Anglican bishop visits Holy Trinity as church celebrates 125 years

by Robin Burridge

LITTLE CURRENT—The Bishop of Algoma, Lord Bishop Stephen Andrews, attended the 125th anniversary celebration of the Holy Trinity Anglican Church last weekend.

The celebration began with a gathering of parishioners and guests on Saturday evening on the lawn of the Little Current church, followed by a dinner. The church was looking exceptionally beautiful for the celebration, as parish volunteers had been gardening and decorating in preparation for the events.

Punch filled with fresh fruit was served in the front garden as guests arrived. The church hall was elegantly decorated with crisp white linens, chair covers, banners, and fresh flowers.

Bryn Casson was the master of ceremonies for the evening, and welcomed the Bishop, distinguished guests, and members of the congregation. Also in attendance was Mary Ripley the great-great-great granddaughter of Reverend Jabez Sims, who had originally acquired the land for the future site of the Holy Trinity Church, and her daughter Grace Dawson. Anne Stevens from Parry Sound, the granddaughter of Reverend Fredrick Frost, the reverend of the church during the 1870s, attended with her daughter Jennifer Golle, and Ms. Stevens’ cousin Mary Corsaro. Charlotte Haldenby, the daughter of Reverend Allan Haldenby, who lead the church from 1951-1954, was a guest as well.

The church’s women’s auxiliary decorated the hall, set the tables, and cooked the four course meal. The key organizers for the event were Carolyn Harper and Joanne Wade, who Mr. Casson referred to as the “pillars of the dinner’s organization.”

Reverend Paul Walmsley began with grace, followed by a toast to the queen led by Ron Towns, a letter of greeting from the Governor General was read by Connie Wilson, and a letter of greeting from Prime Minister Stephen Harper read by Ursula Paxton. In Mr. Harper’s letter, he stated that the church’s anniversary was a “celebration of wonder and timelessness of faith.”

Bishop Andrews gave a speech sharing the history of Holy Trinity and spoke on the church’s mission “to continue to offer hope in a world of hopelessness.” A testament to the modern age of the ministry, the bishop referred to his iPhone as his note cards, opening his speech with a joke to warm the audience.

The bishop noted that June 21 would be the 176 anniversary of the Anglican Church’s first service on Manitoulin Island, which was conducted by Reverend Adam Elliott. Reverend Elliott was appointed by the Church of England in 1832 to be a missionary to the Six Nations reserve and the early settlers of Upper Canada. The reverend had apparently been greatly distressed by the amount of public drunkenness that afflicted the society of his day. Bishop Andrews explained that over the next 40 years, Manitoulin Island became the focus of the church’s mission, mostly to First Nations people.

The Holy Trinity Church property was acquired by Reverend Jabez Sims in 1867. Reverend Sims was first incumbent of the Little Current parish, following Reverend Peter Jacobs, who died at the early age of 31, drowning in Sheguiandah.

Revered Sims immigrated to Canada from England in 1831 and was ordinated by the first Bishop of Huron, Benjamin Cronyn. He studied Ojibwe with a former priest who had served in Manitoulin, Dr. Frank O’Meara, before settling on the Island in 1864. The Island’s First Nations people came to call Reverend Sims ‘Muckadez Cunesse,’ meaning ‘little black coat.’

The bishop told a story of reverend’s strong character when in 1867 he publicly charged the Superintendent of Indians on Manitoulin, Charles Dupont, with “being an opportunist who was taking advantage of the Ojibwe.” This led to Reverend Sims being punched in the nose by Mr. Dupont and, after the trial, Mr. Dupont was relieved of his duties.

The consecration of the church took place on July 31, 1867 by the Right Reverend Edward Sullivan, the second Bishop of Algoma.

Up until the Holy Trinity Church was built in 1886, infrequent services were held in a log building in Little Current, by the former site of Farquhar’s Dairy. The church’s construction was completed on August 15, 1886 by Mr. John Dawson, who went on to build the Shaftesbury Hall.

The funds for the construction and furnishing were donated by Mr. R.A. Jones of London, England, in addition to the family of the Honourable Robert Jones of Montreal.

Services began at the new church in the 1870s during the time of Reverend Fredrick Frost.

The Shaftesbury Hall was built in 1912 and was the object of much controversy. The church was owned by the diocese and many parishioners were concerned for the reputation of the Anglican Church because of the nature of the activities that were being carried out in the hall, such as dances and the showing of films. The bishop mentioned the halls controversy and read a letter from the Archbishop Thorneloe to the hall’s wardens, expressing his displeasure with Reverend Simpson and the wardens “permissive policies on the building’s use.”

Bishop Andrews also noted that many of the church’s incumbents learned to speak Ojibwe, like Reverend Sims, so that they too could connect with all members of their parish.

He concluded his speech by saying that there were many stories to tell in the church’s history, but that “the challenges were often misjudged and the triumphs unexpected, and if there is one thing that has kept the church going in Little Current, and indeed, in the rest of the world throughout history, it is Christian hope.”

He quoted George Eliot from her novel Middlemarch, “What we call despair is often only the painful eagerness of unfed hope,” and explained that a man from Nova Scotia once told him that “we often see spring as a sign of hope, but it is more subtle than that. Spring is a reassurance that hope was justified. Winter is the time of hope.”

“In the springtime of all this activity, celebrating the life and ministry of this parish, may God continue to nurture our hope during the seasons of winter that lie before us,” Bishop Andrews said as he concluded his speech and the evening festivities.