By Rev. Claire Miller
It is not often that a church is able to celebrate someone still living who remembers the day the congregation walked down the hill to the new church. In 2016 St. Thomas Anglican Church in Owen Sound marked the 90th anniversary at its current location while celebrating the 95th birthday of its parishioner Helen Fenton.
The old church at 2310-3rd Ave West was deconsecrated on Sunday November 7, 1926, and the first service in the new church building at 1331-4th Ave West was held on November 11, 1926.
There must have been a solemn parade from the old location to the new church. One can picture the servers dressed in cassock and surplice carrying the crosses, the choir singing, and the Rector, and Rectors of other local churches, as well as the Archbishop of Huron dressed in all their finery, coming along, followed by the congregation. Helen was five years old, and remembers the day.
Helen is not able to get out to church any more, though her family made a special effort to make sure she attended on September 11, 2016. Nowadays, the church goes to Helen in the Long Term Care facility where she lives along with other members of the Anglican Churches of Owen Sound.
We had a great time, with a full church, and guest organist Eleanor De Wolfe working up a storm on the organ. The 1918 BCP service was well received, with a little prior explanation. Some of the congregation dressed up in costumes from the 1920s, and there were some interesting hats! The Twilight Club provided sliced meats, and one of our wonderful bakers made a delicious carrot cake.
The Parish began as a mission in 1889 with two churches: St. John’s in Sarawak and All Saints in Wolseley. Over the years the small Anglican churches in the surrounding area were variously attached to Trinity Church in Wiarton, and Church of the Redeemer in Hepworth. People chose which church to attend depending on distance, state of the roads, and family ties.
The congregation at Brooke, or Brookholm met at the Lethbridge Hall until it burned down in 1900. There was an empty church building in St Vincent Township by the name of St. Thomas, built in 1867 and closed in 1889.
The congregation at Brooke felt that as the school house where they were meeting after the fire was not adequate, they would move the St. Vincent building to a lot in Brooke, on the north west side of the Sydenham River, a suburb so to speak of the City of Owen Sound. This was done in the summer of 1900.
The congregation decided to retain the name, and the first St Thomas Anglican Church of Owen Sound opened in 1901. In 1926 the new church was built, closer to the centre of Owen Sound.
Today, 90 years later, St. John’s Sarawak, Church of the Redeemer Hepworth, and All Saints Wolseley churches are closed, though the lovely stained glass window that graced St. John’s 127 years ago has been installed at the current St Thomas Anglican Church.
Reverends Claire Miller and Graham Bland share leadership of a monthly communion service there, which is well attended.
Rev. Claire Miller is rector of St Thomas’ Anglican Church, Owen Sound.