It was September 1912. The Titanic had sunk in April. King George V sat on the English throne. Sir Robert Borden was Canada’s prime minister and would soon lead the country through the Great War, just two years away.
In Saskatoon, in the (then) diocese of Saskatchewan, a new Anglican cathedral was under construction: St. John the Evangelist. Dignitaries laid its cornerstone on Sept. 2, ensconcing behind it a shallow copper time capsule, similar to a bank safety deposit box.
Fast forward to April 22, 2012. The cornerstone, now badly in need of repair, was carefully removed by masons and the time capsule brought out. “We had a grand Sunday parade and surrounded the front of the cathedral,” says Bishop Morgan.
Centenarian Isabella Rhodes, born Sept. 14, 2012, was on hand to open the capsule. Surrounded by Rhodes and a group of fascinated children, the Rt. Rev. Thomas O. Morgan, retired bishop of Saskatoon and interim rector of St. John’s, opened the box. “It had been well sealed and everything in it was bone dry,” he says.
Now housed in an antique display case in the cathedral’s north narthex, the 100-year-old capsule’s contents included the following: a Bible and Book of Common Prayer of the day, coins of the realm, a list of parish officials and members of the Women’s Auxiliary, a copy of the cathedral’s deed of land and photos of the bishop and Canada’s recently appointed governor general, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught. “There were also copies of the city’s three daily newspapers,” says Morgan. “We only have one now, and it’s struggling.”
The cathedral will mark its 100th-anniversary year with a multi-faceted series of events. In September, for example, it will hold a major three-day homecoming celebration, including a gala dinner with period costumes and the dedication of the restored cornerstone.
This time, three time capsules will be filled with photos and other culturally representative items and placed behind its original spot. “Right now, we’re considering whether it’s worth putting in a Blackberry or not,” Morgan says.
The cathedral has also raised nearly $1 million for the restoration of its exterior envelope. “Its bones are aching,” says Morgan. “The architectural experts from Vancouver say the diagnosis is serious but not terminal.”
The steps and gutters must be refurbished and the exterior waterproofed. “The restoration of the gutters will cost $400,000 to $500,000, and we’re spending as we go,” says Morgan.