A story that began exactly 50 years ago – and continues

Melanie and me at the Manse, 1965

This is the earliest photo I have of the Manse. It was not taken in 1964, the year my family arrived here, but a year later – June 6, 1965, according to my mum‘s handwriting on the back. That’s me on the right and my sister, Melanie, at the front gate that used to be here. The date is significant because it would have been Melanie’s third birthday, and it was also (again according to my mum’s notation) her first day at Sunday School at St. Andrew’s United Church. Scroll down for a 50-years-later version of the same scene.

I feel I must not let July 2014 slip away without mentioning that it has a very special significance for me. You see, it was 50 years ago this month – in July 1964 – that my family – my dad, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, my mum, Lorna, and my younger siblings Melanie and John (Ken, the youngest in our family, wasn’t yet born) – came to live at the Manse in beautiful little Queensborough, Ont.

We came here because Dad, newly ordained as a minister of the United Church of Canada, was taking up duties at his first pastoral charge, which included the churches in Queensborough, Hazzard’s Corners and Cooper. (You can take a little tour of that pastoral charge with me here.)

I don’t think I remember the day we first pulled up in the driveway in Dad’s 1956 Chev. (I was, after all, only four years old.) My mum remembers it vividly because pretty much the first thing that happened when we got out of the car was Will Holmes, who lived across the street, calling out to us with a warning: “Don’t drink the water!” (The water in the well at the Manse at that time was not potable, which meant we had to carry our drinking water in buckets from a community pump up at the schoolhouse. You can imagine what happy news this was to a mother of three children aged 4, 2 and 4 months.)

I don’t know what was the exact date of our arrival in July 1964. However, I assume it must have been around the middle of the month, because I have Dad’s sermons from 1964 and the very first one is dated July 19.

I read through that sermon the other day, sitting on the front porch of the same Manse that my family arrived at all those years ago. It is a good sermon; Dad’s sermons were always good. His text was from Mark 6:34, which is in the story of the feeding of the 5,000: “(Jesus) had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he had much to teach them.”

Dad did a good job in the sermon of explaining how lost, confused and helpless a flock of sheep is when their shepherd – the person who lives with them and whose call they know, the one person whom they will trust and follow – is suddenly not there. I confess I’d never really thought about that before. Obviously that was only a small part of his overall sermon, but it stuck with me.

As did one other thing, a phrase that I found really striking. Dad was talking about “the instinctive reaching out of the human soul to God,” and saying how we, like the crowds who flocked to Jesus in the story from Mark’s gospel, often can’t say exactly what it is we are looking for: “There is some help, some guidance, some teaching we all lack even if we cannot put our finger on our particular need.” He goes on: “Underneath all our surface needs is the instinctive reaching out of the human soul to God. Jesus understood that need of man to reach out to God, the need of the finite to touch the infinite.” (Italics mine)

“The need of the finite to touch the infinite” – it’s a beautiful and profound turn of phrase, isn’t it?

Anyway, aside from the thought-provoking content of my father’s first sermon as a young minister: isn’t it something that exactly 50 years later I am able to read and reflect on that sermon in the very same house in which he wrote it? I feel very fortunate – perhaps blessed is a better word – to be living in the handsome old Manse once again. And to be here with Raymond, who is the best (and most patient) husband ever.

In fact, I am going to show you a photo of Raymond and me that pays tribute to that full-circle thing. Remember Melanie and me at the front gate? Well, here are the current occupants. Same place – and a half-century later on.

Melanie and me at the Manse, 1965

Same place and one of the same people (me) as in the photo at top – half a century later. (Photo by Ed Couperus)

16 thoughts on “A story that began exactly 50 years ago – and continues

  1. Love it – article and photos (and the dresses!). And what a blessing to have your father’s written legacy that you can revisit at will.

    • It is a blessing to have access to my dad’s sermons, Sandra, you’re right. And I owe my maternal grandfather, J.A.S. Keay, for that, because whereas my dad was terrible about organizing anything to do with paperwork, my grandfather went through all those years’ worth of sermons and put them in order and filed them. Bless his heart!

  2. Great dresses in both shots, so you have been a fashion plate for 50 years! Raymond looks …comfortable. and happy. Another great piece.

    • Okay, “fashion plate” is not exactly the term I would choose to describe myself – but thank you, John! I kind of think the best thing about that 50-years-ago outfit was the white ankle socks…

  3. Hi Katherine,
    It would be nice to add a map of the area that would show the locations of the churches you mention.

  4. Way cool how your dad, knowingly or not, turned Blake (“Eternity is in love with the productions of time”) on his head. Evidently, the feeling is mutal. Have to agree that Ray looks … comfortable.

  5. What beautiful photographs, Katherine. I love the B&W one from 1965. Your dresses are very pretty, and it’s no wonder you have so many happy memories of growing up in the Manse. May I ask which of your brothers is in the walker, in the background? Fast forward to current times, and we see another scene of happiness. It’s wonderful that you’ve been able to return to where it all started for you, and that happiness is very evident with the pride you take in preserving the Manse, and in sharing that with us.

    Now, I must ask — it looks like there might have been a small porch around the door on the right. I seem to see a faint outline on the brickwork where something was attached. Is that correct? If so, do you have any idea when the porch would have been removed?

    • Thanks so much for your nice comments, Sash! That little boy in the background of the vintage Manse photo is my brother John, who would have turned one year old just three months before the photo was taken. As for the no-longer-extant porch, or portico, over the Manse’s real front door (which no one ever used, preferring the kitchen door – as in so many rural homes): if you click on this post you’ll see a great old photo, shared with me by reader-with-a-Manse-connection Ruthanne (Tanner) Deline. It shows the structure very well, and I was just thrilled to get that photo from Ruthanne. Readers are the best!

      • Thanks for linking me to the older photo of the Manse, with the portico in front of the front door. It’s wonderful that this photo exists. And, thankfully, they can be enlarged, shared via internet, etc. Another wonderful addition to your collection!

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