[For more photos of the celebration, click here.]
January 18, 2015 may have been a day for important anniversaries in the small town of Upper Island Cove in the diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, but it was a day that focused just as much on the future as on the past.
The town’s Anglican church, St. Peter’s, was celebrating 200 years of ministry. It was also celebrating the 125th anniversary of its current building, and was joined for the occasion by Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, who was celebrating the 20th anniversary of his consecration as bishop, and by Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador’s diocesan bishop, Geoff Peddle, who had celebrated the first anniversary of his own consecration the day before.
“Our goal this year is to have more people worshipping in the pews at the end of the year than there were at the beginning,” said parish rector, the Rev. William Strong, by way of introduction to the over 200 people who came out to an anniversary ceremony held in the afternoon. It was a message he reaffirmed at a banquet held following the service.
“This service will only be considered a success if you folks come back, if people who were at the service come back,” he said, addressing those gathered at St. Andrew’s hall. “We’re at a stage in the life of the church where the church needs you to step forward and participate.”
Bishop Peddle affirmed the same sentiment in his own address. “We sometimes focus on buildings at times of celebration like this, but I really believe that the most important thing for you to celebrate tonight is actually not a building-it’s a community,” he said, “and you have clearly formed an absolutely incredible community here.”
It is a community, however, that is deeply rooted in the place, something Peddle acknowledged, to the gathering’s delight and applause, by explaining to them that the pectoral cross he had chosen to wear that evening was the very pectoral cross worn by Bishop Llewellyn Jones when he consecrated St. Peter’s new church building in 1890.
“In the tradition of this diocese,” said Peddle, “when a bishop dies [the cross and the ring] revert back to the diocese. We can go to our cathedral vaults and I can go back 150 years now and find the pectoral crosses and rings of former bishops. I wanted to wear his tonight as a connection with your past, and with our past as a church.”
Hiltz also spoke glowingly of St. Peter’s Church. “I had a real sense, from what I heard tonight in terms of remarks and conversations and so on, that yes, the church is here, we have a building-it stands on the hill, it stands as a witness, and it is the place where the church gathers.” But he, too, stressed that the real life of the community was its people, and that the building exists to serve them.
“So long as we can maintain our buildings as facilities for mission,” he said, “we are moving in the right direction.”
St. Peter’s, the only church in the community, has long been a hub of the town’s social life and has close ties to St. Peter’s school, which stands just across the road. As such, the celebration featured a large number of community groups, such as the Orange Lodge, Junior Anglicans, Cadets and the Church Lads Brigade, and included a performance by the church choir, one of the largest in the diocese. Perhaps most strikingly, the service also featured a performance by the brass band of the Anglican Church Assistance Association (ACAA), an Anglican community club once active across Canada but now much reduced in membership.
In addition to St. Peter’s, the parish of Upper Island Cove also includes St. Andrew’s church in nearby Bryant’s Cove and St. John the Evangelist in Bishop’s Cove, both of which were well-represented at the celebration along with the Hon. Glen Littlejohn, Member of the House of Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Hon. Scott Andrews, Member of Parliament for Avalon, and the mayor, George Adams.