Thursday, July 19, 2012

Victoria West Presbyterian Church celebrates 125 years

     This article appeared on today's Journal-Pioneer newspaper website:
     Cousins Arthur Moore and Susie Enman have been attending Victoria West Presyterian Church all of their lives and will be on hand this Sunday as the church celebrates its 125th anniversary.
by Nancy MacPhee, July 18, 2012

      As a child, she attended Sunday services at Victoria West Presbyterian Church with her family. As an adult, the Ellerslie woman watched as her only daughter was married within its walls and later eulogized as she was laid to rest from the church.
“I always loved it. It’s about the only way I could describe it,” said the 81-year-old.
     This Sunday, Enman will be among those celebrating the church’s 125th anniversary.
     The church, one of four in the Richmond Bay charge, was built in 1887 on land donated by Archibald and Catherine MacDougall.
     Dozens of ministers have led the congregation. Always constant, said Arthur Moore, has been the parishioners’ faith and determination to keep its doors open.
     The congregation today is small, consisting of less than 30 faithful parishioners.
     Moore recalled a time when the pews were packed for weekly services.
     “Back 50 years ago, I remember we had church here on Sunday nights and my father would have to usher them in to find room for them to sit,” said the long-time church member who lives a short distance from the small wooden building.
     Back then, the church was central to Victoria West, a place where people gathered to worship, catch up on the week’s news and carry out the business — outside its doors — of the community.
     “I was probably about seven years of age and we had a Christmas concert here and I remember we had the horse shed out there and there were so many horses that we couldn’t get all the horses in the shed,” said Moore. “We always came to church here.”
     Dressed in their Sunday best, the young men would sit at the back of the church, keeping a close eyes on the young women of the congregation as they listened to the minister speak from the pulpit.
     There were strawberry socials in the summer and church suppers at the Orange Lodge where money would be raised to help with church projects.
     In times of need, the congregation banded together, whether it was to help a fellow parishioner in need or to raise the money for renovations.
     “In 2006, we had to replace our steeple. We thought we were going to be able to fix it but it was in too bad of shape,” recalled Moore.
     A congregational meeting was called and the decision was made to move forward with the work at a cost of $12,000.
     “There were people here that day that started off with the first $1,000. It just went from there and we raised our money,” said Moore. “We had outside help from different people that wanted to donate.”
     Pulling together and getting the job done, he added, is the Presbyterian way.
     “We’re a small congregation but we’re a very strong group. When we decided to do something, we get together and we’re very determined. We’re the old-style Presbyterians,” Moore said with a laugh.
     Although numbers have dwindled over the years, the congregation remains strong and services still held each Sunday.
     The exterior of the church has remained much the same as when it was first constructed. Shingles have been replaced, a few coats of paint added, stained glass windows installed and cosmetic work has been done inside.
     “I’m pleased it has been kept in such good shape. It means a lot to me,” said Enman. “There’s a lot of history here.”
      The milestone anniversary will be marked Sunday with a barbecue at 5 p.m. followed by service at 7. Invitations have been sent across the country and beyond to former members of the congregation. Moore expects to see a large crowd.
     “We have had a lot of happy times in this church and a lot of sad times, as well,” he said.
     Enman added, “We hope it continues on.”

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