undertaken by the officers of the Church for both stipend and maintenance. Some $490.00 was raised in this way and with a substantial grant of $395 from the diocese the parish met its obligations and remained solvent. Those who received Mr. Bell's ministrations contributed $193.75 towards his stipend.
The next few years saw a steady growth. Messrs. Mackenzie, Morton, Levis and Richardson stayed on the job as the church committee. Mr. A. Richardson looked after the cemetery. Mr. Chris Brown took care of the accounts and received the warm thanks of everyone for placing the parish in good financial shape. The final building payment of $162.00 was made to Mr. Flood, thanks to a Thanksgiving Service on October 7, and the proceeds of an entertainment in the Town Hall.
The following year the bishop and Mrs. Sillitoe were present for the Thanksgiving service in the morning. In the afternoon he went to Langley Prairie (Milner) and held a service in a school room. Mr. Bell took an afternoon service in Kensington Prairie and went on to Blaine for a service in the evening.
Holy Trinity Cathedral Church, New Westminster, kept a lively interest in the parish and in 1890 through its wardens Messrs. Armstrong and Corbould presented lamps for the church.
In 1891 the membership of Christ Church had increased to 150 with 44 communicants. There were 14 baptisms and the growth of a younger generation called forth the willing services of men and women as teachers. Eight candidates were presented to the bishop for confirmation. The "Junior Members" of the church were thanked for putting on two entertainments, one at Fort Langley in aid of the Building Fund at Langley Prairie, the other in the Town Hall at Surrey Centre, the proceeds of which went towards the cost of painting the church. Capt. Bridgeman also came to the rescue and the church got its new dress, two good coats of paint. Tradition says the colour was red.
The Wade family presented the bell for the tower as a memorial for Edmund. The vicar was delighted, as he had commented rather plaintively on the lack of it. "We were long ago promised a bell and the want of it is very much felt. The tower stands empty and silent now he could call his congregation to worship."
A healthy, well organized country parish was in the making. A church was being equipped with all that was necessary for the needs of the growing congregation. Back in England, the spark that set aflame the missionary zeal some thirty years previously had resulted in a wide network of parish missionary committees constantly raising funds for the work in British Columbia. From one in Welwyn the parish received a parcel through its treasurer, Mrs. Wilshere. It contained two beautiful altar frontals and a full supply of altar linen. Mr. Bell thanks the donors for "such a liberal and magnificent gift" and takes the opportunity to ask if it would be possible for someone to send him the Guardian. A church newspaper would keep him up to date.
From the centre this tireless man travelled throughout the district holding services in Port Kells, Langley Prairie where a church was built in 1891, in Fort Langley, and in schools and homes, wherever he heard a call. With his family he shared the life of his people. He reports to his bishop, who held him in high esteem, in the most matter of fact way. He never complains. He merely says after ten years of toil: "The parish has outgrown my capacity for work . . . There are two Presbyterians and two Methodist preachers covering the same ground which I try to get over".
With his people working happily together and the general affairs of the parish at the centre in good shape, William Bell was able to give more attention to the growing needs of the outlying stations. Whilst the few large centres like New Westminster, Vancouver and Victoria permitted the establishment of the one–church parish with a settled future, the ministry in the country was still very much an itinerant one. The missionary spent long hours in the saddle or in the buckboard over puncheon roads, escaping the quagmire, but forced to endure the boneshaking discomfort of the rough corrugations of loosely laid logs. To all of this could be added the hazard of floods.
Such was the case in the Nicomekl and South Kensington areas. The lush farmland that had been opened up by the early pioneers was attracting more and more homesteaders and whilst a few made valiant efforts to attend Christ Church, others found the distances and physical conditions just too much.
A Mrs. Alice Maud Wordsworth, in a letter to the editor of the magazine published by the British Columbia and Yukon Church Aid Society, put the situation facing Mr. Bell very aptly: "After long delays and a great deal of hard work, we have succeeded in building a small church in this place (Nicomekl) which is full of English people who belong to the Church of England . . . I assure you, it is a very genuine case where it is wanted; people have all they can do to live around here, and after a hard week's work cannot get long distances to church and as a natural consequence, drift into indifference to religious duties, so a decently ordered service is likely to do a great deal of good".
Mrs. Wordsworth was a persistent woman. Appealing for altar hangings and furniture, she wrote: "I have just been over the church and have measured the altar; it is 63 inches long, 27 inches broad, height 44 inches. Please forgive me if I say I do hope the colour will be red, and in addition to a frontal, should we be able to have a dossal and wings; the church is high and there is no east window, only rough boards at the back of the altar. ... I think if you are kind to us, and some of us organize a search for a harmonium, we could see our dedication by Easter... I am getting brass candlesticks. I suppose you never get disused crosses or vases, do you? P.S. Our own priest is Mr. Bell and he is very busy in a district 20 miles square."
Echoes Through A Century. p45
So, they built their Bethel and called it St. George's after the patron saint of England. Major Hornby had told Bishop Dart he was anxious to build a church there and the good bishop persuaded his friends in England to send forty pounds towards the cost. The high pitched roof mentioned by Mrs. Wordsworth was the characteristic feature of all churches designed by William Bell. He rightly maintained it diminished snow problems. The ladies dressed the altar in red. Some seats were lacking and there was still some painting to be done, but the church was free of debt and the bishop was able to report to the Twentieth Session of the Synod of the Diocese that he had consecrated St. George's Nicomekl on October 6th., 1900.
There it stood, on a small parcel of land at the corner of the present Pacific Highway and Mud Bay Road, attracting a congregation of some thirty people responding with enthusiasm to the ministrations of the indefatigable William Bell. Archdeacon Pentreath paid a visit in 1902 and held an afternoon service reporting that there was a good congregation, and in spite of the fact that there being no organ as yet, I had to start the hymns and everybody sang; it was certainly congregational singing and without any "kist o'whistle".
Things certainly seemed to go well for several years. As usual Mr. Bell saw to it that a Sunday School was organized. The Ladies' Guild not only equipped the church and took care of it, but in addition raised funds and gave generously towards the vicar's stipend and other expenses incurred on behalf of his ministry. Amongst the names of those who took a prominent part in parish affairs were Mr. Henry Hornby, Mr. William Hornby, Mr. William Collishaw and Mr. A. Jenkins who all served as parish officers and delegates to Synod.
At a time when Bishop Dart with his redoubtable Archdeacon Pentreath was facing so many difficulties following the premature death of Bishop Sillitoe, the growing strength of the parish of Surrey Centre was heartening news and little St. George's, being the third church built during William Bell's time, was looked upon as a sign of better things to come in missionary endeavours. And so it was, but not in quite the way anticipated.
Within a few years, work at the centre was altered by a shift of population from the area closest to the church. At the same time, to the west of it, numbers so increased that the Rev. Walter Gilbert, who was in charge of the parish at that time, felt compelled to respond to the request for services in the Kensington Prairie School. A contributing factor to the relinquishment of St. George's, as a mission, was the difficulty of access in winter. Walter Gilbert, one of the outstanding missionaries of his time and not easily deterred from carrying out his duties, records in the Service Register the depressing fact on November 28th, 1909: "Every road leading to the Surrey Church was flooded. On my way to Nicomekl, I waded to my knees on the Coast Meridian Road, thus no service was held all day".
Later on December 12th., 1909, he writes: "Flood today still high. Nicomekl Church surrounded with water. Hall's Prairie people not expecting me, hence no service in either of these centres ". February 25th,1910; still another entry: "Driving home through pouring rain. Thursday and Friday evening I caught cold, Hence no further service till May 6th, 1910".
In their zeal to shepherd their flock, the clergy were never slow to respond to the people's longing to have a House of God in their midst, but sometimes due to the unforeseen, it was almost heartbreaking to see a church abandoned, which had been built with their own hands. St. George's had served its purpose. It had given heart to many. It had served a devoted group of people. It had made possible a better plan for the whole Cloverdale area. Reluctantly, services were discontinued in 1914. In 1921, the church was sold to a Mr. Pearson for $125, of which $25.00 was given to St. Mathews Hall's Prairie for church improvements.
It was not until 1933 that St. George's bestowed its final benefits and closed its earthly account. On April 3rd, Christ Church Committee records the following "The warden reports the receipt of the half cash derived from the sale of the Nicomekl property . . . amount is $46.87".
And now St. George's comes to the rescue of Christ Church Surrey Centre. The report continues: "It is decided to borrow the $27.00 necessary pay for the fire insurance of the church from the above sum and moved by Dr. Gillam and seconded by Mr.Fisher that the remainder of the money be left in maintenance fund and earmarked for church building". The balance $19.87 was put in the general fund.
Had there been a fire, St. George's would have the dragon of total catastrophe to flight. The Church of the Redeemer at Cloverdale receipt the other half of the proceeds of the sale is an illustration of how "one soweth and another reapeth" even if it is only enough for seed grain someone else's field!
On the left Rev. Bell and Georgina and their family.
On the right the tombstone of Rev. Bell, his wife Georgina and their daughter.
The Reverend William Bell's ministry in Christ Church was drawing to a close. His signature as vicar appears for the last time when, as chairman of the annual vestry meeting on April 2nd., 1902, confirmed the minutes of a special meeting of the vestery at which his trusted friend and warden, John Levis a Capt. Mellon were appointed lay delegates to Syncod replacing Ernest Wiltshire and Arthur Richardson, both of whom were unable to attend the forthcoming session because of sickness in their families.
Although he had been appointed to St. Marys, Sapperton, he was given a commission to supply services in vacant missions. He took care of Port Kells where he had secured a building intending later to but his fourth church in his far–flung parish of Surrey. He moved the people of St. Margaret's Cedar Cottage build their first church and when fire destroyed the little neighbouring church at St. John's Central Park, he repeated the experience and replaced it with a large building designed, as were all the others, to carry the high, steep pitched 'Bell' roof and slim tower. He was appointed rector of St. John's and had the satisfaction of presenting the new church, free of debt, for consecration by the bishop in 1906. Here he remained until he retired in 1918.
A diligent student, in the midst of all his constant journeying, he found time to write for his Master of Arts degree.
Forthright, practical, endowed with the gift of humour, working, so to speak, off beaten tracks and along paths unknown, this faithful man who could, "endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" could also capture the loyalty and hold the friendship of all whose lives he touched. Happy with his lifelong companion and their large family, he served the church for over half a century, leaving it strengthened and inspired.
He died on August 3rd, 1930 at the age of 77, and was laid to rest in the Surrey Centre churchyard hard by the church he designed himself and which still stands, fitting memorial to one of God's true servants.
A bishop was once heard to remark that "parishes are often one rector behind: it is only after he has left do the people realize how much a part of their lives his ministry has become". This was not the case when William Bell resigned, after twenty years among the pioneers of Surrey and was appointed to St. Mary's, Sapperton. He left behind a people imbued with his own enthusiasm and more than ready to carry on the good work.
After an interim of a few months, during which Mr. Bruce, a lay reader, took the services, Bishop Dart appointed the Rev. Arthur de B. Owen. The immediate problem to be settled was the provision of a rectory and a meeting of the Vestry was called, attended by Archdeacon Pentreath. Dugald Mackenzie and Arthur Richardson, together with the rector, were deputed to discuss with the Rev. William Bell the acquisition of his house.
A month later the committee reported that "Mr. Bell was willing to sell his property for $200 cash and a $500 mortgage at 6%". There was a time some years back when Mr. Bell had reported to his bishop that he was in straitened circumstances and suggested that the rectory which he built "at a cost of $1500" be taken off his hands. "It would relieve me of much anxiety and from my present embarrassment". At that time he thought the parish could raise $500.
The committee recommended acceptance of the generous offer. Necessary repairs would cost some $200 but there was money in hand and further subscriptions to the Building Fund promised. On the motion of the two wardens, Arthur Richardson and John Levis, the committee was requested to "close the deal". It was with thanksgiving!
The Owens were given a warm welcome and were much relieved, no doubt, to have a place to call home. Arthur's arrival coincided with an upturn in the population and a steady improvement in the general conditions of living. Following the pattern set by his predecessor, he traveled from point to point carrying out a most effective pastoral ministry. The financial report for 1905 underlines the results of his efforts. Offertories totaled $256; subscriptions $145; the missionary apportionment of $54 was paid to the diocese and the rectory fund received $249. The total income was almost double that of the previous year. The books showed a credit balance.
At the Annual Vestry meeting held on April 24th, 1905, appreciation of Arthur Owen's ministry was expressed in a resolution "which commended him for the energy he has displayed in parish work". The church wardens were instructed to "make such increase in Mr. Owen's salary as the Church funds will allow".
In the light of this demonstration of support it much have been with something like dismay that the congregation was informed some months later that Arthur Owen had resigned. He was leaving the Church of England and had accepted a call from the Church of St. Paul, a congregation of the Reformed Episcopal Church in New Westminster..
Many new parishes were being established and the bishop was in need of more clergy. Arthur Owen's background and credentials impressed him, he had been ordained some six years, and his appointment to the Surrey parish seemed to be full of promise, as indeed it was although of short duration. Arthur's resignation was a great disappointment and the bishop accepted it with deep regret. Arthur Owen served the congregation of the Church of St. Paul in New Westminster for several years and later took charge of the Church of Our Lord, in Victoria, ministering there until his retirement.
The Bishop moved quickly to fill the vacancy and appointed a licensed lay reader, Mr. Douglas S. Clarke, a cousin of the Bishop of Stepney. Fortunately it was early summer and Mr. Clarke was able to maintain services for the many points, though less frequently.
Mr. Clark's tour of duty ceased in July and the Rev. Franklin G. Rickard with his wife and child took up residence in the vicarage. Mr. Rickard was a graduate of Huron College, London, Ontario and had been working for some years as a missionary in the diocese of Calgary. In his short tenure, just under two years, the debt on the vicarage was reduced to $100. Contributions increased so that a stipend of $720 could be paid. The ladies bustled around seizing every opportunity to raise funds and earning the grateful thanks of the hard pressed Church Committee. Improvements were made to the cemetery property and repairs and renovations to the church were undertaken. In the year 1906–1907 he took 204 services. He organized the first branch of the Anglican Young People's Association with twenty five members. This youth movement was founded in 1902 by Canon Brown. Rector of Paris in the diocese of Huron, and spread from coast to coast until, in 1929, there were 618 branches capturing the interest and energy of thousands of young people. Mr. Rickard, who came from the Huron diocese, knew the founder and had caught the spark.
At the annual meeting of the Vestry, the second, over which he presided, he tendered his resignation, expressing his regret at leaving them and thanking them for their many kindnesses to himself and Mrs. Rickard. (He had been the recipient of the largest Easter offering ever given by the parishioners). Mr. J. Churchland and Mr. H. Hornby moved "that his resignation be regretfully accepted".
The bishop was burdened with manpower shortage in the interior of the province and Mr. Rickard was appointed to the parish of Ashcroft.
Rev. Cecil J. Leonard, 1910
How patient congregations are with changes in the ministry! "We no sooner get used to working with one," said a president of the Woman's Auxiliary, "when he goes and we have to start over again and size up the new man". However the parish seemed to take the change in its stride. It was without a vicar for a year but, if anything, its momentum increased. A very good lay reader, Mr. Cecil J. Leonard, a school teacher and assistant at Holy Trinity Cathedral Church, New Westminster, took the services.
When it came to the business of the church there were the faithfuls: Arthur Richardson and John Levis, wardens; Mr. A. Jenkins, collecting for stipend from the Nicomekl congregation; Mrs. Chris Brown, who donated $60 for a two year subscription; and Mrs. E.T. Wade, still the very capable president of the Ladies Guild. New names appeared: Mr. Wm. Galpin Brice who later became people's warden and delegate to Synod; and Mr. E. Hine, representing Tynehead, and Robert Barton, Hall's Prairie.
It was evident that the parish was receiving added strength through the continuous influx of people and the steady growth in the economy. All it needed was freedom from the unsettling effects of unpredictable changes of ministers.
Providentially this came to pass. For seven and a half years the parish was privileged to have as and counselor one of the best loved parish priests ever to have served in the diocese. The Rev. Walter E. Gilbert was a graduate of Wycliffe College, Toronto the largest theological college at that time in Canada. It was established by a very influential group of clergy and laymen who had a sincere conviction that it was necessary to conserve and propagate the principles of the Reformation. Amongst them was the quiet, diffident but thoroughly dependable Walter Gilbert.
Rev. Walter E. Gilbert, Vicar 1910–1917
Walter was ordained in 1904 and served as assistant in the lovely old church of St. John's Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. He answered a call from Archdeacon Lloyd. Walter served for several years on the prairies during which time St. Saviours Church Vermilion, Alberta, and a number of outlying mission churches were built. Coming to Vancouver, Bishop Dart set him to work organizing the parish of St. Mark and there he prepared the way for Arthur Sovereign who later became the Bishop of Athabasca. Bishop de Pencier recognized his ability to reach people and offered Walter the parish of Surrey.
So, typical of him, he put himself on trial. After six months in the parish he asked the congregation if they wished him to stay. He said "he would like to stay and the more he saw the people the more he wanted to stay". The meeting was in favour of his staying and so it was decided.
Walter entered upon his seven and a half year incumbency under happy circumstances. Willing hands had put the rectory into good repair. The parish books were balanced. Archdeacon Pentreath was promising diocesan support. Happy signals were coming from the outlying points and the Ladies' Guild made it possible for him to purchase a horse. It could be said literally that the women were sending him on his way with four feet well "shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace."
Like his predecessors he traveled unceasingly in fair weather and foul. He was able to report to the congregation that he had conducted 160 services covering all points and had found 317 persons under his care. His happiest moment was when he was able to present 27 of his flock for confirmation by the bishop. This took place on March 26, 1911, when Bishop de Pencier, who had been elected to succeed the wise and kindly Bishop Dart, paid his first visit to the parish. Christ Church was unable to accommodate the crowd. The forty–five year old bishop, six feet two inches tall, of military bearing and possessed of a strong voice with a presence that filled the sanctuary, spoke words of appreciation to the faithful and assured them of his continued support. "The diocese had come through difficult times but it was growing steadily and Christ Church Surrey Centre had played its part".
It was an occasion that marked, in a sense, a coming of age for a parish that had worked so hard for some thirty years and could think of becoming self supporting, even while sponsoring new missions such as White Rock (See First United White Rock) and Crescent Beach which were showing signs of growth and asking for regular services.
Although the clouds of war were gathering below the horizon, and soon the long drawn out agony of death and destruction would penetrate the homes of thousands in distant lands, an air of confidence prevailed throughout this land. It was reflected in the substantial improvement in church affairs, as Archdeacon Pentreath reported to Synod stating "that no diocese in the West was so well covered by clergy".
For the parish of Surrey, 1913 was a banner year, of which the annual report gives a vivid picture. We can see a country parish at work with a highly dedicated group of people knowing what to do and why they do it. It is not hard to imagine ourselves sitting in and becoming a part of the meeting.
Mr. D'Arcy Croft, the People's Warden, reports: "Supports for the church had been properly placed and a good piece of work done". Good foundations!
Well, among other things, he has held 177 services at Christ Church, Hall's Prairie, Johnston Road, White Rock, Nicomekl and Kensington Prairie. He has visited the scattered sixty–five families. He has prepared nine persons for confirmation, conducted three marriages and taken eleven burials. Oh yes! He baptized thirteen children and held three churchings. He has instituted a sort of "Sunday School by Post" for over 50 children who cannot get to the Sunday Schools in the parish. He is glad to report there are three of these: Christ Church, Hall's Prairie and Johnston Road; seven teachers and 73 scholars. A beautiful church and shed has been built at Hall's Prairie (see Hazelmere United). The Johnston Road Guild is raising money for a new church and the White Rock people want one too but no site is available yet.(See First United White Rock) St. George's Nicomekl is suffering from a dwindling population but in Kensington Prairie the trend is reversed. There the people want more services and, as later records show, soon had the largest Sunday School in the parish. "Thank you," said Walter Gilbert, "for your support and for the very handsome Easter offering of $37.10".
Mr. Croft prefaced his report by saying "the parish was forging ahead". With "all the missions doing extremely well," he was able to present a balance sheet showing total receipts of $807.25. Expenses included $550 for their full share of the vicar's $900 annual stipend and their Diocesan Missionary Apportionment of $64.30 was also paid. There is an item of $20.00 for the organist, Mr. Hill, but Mr. Hill informed Mr. Croft that his services were voluntary "and he did not wish to be paid".
And there was Arthur Richardson again with his cemetery report. Two acres had been purchased for $400. Satisfactory arrangements had been made but the land needed clearing. Thanks were given to the Richardson boys and the Lane boys together with the Wades and Mr. Cathcart for a lot of hard work in clearing most of it. There was a bill of $20 for blasting powder, etc. It needed a fence and Mr. Chantrell of Spokane, formerly of Mud Bay, had sent a donation for that purpose.
The Ladies' Guild maintained their generous help. The year before, the members had raised $750 repairing the vicarage, building a shed on the fair grounds and providing some $200 for a sidewalk. This seems to have been an idea of the vicar who thought a sidewalk from the church to the general store would help to increase his congregation during the muddy season. Their contribution of $302 for the current year helped the parish to remain solvent.
Someone had remarked to the vicar "that the women were doing work the men should be doing". "Not so," he said, "if they had not done it, it would have been left undone. They were demonstrating the vitality of the Church". Not having the vote didn't seem to diminish their ardour, and on occasion they were not averse to using a little pressure on the church committee to get things moving.
To the list of officers some new names were added: Mr. O.C. Lane, Mr. H.G. Lawrence from White Rock, and Mr. R.A. Fallowfield from Kensington Prairie. Mr. J.J. Brown, son of Christopher Brown, was elected people's warden.
It was a happy meeting expressing unity and, with the business of the Church set in order, the people looked forward to another year of progress.
Walter Gilbert was magnificently supported by his very talented wife, Mydra, who besides becoming a devoted mother of four sons took part in all that went on in both parish and community. An accomplished musician, a gold medalist in the arts, drama and elocution, she offered her gifts unreservedly wherever they were needed. She taught the children in Sunday school and trained her own boys to be instrumentalists. She organized concerts in the Opera House and took a leading part in social events. She shared in all the many activities of the Ladies' Guild, whose members showed their gratitude and affection by presenting her with a watch as a parting gift when Walter was called to the parish of All Saint's, Ladner. Part of themselves they left behind. Their little son, aged eight days, died and was buried in the cemetery on July 14, 1912. He was joined many years later by both his parents, resting side by side.
Following annual meeting in January 1914 the people were soon to be tested by the strains of war. Their young men would leave them for the front. There would be Red Cross and works of mercy on which to concentrate their energies. Arthur Richardson said he thought "the most important thing was to help the Empire". There would be casualties and some would never return. The church became the comforter of pain and its ministrations a source of strength.
But the four years came to an end and when the Rev. George Moore Morgan came to take over from Walter Gilbert he found the parish strong and intact and already facing its new problems.
As far back as 1893 William Bell wrote to the Bishop and told him he had commenced services at Port Kells: "By the liberal support of those interested, we were able to erect a roomy hall in which services are now held". At that time, the two Henry Kells had a vision of an important river port in the vicinity which held the interest of many and although that vision never became a reality, it focused attention on the district. A substantial number of immigrants and others with business interests formed a settlement which William Bell thought important enough to take under his care.
Tynehead, or as it was originally known, "the Bothwell settlement", to the west of Port Kells, was opened up by a particularly fine group of people mostly from Scotland. With the consent of the Presbyterians, Church of England services were held in their little church and both congregations were organized, choosing as their official representatives, Henry Kells for Port Kells and James E. Hine for Tynehead. A little further south on the Great Northern Railway, the community of Clayton was showing a lively interest in Church affairs, encouraged by the generous support of the E.M. Wiltshire family.
Around the spot where the Old Yale Road on the south bank of the Fraser turns west, settlers were awaiting the advantages that a bridge would bring and there seemed to be good reason to anticipate further development. For once manpower was not a problem. It seemed almost providential that about this time the secretary of the Diocesan Executive Committee, Walter James Walker, intimated to the Bishop his desire to help in the establishment of new parishes. He was a man of considerable means, successful in his business ventures and well–respected in the community. He had already given a parcel of land to Holy Trinity Cathedral, New Westminster; bought land for St. Alban's Church; and for St. John's Central Park where William Bell was hard at work helping his parish to recover from a disastrous fire. With the Bishop's grateful acquiescence he underwrote the cost of three churches: the beautiful church of St. Helen, South Westminster, patterned after a country church in England; the smaller but just as charming church of St. Oswald in Port Kells, and St. Aidans at Tynehead. The designs were of his choosing, including the marked feature of a rood screen in each and a very beautiful east window in St Helen's. He was a deeply religious man and sought his friends amongst men of similar inclination. When Edmund Thomas Wade came to Surrey with his wife and six children in 1884, Walter Walker befriended them, helping them to settle on the Monovale Stock Farm which he owned until Edmund moved to Woodland Farm which became the permanent Wade home. The two men had much in common equally interested in church and civic affairs, Mr. Walker being at one time Reeve of Surrey and Mr. Wade Chief Constable. The tragedy that struck the Wade family in the death by drowning of their eldest son Teddy, drew them closer together.
St. Helen's Church 1911
Saint Oswald Church
Saint Aidan's Church
Mr. Walker was also a friend of the Rev. C.J. Leonard who, as lay–reader at Holy Trinity Cathedral, New Westminster, had taken services in Christ Church Surrey and when ordained became the first parish priest of St. Helen's with St. Oswald's; an appointment which gave the benefactor of the parish much pleasure.
Further expansion was being considered and land was purchased at Brownsville. The shift in population discouraged this, but the desire of the Hall's Prairie people for a church of their own prompted Archdeacon Pentreath to plead their cause to which Mr. Walker responded with a gift of $600.
Walter James Walker, a man who went quietly in his day, doing what he could do best, keeping faith with his Church and serving where he could, kept the account of his life as scrupulously as he did the accounts of New Westminster of which he was auditor. One could say he rendered to God the things he thought belonged to Him. The wealth he gave to the Church was but a part of that account. Little is known of him after he returned to England where it is said he died in voluntary poverty, poor perhaps by the world's standards but rich in the things that pertain to the Kingdom of God.
His good works followed him in many ways that can be seen today. St. Helen's, which has passed through many crises, became a strong centre of worship, its quiet beauty imprinting itself on all who entered its doors. Today, it serves a densely populated area and a strong parish continues to thrive.
St. Oswald's is now under the care of the Rev. Hubert Butcher. A small though happy group of people still "hold the fort", seventy years after Harold Charles, the son of Charles and Ethel Welch, two of the founding members of the parish, was baptized by the Rev. C.J. Leonard, and children are being taught the Christian Faith by the imaginative work of the Rev. H. Butcher.
St. Aidan's was closed in 1918, a casualty of population drift. It was not the end. It was a well constructed building and though standing lonely and silent for so long a time, it remained in excellent shape. Acting on the suggestion of Archdeacon Heathcote, the growing congregation in Cloverdale, needing a parish hall, moved it and attached it to their church built in 1926, where it added much both in outward appearance and in the facilities it provided. Whilst Mr. Walker was busy building churches, his friend Edmund Wade was carrying on his duties in Christ Church as secretary and auditor, offices he held during the whole of Walter Gilbert's time as vicar, relinquishing them to Mr. R.H. Girling in 1918.
The balance sheets he presented, which of course, covered the period of the First World War, showed a parish in good health, agreeing at one point to relinquish part of the grant from the diocesan treasury and to raise the stipend. The accounts also showed some healthy contributions from the several mission–points in the parish. Hall's Prairie, Johnston Road, Kensington Prairie, Scott Road, Strawberry Hill and White Rock were all receiving services and all were thinking of the time when they could have a church of their own. It was obvious that the task of Walter Gilbert and his successors was not eased very much by the separation of the northern part of the parish. One cannot help but admire the enthusiasm of these scattered congregations. The Johnston Road guild even started a building fund. The Scott Road people began looking for property. Sunday Schools were organized by faithful groups of teachers and the minister reported year by year, that he had conducted one hundred and eighty Sunday services
In spite of enthusiasm of the people, the Scott Road and Strawberry Hill missions were not based firmly enough to survive the disruptions of the war and although the clergy continued their pastoral care (Martin Holdom worried about "the western part of the parish") their plans were abandoned.
The experience of the Johnston Road congregation was somewhat different. The Ladies' Guild was of a very capable group of Women who used to meet in the home of James and Florence Johnston, there they planned their activities, arranging for organizing an excellent Sunday School and promoting a building fund. With the advent of war, the members voted to: "adjourn as a guild until after the war and work for the Red Crass and other patriotic purposes". The money in hand was deposited in the bank. In 1917 Walter Gilbert reported that he had "discontinued services at the Johnston Road School for awhile". When the war ended it was found that the momentum for reorganization had gone. The funds were turned over to the Christ Church Cemetery Committee and some of the members of the guild joined the congregation.
Christ Church emerged from its wartime experiences in good fettle but there was some concern about the exodus of quite a number of its strongest supporters and the effect this was having on the ability to meet its financial obligations. The Church Committee sent a signal to the Archdeacon saying: "It was the opinion of the meeting that owing to the number of church members who had left or were leaving the parish that the Executive Committee should be apprised of the fact in order that they might consider the advisability of increasing the grant towards the stipend".
Here was the local version of the problem confronting the Church throughout Canada. The generous help for mission work from the Church in war–weary Britain was drying up, and little Canadian money was replacing it. A crisis was in the making, but there happened to be leaders who thought it was a God–given opportunity. The General Synod of 1918 launched the Anglican Forward Movement and challenged every member to come to the aid of the Church. The results were overwhelming. Over three million dollars was raised, of which one million was returned to the dioceses.
Little Christ Church surprised itself. By 1920 it had contributed $1,862, which was more than it raised for parish expenses in that year.
In the meantime, there was that letter from the Church Committee of Christ Church to be answered. The Archdeacon had a favourite phrase, "something must be done". But what? Neighbouring parishes were in the same difficulty. Back came a reply, "would Christ Church consider taking Langley under its wing?" The Rev. George Moore Morgan would have more work but Langley would help pay his stipend. The diocese would be relieved of the necessity of making a grant in aid.
One suspects that the Archdeacon, a very understanding man, smiled when he received the committee's reply: "The proposal to join this Parish with Langley would seriously injure the work at present being done and we do not deem the proposal advisable for the sake of the deficit in the parish finances".
The reply seems to say: "It is therefore resolved that the Vestry petition the Executive Committee to increase the grant by $100 for the present and ensuing year and thus overcome the difficulty without disturbing the present arrangements of the parish". The matter was dropped. There would be several experiments in rearrangements in years to come, but for the time there was more than enough to afford ample the abundant energies of the Rev. George Moore Morgan who succeeded the Rev. Walter Gilbert December, 1918.
Mr. Morgan was a graduate of the University of Toronto and Trinity College, having relinquished a business career to seek ordination. He was fond of outdoors and something of an athlete, interested in sports and ready to help in organizing them at the fair; an other functions. Mr. W. Barton recalls an incident at the Surrey Fair where a spectator who had been drinking too much tried to interfere on behalf of his favorite side in a tug of war. Mr. Morgan who was in charge of the event restrained the drunken exuberance rather forcibly, whereupon the man challenged him to a fight. Mr. Morgan cut him short with "wait 'til this is finished and then we'll settle it." The challenger, not wanting to be influenced in any way by George Morgan's muscular Christianity, faded into the crowd and the sports continued without further interruption.
George Morgan was not one to allow difficulties to stand in his way. On his appointment to the parish a stipend was agreed upon, but it was rather slow in coming. He was also handicapped in his work with an unsafe buggy. To get action, he offered to forego the $I00 the parish owed him if the church committee would purchase a new buggy. In the meantime he took to the roads on a bicycle, thereby proving amongst other things that the condition of the country roads in Surrey had improved since William Bell, on faithful Tam O'Shanter, had defied the pot holes and puncheon, on the trails slashed through forest and hardhack in the early days of the settlement.
A very generous subscriber to the missionary apportionment for work outside the parish, Mr. Morgan did much to encourage the system of pledged financial support through the envelope system. During his stay in the parish, the names of several newcomers appear in the list of office–holders. Among them was the Lane family who came from Sterling, Kansas, and bought their home with twelve acres on the Old McLellan Road in 1911. They planted the stately maple trees still standing beside the street. They laid down two fine grass tennis courts which, no doubt, became the scene of many a match with the Molyneux family who were also tennis enthusiasts. John Lane, the son, took a great interest in the community, particularly in agriculture fairs and improvement of the potato industry. Mr. O.C. Lane was elected People's Warden and John served as a committee member for several years.
The Rev. George Morgan found a kindred spirit in a school teacher who had recently come from Nakusp, B.C. – Richard Henry Lacy Girling.
Rev. H.L. Girling
He was destined later to play an important part in establishing the Church of the Redeemer in Cloverdale. He accepted the office of Vicar's Warden, was treasurer and sidesman, doing whatever his hand found to do for his church. His son, Walter, recalls that whenever the service was held in the afternoon, it was the custom for the vicar to invite Richard Girling over to the rectory for "a cuppa tea", where long conversations took place.
George Morgan's incumbency was a stimulating one and when he left to take charge of Rosedale he carried with him, as his successor Martin Holdom said, "the high opinion which was shared by all". Mrs. Holdom added a quizzical footnote saying, "Yes, he was a very good friend but I don't remember he ever told us about the fleas in the old rectory. Every night we filled a tub with water and took off our clothes and dumped them into it".
Rev. Martin W. Holdom. Vicar I920–I925
The man is the message: and where the messengers of the Gospel are concerned, the Christian Church has been coloured and enriched by a never–ending variety of parson personalities. Martin Webber Holdom and George Moore Morgan had much in common. Both had a breakdown in his former parish of Castor, Alberta. Mr. W. Barton of Hall's Prairie tells how he would take his Monday off and relax from parish concerns, spending quiet hours somewhere in that lovely part of the country, indulging his hobby of birdwatching. His quirks of speech were sometimes cause for amusement in the congregation. On one occasion, when conducting a memorial service in Christ Church, the children were present at his request, each with a bouquet of flowers. At the appointed place in the service for announcements, he said: "Would the children please take their flowers and place them on the graves of those who died after the service."
In 1925, much beloved by all after five happy years, in spite of some temporary inconveniences in the rectory which was badly in need of repairs, and some losing fights with his Model T Ford which was supposed to lift him out of the horse and buggy age, but all too often landed him in the ditch or stranded far from a garage, he accepted the parish of St. Thomas, Chilliwack. There he served for eleven years, his fruitful ministry recognized by the bishop who collated him a Canon of Christ Church Cathedral. He retired for reasons of health to Crescent Beach where he pursued his nature studies, sharing his extensive knowledge of the local bird population in several interesting publications. He died in his eighty–ninth year and was buried in Christ Church cemetery.
It was during Martin Holdom's incumbency that the mission of St. Matthews Halls Prairie showed steady progress and was able to give substantial support to the church committee as it wrestled with the post war problems. Perhaps this is the place to tell its story.
As far back as 1885 the Rev. William Bell had traveled the eastward trail, close to the border which led through that part of his large parish which even today has a panoramic beauty that makes one pause. Henry T. Thrift a few years later, settled at Hazelmere and was successful in obtaining the mail concession.(See the Thrift Family) There was talk of the railway linking Brownsville on the south bank of the Fraser with the railway south of the border. It was in place by 1891 running through Port Kells, Clayton, Cloverdale and Hazelmere. The prospects of a thriving community in a fertile area looked attractive and settlers began to arrive. The "preachers", as Henry Thrift called them, went looking for their flock and Henry, community–minded man that he was, extended hospitality to all, attending the services regularly wherever they were held. "When we moved to Hazelmere," he recalls, "and the road became somewhat improved so that one could get over it with a horse, for some time Rev. Mr. W. Bell came out occasionally and held forth in H. Stender's log house, and when there was no service in our own settlement, wife and I used to walk across to where Blaine is now as there was Sunday School and service every Sunday".
William Bell's successors continued to hold services in homes until in 1905 by community effort a church was built on land given by Henry Thrift on condition it could be used by all desiring a place of worship. Cecil J. Leonard and Walter Gilbert availed themselves of this to establish a regular schedule of services until the increasing number of Church of England settlers began to think of a church of their own. Walter Gilbert sent word to the bishop who said he was in full accord and promised support, so when Robert Barton and William Lawrence attended the annual meeting on Easter Monday, April 13th., 1914, they were able to report that a church had been built on a temporary site on the Barton farm near the intersection of the Lawrence and Campbell River roads Hall's Prairie and that the first service was held on August 24th.
Writing to the British Columbia and Yukon Church Aid Society, Walter Gilbert said: "From the funds that the society sent out last year our diocesan committee was good enough to allot us $400 for a church hall at Hall's Prairie, one of our out–stations. The amount was spent wholly on material, the land and labour being freely given. We now have a comfortable, well–constructed little building which will seat 100 people, and a driving shed as a shelter for the horses of those driving to the service".
Within a very short while the sanctuary was furnished with gifts from the parishioners: Miss Thompson, an altar frontal; Mrs. J.D. Tucker, altar linen; Mr. C.E. Vickery, a cabinet maker, provided a credence table and lectern. The organ was purchased, but the Bible and prayer books were obtained from the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge in England. Christ Church, Surrey Centre, now having the advantage of electric lighting, gave their old oil lamps, and their font which had been replaced by a new one.
When the question about a permanent site arose, Archdeacon Heathcote was able to tell the people that Mr. Walter J. Walker who had been so generous in helping other churches, was making a gift of $600 to enable them to purchase land. Mr. Lyle Garratt was willing to sell and the building was moved a short distance east on Campbell River road where it remained until it was closed in 1958.
No sooner had the church been built than the congregation took steps to organize itself. Mr. William Lawrence informed the Christ Church Vestry that St. Matthew's, as the church was named, wished to appoint its own officers and conduct its own affairs. The congregation would continue to pay its share of the minister's stipend. "He did not know how much but he could say it would be more than in the past". It would also assume its share of general expenses such as the upkeep of rectory and traveling costs.
St. Matthew's first Annual Church Vestry meeting was held on Wednesday in Easter week, 1914, with the Rev. Walter Gilbert presiding, attended amongst others by Robert and Henry Barton, C.E. Vickery, J.D. Tucker and Wm. Lawrence. Henry Barton was appointed delegate to Synod and Wm. Lawrence as people's warden. Faithful to Mr. Lawrence's promise, the small congregation pledged itself to contribute $120 towards the stipend, an amount that was increased as time went on, and to the great satisfaction of the treasurer of Christ Church paid in monthly instalments.
Prominent amongst the six or seven founding families were those of the Barton brothers, Robert and Henry. Farmers and tradesmen, they had married sisters and with their growing families had come from eastern Canada in 1904 to try their fortunes in British Columbia. It is easy to see how much their church meant to them for there was not an office in the parish that had not at sometime been filled by a Barton. Lay delegate, warden, treasurer, organist, Sunday School teacher, woman's Auxiliary committee member, all their responsibilities were faithfully discharged. When the two sisters died in 1945, the Rev. W.R. Jeffcott paid tribute to these two pioneering families; "Pioneers of St. Matthews who have left behind so many friends whose lives they touched and who will be better Christians for having known them".
Charles E. Vickery who built a number of the church furnishings
Saint Matthew's Sunday School class in 1922.
Left to right: Geo. McConkey, Elva Garrett, Harry Hewitt, Molly Hewitt, Molly Ives, Iris McConkey, Lillian McConkey, Olive Stewart, Verna McConkey, Eileen Stewart, Cecil Towse, Jim Vickery, Hazel McConkey, May Barton.
Robert and Elizabeth Barton
Henry and Ann Barton and family – 1902
The clergy shared the dreams of their people and looked after the newcomers moving steadily into the valley. The regularity of services in the little church had their effect and drew many towards it. By Martin Holdom's time, the St. Matthew's mission had found its feet and when the Rev. Harold Varley succeeded him, there were some twenty families on the roll.
The women formed a branch of the Woman's Auxiliary and the Sunday School was as large as at any other point in the parish. Some of the names become familiar, appearing year by year in the records of the church's work and to mention some would be an injustice to others but one gains the impression of a group working amicably together, grateful for the presence of the church in their midst.
The picture of Mr. A.D. Harvey, the customs officer, and his wife Jessie walking down the trail to church every Sunday; of Mrs. Grace Day, a devoted woman, a teacher who was able to communicate the faith so well in Confirmation classes, ending her report with a comment on a favourable balance in Sunday School funds, "but some balances are not to be computed in dollars and cents"; and of Mr. and Mrs. A.C. Moss asking the newly appointed vicar, the Rev. W.R. Jeffcott, "Give us back our 11 o'clock Communion service"; these and other vignettes from the past tell us why St. Matthews was able to accomplish so much.
Early Churches and their parishes in Surrey
From the beginning, St. Matthews met its obligations. Besides doing all that was promised in sharing overall parish expenses, it responded to the Forward Movement in 1920. It also kept its promise to raise $390 for the Anglican Advance Appeal in 1947. It repeated its success in the Bishop's Appeal in 1953. Its diocesan apportionment was met every year and through the Woman's Auxiliary responded to every appeal from the mission field at home and abroad. When the Rev. Harold Varley left Christ Church, a rearrangement of the parish brought St. Matthew's under White Rock. The Rev. L.J. Thompson took care of St. Matthew's until 1932 when the Rev. W.C. Daniel replaced him, to be followed by the Rev. Henry Assher Oswald, known to his intimates as Ozzie. The Oswalds were a delightful couple, both with a marvelous sense of humour. His ministry was 'practical', illustrated best perhaps by his rhubarb patch which he cultivated, selling the produce to provide funds for the church. He fitted in well and the work progressed. In 1940 he was appointed to the parish of All Saints, Mission, leaving "a well–cultivated vineyard" for the Rev. W.R. Jeffcott to take under his care.
"One man sows and another reaps". During Mr. Jeffcott's ten–year ministry, loyally supported by such people as the McConkeys, Birdsalls, Peaceys and the Horrocks, to name but a few, the St. Matthew's family weathered the unsettling effects of the war and emerged, if anything, more closely knit. William Jeffcott suffered indifferent health by reason of the serious wounds he received during the First World War. The strain of caring for the three–point parish, together with illness in the home, convinced him that he ought to seek a less laborious field. His bishop agreed and after a short interval the Rev. E. Pitt Griffiths was appointed in May 1950. The difficult years were ahead but St. Matthew's stood its ground, responding to the leadership of their minister and appreciative of his care ("Mrs. G.H. Moss thanked Mr. Griffiths for his many visits to Mr. Moss while sick"). By 1957 it was indeed a case of the faithful few fighting bravely, with a congregation diminishing because of death or departure. The sad and painful decision had to be made and the church was closed the following year.
Amidst the changes and chances of our time, St. Matthews, Hall's Prairie, stood for only forty years or so, but it spoke to all who passed by or worshipped in it of things that do not change or decay. The words of Mrs. Grace Day, presenting a report to the annual meeting, were beautifully said: "As to the spiritual value of these gatherings there is no means of estimating this, nor have we a standard for measuring it, for the full realization of spiritual advance lies in the heart of each individual, but the cheerful willingness of all the members to help in every way is surely an indication that each one feels that in this work begun and ended in the sacred name of our Master she is working for the extension of the Kingdom of Heaven".
"You see", said Guy Richardson, speaking of the minister's duties in the parish, "they said the people won't come to this one centre, so he took the services to the (other) centres . . .". There were so many centres and they all wanted churches. It was indeed the characteristic feature of missionary work in the sparsely peopled areas everywhere, and both its strength and its weakness. In times of prosperity the optimism of the small scattered centres invariably moved them to plan for their own little church. In times of depression and adversity, through lack of regular services and failing support from missionary funds, the church would be closed and the congregation would sadly disperse.
The attrition of the national economy during the post war years and the severe depression which gripped the country during what we know as the "dirty thirties" put a great strain on the Church. A war to end war had taken the flower of a generation and there was a grave shortage of men for the ministry. Just at the time when the widespread social problems challenged the Church to action a financial crisis placed all missionary work in the West in jeopardy and forced retrenchment. The clergy who stayed with their people often took their stipend in kind.
Christ Church Surrey Centre and the adjoining parishes presented the problem in familiar terms and Archbishop de Pencier's rearrangement of pastoral care was indeed a "war time measure", deploying man power and resources. The Church of the Redeemer was to be served by the minister from St. Helen's, South Westminster. The parish of Christ Church would come under the care of the vicar from St. Andrew's, Langley, who was already ministering to the congregations of St. George's Church, Fort Langley and St. Alban's, Otter.
The Archbishop was influenced in his decision by a letter he received from the Christ Church Vestry. No one could accuse Dr. Gillam, the lay reader, or Guy Richardson of defeatism but "after full consideration," as Ted Tindall the vestry clerk noted, they sponsored a resolution "That the members of the Vestry of Christ Church Surrey Centre are of the opinion that it is impossible under existing conditions to raise the required portion of the apportionment of the stipend of the vicar (he was owed eighty dollars). Therefore it is hereby resolved that the Synod be asked to make other arrangements whereby it may be possible to hold occasional services in the parish church." It was carried unanimously.
If the Archbishop had any doubts about the seriousness of the situation they were removed when he also received a letter from the Vestry of the Church of the Redeemer regretting its inability to keep its promise to pay the increased share of the apportionment. "We have tried to help Christ Church this year by taking an additional 15% but we find we cannot at this present time".
It was fortunate that Christ Church was now in the charge of a man who had a stubborn streak in his character and was not easily moved. The Rev. Herbert Pearson and his wife had already gained the confidence of the people in his parish, where his quiet steady leadership was producing results. He was a man who preferred to lead, so to speak, from behind, and got on well with his helpers. Christ Church people were happy to have him and the prospect of having regular services helped to lift the cloud of depression. The newly formed Woman's Auxiliary welcomed Mrs. Pearson who took a lively interest in all parish activities. There was every indication that the parish was off to a good start and with something of a revival of the old pioneer spirit set about the solving of its problems.
Steps had already been taken to provide much needed accommodation for parish activities. Some thought the old vicarage still standing on the property across the road could be converted to general use. With the younger members pressing for a place available for badminton and social events the congregation gave Guy Richardson and his building committee authority to plan for a hall. The question, as to whether Christ Church, separated from the Church of the Redeemer had full authority to proceed with any plans for a hall was a sensitive one; a formal agreement at the time the acquisition of the property specifically mentioned the provision of a new vicarage involving both congregations. Fortunately moderate counsels in both congregations prevailed; Archdeacon Heathcote bringing his well known gift of conciliation to bear and giving assurance of the protection of all interests. He was, no doubt, in full accord with the spirit behind the resolution of Mrs. J. Johnston and Mrs. Loney "that ... the congregation of Surrey Centre inform the other centres in the parish that a hall is being built on parish property for the good of the whole parish".
The Rev. Herbert Pearson
And so the old gray stucco two storey house with its verandah around three sides and the magnificent lilac bushes at the gate was demolished by Dan McGowan–Abraham Lomas and Robert Latham, who lived nearby, volunteered their services in clearing the land of its tall trees and heavy undergrowth, a formidable task that took weeks of laborious effort.
Many years later Guy Richardson told the story of the building of the Bell Memorial Hall.
I canvassed all the local kids and they all agreed to put up $5 each (a large amount you know) and I had plans drawn up by McGowan. I worked with McGowan and he was working on his house. I did work for him and sold him vegetables, etc., and he owed me a week's work. You see neither of us paid money. I said I would give him a week's work if he would give me a boost on the hall. He said he would and gave us two days besides for free. He was a good carpenter. We ordered all the lumber and the milk truck drivers took a load of milk in and brought lumber out. The manager of local sales for Mohawk had a lumber yard in Cloverdale, Wakeley, I knew him pretty well. I gave him a list of everything we required and he gave us an awfully good price, All #1 common it was. We got those trucks, and they didn't charge us anything. Brown's hauled some too. I with a couple of helpers got the team up and hauled all the rocks around and placed them where they were supposed to be for the foundation. Sowden and his two sons helped and Sowden was a pretty good carpenter. We had the frame pretty well up in a week's time. We had very little money, we borrowed $100 from the Cemetery Fund to pay for the lumber, we didn't pay any wages. Later on different people gave a little here and there.
We'd never asked permission to build so old Archdeacon Heathcote came out to investigate and I don't know what they told him but he said it looks like there is more than $100 in that roof. I think they told him we were spending $1000, the Archdeacon didn't say anything. He just turned and walked away. However at the first banquet we had, he congratulated us.
One morning, during the construction, the workers were a little surprised to see a cut–out of a big white elephant on the wall facing the road. A lock on the front door was pulled off. In spite of these anonymous protests the work went so well that plans were laid for the official opening of the hall.
Echoes Through A Century p 69
The Bell Memorial Hall built in 1932
All Saints' Day, 1932, approximately the fiftieth anniversary of the birth of the parish, was something of a red letter day. Half a century had passed since that sturdy pioneer William Bell had gathered his people together and founded the parish. He had passed on and now his body rested in the churchyard with many of those who had been his fellow workers. What more fitting than that the lovely festival should be chosen for the event and that the hall should be dedicated as a memorial to him. Over one hundred and fifty people were present and included many visitors from parishes formerly served by him. His relatives and descendants were there and the Church at large was represented by Archbishop de Pencier and Archdeacon Heathcote. The women of the parish, convened by Mrs. F. Tindall, president of the Woman's Auxiliary, sat the assembly down to the customary hearty supper. The Archbishop expressed his goodwill and complimented the parish on providing a facility which would advance the work of both church and community. If the interior of the building was still incomplete and without a ceiling the floor was in excellent shape for the dance to the music of a good orchestra, which brought the auspicious day to a happy conclusion.
Herbert Pearson had thrown his weight behind the project and his personal plea to the Archdeacon helped to secure a loan to meet current bills.
The members of the Johnston Road, Ladies Guild which had disbanded during the First World War, handed over their accumulated funds amounting to some $200, stipulating that part should be placed in an endowment fund for the upkeep of the church and cemetery, and the remainder applied to the reduction of the debts on the hall. Both church and community groups availed themselves of the new facility and it soon became necessary to set up a management committee and establish rules for its use.
Something of a crisis had dissolved in the success of a project which might not have been carried through had it not been for the dogged persistence of Guy Richardson and his team of volunteers, but which, eventually brought almost everyone in the parish together in common effort. During subsequent years it endured a precarious existence, at one time during the ebb of parish life being offered for sale, fortunately with no takers. There was more faith shown by the women who insisted that it should be named "the Bell Memorial Hall", saying that would make it difficult for those who came after to pull it down, and it stands today not only as a memorial but a sign of better things to come.
In spite of the unsettled conditions affecting every level of life in the community, the parish went steadily forward. There was widespread unemployment. People continued to pour in from the prairies, some in dire straits, and relief rolls grew longer. In 1936 some 1500 out of a population of 16,000 were receiving assistance. Percy Livingstone, the Municipal Clerk, recalled how at one meeting the members were prevented from leaving by an angry group of several hundred self–styled "Surrey workers" until their cheques were issued to them.
Homesteaders who had settled on smaller holdings found themselves in similar plight, without adequate income and eking out a bare subsistence.
In 1935 Mother Nature administered her own chastening rod. In late January four feet of snow fell on the hard frozen ground, followed by two days of heavy rain. Unable to drain away, the melting snow soon covered the valley floor with several feet of water, leaving visible only the railway tracks and the top of a bridge or two. The cost of repairs and restoration of municipal services placed a heavy burden on a municipality already harassed by large deficits in taxes, and only minimal income from the hundreds of money–poor newcomers settling within its borders.
Adversity throws people together, and it is interesting to see how local organizations, the Women's Institutes and the various Lodges, increased the scope of their activities for the benefit of the community. The community halls came into their own, and the churches had a special attraction for many who had known the companionship and the spiritual comfort they had shared with the small congregations in the mission churches on the prairies.
Herbert Pearson's steady pastoral labours, the building of the hall, and the renewal of interest in the parish, enabled Christ Church to serve the community much more effectively. The parish organizations were strengthened by the presence of new members. While a debt remained on the hall, all other financial obligations were met, and although events in the immediate future were to prove it premature, there was talk in 1935 of becoming self supporting.
To everyone's regret Herbert Pearson left the parish to take charge of The House of the Good Shepherd. He was succeeded by the Rev. William Garbutt who had just come to the diocese from Saskatchewan where he had served country missions during the "dust bowl" years. William, a Maritimer, was a friendly outgoing man, a zealous evangelist and like his predecessor a tireless traveler. Giving his report at an annual meeting he said he had made upwards of 400 visits throughout the entire parish which included also St. George's, Fort Langley, St. Andrew's, Langley, and St. Alban's, Otter. There was a marked increase in church attendance and in Sunday School. He thought the parish should know that in trying to minister to all, especially the newcomers, his car had cost him some $200. It was typical of Bill Garbutt that, having made his point, he left it with his parish, as he always did, and concluded his remarks on the upbeat by saying he had been inspired by the co-operation he had received and was happy to be their minister.
The parish had weathered the depression and was in good fettle. The spirit that moved the pioneers fifty years before to carve a place out of the primitive forest for their church was as strong as ever. The great timbers of that magnificent virgin forest which covered the land were gone forever, the last of the Douglas firs at Green Timbers on Hjorth road yielding to the axe in 1930. With them passed an era, and the names of the pioneers who shaped it became history. Christ Church could recall them with affection and the word "old timer" took on the aura of a proud local tradition.
But if the giants of the early days had gone, the second growth remained, acres of it covering the countryside and large enough to be a merchantable resource. Guy Richardson got permission from the church committee to cut enough trees on the Bell property and sell the logs to pay for the roofing of both hall and church. One could also say there were second growth families in the church with roots just as strong and with even closer ties to the place where their parents and relatives were laid to rest. The change from one generation to another is not the harsh cutting down and a completely new beginning. More gently they mingle in the stream of life which is the mark particularly of the Church. Edmund and Frances Wade had passed on. Edmund's sister Mrs. Howe was still active looking after the sanctuary, although she had to give up her beloved Sunday School work which with her helper Mrs. Ash she had carried on for twenty years. Sam Wade, the forest ranger, now nearing his sixties, could often be seen walking along the railway track with members of his family on their way to church. Christopher Brown, who with his wife Sarah had done so much to welcome William Bell and his wife Georgina, died in 1908. Mrs. Brown remained on the farm, and until her death in 1947 at the age of 92 never ceased her active and generous interest in the Church they helped to build.
The Richardson Family, before 1914.
Left to Right: Fergus, Mrs. A.(Lucy), Arthur Sr., Lance, Guy C.
In front: Mrs. Ruby Bridgeman and son Ted.
No one was more closely linked with the Christ Church family than Arthur Richardson who with his wife Lucy came to Surrey Centre in 1887. Lucy died in 1935 but Arthur, now past 80, was still sharing with his son Guy the care and management of the cemetery, the beauty spot which is his memorial.
Also bridging past and present was Henry Bose, the young man who stepped off the ship at New Westminster in 1890 and made his way to Surrey Centre to become one of the most influential men in civic affairs and with his family a strong supporter of his church.
Rev. Walter Gilbert
Other names come to mind. Fred Robinson who was so kind to the Rev. Walter Gilbert, driving him to the outlying missions and helping him with his services: James Johnston, scion of the old pioneer who came from Cork, Ireland, in 1866, establishing his family along what is now known as Johnston Road: the Loney family whose large home was a centre of so much of the life of the community. The Hornbys grace the annals of St. Matthew's, Hall's Prairie and the Church of the Redeemer, Cloverdale, as well as Christ Church. The Molyneuxs, whose generous gift secured for the parish the property on which the Bell Memorial Hall was built, were always responding in time of need.
As the parish entered the next fifty years the pioneers were assured that there were others equally loyal and willing to work. New names appear in the records. C.E. Fisher of Newton, who often asked his young friend George Wilson to drive him to church, became church warden and delegate to Synod. His wife Alice was very active in the Woman's Auxiliary. James White, coming from the cotton mills of England to the livery stables in Hamilton, then to the Alaska gold fields delivering mail by dog team, who homesteaded in the Sullivan area and ran a poultry farm, active in civic affairs and a life long attender of Christ Church. The Rev. John Dalton said of him that he was one of the most loyal men he had ever met. As committee member, warden and delegate to Synod his many years of quiet service were an example to all.
The green lawns of the present Municipal Cemetery were once part of the seven acre farm which was the home of Robert and Mary Wills. Arriving in 1919 from England they immediately became members of Christ Church and for fifty years, with their happy family of four, devoted themselves to its welfare. No task was too small for them whether it was cleaning the church or feeding the monster stove to take the chill off the winter air. Music was their delight and both were choir members; Mary's best remembered project being to raise funds to provide an electric organ. Robert served as vestry clerk and Synod delegate and was chairman of the Church Restoration Committee in 1958.
Across the road from the Church where the School Board Worksyard is situated lived the Tindalls. Originally from England they had come from Salt Lake City and Fred found employment on the B.C. Electric Railway. Cyril Venables, one time student minister, recalls that Sunday by Sunday the Tindalls would be in their place in church. Mrs. Tindall was president of the newly formed Woman's Auxiliary, whilst Fred seemed to be helper in anything that required to be done from janitor work to vestry clerk and church warden. Although his spelling was marked with some freedom of choice, his recording in laborious handwriting of the Church's business was orderly and precise as to meaning. Practical in every way, Fred showed his faith by his works. He once gave a hint of his inner thoughts about the high calling of the ministry when he said on one occasion that he expected his clergyman to be a gentleman.
There were others in the parish team who were ready to carry the torch. The Sunday School passed from Mrs. Howe's hand to Mrs. Carter and then to Florence Monkman. The music of the church was taken over by Mrs. J. Johnston, organist, choir mistress and concert organizer for thirteen years. Parents whose families were growing up took an interest in the youth programmes centred around the new hall. Pat and Wendy Sanders did much for scouting. Robert and Ivy Latham, Mr. and Mrs. John Holmes, the Johnston and Katrina Sowden family who were much in favour of a parish bus, are representative of the changing congregation.
Active on the various committees we read of Mr. and Mrs. R. Greenaway, Mr. and Mrs. J. Lane, Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Chessher, Mr. and Mrs. John Kippan, Mr. and Mrs. T. Craven, Mrs. Crane, Mrs. Smithers, Mr. Dicker, Mr. Haines, Mr. and Mrs. J.H. Mitchell.
"It has been a successful year" said Fred Tindall, the vestry clerk as he reviewed 1938: and with much still to be attempted the parish looked forward to the coming year with confidence.
Few could have foreseen the upheavals of the next decade and whilst the social unrest in Europe was cause for anxiety it seemed unthinkable, having experienced the horrors of one world conflict that another could even be contemplated by those in high places. On Sunday morning September 3rd western Canada was awakened by the dread news that once again the nations in Europe were locked in armed conflict, whose fury would soon engulf the whole world, this time destroying millions of helpless civilians. Its horror appalled us.
Once again young men answered the call to serve in the armed forces. The economy of the country was geared to a war effort that lasted six years. The imminent danger of invasion on the West Coast prompted more effective measures to meet it. Military operations were supplemented by the organization of Civil defense units. A.R.P.'s (air raid precaution) were formed in each community. Accommodation for temporary hospitals and auxiliary services would be requisitioned. The Bell Memorial Hall was equipped with beds and basic necessities. As before, community organizations, parish groups, Women's Institutes soon became preoccupied in supporting the Red Cross and other relief services.
It was a time of challenge for the Church, and looking back it can be said that it did not fail in its ministry to a great company of people bruised in spirit and burdened with deep anxieties and grief. Many of its clergy felt the call to enlist as chaplains, which created shortage on the home front and made it extremely difficult to man the many small rural missions. It was a time, too, when the diocese of New Westminster was engaged in a widespread missionary programme which included the Columbia Coast Mission, the Japanese and Chinese missions, Indian work in the coastal areas and the Mission to Seamen.
In his search for men the bishop appealed to the Rev. Frank Smye, the head of the House of the Good Shepherd in Milestone, Saskatchewan, where a group of clergy were looking after the people in a drought stricken area of some five thousand square miles. On his invitation, a branch house was established at St. Helen's South Westminster, and as the Rev. William Garbed and the Rev. Edward Thain had been posted to other parishes, its clergy for the next two years looked after a territory which included St. Helen's, Christ Church: Surrey Centre, the Church of the Redeemer, Cloverdale, St. Oswald's, Port Kells, and the Church of the Good Shepherd at Latimer Heights.
Few parishes have had to accommodate themselves to so many changes of clergy, sometimes with unsettling effects. The congregations however, recognizing the abnormal circumstances the war had created, gave the clergy team and their lay helpers their full support. The team consisted of the Revs. Willard Rorke, Leonard John Hales, Eyre Frederick Morton Dann, and St. George Mossom Boyd. The company was joined by William Askew and Tony Roberts, two young men who were testing their vocation to the ministry and were eventually ordained.
No one thought of the plan as anything except a temporary arrangement. It was a case of keeping 'the home fires burning until the boys came home', but at least, it did ensure the one essential need in keeping any congregation alive, the regular weekly services of worship. The clergy met a happy spirit of co–operation, and communication between the congregations was more frequent. St. Oswald's received congratulatory messages on the occasion of their jubilee. Cloverdale sent a letter to Christ Church expressing "appreciation, gratitude and encouragement that our union with you will give us". All four church committees sent representatives to meet with St. Helen's to discuss the sharing of financial obligations such as stipend, car expenses, taxes and rent. Resolutions were passed at annual meetings commending the clergy for their work. Martin Liversedge, a lay member of the Brotherhood was given the responsibility of publishing a parish magazine – the Observer.
It was an experiment that might have been successful in tiding over the difficulties of the war years had there been a firmer lead from within the Brotherhood itself and a more efficient administration of its affairs, but no replacements could be found when the clergy one by one left for other fields of service. In September, 1941, Bishop Heathcote appointed the Rev. Archibald Morrison, a graduate of the University of British Columbia and the Anglican Theological College, to take over the four churches, making other arrangements for St. Helen's.
With a burgeoning population increasing faster than any other municipality in the lower mainland, and all the attendant problems, accentuated by the transient war time conditions it was not possible for any one minister, however conscientious, to give the proper attention each congregation should have. It speaks well for the loyalty of the small group that can always be found in the heart of the parish that work continued so well. Archibald Morrison's ministry offered the prospect of the stability so badly needed, but at the end of his second year he resigned to take up other duties in Victoria. His offer to conduct the services during the summer months until the appointment of his successor was gratefully accepted. As Mr. Dunn of the Church of the Redeemer said "His resignation was greatly regretted by all the congregation and he wished to thank him for all he had done for them".
With the help of students from the College and clergy from neighbouring parishes the Rev. John Twining carried on for a year. The end of the war found the parish without a minister and a leaderless flock somewhat dispirited. It was not until the Spring of 1946 that the bishop was able to make an appointment and some of the old enthusiasm was restored.
Twelve descendants of John Pritchard, secretary to Lord Selkirk, who established the Red River Settlement in Manitoba in the early part of the nineteenth century, became ordained ministers of the Gospel. Amongst them were three grandsons, brothers John, Thomas and Edmund the youngest of a family of eleven. John and Thomas had already become known for their successful ministries among both native Indians and white settlers when Edmund was ordained deacon in 1899 by Archbishop Machray. E.C.R. as he used to sign himself, was an outstanding athlete with several records to his credit, robust in health and able to turn his hand to any of the practical chores that life on a farm required. After a few years tending Indian missions he was given charge of Birtle Manitoba. It was here that he displayed his gifts of organization and ability to inspire others to greater things. From Birtle to Winnipeg, Vancouver, Seattle the story of his ministry is the same. Buildings were erected or old ones improved. Finances were strengthened and congregations enlarged. He upset a few with his ritualistic practices but no one could fault him for lack of zeal and his direct manner won him much respect and, in the end, affection.
After seventeen years in St. Clement's Church, Seattle, E.C.R. Pritchard, in his own words, swallowed the bitter pill of the thought of retirement. He bought a house in Crescent Beach, and the effect of the medicine was somewhat moderated by the opportunity of taking Sunday duty in his old parish until his successor took over. Then he settled down to the adjustments of a more leisurely life. But once again in 1944 the call to duty came to challenge him. His old friend Bishop Heathcote paid him a visit and with some anxiety spoke of his frustrations in providing a man for the Cloverdale and Surrey area. For several months the Rev. J. Orman and others had taken services but the real problem was the lack of a rectory. The Bishop had made a special visit to preside at the Annual Meeting of the Church of the Redeemer and to assure the congregation that if a house could be obtained he could find the man. He had hopes that some action would be taken by the parish. "In the meantime" said the bishop, "would you take the services for two or three weeks to fill the gap?" From a man chafing at the bit the answer was never in doubt. "As a matter of fact I was glad of the opportunity to exercise my ministry again in some such way. The two or three weeks, however, turned out to last fourteen months and at the end of that time we were no further ahead respecting a clergyman than we had been at the start."
This was not quite accurate but nevertheless he had cause to wonder whether his efforts to galvanize the several congregations into action would bear fruit. "The Vestry men" he said, "were doing a lot of crabbing about what the Synod should and what the Bishop should do but no one suggested anything that they should do". With patience wearing thin he put forward the proposal to initiate a campaign to raise funds to erect a Victory Vicarage. It was an opportune message for Easter especially in the light of victory achieved with so much sacrifice in the Second World War. It was not received with any enthusiasm but as E.C.R. went about his parish duties he kept the idea alive in the thoughts of the people and finally made a definite proposition that he would head up the campaign for 10 days or so and would reside in the parish so that he could give it full time, only asking that a guide be provided who would help him to visit the homes of Anglicans in the parish.
Edmund Pritchard was in his element and there was no stopping him now.
He asked his helpers to put on a banquet to launch the campaign.
Anticipating an attendance of one hundred, arrangements were made to use the Church Hall, but over two hundred bought tickets and there was a last minute change of venue to the Cloverdale Opera House.
The Bishop, Rural Dean Harry Barrett, and other clergy including Canon Holdom were there to give support. Neville Curtis and friends provided musical entertainment. It was an auspicious beginning and Neville, the treasurer, was pleased to report that with all expenses paid there remained a balance towards the Building Fund of $100.
"I took Mrs. Pritchard to Seattle so I would be free to give my full time to the work. I saw the Bishop whilst there and told him what I was about to undertake. 'That will be duck soup for you' was his amusing reply and then he wrote me his personal cheque for $25.00, a goodwill token from the Episcopal Church of America – that was a good start".
It was, indeed, and in two weeks he had collected over $2500 from 120 subscribers and received promises of some $2000 which were redeemed with very small loss over the next two years. The surprise of the campaign was the response of the Church of the Good Shepherd congregation with 21 subscribers and of St. Oswald's, Port Kells, with 34, together contributing a third of the grand total.
The old campaigner,Edmund Pritchard, set his sights high. He said he wanted at least 10 people to give $100 and so many to give $75, and so on 'down the line'. Experience had taught him that most people are complimented when others take their generosity for granted and often respond with larger donations than at first intended. He fell short of his expectations but reflecting on his work at the end of his stay in the parish he said "the results were most gratifying". Neville Curtis agreed adding that "the whole success may be laid to his credit and energy".
Through the B.C. and Yukon Aid Society friends in England made a welcome gift of $330. The Synod gave $300 and promised a loan on the basis of a dollar for every dollar raised. With the assurance of such solid support the Vicarage Committee set to work looking for a suitable location and searching for plans. Edmund Pritchard went back to his cottage in Crescent Beach, "I was out of a job. For my happy 14 months I was in charge of Cloverdale and for the many good friends I have there, for a Confirmation Class I was privileged to instruct and prepare, I am most deeply grateful". The Rev. Selwyn Evans.
After surveying six sites, amongst them a generous offer of land next to St. Oswald's, Port Kells, by Charles Barham, the Vicarage Committee purchased, on behalf of the Synod, a parcel of land belonging to a Mr. Dean on the old McLellan Road near Cloverdale. Plans for the vicarage were secured and tenders were called for.
Rev. Selwyn Evans
In the meantime the Bishop, keeping his word, appointed the Rev. Selwyn Evans, assistant at Christ Church Cathedral as the new incumbent. There seemed no reason why the project should not go forward and the vicar and his wife anticipated the joy and comfort of a new home. It was disconcerting to say the least that no tenders were received, and contractors who were approached refused to give a firm commitment. A strike was on in the construction industry and prices were certain to increase. Four months passed with no resolution of the problem and when, at the suggestion of Amanda Curtis, Christopher Churchland was approached to give an estimate on cost plus basis and the committee was told it would cost at least $10,000 to build and service, it was decided to purchase a house belonging to Mr. and Mrs. George Lane for $7,000. Situated on the old McLellan Road halfway between Surrey Centre and Cloverdale its acquisition received the approval of the Synod and the unanimous consent of the four congregations.
"A house for God, a home for the parson and a stable for the horse are the essentials for the work in a mission parish" said Bishop Gray as he entered upon his episcopate in the newly formed missionary diocese of Edmonton in 1914. Thirty years later the garage had replaced the stable, and the car, a much more expensive mode of traveling, had superseded the horse.
Selwyn Evans had his house, but he had to wait a little while before the parish with diocesan help could provide a car. He was impatient with so many delays and it was important to keep alive the enthusiasm which was abroad in the parish. He knew from his experience in the mission field in Alberta that nothing holds a congregation together more than the certainty of the regular weekly Sunday service, and he had four churches to serve. In Douglas Nott he found a willing helper who offered his services as chauffeur. No doubt Douglas had some interesting stories about his self–imposed task of driving the vicar on his Sunday round. One wonders what his comment would be at the end of the day after hearing the same sermon, with variations of course, preached in each church.
The new vicar lost no time in making his expectations known. A few days after his arrival at a meeting representative of the whole parish he spoke frankly saying he was not keen on moving but would not stay unless he received full cooperation. The response to this bit of Welsh fervour was interesting. Thomas Dunn of Cloverdale said every group in the parish had pledged support and commenting on the financial problems added "if a church is not in debt the people get sleepy. A working church is always assured of cooperation and support". Ray Pearson was not quite so positive. He didn't know what they would have done without the Woman's Auxiliary. The Sunday School was carrying on but church attendance was low and leadership was badly needed. However the Church of the Good Shepherd would do all it could. Mr. Tasker of St. Oswald's said much the same thing adding that he hoped regularity of services could be restored.
Speaking for Christ Church, James White, who with his wife had contributed very generously to the Victory Vicarage Fund said "The congregation was down but there were a lot of potential Anglicans and others with no church who could be drawn into it. The Sunday School had an enrolement of 40. He felt the parish could be built up and he was sure the congregation would support the vicar". Arrangements were made to consolidate finances and apportion responsibility for overhead costs. The Church of the Redeemer assumed 40%; Christ Church 20%; St. Oswald's Church 20% and the Church of the Good Shepherd 10%.
It was a good start for what everyone hoped would be an end to the uncertainties and the temporary ministries of a war time period and the beginning of a more settled parish life in which the spiritual side of the Church's witness could grow and as Selwyn Evans said "become a power in shaping the development of the community especially amongst the youth."
This was a timely signal for it was becoming evident that the post–war generation was a far different one from those brought up before the Second World War. The Church was very much aware of its responsibility to give guidance to its young people as they faced a strange fascinating new age, stimulating and yet full of perils. The Synod of 1946 devoted itself to the task of meeting the challenge and in the course of debate one speaker put the problem in focus with the practical comment that "it was not a question of keeping the youth off the streets but of training them how to act on the streets". This was something the parish priest and his co–workers could understand. The challenge was accepted. Throughout the diocese there was a great advance in every branch of Christian Education and Youth activities. It was a time of dedicated leaders drawn from the laity in their hundreds, Sunday School teachers, Scout and Guide leaders, Little Helpers' and Girls Auxiliary leaders and, in the difficult adolescent age, leaders for Anglican Young People's Association, and Camp Artaban programmes directors. As much by their personal example as by the training they touched the lives of thousands of boys and girls and left the marks, indelible as we believe, of Christian character and conduct.
One result of this renewed attention to the younger members of the Church was the way in which they were drawn more closely into the life of the Church. There was a gap to be closed in the parish family worship. Children should be with their parents. "Bring your children" said Dean Cecil Swanson "let them have their toys but bring them". So called Family Services weren't popular at first. The Woman's Auxiliary with more foresight than was realized developed programmes for children of every age which involved each one personally in doing something for the church. The Anglican Young People's Association made it part of its raison d'etre to have a work policy. Clergy formed parish servers' guilds and boys were recruited to become junior sidesmen. Boys and girls choirs were becoming part of the worship in many more parishes.
Fern Treleaven in her book "The Surrey Story" notes the rising tide of disturbing behaviour amongst the children of the post war years. "Vandalism was increasing everywhere with schools becoming prime targets for those intent on destroying public property". Neither did the churches escape. Locking doors when not in use was a break with the tradition which regarded the church as a public building open at all times for prayer and meditation. The precaution was born of necessity as both Christ Church and Church of the Redeemer had discovered. It was one of the conditions of the time that underlined the responsibility of all Christian bodies to bestir themselves and pay more attention to their young people.
The Church of the Redeemer, 1958
Selwyn Evans had a gift for teaching and a love of music and could quickly establish a rapport with his audience. When he arrived in the parish in 1946 it was ready for leadership. By this time the Church of the Redeemer had well established organizations and he found a good team of co–workers who shared his enthusiasms. Douglas Nott who amongst other church offices was in charge of the Sunday School: Margaret McDonald efficient vestry clerk and leader of the Anglican Young People's Association; Mrs. Vi Clarke who had recently been appointed organist, retaining that office for twenty–three years. As James White had said congregations in Christ Church were down and for a while it was a case of marking time. Nevertheless there were some fifty children in the Sunday School and some teenage activity. Although the Woman"s Auxiliary had disbanded and the Ladies Guild had taken its place the programmes for the junior W.A. were continued under the leadership of Mrs. J. Kippan, Mrs. Isobel Holmes and Louise Allan, the Guild affording substantial help. The junior sidesmen included Ken Holmes and Lance Richardson who became one of the trusted leaders in the young people's organizations, parish and diocesan and later played an important part as a member of the Church Committee, leader of youth activities and Sunday School Superintendent.
Giving free rein to his Welsh instinct for music Selwyn Evans did much to improve the quality of the services. The women's organizations helped to equip the choirs with surplices, psalters and hymn books. Also friend Dean Swanson of Christ Church Cathedral generously gave two organs. Junior choirs were formed and family services, so called because they brought the children of the Sunday School and others into church with the parents and adults for the regular service, were held once a month. These were hardly revolutionary changes but they emphasized the one thing the Church could do to support the family as it tried to cope with the problems of a disoriented society. It underlined the truth that "the family which prays together stays together" and it is interesting to note that the incumbents of the parish who came after Selwyn Evans also saw the importance of making their ministry among the boys and girls their prime concern.
The Rev. Jack Dalton in 1954 presenting to Carole Hamre the Girls' Auxiliary "Ring of Honour".
At the June meeting of Christ Church Committee in 1948, the year of the great flood of the Fraser Valley, "James White spoke a few words of welcome to the new vicar the Rev. John Dalton, wishing him and his charming wife success and happiness in his new charge".
Although many suffered from the flood, the new vicar and his wife Valerie were safe enough in their modest ark of a vicarage and the church on the hill was high and dry. He could carry on his work of getting acquainted with his people without disruption. The stipend had been increased by agreement between the four congregations and a car had been provided. The Church of the Redeemer was flourishing, benefiting in some measure from the influx of newcomers. "Surrey" said John "was growing like mad in population at the time".
St. Oswald's, Port Kells, was holding its own. The Church of the Good Shepherd at Latimer Heights was struggling with the problem of a shifting population and was relieved when the Church of the Redeemer agreed to assume the larger part of its financial commitment to the diocese. Christ Church was entering a period of limited growth. For various reasons it has remained that way. Centres of civic administration are now located elsewhere. Residential development has not increased the populations in the surrounding area. Business has been concentrated in locations remote from the old pioneer establishment. The future may yet see a resurgent growth, bringing, of course, a fresh set of problems but as one looks back one can only admire the dogged determination of the small group of people who decided they would have no part in closing the doors of the church which was so much a part in their lives.
The bishop had let it be known that no country missions were going to be closed until the congregation said so, one reason being that the great rush to the country from city and suburb which changed the face of the Lower Mainland in the '50's made it impossible to predict where any new church should be. "Stay with Christ Church" said Archdeacon Thompson who had a great love for it and was always happy to be invited to its services. Then, of course, there was the churchyard where the pioneers and their descendants were buried: where carefully tended graves with their memorials wrote a living history in the hearts of so many who were still drawn to the lovely spot.
So, with much in their favour the optimists battled the pessimists. There was much to be done. Both Church and Hall were badly in need of repair. The latter might be a good shelter for the small animals of the forest and the birds but it was quite unfit as a place for meetings or in which to keep the valuable piano given by the Junior Auxiliary.
At the annual meeting, 1949, following discussions between the Canadian Legion Branches in Surrey who were looking for land for a cemetery, James White and Joseph Rickey sponsored a resolution. They proposed selling the property on which the hall stood except for a piece one hundred feet square on the Old McLellan Road adjacent to the old cemetery, on the understanding that they tear down the present hall and build an adequate hall two thirds the size of the present one. They were also prepared to give three hundred dollars to the Church. The property so sold to the Legion Branches was to be used exclusively for burial purposes. Although nothing came of it and the proposal dropped out of sight it had roused the congregation to action and during the summer months the Church committee turned its attention to restoration of the church as the more manageable task.
With substantial help from the Ladies Guild which always seemed to be putting funds aside for major projects, and a loan from the Synod, the men of the Church Committee set to work. Robert Wills, James White, Charles Busby and others formed a team with Guy Richardson to keep things moving. The foundations were strengthened, the roof re–shingled, an oil furnace installed and the church painted. The change from the wood burning barrel was welcomed. John Dalton recalls the congregation in winter went from 4 to 20. The 'little red church' was now gray, not entirely pleasing to some. "Surprising" said John "how even non–Anglicans hate to see us Anglicans change colour".
The story of the restoration of the Bell Hall must be told in the words of the man at the centre of it.
Guy Richardson did not take kindly to the proposal to sell the property at this or any other time. He had a proposal of his own and at a meeting in the home of Mr. Busby, the treasurer, laid it before the committee. The members must have found him hard to resist.
I remember Mrs. Holmes was there. "I got an estimate from the roofing people of $940 for the church and the hall. We had no money. I knew just about what to do so I talked to someone at Nickomekl Sawmills and they would buy short logs because they had to. I said I think we can truck enough logs out of the hall grounds to raise quite a bit of money, if the members of the committee would take care of the brush. So they said 'okay go ahead and see what you can do'. So that's when I got you (Lance, his son) to help me. You helped me cut down two trees". Muriel did the burning but Pat (Mrs. Kippan, his daughter) and I cut all the trees, sawed every log. . . . One hundred and thirty–seven logs we had sawed up and we built a ramp to roll them up and the old bachelor and my sister–in–law helped a lot. It took us a whole winter ... I think we made four loads and took them down to the mill and the mill man paid Bailey the truck man and he gave me a cheque for $734.50". Mrs. Henry Parr whose husband had the mortgage on the Richardson place wanted to give a little money for the Young People at Surrey Centre. "So she gave me a cheque for $200 to put it to whatever I wanted. That made it $934.50 and we were only $5.50 short. She gave me the $5.50 so I gave Charlie Busby the $940 and he ordered the roofer to come, he roofed the hall and the church and that is the roof on the church now – nearly 30 years after".
The hall was put in good shape, the church was made tolerably secure against wind and weather and once again a crisis was overcome.
John Dalton had joined the volunteers helping with the digging of the church basement. He also found himself wielding the shovel digging the draining ditch to relieve the damp conditions around the Church of the Good Shepherd, Latimer Heights. It can also be said that in a pastoral way he dug himself into his parish. "I spent most of my time visiting" he said, and during writing some twenty years later he said with characteristic modesty "I think my major undertaking in the parish was the visiting which kept me busy from morning till night". It had the effect of keeping his people informed and interested in each other's work, the four congregations working happily together, the wardens and treasurers meeting regularly to deal with matters of common concern. As if four points to care for were not enough he responded to the request from church people in Fleetwood and commenced services in what seemed to be a growing area. During his incumbency the parish contributed to the Anglican Advance Appeal which called for some $4,300,000 from the nationwide church; and again to the Bishops' Expansion Fund for the diocese. It speaks well for the spirit that prevailed that all obligations were met and no appeal was turned aside. John Dalton's ministry was quiet and steady and with no fanfare. It must have given him great satisfaction, however, when he saw the results of some of his work amongst the boys and girls and presented a class of candidates for Confirmation drawn from the whole parish in the presence of a congregation of just under two hundred people during Easter, 1952.
John recalls some of their experiences as he and Valerie and their two adopted children became part of the parish family.
Life in the poorly equipped rectory was something of a trial for the young couple. "Once we had to depend on the fireplace to heat the whole house, the sawdust hopper of the furnace was blocked. The wood was too green and wet for good burning so we slept with all our clothes on, blankets over the archways, and mounds of covers on us with sticks around the fireplace to dry out".
"There were so many people who did kind things for us in one way or another. There were the Boses and the Richardsons and faithful Jim White who used to bring the Skinners over to church from Sullivan. There were Joe and Vimy Rickey. Joe did some electrical work for us. In Cloverdale there were Neville Curtis with Amanda. I often wonder if the Anglican Church would have survived if it had not been for his efforts. When clergy came and went at a rapid rate some years before we arrived he bugged the bishop to send some one out to take services. When Selwyn Evans came he did much to bring the parish up."
"Douglas and Doris Nott were very kind to us on many occasions, taking us into their home when the rectory was not a liveable place. Tom and Olive Dunn were great people for the church. Tom Dunn's voice lifted the roof off the church. I was always glad when he went in ahead of me, I could sing off key if I wished without anyone knowing. His voice drowned mine completely. Olive was wonderful in the Woman's Auxiliary. She was a gifted woman! We still have two of her pictures, one of Surrey Centre in water colour."
"Frank Buckerfield was one of the kindest of men and so loyal to the church. Years later I preached in Cloverdale and he said "I'd recognize that voice anywhere". I think I picked up an accent from my Indians in Moose Factory. What good friends Eric and Alleyne Clegg were and Dr. Frank and Margaret Crofton. How nice it is always to move into a parish and meet someone you had known before, and Alan Davidson was one of those people. His family did much for the church. Nina Rife would come to the rescue of our crying baby David, and Daisy Hamre and Mollie Mackie were always on hand to help. We are still in touch with Jim and Eleanor Craig".
Echoes Through A Century. p78
John remembers how the old flannelgraph giving a visual presentation of the stories of the Bible attracted the whole congregation until Family Service "boomed into a church full": So, too, how "there developed a real concern for each other within the four churches, sometimes one taking on more of the financial burden to help another".
One sows and another reaps and the patient nurture of the parish, giving full rein to the people's ministry, prepared it for the events that lay ahead.
The year 1954 marked the seventy–fifth anniversary of the diocese. Celebrations in honour of the occasion began on Whitsunday, June 6th, with a visit of the Primate of Canada, the Most Rev. Walter Barfoot, who conducted the service in Holy Trinity New Westminster, the Mother Church of the diocese, and its first Cathedral. They ended with a magnificent Service of Witness in Queen's Park Arena in the Royal City when a vast congregation of over 6500 people from all parts of the diocese crowded into the building, and led by a massed choir of 600 voices, joined in a spontaneous act of thanksgiving. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Geoffrey Francis Fisher, who was visibly moved by the scene before him, prefaced his sermon by saying, "It is feeble for me to say it is worthwhile to have come for this alone, from an old land to a new, from an old Westminster to a New Westminster, from one Royal City to another". Later he said the "service was unforgettable" and so was he, to those who heard him.
The impact of the celebrations was felt throughout the diocese and gave the Anglicans a better idea of their strength. Already a campaign had been successful in raising nearly a quarter of a million dollars. The bishop urged the parishes to lift their sights and many were undertaking campaigns of their own in order to restore their buildings and plan for expansion, the diocese also making grants and loans on very reasonable terms to the smaller missions.
Patterns in population were constantly changing, so much so that eventually a diocesan survey, the first to be undertaken by professionals, was made to determine future expansion. In the Surrey area groups of Anglicans were asking for attention.
Rev. A.S. Partington
The Rev. A.S. Partington was holding services in Johnston Heights; St. Thomas, Whalley was reaching out to Newton; St. Cuthbert's on Sands Road (82nd Ave.) gathered in a large congregation, and shortly afterwards the good people in Panorama Ridge and the Colebrook area began working for a church of their own. With the already established congregations moving along steadily, especially in the Church of the Redeemer, Cloverdale, which had benefited by the increase of population, could now think of doubling its budget. The ever present question of division of the parish for better pastoral oversight came to the fore.
The Rev. Keith Mason.
In the summer of 1954, John and Valerie Dalton said goodbye to the parish and the many friends they had made, and their places were taken by Keith and Maureen Mason. One of sixteen children, Keith went to sea at the age of fourteen on his father's small fishing schooner off the coast of Nova Scotia. He served as an ordinary seaman in the Royal Canadian Navy and later as cadet–in training. He heard the call to the ministry, and on his graduation from Kings College, Halifax, was ordained to the priesthood in the Anglican Church. Serving for a short time in rural parishes in Nova Scotia, he then came west and was appointed curate in St. Augustine's Church, Lethbridge, Alberta; and two years later accepted the parish of Christ Church with the Church of the Redeemer, St. Aidan's and the Church of the Good Shepherd.
He brought with him the distinctive traditions and practices of the Church in the Maritimes where for over two hundred years from the time of Charles Inglis the banished Royalist, rector of Holy Trinity Church in New York and first bishop of Nova Scotia, it has retained its firm hold on the affections of a very loyal people. Keith set about his task in a workman like way, an approach fostered no doubt by his training in the Services and by his clear view as to how a parish priest should go about his many duties. Soon after his appointment the bishop who was making his own survey of the clergy residences throughout the diocese called on the Masons who were trying to establish themselves in the sparsely furnished and obviously inadequate house. Keith had turned the cold basement into an office. There was a bit of Nova Scotian toughness in this young man, but he had to confess his patience had been sorely tried. "I have done all my office work," he reported at his last Annual Meeting seven years later, "in a basement office. After sitting down here for two or three hours at my work, my legs get so stiff from the dampness, in spite of the little heater, that I feel like 90 years of age instead of 19", taking some 14 years off his age to emphasize the point.
Although the vicarage remained a problem which nagged at the sympathetic church committees throughout Keith's ministry, and was not solved until his successor was appointed, solid progress was made in other ways. A diligent visitor, Keith extended his pastoral work to include ministering to the hospitals and homes built to take care of the sick and the elderly. Like his predecessor John Dalton, he concentrated on the Sunday School and youth organizations, enthusiastically supported by a band of devoted teachers. Somehow he managed to provide services for the people in Panorama Ridge. His confirmation classes were well instructed. In all this he was fortunate in being able to rely on the support of his committees. The committee of the mid Surrey parish, as it was called, consisting of representatives from each of the four congregations, had been most effective in maintaining their common interests and in arranging for each to share equitably the financial burdens. It was something of a surprise to hear Mr. Arthur Affleck report that in 1959 all obligations including missionary apportionment had been met with a balance in hand of $176.00
With the exception of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Latimer Heights, which was experiencing difficulties not of its own making, the level of support was as high as it had ever been. At Cloverdale, in particular, there was a substantial increase in the congregation, Keith Mason reported 163 families on the parish roll. The income in 1959 apart from the Building Fund contributions was nearly $5000. The Church Committee membership was an impressive one, and gives some idea of the place the Anglican Church occupied in the community. Honorary Life Wardens F. Buckerfield and C.R. Sibbald: Vicar's Warden J. Marples: People's Warden J.W. Stinson: Treasurer R. Birch: Secretary Theo. Adams: Auditor Percy Livingstone: Envelope Secretary Douglas Nott: representing the various organizations Mrs. F. Marriott, Mrs. Nivison and Mrs. V. Clarke.
Every congregation looks forward to the time when it can become the church family in a self–sustaining parish, and it was quite natural for the people of Cloverdale to think that it was now a possibility There was abundant goodwill between them and their close neighbours in Christ Church which had given it birth and nurtured it in its early days. Christ Church had twice passed resolutions supporting a joint effort to build a new rectory. It agreed to a combined congretional meeting to discuss the proposal to build a new church on property offered by Dr. Crofton uniting two congregations. The bishop stood ready to support the plan if it had the full support of the people; but whilst it appealed to many, that consensus was not forthcoming. Some felt the work would be better served if Cloverdale could be separated and have its own minister. In Christ Church the attachment to the Church, and the fear that so much of its distinctive heritage would be lost in the merger, raised too many doubts and the proposal was put aside.
Picking up where it had left off in order to consider the proposed union, Christ Church decided to go ahead with its plan for a complete restoration of the Church. Its protective instinct had been strongly aroused by a completely unforeseen incident. Guy Richardson was a very surprised man one day when, answering a knock on his door, he was confronted by a clearing contractor who wanted to know what he wanted done "with the trees we're going to cut down". Someone had given permission to cut trees on the road allowance and within the municipal cemetery bordering the Old McLellan Road. Already four or five east of the Church had fallen to the saw in preparation for the erection of a power line by the B.C. Electric Co. Lance Richardson who was People's Warden persuaded the crews to halt the operation and called for clarification from the Surrey Council and the B.C. Electric Co. Keith Mason became the spokesman for the strong protests registered at a public meeting by many who were aghast at the prospect of the destruction of such a beautiful setting for church and cemetery. Surrey Council agreed, and wrote to the company in support of the community's wishes. Representations through the Synod of the diocese finally reached Dr. T. Ingledow, Vice–president of the B.C. Electric Co. and chief executive, who immediately canceled the cutting, "We can always get around trees, if there is a special case such as the setting for this historic church".
The congregation was encouraged by the interest the community had shown in the well being of the church and the preservation of its environment. It seemed to be a propitious time to reorganize the Restoration Committee and press ahead with the plans that had been held in abeyance. Robert Wills was appointed treasurer of the campaign, and Keith Mason undertook the publicity, wasting no time to cast his net far and wide amongst the friends and former parishioners, appealing for contributions.
Archdeacon Thompson, always a good friend of the parish in time of need, confirmed the approval of the Synod, enclosing at the same time a cheque from the diocesan treasurer for $600.00. Mr. James Orr brought forward estimates of the work to be done amounting to just over $4000.00. With the results of the appeal almost matching that figure the work was put in hand. The church was raised and reset on a solid cement foundation. Improvements were made in the basement accommodation, in the heating arrangements, and to the interior of the church. The major tasks being completed, a service of thanksgiving was held on Sept. 25th, 1958, marking the 74th anniversary of the opening of the church, with Archdeacon Thompson as the preacher. A pioneer himself, he was delighted to find so many pioneers and their families in the congregation, and rose to the occasion with an inspiring address.
The following Sunday, Oct. 5th, members of the Masonic order, the Union Lodge, A.F. & A.M. of New Westminster whose forebears had laid the original corner stone, together with others from Cloverdale, Langley and White Rock, were present at the service and with appropriate ceremony, using the original silver trowel, relaid the corner stone; replacing some of the documents which had been damaged by water. The Rev. A.S. Partington preached to another overflow congregation.
Relaying the corner stone in 1958. Right Worshipful Ken Matheson, Guy Richardson,
The Rev. Keith Mason.
Masonic Lodges and Choir. Anniversary Service 1964.
The response elicited from so many by the appeal exceeded expectations and ensured the success of the undertaking. Indeed over the next two years through the generosity of friends and members a complete refurbishing of the interior was effected adding greatly to its quiet beauty. Ten leaded windows, a new pulpit, a wrought iron sanctuary rail, all memorials, were installed. Later, in loving memory of Mrs. J.L. (Kitty) Lane, an ardent worker for many years, new choir stalls were paid for through a special fund completely subscribed. A new bishop's chair was placed in the sanctuary in memory of the little old lady Margaret Howe, nee Wade, who for many years was Sunday School teacher and organist. The Wills and Wakefield families gave a brass processional cross, and Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Turner supplied the congregation with the newly revised prayer books. Across the road from the Church the Pioneer Cemetery was newly fenced and the graves with their memorial stones set in order.
It was a splendid achievement, undertaken when the existence of the parish itself was in jeopardy; and as we look back over the past twenty–five years we can see that only by the determined efforts of a faithful few was the church saved to become one of the historic buildings which now remind us so eloquently of our heritage; a precious legacy in these days of sweeping change which obliterates so much that nourishes the soul.
The parish records are not complete, and some names of those who played their part are missing. Names from the past remind us of the struggle of earlier days. Others whose families are still with us bridge the years and speak of the place the Church still holds in their hearts. Officers of the parish included Robert Wills, vicar's warden; Lance Richardson, people's warden; Mrs. J. Dunsford, vestry clerk; Mrs. E. Hyde, treasurer; Guy Richardson, still caring for the cemetery; John Woodward, synod delegate; Charles Busby and Eric Wade, sidesmen; Mrs. J. Laurie, Guild president; Mrs. G. Mouat; Miss A. Barker, Sunday School; Miss I. Holmes, Altar Guild. Serving on various committees we find a parish fully involved, Ray Lutman, James Orr, Norman Bose, Mrs. S. Kippan, Mrs. Baehr, Mr. Hunt, Mrs. J. Lane, Mrs. Hulbert, John Turner, Mrs. R. Wills, and Mrs. J. Holmes.
Christ Church after renovations in 1961.
It was a time of renewed activity in ail phases of parish life. Membership in the Sunday School increased. At a meeting at which were present Mr. C. Barham, Mr. Porter, Mr. Mesher and Mr. Eggleton, all representing the Scouts organizations, the latter appealed to the parish to sponsor a Scout Troop and to offer the use of the Bell Hall. Lance Richardson and James Orr moved in its favour stipulating that it should be an open troop, a proposal which was accepted unanimously.
Youth programmes took on new life, and the Sunday School with a membership of some 60 children was reorganized. The choir was enlarged, and with the help of the Ladies Guild later acquired attractive new vestments. The Organ Fund received more donations. A Bell Hall Restoration Fund was started. The weekly parish income increased. There was even talk of "going self supporting".
In the meantime the problems created by the prospective separation of the four points of the parish remained. Keith Mason had continued his ministry in the Panorama Ridge area where the people expressed a willingness to be part of a three point parish including Newton. A suggestion that Christ Church and the Church of the Redeemer unit was revised. No conclusion was reached and so on January 1st, 1960, on the recommendation of the diocesan Mission Committee and with the promise of continued financial support the parish ceased to exist and was divided into three sections with the Rev. Keith Mason in charge of Cloverdale, the Rev. W.B. Singleton serving St. Oswald's, Port Kells with the Church of the Good Shepherd, Latimer Heights and the Rev. A.S. Partington taking over Christ Church.
There is no doubt that the decision was taken with two considerations in mind, the need for more men in the field to share the ever increasing load of pastoral care, and the quite surprising growth of the congregation in Cloverdale. During 1959 and 1960 it financed a complete renovation of church and hall at a total cost of $8300, remodelling the church and installing a large stained glass window in the west end. Support for this undertaking was so generous that it was unnecessary to incur any debt or to seek assistance from the diocese. The following year a rectory was built, on an acre of land given by Mr. C.R. Sibbald and situated on 180th Street on the upland southeast of the town.
Church of the Redeemer, 1958.
Church of the Redeemer after renovations about 1965
Keith Mason resigned from the parish in April, 1960, and although he and his family were not able to enjoy the comforts of the new rectory, he could take satisfaction from knowing that he was leaving the congregation in good shape. The income was close to $10,000 and, what was of more importance, the youth work was flourishing, especially the Sunday School, which eventually reached the 100 mark. He returned to his former diocese of Nova Scotia and became rector of Cornwallis.
Rev. Mason was succeeded by the Rev. Ralph Haynes, a native of Winnipeg, and graduate of Toronto University and Wycliffe College.
In 1960 there were a few who viewed the appointment to Christ Church of the Rev. A.S. Partington, a retired minister well over seventy years of age, with less than enthusiasm. It was felt that it would only increase the sense of isolation, and diminish the gains the parish had achieved through the success of the Restoration Campaign. This was not the case. Arthur Sidney Partington was a vigorous man for his age; alert and with a steady fire burning in him right to the end of his long life. He had a fund of common sense, and years of missionary experience gained from parishes in Manitoba, Southern Alberta, and the Kootenays. A man perhaps of the old school; of decided views, and firm in his faith, but willing to listen. He had been a teacher, and he took great care with his candidates for Confirmation. He had a sense of humour matched by that of his wife, the two of them making enjoyable company to their visitors. When the work at St. Asaph's was once being discussed, Archdeacon Thompson asked A.S., who had volunteered to undertake the charge, whether there were enough Anglicans to form a congregation. "Oh yes" he replied "they are like rabbits in the woods, and they behave like them too! They pop out and sit up to take a look at you and then disappear and you don't see them again for a long time." The Archdeacon, an old hand at country work, laughed, and said "Alright, you go and ferret them out."
The Rev. Ralph Haynes.
It was his steady work at St. Asaph's that commended him for the appointment at Christ Church. As he shepherded his small flock and husbanded its resources, he soon gained its confidence. Robert Wills was still receiving donations towards the restoration of the church which by the time it was completed amounted to some $7000. Other gifts with more intimate associations graced the interior. They included the Memorial Altar Book given by Mrs. True; the Credence Table by Miss Gilbert, daughter of the Rev. W.E. Gilbert; the white Altar Frontal by Mrs. W.E. Gilbert; the green Altar Frontal by Mr. and Mrs. I. Varney; a Visitors' Book by the Ladies Guild in memory of Barry Howard, and the new maroon choir cassocks. These were dedicated by the bishop in a beautiful service on May 15th, 1961, and with a congregation that filled the Church, he also confirmed members of the parish and of St. Aidan's, Tynehead.
Lance Richardson and his committee pressed on with the improvements to the Bell Hall, which was again much in demand by an enlarged Sunday School, Scouts, A.Y.P.A. and other organizations. The Partingtons were well known in the community and visitors to the church were frequent. As vicar he paid much attention to the special services, such as the Anniversary to which the members of the Masonic order and the old timers were invited. In 1965 the church could not accommodate the congregation of 174; a circumstance that was repeated several times and there was an increase in general attendance.
A larger apportionment was readily accepted, and an appeal for funds to enlarge the Anglican Theological College buildings resulted in a contribution of $735. The various funds for parish purposes all showed a credit balance and contributions to the Bible Society and other good causes increased.
There were still improvements to be made in the choir room; Lance Richardson volunteered to line the basement walls of the Church. The electrical system was brought up to date. Mrs. Gardiner supported by Robert Wills moved that "war be made on the Church bugs". An ecclesiastical species of termites seemed to be increasing at a faster rate than the congregation, endangering the beams over the chancel. Ivor Varney offered to rid the church of these pests. Three months later he was still waiting for volunteers, a ladder and spray; but nemesis eventually overtook the''bugs', by a well planned D–day bringing victory.
For three generations the churchyard had received the dead; and had become a place of hallowed memories for the living scattered throughout the land; many of whom often returned to visit the beautiful spot which has been so carefully tended by three generations of the Richardson family. Part of it was consecrated by Bishop Dart, a later addition was consecrated by Archbishop de Pencier, and on Dec. 12th, 1965, Bishop Gower consecrated a third section which increased the Church cemetery to approximately two acres.
Procession during the consecration of the cemetery extension, Dec. 1965.
In 1931 the Ladies Guild had proposed the setting up of a New Endowment Fund, the proceeds of which were to be used for upkeep of the church and burial ground; and handed over to the wardens the first donation of $150. Guy Richardson had always supported this idea, and in 1965 he proposed that the parish should set itself a target of $10,000. Credibility was strained, but his faith was justified, and the fund now stands at $21,170, providing much needed income as costs increase. The fund also receives the income from legacies left by Georgiana Carney Bell, widow of the Rev. Wm. Bell: Georgina Haworth their daughter, and Miss Jean Davidson. A Stipend Endowment Fund received legacies from the estate of John Levis, for so many years a devoted member and warden, and from Alice Maud Wordsworth, one of the moving spirits in the short life of St. George's, Nicomekl, and responsible for the beautiful gifts adorning its sanctuary
On Tuesday following the consecration of the cemetery, the church was full for the funeral service for Ray Lutman. A devoted servant of the Church, he had enjoyed the confidence of his vicar who appointed him his warden. Ray and Helen, his wife, were always ready to play their part, and he was greatly missed. It was a happy thought to install the new church doors, opening to higher things, in his memory. The steps leading up to them were improved, and it was decided to give the exterior of the church a new coat of paint. The witness to the faith must always have its brightest setting.
Advancing years and a desire not to hinder the work moved the octogenarian vicar, young in spirit as he remained, to tender his resignation. The congregation sent him and his wife the kind of message all ministers cherish: "we desire to express to your wife and to you our deep appreciation of both of you. For seven and a half years you were our faithful pastor and we were well shepherded. We are glad that you are still living among us. May your eventide of life be beautiful in every way and may you experience to the full all that God promises and fulfils to faithful servants". He did, and Arthur Sidney Partington lived in happy retirement until he died in April, 1973, aged 87 years. He was laid to rest nearby in the churchyard on the Wednesday before Easter, when Archbishop Gower, assisted by the Rev. J. Godkin took the burial service.
During his five years caring for Christ Church he never changed his ways, and hardly slackened his pace. Restless at the prospect of retirement, he volunteered his services, told his bishop he would accept no stipend, only the usual small fee for each service and car expenses. Accompanied by his wife, who shared to the full his enthusiasm for the advancement of the Church, he would drive from Vancouver, take the service, and then make a visit or two either to the sick or some new arrival. It is not surprising that, after five years of such care of his small flock, he could tell them that the average congregation had reached 84, the highest in its history, and the income was close to $10,000.
He had suffered a heart attack and shortly after reluctantly had to relinquish his task, but his enthusiasm remained unabated to the end.
Norman Larmonth took his last service in Christ Church on the First Sunday in Epiphany, Jan. 7th, 1973. It was a Youth Service, the kind that delighted him, for he was never happier than when he was speaking to young people. In his 80th year and still with much of the buoyancy of his earlier days, he stood on the chancel steps and bade the congregation young and old an affectionate goodbye. He told them what his faith meant to him, urged them to be loyal to their Lord and Master, and gave them his blessing.
For the next nine months services were maintained by the Rev. L.G. Chappell and others. The Rev. Gordon Ott who loved the Church and who now lies buried in the churchyard took duty occasionally. Our old friend Canon Wm. Garbutt returned and spoke of former days.
The Rev. Canon N.D.B. Larmonth and baby Anthony Earl Ward
Like William Bell, Norman Larmonth knew how to draw the best out of his co–workers. There always seemed to be someone ready to get the job done, and the new names on the Church Committee is an example of how a man who would not take "no" for an answer was able to gather his team. Grant Ward and Gary Schmidt as wardens; D. McColl, A. Shether, K. Bate, D.A. Affleck, K.C. Neil, H.E. Temple, lay delegates and committee members, in most cases with their wives formed the group which would meet every month, sometimes twenty–five of them, to carry on the business of the Church.
Norman Larmonth was ill, suddenly and seriously. He had come as a "caretaker" priest for a few weeks, on a retirement salary, and had stayed for five years. The parish had taken him to their hearts. Each Sunday he had driven from Vancouver, conducted the morning service, visited the sick, perhaps held a baptism or confirmation class and telephoned the delinquents who had missed the worship. Friends from Vancouver often came with him to swell the congregation. Numbers frequently hovered near the hundred mark.
But Dr. Larmonth was ill. Clearly he could not continue his taxing ministry in Christ Church. Equally clearly, Christ Church could not afford to pay a full–time minister. Not for the first time in its history, the parish would have to face reorganization. The Rev. Leslie Chappell stepped into the breach, but he too, was a retired minister.
Meanwhile, the Church of the Redeemer was also facing financial problems.
Rev. Hubert Butcher
For the past four years, since 1969, it had been served by the Rev. Hubert Butcher, whose previous ministry had been in England, North India and Northern Alberta. Most recently, he had been on the staff of the Inter–Varsity Christian Fellowship in Vancouver, and was now Rector both of the Redeemer and of St. Oswald's, Port Kells.
Even with this shared load, the parish had paid its way with difficulty and major reconstruction would soon be needed. One church warden who had crept under the church to examine the foundations had vowed never to venture there again. The whole structure was leaning slightly and it was weakened further by a storm in 1973 when an unfinished wall of cement blocks in an office building next door was toppled on to the church porch. It happened on a Saturday and emergency steps had to be taken to make possible the next day's worship. For that one Sunday the congregation were guests of Cloverdale United Church; by the next week, the porch was sufficiently rebuilt for the church to be opened again.
Here were two Anglican churches less than two miles apart. There had been a time when each small community needed its own place of worship; now the development of motor transport made this unnecessary and uneconomical. Both churches had history, sentiment, loyalty, but two churches were not needed. In fact, the existence of two Anglican congregations in so small an area may have become a liability spiritually as well as financially. Who knows whether the Spirit of God chose to use the financial straits as a lever to bring the two together?
Early in 1973, the two church committees met in the crypt of Christ Church. The possibility of amalgamation, until then viewed with deep suspicion on both sides, had suddenly become attractive. Each congregation had something to offer: the Church of the Redeemer was on a valuable site in downtown Cloverdale, and owned a rectory, built on an acre of land in anticipation of future growth. Christ Church had its historic building, its superb vista, its peaceful churchyard and a hall almost opposite. There was, of course, the problem that the weight of population had shifted from Surrey Centre to Cloverdale. If the two parishes were to be combined, which would be the building to choose? To abandon the Church of the Redeemer would make it harder for those who lived in Cloverdale and habitually walked to church; to demolish Christ Church would be an unwarranted act of vandalism, while to keep it unused would serve no purpose at all.
After much discussion, apart and together, each congregation called an extraordinary meeting on April 1st, 1973, timed to coincide with each other after Sunday morning worship.
Three motions were to be voted upon:
In both churches, the vote was strongly in favour of the amalgamation, to take place at the beginning of September. As People's Warden, Gary Schmidt stated in the Annual Vestry Meeting the following year, "Sept.1st, 1973 will long be remembered in our new parish history."
St. Oswald's was to continue as a separate parish, now sharing a minister with Christ Church and contributing one–fifth of his salary.
The road ahead was far from smooth. For one thing, Christ Church members had been assured that the new combined parish would have a say in choosing its new minister, while the Redeemer people had assumed that though they were losing their building, they were keeping their rector. Christ Church were gracious enough to back down and Hubert Butcher has been the minister ever since.
There were, of course, two of everything. The altar and the font from the Redeemer were installed in Christ Church; the oaken swivel lectern from Christ Church was retained and the duplicates of each were stored. The pews from the Redeemer were lent a short while later to the newly–formed Bibleway Church in Cloverdale, and given at last to the new St. Andrew's Church in Pender Harbour. The people of Saint Andrew's were more than delighted to receive them and providentially they fit as though they had been specially made for that beautiful little church. A brass plaque on the wall beside them reads; "These pews were originally in Saint Aidan's Church, Tynehead, Surrey, B.C. built in 1911 as a gift from Mr. W.J. Walker. They were used in Church of the Redeemer, Cloverdale from 1933 to 1973 and were stored at Christ Church, Surrey Centre until given to Saint Andrew's Pender Harbour in 1979". The Redeemer site was sold and the building razed to make way for an office complex, but not before the paneling of the sanctuary was rescued for use in the rectory, and shrubs from its front yard transplanted into the rectory garden. Two sets of Communion vessels and Communion linen presented no problem, but the two organs were both memorials and not both needed. Mrs. Ethel Hough had once been organist in Christ Church, and following her death her organ was offered to the church by her daughter. It was accepted with gratitude, and both the previous organs were sold; the money was placed in the new Centennial fund and the memorials, with Ethel Hough's name added, were attached to the new organ.
But what of the duplicate organizations? The two church committees and four church wardens functioned together until the next Annual Vestry meeting. There were two Guilds, two choirs, two Altar Guilds, two Sunday Schools. From the outset, it was agreed that each of these would combine. Miraculously they began cooperating almost at once and frictions began to dissipate. There were even two names, and for a short while the new parish was known as "Christ Church Surrey" (The Church of Christ the Redeemer Surrey Centre being too cumbersome), to avoid any feeling that one church had obliterated the other. Within so matter of months, however, the traditional name of Christ Church Surrey Centre was restored.
The Holy Communion Service and Harvest Festival, 1981.
Rev. Hubert Butcher celebrating; Rev. John Chapman assisting.
As the years have passed since the amalgamation, so the congregation has fluctuated, but with an overall growth. New houses have sprung up all through Cloverdale and Surrey Centre, and often newcomers to the community find their way to Christ Church. Several young people have come to be married and stayed to worship. One new family left a lasting mark during their short time with the parish. Stella Ting, an immigrant from Singapore, a qualified doctor and wife of a doctor, brought her two boys to church one day. Before long she was helping everywhere, especially in the children's choir which she organized. They sang anthems; they sang carols; they entertained senior citizens and hospital patients; they helped to lead the worship for family services and for Christmas pageants; and they continued training and singing when the Ting family moved to Vancouver.
Another family that deserve mention are the Chapmans. When they came to Surrey from North Vancouver, John Chapman was in deacon's orders. He continued in his employment supervising the linesmen for the B.C. Hydroelectric Company, called out on stormy nights for extra duty, yet always willing to help the rector with the church service when he could. The time came when John was prepared to undertake fuller service and on Palm Sunday, 1980, he knelt before Archbishop Somerville to receive priest's orders, in the first ordination service that most parishioners had ever seen, and almost certainly the first ever held in Christ Church. John still does secular work, but now he is able to celebrate the Eucharist in the rector's absence and many times he has come straight from a night on duty to lead the worship before going home to breakfast and bed.
In 1977, yet another reorganization of the parish seemed imminent. A suggestion was made that five Surrey parishes; Christ Church, St. Oswald's, Epiphany, St. Michael's and St. Helen's, and St. Cuthbert's North Delta, should combine into an area parish, served by a team of ministers. Such a pattern had already been set in two areas in the Fraser Valley. Discussions continued into 1978, until it became apparent that most of the parishes were unwilling to surrender their independence. If there were enough clergy to go around, each wanted "our own minister". Christ Church continued as before, with Mr. Butcher coming each Sunday from St. Oswald's.
Hubert Butcher's roles have been varied. When the Rural Deaneries of the Diocese were re–grouped into eleven (later ten) "Regional Deaneries", Hubert served for five years as Regional Dean of Nicomekl Deanery. One of his duties was to encourage the clergy in his area to upgrade their education and he, himself, embarked on a course at the Vancouver School of Theology, leading to the degree of "Doctor of Ministry". More recently he has been elected President of the North Surrey Ministerial Association. How fitting that the pastor of Surrey's first church should be chairman of the many pastors of its many churches in 1982, the church's Centennial year.
For now the hundredth year of our life, long planned for, has arrived. It was Dr. Larmonth who apparently added two years to our age. In the Vestry Book of 1969, he recorded the 85th Anniversary Service of the parish and the following year, the 88th. As he explained, "We observe the anniversary of the church, not of the church building." So plans were set in motion to celebrate the Centennial, not in 1984, to remember the construction of the building, but in 1982 in memory of that first meeting under William Bell in the old Town Hall.
For several years, Ethel Nivison, whose cancer had made active service impossible, became a one–woman committee to receive ideas for the great year's festivities. By the time she handed over her files to a full committee, a wide range of plans had begun to take shape.
Dick Birch was appointed chairman of the new Centennial Committee. Dick, whose two brothers are ordained ministers, has served the church steadily during his years as a banker, and now in his retirement he has devoted endless hours to planning, praying and prodding. Under him, sub–committees have worked in a crescendo of enthusiasm. Numerous parishioners have been actively involved in one or other of the schemes, from the parish–wide visitation supervised by Brian Walks to the compiling of a cook–book by the Sunday School.
The biggest operation, in terms of money and manpower, has been the writing of this book. It is far from being the work of one man. Archbishop Gower told us from the start that he would be the author, provided that the research was done by members of the parish. He has added his extensive knowledge to ours. The History Book Committee has had a majority of older members, for a very good reason: it has been funded by a Federal Government grant under the "New Horizons" programme, the purpose of which is to help retired citizens find purposeful activity. The committee's chairman is John Steward, a faithful parishoner who operates a real estate development business in Vancouver.
Lance Richardson, grandson of the Rev. William Bell, has headed a committee to examine our property and make recommendations for its most efficient use in future. Another committee is planning a reunion for the old–timers who remember Christ Church in its younger days, to meet the present congregation. A banquet on a June Saturday is to be followed by a Sunday morning service and parish picnic. Because the community of Surrey Centre has been drawn from many different churches, this committee's chairman is Roger Bose, a member of the choir in Cloverdale United Church, and another grandson of pioneers in Surrey Centre.
Of course, the core of the celebration is the worship. No fewer than three Archbishops have promised to preach during 1982; Douglas Hambidge, and his two preceding Metropolitans, Godfrey Gower and David Somerville. The focal point of the year falls just after Easter. It was on April 10th, 1982, that the first meeting was held to plan the parish; on April 18th, 1982, the church will resound to songs of praise. Modern technology undreamed of by our founders will make possible an overflow congregation in the Bell Hall, joining in the worship by closed circuit television. It is only a hundred years in time, but an eon in lifestyle since those days when the ox–teams toiled up from the banks of the Nicomekl bringing the lumber for the church, the same lumber that still frames our worship.
Two other events will bracket all our year's celebrations. To set the tone in the congregation's inner life, a retreat is planned in March. The Rev. Jim Cruickshank, who himself began to learn the faith in the Sunday School of Christ Church, and is now Vice–Principal of Vancouver School of Theology, will lead us back into the truth of Jesus Christ, which is the church's reason for existence. The committee that is planning this, led first by Gary Schmidt and later by Syd Price, has a further task; to complete the year with an outreach to the whole community, a Christian Festival for most of a week in November, at which Dr. Cruickshank will again be the speaker. So the year 1982, which is also the year chosen by the whole Anglican Church of Canada for its forward movement, "Anglicans in Mission", will see Christ Church members renewing their own faith and passing on the faith to others.
History is easily forgotten. Memories die with us. Buildings decay. The future rushes in and the past can never be recovered. But some of it can be preserved. The Government of British Columbia, sensing the speed with which the province is changing, made provisions for the designation of historic places and buildings as "heritage sites". In 1980, the Municipality of Surrey chose, among the first such heritage sites, the church and churchyard of Christ Church Surrey Centre. The building was repainted and the interior woodwork oiled, at municipal expense, using money from Surrey's own Centennial budget. The mayor of Surrey chose a photograph of Christ Church to hand behind his desk. Parties of schoolchildren have been given conducted tours of the building. Students have written essays about it. The generation of the nineteen–eighties is looking to its roots.
But the great trees on Old McLellan Road rise from their roots tall above our heads. Roots are not only for stability, but for giving life to the trunk, to the leaves, to the dogwood blossoms, to the fir cones. The roots of our church are remembered not as dead history, but as the source of a life which continues and grows healthily.
Children will be baptized in 1982, 1983 and 1984. Young people and adults will be confirmed. Couples will come to be married and in due time, will bring their own children for baptism. In the quiet of the sanctuary, spirits will meet with the Spirit of God. Sermons will be preached, the Word of God read aloud, and bread and wine will be shared as it has always been shared.
When the Centennial year is over, life will go on just as before; perhaps a little fuller, a little richer, for our having remembered. Our roots are deep, and roots are for giving life.
Echoes Through A Century. Christ Church, Surrey Centre, Surrey, BC. Printed by D.W. Friesen, Cloverdale, BC. 1982