Anglicans in Lutheran country

Published February 1, 2001

General Synod’s opening service will be held at St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church, which features a figure of St. Michael in a dramatic stained-glass window over the entrance.

Waterloo, Ont.

DELEGATES and staff traveling to Waterloo, Ont. for the 36th General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada will be entering Lutheran country, appropriately enough, as a new relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran church will be a major item on the agenda.

The triennial meeting of the Anglican church’s governing body will gather July 4-11 at the modern campus of the University of Waterloo in an area where generations of German settlers brought with them the Lutheran religion. In fact, Anglican delegates on the way to one of the venues may notice a retirement community called Luther Village.

However, a well-known figure with the national Anglican church is associated with Waterloo. Canon John Erb, executive director of the Anglican Foundation, is a descendant of Abraham Erb, a U.S. settler who founded Waterloo. Emigrating in 1805 from Pennsylvania, where farmland was becoming scarce, he bought 448 acres and supplied the area with its first grist mill. The Erb name is still stamped all over Waterloo – on everything from streets to companies.

The town was named after the battle of Waterloo, in Belgium, which saw Napoleon’s defeat in 1815. The countryside has seen a significant amount of Amish and Mennonite settlement.

In the mid 19th century, Joseph E. Seagram started a distilling business that eventually became a worldwide corporation. German settlers also brought brewing operations and the area is home to such prominent brewers as Brick Brewing, Sleeman and Wellington County. Auto parts manufacturers are also major employers as is the city’s other university, Wilfrid Laurier.

Waterloo’s economic fortunes were at an ebb in the mid 20th century, but in recent years, the area has become a center for high-tech companies and the insurance industry.

Rev. Mark Gladding, rector of St. George’s church in the adjoining town of Kitchener and chair of the General Synod planning committee, noted that “20 years ago, St. George’s was a two-point parish and now it has 400 families.”

Waterloo was chosen as the location for General Synod for a couple of reasons. The 1989 General Synod was held in Newfoundland and at that time the decision was made to hold the next four in central Canada, mainly to hold down travel expenses, according to coordinator Margaret Shawyer.

Subsequent synods were held in Toronto in 1992, Ottawa in 1995 and Montreal in 1998, and Waterloo continues the pattern. It is also the location of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada’s national convention, which will take place July 4-8 at Wilfrid Laurier University. Also, General Synods generally meet at universities, which offer reasonably-priced accommodations and meeting facilities, and the University of Waterloo has such facilities. The city is about 85 km west of Toronto’s Pearson International Airport and about 105 km west of Toronto’s downtown core.

The university was founded in 1957 and now occupies a 404-hectare campus with 45 teaching and research buildings. About 21,000 undergraduate and graduate students attend Waterloo, which offers programs in applied health sciences, arts, engineering, environmental studies, mathematics and science.

The 400 delegates attending General Synod will sleep and eat in dormitory accommodations at Ron Eydt Village, normally student housing, named after the first director of residences. The village also features an aerobics room, games room, lounges and a large dining room.

Plenary sessions will be held in a cavernous gymnasium in the physical activities complex, a short walk from the dormitories. Synod’s Anglican opening service will be held at St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church, which seats 600, and was the only church in the area that could hold the number of people expected. St. Michael’s, founded in 1957, is a short drive from the university campus.

Lutherans and Anglicans will attend a joint worship service at the Waterloo Recreation Complex, also a short drive from the university, where the 4500-seat arena will be transformed into a worship venue. Both groups will also get together to socialize at a Saturday night dinner at Bingemans, a banquet hall seven kilometers east of Waterloo.

Delegates or spouses with some free time might want to take in a play at the Stratford Festival, North America’s largest summer repertory theater, about half an hour’s drive from Waterloo. Those with a more active bent may want to canoe the Grand River, which winds through Waterloo. The artistically-inclined might visit the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery.

A Waterloo album


  • Solange DeSantis

    Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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