Project Canterbury

Handbooks of English Church Expansion

Western Canada

By L. Norman Tucker

Toronto: The Musson Book Company, 1907.

Chapter VI. Missions

THE Canadian mission-field is one of the most interesting fields in the world. It combines, more perhaps than any other, elements of the picturesque that appeal to the imagination both of grown-up people and of little children. It has Missions to different races of men--to the Jews in Winnipeg, to the Chinese in Victoria, to the Japanese in Vancouver, to the Eskimos on the Arctic coast, to the various tribes of Indians who inhabit the mountain and the plain, the sea coast and the interior; not to speak of the Mormons of Southern Alberta, the Galicians of Northern Manitoba, and the Dukhobors of Central Saskatchewan, for whom nothing has as yet been done. It has Missions to widely different classes of people--to the fishermen at the mouth of the Eraser and the Skeena, to the loggers of the Gulf of Georgia, to the placer-miners of the Klondyke, and the quartz-miners [104/105] of Kootenay, to the fruit-growers of Okanagan, to the ranchers of the foot hills of Alberta, to the farmers on the plains of Saskatchewan, and to navvies of all nationalities on plain and mountain alike.

And the conditions under which the work may be done are as varied as the races and occupations of the people. You may travel in a palatial Pullman on the Canadian Pacific Railway, over boundless plains, at the foot of lofty mountains, and over dizzy precipices, or in the saloon of an elegant steamer on Lake Huron and Lake Superior; in the birch-bark canoe of the Red Indian, or in the seal-skin kyak of the fur-clad Eskimo; in the dog-sleds of the Arctic circle, or in the cariole, the buck-board, the ox-cart, and the York boat of the temperate zone. You may sail in a mission-boat on Lake Nepigon, or in a mission-ship on the Gulf of Georgia. You may even die in a hundred picturesque ways; you may be engulfed by the hungry cataract, frozen to death by Arctic cold, starved to death by Arctic famine, overwhelmed by the fearful avalanche of the Yukon, or suffocated by the fierce blizzard of the prairie. You may hold services in a great cathedral, in a tiny frame [105/106] church, in the kitchen of a settler's shack, in an Indian tepee, in an Eskimo iglo, in a miner's tent, on an iceberg, behind a snow-bank, under the shelter of an ancient pine-tree, or under the canopy of heaven. Your churches may be destroyed by fire, struck by lightning, carried off by the waters of a flood, or eaten by dogs. You may live in a turf house, or you may dwell in a "Lambeth Palace." There is simply no limit to the variety of experiences that may befall the lot of the man who will make himself all things to all men in the Canadian mission-field.


We can see here the evolution of some of the most interesting enterprises to be met with in the Church. In this mission-field, for example, we can see a diocese "in the making." In 1892 Kootenay and Okanagan were mere names on the map. Services had only been held for a short time in two places, at Donald on the line of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and at Vernon near Okanagan Lake.

In 1892, however, services were opened and [106/107] a church built at Golden, where a parsonage was erected in 1905. In 1892 services were also begun at Kelowna, where a church was built in 1895, and a parsonage in 1897, and which became a self-supporting parish in 1905. In 1893 regular services were opened at Nelson, which has since witnessed the erection of a beautiful church and a commodious parish house, and has become a self-supporting parish. In 1894 services were opened in Kaslo, where a church was built in 1895, and a parsonage in 1899. In 1895 services were opened at Trail, where a church was built in 1899; in 1895 regular services were opened, and a beautiful brick church built at Revelstoke, where a rectory was also built in 1898, and the parish became self-supporting in 1902. In 1895 gold was discovered in Rossland, and "Father Pat" held the first Church of England service on February 2, 1896; on May 8th two lots were given for a church site; and at Christmas the church was completed at a cost of $2,221, with a seating capacity of two hundred and sixty; and the parish has been practically self-supporting from the outset. In 1897 services were opened at Greenwood, where a parish building was erected in 1901, which was converted into a [107/108] church by the addition of a chancel in 1906. In 1898 services were opened and a church and parsonage built at Fort Steele; that year also Cranbrook saw the introduction of regular services and the building of a church, and became a self-supporting parish. About that time also services were opened at Grand Forks, where a church was subsequently built, and a self-supporting parish developed; services were also opened at Fernie, where there is now a handsome church and self-supporting congregation. In 1900 services were opened and a church built at New Denver; services were also opened in Phoenix, where a church was built in 1901. When Revelstoke became a divisional point on the railway, Donald passed out of existence; the church was taken down and re-erected at Windermere. At Trout Lake, 1903 saw the introduction of regular services and the building of a church and parsonage. The year 1904 saw regular services opened at Salmon Arm, where a church has recently been dedicated. In 1899 Kootenay and Okanagan were set apart as the Diocese of Kootenay, under the Bishop of New Westminster, who is also Bishop of Kootenay. The first Synod was held in Nelson in 1900, [108/109] when a constitution was adopted and a canon for the election of a Bishop was passed. There are now in the diocese fifty congregations, eighteen clergy, and nine self-supporting parishes. Only the endowment of the see is lacking to enable the diocese to proceed to the election of a Bishop. Thus the last fifteen years have seen a perfect wilderness of forest, lake, and mountain, become the seat of many towns and villages, the nursery of Missions and parishes, and the nucleus of a strong colonial diocese.


One of the sights on the Pacific coast are the big trees of British Columbia, that grow to a height of 250 feet, and furnish timber 2 feet square and 80 to 100 feet long, called in common parlance British Columbia "tooth-picks." One of the chief industries of the province is that which sends these giants of the forest to the markets of the world. The trees are hewn down, cut up into logs of various lengths, hauled by steam-engines on skid roads to the water's edge, lashed together into booms or rafts, and towed by steam-tugs to the saw mills of Burrard Inlet, [109/110] where they are made into boards, planks, and "tooth-picks," and shipped to the four corners of the globe. For obvious reasons the many islands that stud the northern part of the Gulf of Georgia are the chief scenes of this important industry; and the men who are engaged in its prosecution are called loggers.

Some eight or ten years ago there appeared in Vancouver a young missionary in search of a Mission. He hailed from the Western States, where he had acquired valuable experience as a pioneer missionary; but he was a native of Newfoundland, where he had imbibed an intense love of the sea, of which he could say, like Childe Harold, "From a boy I wantoned with thy breakers; they to me were a delight; and if the freshening sea made them a terror, 'twas a pleasing fear; for I was as it were a child of thee; and trusted to thy billows far and near, and put my hand upon thy mane." He was appointed to the charge of Fairview, a new but rising suburb of the Western metropolis, where, amid stumps and rocks, he erected a beautiful frame church. But the sea was constantly before his eyes, and the lure of the ocean completely won his heart. His first thought was to train a marine boys' brigade, [110/111] to man a boat, and to ply sail and oar on English Bay; but his first real adventure was among the islands of the Gulf of Georgia. To his own great surprise, he discovered many logging camps, each with a complement of men varying from twenty to seventy-five; and he returned to the Bishops of Columbia and New Westminster, with the startling intelligence that here were three thousand splendid fellows, engaged in one of our national industries, who were daily exposed to serious accidents, who were without the care of doctor or nurse, and who were deprived of all the means of grace.

Even to the most indifferent it was evident that something must be done. But what? that was the question. Like a flash the whole scheme took shape in the mind of the young missionary. His marine experience taught him that the first requisite was a boat, and a boat strong enough to face the tides and storms of an angry sea; and with the command of sea-power he knew that all other power could be made subservient to him. The boat would convey the minister to his congregations; it would itself be a movable church; it would be made an ambulatory lending library; it would be fitted out with a hospital cot, where [111/112] the first care could be given to the sick and wounded; it could lodge a surgeon and give all the logging camps the benefit of his skill; it could be a marine ambulance to convey the worst cases to the nearest hospital; and the loggers' friends might even be induced to erect a hospital in the midst of the logging camps. Here was a beautiful, well-rounded scheme that leapt complete out of the brain of the missionary as Venus did from the head of Jupiter.

But if it was a beautiful scheme, it was also a large and expensive one. $5,000 would be needed for the purchase and equipment of the ship, and $6,000 a year for its up-keep. The young missionary set his face resolutely to the solution of this financial problem. By dint of sheer enthusiasm he obtained $2,000 from the Missionary Society, and $1,000 from each of the cities of Vancouver and Victoria, for the purchase of the ship; and from the Woman's Auxiliary in Canada, and the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge in England, all that was needed for its outfit. The initial financial problem was thus solved, but the practical details of the scheme had still to be grappled with. After months of earnest thought, plans for the ship were drawn [112/113] up--its size, its furnishings, its sails, its gasoline engine. Twelve months after the inception of the scheme, "The Columbia" had been launched in Vancouver; it had been solemnly dedicated to its holy mission by a special service in Victoria, and it was actively engaged in its varied ministry among the logging camps of the Gulf of Georgia.

Who can estimate the results of its manifold ministrations! Its lending library has enabled three thousand men to spend pleasantly and profitably many an hour that would otherwise have been spent in idleness, if not in sin. Its surgeon has been the means of saving many a life and many a limb. Its nurses have proved veritable angels of mercy to many a sick and wounded man; and its hospital, erected at Rock Bay, by the Hastings Mill Company, has been a haven of refuge to many, who without it would probably have lost their lives.

And the outward success of the undertaking has proved a stepping-stone to the highest service. Its author has inspired respect and confidence in all the dwellers on the Pacific coast. The open-handed loggers, not from purely unselfish motives, have generously patronized it [113/114] and furnished nearly all the means needed for its support. The Tacoma Steel Company has built another hospital on Texada Island. It is now proposed to build a third at Alert Bay for the benefit of the Indians as well as the whites. Where at the outset there was only one doctor, there are now four; and there are three hospitals and six nurses. More powerful engines have been installed in the ship. Hundreds of men have received treatment on board ship and in the hospitals, and the ministry of benevolence so conspicuously held up before the eyes of the world has opened many a heart to the message of Divine love, and transformed many a vicious and profane life into a living psalm to the praise and glory of the Redeemer. And the Columbia Coast Mission, under the able guidance of the Rev. John Antle, has become one of the most original contributions to the work of modern Missions.


What a scene of utter desolation and of noble heroism is presented by the Mission to the Eskimos of Blacklead Island, Cumberland Sound, [114/115] as described in the life of the Rev. E. J. Peck; surely one of the most forbidding, but at the same time one of the most romantic, missionary adventures in the world.

It transports us to a scene so utterly different from our ordinary experiences, that the Eskimos might be inhabitants of Jupiter or of the moon. Their dwellings, called "iglos," are about 10 feet in diameter and 6 feet in height, with walls made of layers of snow, and with low narrow openings for doors, through which entrance can only be obtained by crawling on hands and knees. Their beds are snow-banks, their mattresses mats of willow, and their sheets and counterpanes reindeer skins. Their lamps are concave stones with wicks of moss and oil of blubber. Their vehicles are sleds, and their motor-power dogs. Their ships, called "kyaks," are skin-covered canoes. Outside the family they have no government, and apart from custom they have no laws. Their religion finds expression in no system of worship, but consists mainly of a vague dread of supernatural powers. Their priests are sorcerers or medicine men; and their devil is feminine, not masculine. "They join no building society; purchase no building site; know no landlord, no [115/116] tax-gatherer; they know only one system of dwelling upon the earth, namely, that of God's freehold, and they build their snow-houses or pitch their tents where they will, and when game is fairly abundant they appear to lead a very happy life." They used to rub noses, but have adopted the more civilized mode of shaking hands. Their only occupation is the chase, and their chief article of diet seal flesh, varied by an occasional taste of whale, reindeer, polar bear, or wolf. They live in the coldest regions on earth, and are in constant danger of famine. What scene in the mission-field presents a greater variety of interesting, amusing, and pathetic features?

Blacklead Island is a small, high, barren rock, about four miles in circumference, producing only here and there a little grass, moss, and lichen, but no shrub six inches high. In winter it is a picture of complete desolation--barren rocks swept by fierce gales, snow many feet deep, ice piled along the shore, without tree or plant to gladden either the eye or the heart. The Eskimo dwellings look like mounds of snow. Ravenous dogs are ever prowling about in search of a morsel of food. They sometimes eat their seal-line traces, and [116/117] sometimes their master's whips. They have even been known to eat a dish-cloth, and to make a good meal of a woman's dress. The Eskimos themselves are more like wild beasts than human beings, in their filthy and bulky garments. On all sides, as far as the eye can reach, nothing can be seen save a boundless expanse of snow and ice. Can desolation be more complete?

A glimpse of the missionary is equally striking. He lives in a small wooden house, whose timber, brought from England, was put together by his own hands. Its walls have been thus described: from inside to outside, first, wall-paper; second, calico; third, boards; fourth, moss; fifth, tarred felting; sixth, outside boards; seventh, painted canvas; eighth, wall of snow. He heats himself with fuel brought from England, no drift wood even for kindling purposes being found in the Arctic seas. In winter he needs the lamp nearly the whole clay, while in summer daylight lasts nearly the whole night. In the depth of a trying winter, with famine staring him in the face, he finds himself in the midst of a starving people without human sympathy or support. Finding his bread frozen quite hard, he wraps it in a towel, takes it with him into bed, and thaws it by the [117/118] heat generated in his fur bag. He finds a cup of cocoa a most acceptable beverage in these cold regions. Jugged hare and plum-pudding at Christmas are to him a royal repast. Newspapers and periodicals, which reach him once a year, are read day by day, one year after date. He finds a music-box and a magic-lantern a cause of great wonder to his primitive people. He sees two little flowers and exclaims, "What a reminder of the Creator's handiwork, goodness, and love." At Whale River he officiates in an iron church sent out from England; at Blacklead Island he builds a church, whose framework is whalebone, and whose covering is seal-skin, a church that enjoys the unique distinction of having been eaten up by hungry dogs; while at Kikkerton he calls his people to worship in a church consisting of a large circular wall of snow, whose roof is the blue vault of heaven. He teaches the people to read, and provides reading matter for them by translating the four Gospels into their native tongue, and with the aid of the Bible Society gives them the Word of God "in a language understanded of the people." He crawls into their unsanitary dwellings through a mass of growling and snarling dogs, and, at the risk of [118/119] being overcome by sickening odours, makes known to them the Gospel of redemption. What but the love of Christ and of souls can impel men to undertake such a life, and support them in its daily round of unpleasant duties? He rejoices with the reflected joy of heaven when one sinner repents. He proves the Gospel to be the power of God unto salvation for the Eskimo as for the European. He helps to fulfil the Divine promise or prophecy, "They shall come from the North." And he gives us the key to his whole life and work when he says in an ecstasy of adoring devotion, "I was hallowed by an awful, solemn, and tender sense of love to Jesus Christ."


In the Diocese of Saskatchewan, the missionary problem of the West is found in concentrated form. In a new country the railway is the main factor in the work of settlement, and the railway has only made a serious appearance in Saskatchewan within the last three years. For twenty years past, Rupert's Land, Qu'Appelle, and Calgary have been more or less open to settlement, and [119/120] for almost as many years the Church in those dioceses has been occupied with the needs of the settler, providing services and building churches for him. When, half a dozen years ago, the small streams of immigration began to swell into large floods, they naturally flowed along the railways into those three dioceses which were, in some measure at least, prepared to cope with them. But, three years ago, when the tide of immigration had assumed gigantic proportions, the activity of three transcontinental railways in pushing their lines into Saskatchewan, brought a perfect inundation of settlers into new and virgin fields, where there were neither churches nor ministers, and where services had never been held before. Nowhere else in the West were there as many new-comers; nowhere else was the population as widely scattered; and nowhere else had so little been done to meet the emergency. It was estimated that there were two or three hundred points where services should be established at once. This constituted the Saskatchewan problem; and the Saskatchewan plan is a practical attempt made to meet these extraordinary conditions.

The master thought in the whole plan is--to be first on the ground, to go in with the settler, to [120/121] minister to his first needs, to win his first affections, and to derive all the advantages that accrue from such a position. Too often, in the past, the Church has waited till promising settlements had become established and were in a position actively to welcome and support her. Before that day came, enterprising neighbours had gone in, built their churches, brought all the people to their services, and all the children to their Sunday schools; and when, at last, the Church of England appeared on the scene she found the ground cut from under her feet, her own members often only half-willing to receive her. The Saskatchewan plan aims at obviating those difficulties by placing the Church first in the field.

Manifestly so vast a field--more than a hundred thousand square miles--can only be worked by subdivision. After a careful survey the diocese has been mapped out into sixty to eighty districts, soon to become twice that number; each district, say thirty miles square, or twenty by forty, more or less, large enough to tax the energies of the most active man, and yet not too large, with the present sparse population, to prevent his visiting all the settlers, keeping in close touch with all Church members, and holding services in all the [121/122] principal centres. In its most elementary stage the division is called an unorganized district; as order is gradually evolved out of chaos it assumes the name of a mission; when providing a fair proportion of the stipend it is called a parish; and when self-supporting, a rectory.

To man these districts a large number of workers were needed, and, in the present state of our finances, too great expense must not be incurred. It was thought that sixty earnest young laymen might be found, with the love of CHRIST and of souls in their hearts, who would be content to do the work for its own sake, if only they received a bare livelihood in doing it; and sixty stipends of £70 or $350 each, for three years, might be obtained from the bounty of the Mother Church. For this purpose Archdeacon Lloyd crossed the Atlantic in November, 1906, carried his appeal through the British Islands, and found both the men and the money. From earnest Christian homes, from the Church Army, from active parishes in the old country, sixty young catechists came out in one ship and were placed in sixty separate districts, as it were in one day, each man having been provided by the diocese with a horse and cart. With the aid of the Society for the [122/123] Propagation of the Gospel and the Colonial and Continental Church Society, they were carefully selected from a much larger number of aspirants, and now they are being subjected to a much more searching test--that of practical work. The field itself will suffice to eliminate any who may be unsuited or incapable, before they are admitted into the ministry by ordination.

To guide the catechists in their work and to supply what is lacking in mere lay ministrations, a new order has been instituted in the Church, that of drivers. These are peripatetic clergymen, men of experience and of ability, armed with a good team and placed in charge of six or eight districts. They are continually on the trail, visiting the centres, supervising the work of the catechists, resolving their doubts, administering the Sacraments, and making a tour round their field every six or eight weeks. Eight of these men are now at work; each driver being placed in the centre of his field, some hundred miles square, or fifty by two hundred, with arms, as it were, extended to reach out to the circumference in every direction.

As experience has amply proved, the desultory work of the pioneer missionary can only be made [123/124] effective by means of suitable church buildings. The Saskatchewan plan aims at establishing a fold in every centre, where the scattered sheep of the flock may be gathered in. As the result of many experiments, architectural plans for these buildings have been agreed upon that are calculated to meet all the requirements of the case. The "Canterbury Cathedrals" are to be thoroughly ecclesiastical in design, with tower, Gothic windows and high-pitched roof, and to cost the enormous sum of $250. They seat sixty people. Their dimensions are 16 ft. by 20 ft; side walls, 10 ft. high- rafters 14 ft, raising the roof to a height of 20 ft.; tower, 26 ft. by 2 ft. 6 in.; 1 ft. raised, the Holy Table is to be 3 ft. by 4 ft. The tower, which costs about $15, serves as a storm-porch in bad weather, conceals the chimney, and serves as the hall-mark of the Church of England throughout the Diocese of Saskatchewan. Fifty of these churches have been erected, fifty sums of £50 having been provided for the purpose by the Church in the motherland. The £50 sufficed to purchase the lumber, the hauling and erection of the building having been left to voluntary local effort. All the specifications have been so carefully worked out that any local carpenter or handy [124/125] man could become the architect of these buildings. There are, e.g., 5,000 shingles and 30 lbs. shingle nails; 400 ft., 1 by 4, for flooring; 22 rafters, 2 by 4 by 14; 40 studding, 2 by 4 by 10, spiked to sill, not floor, etc. When the community increases so as to crowd the building, the west end is taken down, the tower removed, and a nave 20 ft. by 30 or 40 ft. added, to accommodate 150 or 200 people, the original church becoming the chancel of the new building. On the other hand, when expectations are not realized in regard to the neighbourhood, part of the east end is taken down, for which provision is made in the plans, and a small chancel added, which not only increases the accommodation but materially improves the appearance of the building.

In these new settlements in the West it is impossible for the missionary to rent a house or to find board and lodging. It is, therefore, a matter of necessity that some sort of abode should be provided for him. The Saskatchewan plan provides what has been called a "Lambeth Palace." This structure is 12 ft. by 18 ft., with sloping roof, the wall at the back being 10 ft. high, that in front 12 ft. It contains two four-light windows of 12 by 20 inches glass; one door, 2 ft. 8 in. by [125/126] 6 ft. 8 in.; 13 joists, 2 by 6 by 12. Floor tar papered, side and roof double papered, etc., etc. The materials cost £30, or $150, and the building, like the "Canterbury Cathedral," is to be erected by local effort. Sixty of them have been provided by friends of Saskatchewan in England. The specifications are so explicit that any local carpenter could put every piece of timber in its proper place. When the community desires to provide a more spacious residence for its minister, it need only erect an ordinary house in front of the "Lambeth Palace," which forthwith becomes a lean-to or kitchen to the new parsonage or rectory.

The catechists are engaged to work for a bare living, not for a stipend, and no obligation has been incurred by the Church as to their future. To the more intelligent and aspiring among them, however, the hope is held out of possible admission into the ranks of the sacred ministry. For the purpose of training these men in theology, and as an opportunity to those who, by success in the field, "purchase to themselves a good degree," a theological school has been established at Emmanuel College, Prince Albert. A thoroughly competent staff of teachers has been provided, [126/127] including the Bishop, Archdeacon Lloyd, the Rev. T. C. Davies, and one or two able English scholars. The course extends over from one to three years, according to need; and care is taken not to deplete the mission-field while the students are attending their classes. In their present state the catechists compare favourably with any class of students in our theological colleges; and, under the vigilant eye of the Bishop of Saskatchewan, no fear need be entertained of any lowering of standard in the ministry of the Canadian Church.

Thus the Church in Canada has incurred another large debt to her ever-devoted Mother in England. In addition to the judicious and generous help transmitted through the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, the Church Missionary Society, and the Colonial and Continental Church Society, in other fields, here are to be reckoned, as the gift of the Mother Church, $12,500 for churches; $9,000 for parsonages; $21,000 for stipends, and, if reckoned for three years, $63,000; and about $6,000 for horses and carts. And who can compute in dollars and cents the value of sixty select young men as pioneer [127/128] missionaries? The Church in the motherland has surely done her part nobly at this crisis in our history. It remains for us, members of the Church in Canada, on whom greater obligations rest and with whom more is at stake, to do our part with equal zeal and self-denial.

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