EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Saturday, July 23, 2016

'Colouring outside the lines ...exploring new paths' as open house for St. John's future to be held in Chapleau

Recently I attended the 50th anniversary celebration for a Shared Ministry between the Anglican Church of Canada and the United Church of Canada at Invermere, British Columbia. 

It was an experiment that has worked and the celebration brought the Primate of the Anglican Church and Moderator of the United Church to rural British Columbia to be part of it. In fact, while chatting with Archbishop John Privett of the Diocese of Kootenay, he commented that it was not often the leaders of these two churches, would be seen at a service together. Good point by Archbishop John.

My thanks to Joel Vinge for taking me to the service.

Shortly thereafter, I received an email from Jason Rioux telling me about an Open House planned for August 4 starting at six p.m.to brainstorm new uses for St John's church which he recently purchased from the Diocese of Moosonee. It will still be used for church services

.I immediately thought of one of the hymns sung at the Invermere celebration 'My Love Colours Outside the Lines' written by George Light in 1995. In fact I am listening to it now on Youtube being sung by the Northwest Barrie United church choir. Here is the chorus:

“My love colours outside the lines,
Exploring paths that few could ever find;
And takes me into places where I’ve never been before
And opens doors to worlds outside the lines."

As new paths are explored for St, John's new worlds will assuredly be opened "outside the lines".

In fact, in 1885, St. John's may never have become a reality if the committee of adults meeting to discuss plans for the church had their way.

 Let me share a bit of what happened from my 1984 book, "Sons of Thunder...Apostles of Love". The first motion put before the meeting proposed that the matter be dropped as the amount of $500 was too great for the people to raise. 

The motion was defeated but a stalemate arose over who would be on the finance committee. 
Mrs. R.V. Nicholson preserved an account of the meeting which relates the next development: 

 "At this point Miss Annie Nicholson, although only seventeen years old got up and said that if the meeting would allow her, she would volunteer to collect the amount with the assistance of her friend Miss Minnie Richardson."

Several "prominent" members ridiculed this idea, but a motion passed appointing the two girls to the finance committee, and at the next meeting Miss Nicholson commented that a "a really strong box" would be required to hold the money subscribed.Slightly more than one thousand dollars had been collected and paid.

The first St. John's located on the old tennis court was opened and dedicated on July 1, 1886 -- colouring outside the lines by the adults led to the church being established.

On April 23, 1906 at an Easter Congregational meeting a motion was passed to build a new church but at the outset of discussions a majority favoured enlarging the existing building but Rev, W,L. James, the Rector, who Archbishop R.J. Renison referred to as a 'flame of fire' held out and the meeting agreed unanimously.

The first service in the new St. John's was held on March 29 1908, when it was dedicated by Bishop George Holmes.
G B Nicholson
By this time in St. John's history, G. B. Nicholson, had become the the first reeve of Chapleau in 1901 and was greatly involved in the life of St. John's. At Easter 1918, St. John's paid tribute to Mr. Nicholson in a letter that was framed and can still be seen on a wall in the church.

It reads in part: "As a member of the congregation from the day the first service was held in the town, as a member of the committees which have planned and directed the building of both church and rectory, as a member of the choir, and as a warden for twenty-two years, you have had much to do with every stage of the work. Your business ability, supported as it is by your great generosity, has helped more than anyone can say in establishing the parish on a sound financial basis with a splendid rectory, and a beautiful church, both free of debt."

Chapleau, not only St. John's owes so much to Mr. Nicholson, who coloured outside the lines in so many ways for the betterment of the community by obviously colouring outside the lines.
Rev John Sanders
Although, he did not serve as Rector of St. John's, Rev. John Sanders, also spelled Saunders, born to Ojibwe parents at Flying Post in 1845, was one of the first indigenous priests of the Anglican church in Canada, then the Church of England. He was ordained priest in 1979. John Horden, the first bishop of Moosonee, recruited him for the ministry -- certainly colouring outside the lines in 1872 when he took the young man to St. John's College in Winnipeg.

As a missionary he travelled from his base at Mattagami to Flying Post to Missanabie and Michipicoten. He also travelled  by way of Loon (Borden) Lake, the Loon Lake portage and the Chapleau river to the present site of Chapleau. He conducted a service on the banks of the river. After Chapleau was established oldtimers recalled open air services he held at the Indian Reserve and at St. John's church.

Descendants of Rev. Sanders (Saunders) still live in Chapleau and area. 

And now, fast forward to 2016, as St. John's embarks on a new journey. Like so many churches today, many in communities near where I live in rural British Columbia, with dwindling congregations and declining financial resources, other uses are being found for them.St. John's will continue to be used for church  services under an agreement with the Diocese of Moosonee, but the open house is designed to explore other opportunities for the historic building

I was delighted to hear from Heather Campbell who is working with Jason Rioux on plans for St. John's. She wrote in an email about the open house planned for August 4 .

  "As Jason Rioux works toward renovating and revitalizing the church building, we want to invite the community to experience what the Church space could become, and experience some of the ideas for possible new uses.

"We are also inviting everyone to share their memories of the space and other key community gathering spots in Chapleau. We’ll have displays celebrating the Church and community’s heritage, highlighting some other important landmarks in the community, and offer the opportunity to meet some of the local artisans who are interested in using the basement space as a crafts market."

 "Community consultation and engagement are a very important part of the project, as the space has been, and will remain, a very community-centric one. Inviting everyone into the space – and into the process – at this early stage is essential to creating a place that is truly owned by the community 

"There will be plenty of opportunities to give input into the vision of what the space will become. Draw us a picture, drop off a notecard, tell us your thought there are many ways to be involved!  

As I was thinking about this column, I sent an email to my cousin Anne (Zufelt) McGoldrick, with some questions and request for photos she might have of our family's involvement with St. John's. 

As always she replied with information and photos but I am saving them for another day. 

However, as Chapleau folks prepare for the open house, I was reminded of one anecdote about St. John's which occurred before I was born. In 1935, the church celebrated its 50th anniversary which was attended by the Primate Archbiahop Derwyn T. Owen. My grandfather George Hunt was the choirmaster, my mother Muriel was a soloist singing 'Now the Day is Over', my grandmother Edythe and Elsie, (the mother of Anne, Betty, Joan and Leslie) were all in the choir. What a great moment it must have been for my family.

 I am sure you have memories too.

Heather is with 
Small, a company which works with rural communities to assist in the transition from natural resources-based economies to cultural resource-based ones. These efforts help diversify economies while celebrating the natural heritage, built heritage, and intangible heritage (skills and traditions) within these communities. Beginning in Newfoundland with communities affected by the cod moratorium, we’ve also recently worked in New Brunswick, Ontario and the Yukon. 

She said: "We’re thrilled to be involved in the St. John’s Church project in Chapleau, to experience the rich cultural heritage of the Church and the community."

I wish all the very best as you meet to plan the new journey for St. John's and leave you with the last verse of 'My love Colours Outside the Lines':

My soul longs to colour outside the lines
Tear back the curtains, sun, come in and shine
I want to walk beyond the boundaries where I've never been before
Throw open doors to worlds outside the lines. 

My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


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Following the American Dream from Chapleau. CLICK ON IMAGE