I was raised in the Anglican Church, and when I came to Deep River in 1950, I
joined the congregation of St. Barnabus.
When Frank and I were married in 1953, he was already a member of Deep
River Community Church, and since he had no desire to become an Anglican, I
decided to join Deep River Community Church.
My first contact with the church came from Rev. Vanderburgh, their
current minister. He came to our
home for a pastoral visit shortly after our marriage to make arrangements for me
to join the church. I was very
impressed with his friendly and welcoming manner, and was looking forward to
having him as my pastor. However,
shortly after his visit, he was killed in a tragic car accident, and was deeply
mourned by the congregation. So, my
first few months in Deep River Community Church in the newly built church
building in which we still worship were as part of a congregation searching for
a new minister, including listening to several ministers who came to preach for
a call. One man seemed to stand out
as a unanimous choice, and so it was that Rev. A.G. (Fred) Skelly became
the new minister in early 1954.
|LOOKING BACK: EARLY DAYS OF OUR CHURCH By June
Itís now or never! While my
memory is (mostly) still intact, I would like to revisit
my experiences and impressions of the Deep River
Community Church as it existed in the 1950ís and 60ís.
Only a handful of people remain in our congregation who
were here in the early days. This will be a personal
memoir of the many fine people who shaped this church
and helped it grow physically and spiritually.
REV. A.G. SKELLY
What a great choice he turned out to be.
Under his guidance, Deep River Community Church blossomed and grew.
His Irish brogue, his quick wit, and his
fine sermons endeared him to our hearts. Since
the church was composed almost exclusively of young people, including many with
growing families, we naturally had many baptismal services and the Sunday school
grew by leaps and bounds. Another of Mr. Skellyís assets was his wife,
Margaret. She was the quintessential ministerís wife Ė compassionate,
personable, with a beautiful smile which seemed to come from her heart.
Together, they made a fine statement of a truly caring Christian couple.
At one point they came to the Womenís Church Circle to show slides of a
trip they had just taken to Europe.
As they showed the final slide, they claimed it was the most beautiful spot they
had seen on their travels. It turned
out to be a view of the Ottawa River and Laurentian hills, taken from the campus
of downtown Deep River. It was a sad
time when the Skellyís left our church in 1959 to take on a much larger
congregation in Toronto.
REV. R.C. (BOB) PLANT
Rev. Bob Plantís inaugural service was memorable.
It was also a turning point in his career in the ministry and in his
life. His background had been in
journalism, with a stint in the military as an adjutant somewhere along the
line. When he entered the ministry
it was into the Baptist federation.
Coming to an ecumenical church such as Deep River Community Church was a big
change, especially since he had decided to change over his allegiance to the
United Church of Canada at the same time.
At his inaugural, he was accompanied by several of his friends in the
ministry, all of whom spoke of their friendship for and their admiration of Bob
Plant. He was indeed a force to be
reckoned with. Perhaps due to his background of journalism, his sermons were a
strong point. Iím not sure he stuck to the lectionary (perhaps it wasnít
mandatory) but he often preached a series of sermons on one subject. One series
I remember well was about the lives of the composers of some of our oldest and
most-loved hymns. He was a big man with a larger than life personality and a
devotion to the ministry that included his own congregation and extended to
include a counseling service to all who lived in this area. To accommodate his
expanded ministry, a study with a separate entrance was added to the manse.
Rev. Bob packed them in on Sundays, and soon there was a need for two
services and a junior minister was hired to be a youth minister and to help with
pastoral care. Rev. Mervin
Sargent was our first associate minister and did a fine job.
He conducted the service at 9.30 a.m. and Mr. Plant took the 11 a.m.
Mrs. Plant (Christine) was also a huge asset to her husbandís ministry.
They had three children Ė Susan, Philip, and Pam.
Christine had a lovely singing voice, and Iíll always remember her
rendition on Christmas morning of the lovely old hymn ďGood Christians Rejoice
and Greet This Happy MornĒ.
Iím sure that their time in Deep River was cherished by the family as they had
been informed by her physician that Christine had a slow-growing but inoperable
brain tumour. The Bob Plant years added
immeasurably to the growth of our church.
Music has always played an important part in my life, so I was very happy when I
became a member in 1953 to find that my new church home had a wonderful music
program. Fred Glendinning was
the organist and choir director. He
had a large choir to direct, probably about 24 singers.
They ďmade a joyful noiseĒ every Sunday when they rose to sing the
anthem. It seemed customary in those
days to have either a solo part inserted into the anthem or to have a soloist do
the musical ministry. The choir had
many very talented singers, so we heard a wide variety of music.
I canít recall all the soloists but some names which come to mind are
Dora Dent, Jean Baines, Nora Murdoch, Evelyn Bedford, Mary Moore, all of
whom were sopranos, and Peter Spears, tenor, and Bob Graham, bass.
When Mr. Glendinning retired as organist, Alex Moore took over.
After his tragic death, John Wilkinson was hired and just before
we moved away in 1967, Ruth Stewart took charge of the music.
The service began with the sung doxology and ended with a sung
WOMENíS CHURCH CIRCLE
By the time I joined the Womenís Circle, it had been going for a number of years
and already had a large membership from among the women of the congregation.
We had monthly meetings which began with a short worship service followed
by a business meeting, after which we had some kind of program.
This took the form of a speaker, a film, or a discussion of special
interest to women. To close we had a
social time with tea or coffee. Along with that, we formed neighbourhood groups
which met periodically to make items for our annual Christmas bazaar.
Those women who were talented crafters helped others (like myself) to
create some interesting items. Since
most of us were stay-at-home wives and mothers, while our hands were busy
creating, we covered the usual range of subjects near and dear to the hearts of
The two major events in the Circle year were the Christmas bazaar and the annual
congregational dinner. The dinner
was a sit-down affair, with turkey and all the trimmings, and a wonderful
selection of pies for dessert. By
the time I became involved in the Circle, the congregation had grown to the
point where we had to offer two sittings for the dinner.
The bazaar consisted of a sale of knitting, sewing, and crafts, a sale of
homemade baking, and a tea room where one could sit down with friends and enjoy
small sandwiches, cakes and a cup of tea.
Needless to say, both these endeavors took much planning and a great deal
of work in their execution.
I was a Circle member from 1954 until 1967, and during that time I served on the
executive in several roles. The two
most memorable were kitchen convener and program convener.
The kitchen convener organized the congregational dinner, which meant
innumerable hours on the phone soliciting help with food, serving, setting up
and taking down the tables, publicity, and of course, cleaning up.
It also meant directing a team of women all of whom had their own ideas
about how things should be done! It
was a crash course in leadership skills for anyone taking on the job.
I learned to make lists, be diplomatic, listen with an open mind, etc.
If anything, program convener was even more challenging.
Trying to find interesting speakers for nine meetings each year was not
an easy task. (Iím sure Rev. Andy
will sympathize with this).
The bazaar was our biggest effort of the year, and the money raised went to help
the local church and to fulfill our mission commitment.
It became even bigger once the Christian Education Centre opened in 1959.
The sewing, crafts, and baking were displayed in the basement and the tea
room was in the upper section. This
room would be decorated beautifully with a Christmas theme.
The tea tables had their own lovely handmade centrepieces, which were
very much in demand, usually pre-sold even before the afternoon began.
Fortunately, we had among our members some very talented, artistic women.
Three who stand out in my mind and who were often in charge of
decorations were Barbara Ditmar, Carol Shuttleworth, and
Theda MacGregor. These bazaars
were very popular with the townsfolk and there would be line-ups outside waiting
for the doors to open. The Circle was an important part of my life and I made many friends through my
membership in it. Working with people like Jean Cameron, Zebba
Pritchard, Margaret Mitchell, Joan Cooper, and Jean Jervis
enriched my life. In taking on some
of the leadership roles, I learned many skills which have served me all my life.
And thatís not including the recipes I acquired from all the good cooks
in the church. My dog-eared copy of
Jean Cameronís recipe for boiled mayonnaise has been used hundreds of times.
Thanks, Jean, and thanks to all the women with whom I had the privilege
to associate over those years.
BUILDING THE CHRISTIAN EDUCATION CENTRE
By the mid-1950ís, it was very apparent that our church needed more room.
Our Sunday school, held in the church basement, was seriously
overcrowded. We needed meeting
rooms, places for church groups to assemble, and a more pleasant space in which
to hold dinners and other community events.
Our Sunday school superintendent, Les Beamish, was the
driving force to build a Christian Education Centre on the available land next
to the church. The big question was
how to go about funding such a building. A committee was formed to investigate
ways and means. They came up with a
proposal which was received with mixed feelings by the congregation.
They recommended using a professional fund raising company to help with
the campaign. The Wells Fundraising
company had been successful in helping other churches with their fundraising and
came with excellent credentials.
Some of the congregation opposed this mode, stating that we should be able to
handle our own campaign, thus saving the cost of hiring professionals.
It must have been put to some kind of vote within the congregation
because approval was given to hiring the Wells people and in due course, they
provided some of their personnel to draw up a campaign, provide the publicity,
and help organize a fundraising dinner.
The dinner was held in the cafeteria at the Chalk River AECL laboratories
on a Saturday night. Members of the
congregation acted as hosts, with each host inviting five other couples or
individuals. Frank and I were hosts,
and it was our responsibility to see that our invitees were introduced and made
to feel comfortable. We were seated
at long tables and the dinner was catered by Crawley and McCracken.
The speeches and appeals which followed must have gone well as the
necessary funds were pledged and building was soon underway. The CEC was opened
in 1959, and solved our space problems and has proven over the years to be the
best of investments.
CANADIAN GIRLS IN TRAINING (CGIT)
I had no experience in youth groups so it was with much trepidation that I
agreed, in the mid-1960ís, to become a CGIT leader.
Luckily for me, my group of young women was understanding of my lack of
experience and together we made our way along the road of the Christian
experience. I canít remember all of
their names, but some I do remember are Sandra Spears, Susan Plant,
Mary Morison, and Jill Smedley (now Jill Mark).
Barbara Pitt was the superintendent, and Bernice Blimke was
another leader. Each year, at
Christmas, the CGIT group presented a candlelight carol service.
The service was drawn up by the CGIT national headquarters, so our local
group just had to follow the printed-out order of service.
We wore our navy and white middies, ties, and navy skirts, and sat in the
choir loft from where we led the singing and read the Christmas message. The
service ended with the girls and leaders processing down the aisle holding their
THE SANCTUARY COMMITTEE
Around the end of the 50ís, a group was organized to provide flower arrangements
for the Communion table. They would also set up the church for Sunday service,
polish the brass and be responsible for the hangings for the lecterns. Our first
group of six women included Theda MacGregor, Barbara Ditmar,
Shirley Janes, Carol Shuttleworth, Trudy Wallace, and me.
Our first meeting was a workshop on flower arranging, conducted by
Barbaraís mother. With only a dozen
daffodils, she demonstrated how to make two lovely arrangements in our brass
vases by placing the blooms artistically and backing them with the daffodil
leaves. This turned out to be very useful knowledge, for those times when
flowers were expensive and hard to find.
We began an association with Mrs. Hocking (who would later establish
Pinecrest Florists) who would order the flowers for us and deliver them to the
church on Saturday. In the narthex,
we had a chart of the Sundays for the current year and the congregation was
invited to provide memorial flowers.
In the summer months we used flowers from our membersí lovely gardens.
After the service we took the flowers to sick and shut-ins (sometimes the
hardest part, as our congregation was young in those days).
We had a little card printed which stated that the flowers had heard the
prayers, the devotions, and the music of the service and came with the blessings
of our congregation.
In 1967, Frank and I moved to Ottawa where we lived for 23 years, returning as
retirees to Deep River in 1989.
Almost 60 years after first joining Deep River Community Church, I am once
again a member of its congregation.
The church continues to carry on its ecumenical work, as laid out by its
founding members. It has served this community very well, and hopefully will
continue to do so for many years to come.
From its location on the hill, it overlooks our town, the magnificent
river, and the everlasting hills beyond.
Thanks be to God.