I’ve referred many times to the churches at which my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, was minister in the years (1964-1975) that my family lived at the Manse in Queensborough. With this evening’s post I thought I’d take you on a little tour.
In 1964, just after his ordination as a United Church of Canada minister upon his graduation from Emmanuel College at Victoria College, University of Toronto, Dad was appointed to the Queensborough Pastoral Charge. The charge had three “points,” or churches. There was St. Andrew’s in Queensborough:
And Hazzard’s United Church in Hazzard’s Corners:
And Cooper United Church in Cooper:
The three churches were fairly equally spaced on a circuit that was about 20 miles around in total.
As I recall there were two services on Sunday morning, at 9:30 and 11 a.m., and a third in the evening, probably at 7:30 or 8 p.m. St. Andrew’s was considered the main church of the charge, and one of the morning services was always there. I believe there was a rotation between Hazzard’s and Cooper for the evening service. We kids always went to the morning service at St. Andrew’s, which of course was just a two-minute walk up the road from the Manse. We also went to Sunday School there, which was held before or after church, depending on whether the service was at 9:30 or 11 a.m. And I think we usually went to the evening service as well. I loved those evening services, which had a very different feel to them than a morning service. Quieter and more contemplative, perhaps. And I loved the drive home in the dark to the Manse afterwards, especially the route along the quiet country road between Cooper and Queensborough.
In 1967, however, there was a restructuring of the pastoral charge – and of many charges in the United Church. I suppose it was the beginning of the phenomenon that has by now hit most churches very hard indeed: people stopped coming. (Remember when Time magazine asked Is God Dead? And Pierre Berton published his bestseller The Comfortable Pew? Well, it was the Sixties. Everything had to be questioned. Here is a good article from Kenneth Bagnell in the United Church Observer that looks back at that mid-’60s cultural and secular shift – as well as ahead to the future.) Across the country many smaller churches were closed, and consolidations were made. The decision was made (at a higher level than that of the pastoral charge itself) to close the Hazzard’s and Cooper churches, and to merge with Eldorado United Church to become the Queensborough-Eldorado Pastoral Charge. I know how attached communities are to their churches, and it must have been so hard for the people of the Hazzard’s and Cooper areas to see their beautiful, historic little churches close down. Fortunately, many of them stayed loyal to the charge and became stalwarts in the new setup. Many Cooper and Hazzard’s people started attending St. Andrew’s, while some Hazzard’s people moved over to Eldorado United, where there was a sizeable and busy congregation.
Queensborough-Eldorado was a healthy and flourishing pastoral charge for some years, well past the time when Dad accepted a call to the Seymour Pastoral Charge outside Campbellford, Ont., in 1975. (He served the four churches there from 1975 to 1986.) Unfortunately, that phenomenon of people not attending church just got bigger and bigger. The Eldorado church closed its doors last year and was sold to a private buyer this year.
It’s the same thing in so many places. As I write this, my mother, Lorna, is attending a meeting about the future of the Welcome United Church building in the village of Welcome, Ont.. The Hope Township Pastoral Charge, with three churches (“points”), was the third and final charge where Dad served, from 1986 until his retirement from the ministry in 1997. All seemed well with the charge until not very long ago, but two of the three churches have just closed and operations have been consolidated at Welcome; discussions are taking place about what to do next.
It is almost unimaginable now, in 2012, that in the 1960s and 1970s four small churches in tiny rural Queensborough, Hazzard’s Corners, Cooper and Eldorado were as much a going concern as they were. But they were; and my memories are the happier for it. I’m glad to have lived in those times.
And on a looking-to-the-future note, St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough, Ont., is still going, having just celebrated its 140th anniversary, and now with a very fine minister, The Rev. Caroline Giesbrecht, conducting services twice a month (with excellent lay-minister supply on the other Sundays). Raymond and I are happy to be a part of that. St. Andrew’s is a lovely little country church, with a great history and a warm welcome for all who come. Stop in if you’re in the neighbourhood!