A glimpse back in time – United Church time, that is

Manse study, a Saturday night in January

The desk in the Manse’s study where my father – and for all I know, where his predecessor The Rev. W.W. Patterson – wrote sermons on Saturday nights. On this particular January Saturday night (when this photo was taken), it looks as warm and cozy (and book-filled) as it did back then. The laptop is, if course, a new addition to the decor.

A week ago I wrote a post paying tribute to readers who share their knowledge – information that they just have, or have dug up – about subjects I touch on here at Meanwhile, at the Manse. Over the almost two years I’ve been doing this blog, you folks have shared all manner of general and historical knowledge, photos, videos, documents, website links – and maybe best of all, your memories of Queensborough.

The Pattersons at the Manse

The Rev. W.W. and Mrs. Cora Patterson, with children Barbara and John, at our Manse in Queensborough, about 1943. My posting this photo led to all kinds of interesting new information from readers. (Photo courtesy of Grant Ketcheson)

Well, since that post, readers have sent me still more great stuff! And interestingly, the spark for most of it is once again the story I told here (thanks to yet another reader-supplied photo) of a minister’s family that lived here, in what is now our Manse, back in the 1940s: the family of The Rev. W.W. Patterson. It is obvious that, even though it’s been many years since the Pattersons’ time in Queensborough, they are very fondly thought of by all who remember those days, and all manner of interesting information (including more photos, like here) has come in about them. Thank you!

One that I particularly liked, and that strikes a chord with me on this wintry Saturday night at the Manse, is a history of another church that The Rev. Patterson served at, discovered by reader Ruthanne (who also grew up in Queensborough, and whom I had the pleasure of meeting last August at the annual summer service at historic Hazzard’s Corners church).

The church in question is St. Matthew’s United Church in Richmond Hill, Ont., which came into being in 1957, and of which The Rev. Patterson was the very first minister. (Prior to that he was in Fenelon Falls, Ont., and as one of my earlier posts noted, he also served in Noranda, Que., after being at St. Andrew’s United here in Queensborough. Those were the days when it was common and expected for ministers to move around a lot.)

The historical sketch that Ruthanne found tells us about this new and growing and enthusiastic congregation raising the money to build a church building and to purchase a home to serve as the manse for their minister and his family – wife Cora and their children, who by this time numbered five. (There were only two children when the Pattersons lived here at the Manse.) Construction of the church took place in 1960, and the first service was held there in December of that year.

The document sheds so much light on how full and active churches were in those days. United Church membership reached a peak in the 1950s and early 1960s. How nostalgic this paragraph makes me feel:

During the ’60s and early ’70s youth groups were very active. As well as the Explorers and CGIT, there were Messengers, Tyros and Sigma-C groups. There was also a Hi-C group. In 1965 the membership of these groups was:
Messengers 45
Tyros 104
Sigma-C 32
Explorers 55
CGIT 33
The Sunday School reached its peak in 1965. There was an enrolment of 450. Teachers and staff numbered 39.

Hi-C! CGIT! (That’s “Canadian Girls in Training” for you uninitiated folk. It was a United Church program for girls. And Hi-C was a church group for teenagers.) And a Sunday School of 450 children! My goodness, those were the days. Most Protestant churches that I know today are happy if they can round up half a dozen kids on any given Sunday for Sunday School.

The document also reports on the activities of the church’s junior and senior choirs and the women’s groups (mentioning how the Women’s Missionary Society and the Women’s Association merged in 1962 to form the United Church Women). We learn about the successful campaign to raise money to buy an organ for the church, and then to retire the church building’s mortgage. And guess who was guest of honour at the official mortgage-burning ceremony in 1985? “Cora Patterson, widow of our first minister, performed the actual burning of the mortgage.” (Actually, as you will see below, she was not a widow in 1985, but her husband must not have been able to attend, perhaps due to poor health. He died in 1987, at the age of 85.)

W.W. and Cora Patterson(As a bit of a side story: after my previous two posts on the Patterson family, reader Grant sent me this photo he had found of the marker on the grave in Peterborough County where The Rev. W.W. and Cora Patterson are buried. And this photo tells me something that I think would be another intriguing story to pursue: that Cora Drain Patterson was an artist! Do any readers know anything about that? I’m willing to bet that, as a busy minister’s wife with five children to raise, she didn’t get much time to practise that talent in her early married life. It would be so interesting to hear how she may have turned to art in later years, when life was a little less hectic. Or maybe she did squeeze in her artistic interests along with having to host UCW meetings and cook the meals and do the laundry and make all those school lunches… The lives of ministers’ wives bear some examination, if you ask me.)

Anyway, on a January Saturday night here at the Manse, this has got me feeling nostalgic. Why Saturday night? Because when I was growing up in this house and my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, was the minister at St. Andrew’s, Saturday night after supper was a busy, busy time in this old house. We four kids all had to have baths in preparation for church the next morning; my mum, Lorna (Cora Patterson’s successor), would be ironing Dad’s suit; there would of course be Hockey Night in Canada on our old black-and-white TV; and my father would be hard at work in his study upstairs, putting together his sermon for the next morning, taking a break only to come down and feed the wood stove in the kitchen as needed to keep the house toasty on cold winter nights such as this.

Those memories are extraordinarily happy ones. And they come from the same era as when St. Matthew’s United Church was just starting out, when it had so many youth groups and women’s activities and choirs and fundraising and a huge Sunday School, and when the future for it, and for churches as a whole, looked bright.

There are many of us church-going folks who feel the future is still bright, though it is likely to be a very different future than the one my father as a young minister envisioned as he wrote his sermons in the Manse study on a Saturday night, or that the young and growing congregation of St. Matthew’s United Church (led by The Rev. W.W. Patterson) foresaw back in the early and mid-1960s. And that’s probably a discussion for another Saturday night at the Manse.

On this Saturday night, though, I am enjoying a look back into my own past, and that of my church. And for that I have, as I so often do, a generous reader to thank.

7 thoughts on “A glimpse back in time – United Church time, that is

  1. What I find interesting is the designation “artist” on the tombstone. Unusual. A statement? That she had a life as other than a minister’s wife? Was she of some — if local?– renown? I’m intrigued.

      • Cora Patterson is listed in “Artists in Canada” at the following link:
        daryl.chin.gc.ca:8000/SEARCH/BASIS/aich/advanced/…/EDW?..
        That doesn’t look like it’s translating as a link, but I just googled “Canadian artist Cora Patterson.” Scrolled down and clicked on an Advance Search link. There’s also a Cora Paterson (sic) as an “English” (sic) children’s book illustrator in another link on that page. 1930s. Maybe not her, but the other I’d say almost definitely is.

      • Here’s the listing:

        Artist/Maker : Patterson, Cora
        Artist Other Names : Patterson, Cora Beatrice
        Technique : Painting
        Sex : Female
        Birth Dates : 1912 ?
        Death Dates : 05 December 1996
        Death City : Toronto
        Death Province : Ontario
        Death Country : Canada
        File Location : National Gallery of Canada – Library and Archives / Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography
        Art Gallery of Ontario – Edward P. Taylor Research Library and Archives
        Record Creation : 19871008
        Record Update : 20100514
        Record Number : 28634

      • That’s absolutely her, Hilary – thank you again! Now the mission is to track down some of her work. It would be so astounding if some of it was done while she lived here at the Manse.

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