A Box of “Church Stuff”
by Janice MacLean, Conference Minister for Christian Nurture & Enrichment
I wonder how many boxes of “church stuff” are preserved in the back of how many closets?
My uncle recently delivered one such box to be placed in the new Archives. It is stuff from my home church, The Alexander Grant Memorial United Church in East Lake Ainslie, Cape Breton.
I know the history well. When I was 16 years old I used the newest technology of the day and created a slide-tape show of the history for the 50th anniversary. I interviewed many people and uncovered a few pictures. I wish the stuff at the back of the closet had been in my hands! There is so much more ‘story’ in this box of yellowed papers.
The box has two themes. (At least!)
One stack of “stuff” is invoices and letters to building companies in Truro and Sydney getting quotes and ordering materials to build the new church by the Lake. The Clerk of Session spared no effort to save a penny. One letter has the Halliday Building Company in Truro complaining that Mr. MacMillan just might be quoting him the Sydney estimate without the taxes included to force a better price! In the end, Hallidays agreed to better the price, even at a loss.
The other stack of “stuff” is letters recording “the ask” for donations from friends far and near. It was quite a campaign. New United Church of Canada ministers with ties to the Lake from far away places like Runnymede United Church in Toronto offered advise to the campaign. They also put pen to paper and wrote many a letter unabashedly requesting offerings to support the “handsome edifice.”
From one such letter: There is a good basement with concrete floor and walls and an excellent furnace. The Church area is provided with comfortable pews and accommodates over 200 people. There is a choir loft and vestry. A handsome tower sets off the building as it stands on a fine commanding site within sound of the Lake. We are thankful in having a place of worship once more and we shall be glad to hear from you and still better to see you and have you join with us in our service of Dedication…. We are calling for a generous offering… Please use the enclosed envelope in sending whatever contribution you may be able to make.”
There are many envelopes (with 2 cent stamps) from “Out West” and the “Boston States” with $5.00 contributions or larger pledges made over four dates: October 1, 1926, April 1, 1927, October 1, 1927 and April 1, 1928. There were corporate donations like the $10 donation from the T. Eaton Co. in Moncton!
I’m glad there is an Archives which will record and preserve this material from the little church that grounded me in faith and sent me into this vocation of ministry.
And I can’t help note the irony of now serving in a ministry rooted in this new building and creating a web page (still love the latest technology!) for “the fund raising project. ”
I join voice with my ancestors from the Lake who wrote letters inviting donations of whatever contribution you may be able to make!