Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Faith of our Fathers

 This being Sunday, I was thinking about old-fashioned Sunday services at my grandmother Striker's United church in South Bay. Our family would occasionally make the long trip from Bongards to join with mom's side of the family for special services.

I remember Dad would always leave ample time before departing on a junket, "because you never know when something go wrong." As it turned out, he was proven right. Our car got a flat tire, and he was forced to doff his 'Sunday go to meeting' jacket and change a tire - with timing that would make an F1 pit crew envious. Even so, we arrived too late to sit in the filled to capacity downstairs pews (ah, those were the days), and had to slink up to the balcony (couldn't be better, thought the kids!!)  

My copy of the History of the Churches of PEC (an inscribed gift to our paternal grandparents, Christmas 1971) records that this old red brick church  was dedicated as a Wesleyan Methodist church on May 3, 1872 (reference: the United Church of Canada Committee on Archives). Another account explains its early history as a non-denominational church, and the resultant schism when the congregation (or part thereof) opted to join the Union of Canada Methodist Churches in 1880.

The spot commemorates many happy family and community events, but a number of tragedies also. Back in September 1859 a worker was killed (leaving a wife and seven children).  while an earlier church was being completed, and that building appears to have burned in 1870.

For many years, a Mariner's Service has been held at this church, appropriate as the PEC Mariners' Museum, commemorating many lives lost on Lake Ontario, is right next door.

The structure itself is somewhat unusual among early churches.  Like its closest neighbour, Mt. Tabor Church (1865) in Milford, South Bay church adopts not the familiar pointed arches of the Gothic Revival, but the elegant rounded arch of the Italianate style. The soaring curves of the Florentine windows compete with the uninspired coloured glass in the lower lights - but how else to keep a small girl's mind from wandering off to field and shore during Divine Service? 


  1. "Faith of our fathers" reminds me of an interesting literary reference from several years ago that pertained to religious observance in colonial days. Contrary to popular belief, it was noted, people weren't as religious back then as we tend to think they were. I have no idea if this is true or not.

    Also, I read the other day that a manse being used for secular, post-religious purposes should be called the "old manse" to differentiate it from one still in use by the church.

  2. But woe betide anyone who did not appear at their usual spot in the family pew. We'll never know what went on in their heads will we? - in those pre-psychology days when folks didn't analyse things and 'share' as readily as we do.