Project Canterbury

The Church on the Prairie

By H. H. Montgomery, D.D.

[London:] Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 1910.

Chapter V. The Divinity School at Prince Albert

IT will be remembered that an essential part of the Saskatchewan scheme has been the determination to bring the men into Prince Albert in these winter months in which outdoor travelling is exceedingly difficult. It does not mean merely that it is hard for the catechist to ride or drive, but that it is very difficult to get together any congregation. The churches are either impossibly cold or they are warmed at considerable cost; the people are excusably unwilling to leave their dwellings. It is good strategy to utilise this season of the year in instruction. The difficulties have been enough to appal any but the stoutest-hearted, for the buildings for such a party were hard to find; whatever may have been the case with the high thinking there can be no doubt about the plain living. Now much good humour and rightdown earnest purpose is needed to keep men bright and cheery, and in a mood to learn, when the rooms are so crowded and the atmosphere so chilly. A sympathetic word must also be said for the lecturers. They must have been made of cast iron, or of some very strong Canadian pattern, to be able to endure six or seven hours of lecturing a day, whilst ink froze in the bottles!

[50] Archdeacon Lloyd's account of the Divinity School

"Some of your readers will be glad to know what is being done about the training of the catechists who came out in April last. The Divinity College opened and lectures began on Tuesday, 12th November, and will continue for three months. One-half the men (i.e., thirty odd) will come up from November to February, and the other half from February to May. In this way many of the missions can be kept open all the winter while their own missionaries are away at college. As far as possible every alternate man is being brought up, and while they are here the next neighbour will take alternate Sundays in their missions. It must be alternate Sundays, because many of these missions are forty miles apart.

"Regarding the building. We did not get possession of the Emmanuel College buildings, which Bishop McLean built for this purpose. So many of the Indian missionaries and others thought the Indian school now held in it should be retained if possible, and the Minister of the Interior has recently consented to continue it for one year more, until the Indian Department at Ottawa had fully developed their Indian policy. So for this winter we use the old Government Lands Office for sleeping the men and also for night study. The balance of six or eight men who cannot find room there will come up to my house to sleep.

"The lectures will be given in the old mission hall (or church of 1882), and meals will be served in a small [50/51] wooden building not far from the church. Some people may think these are strange accommodations for a 'Divinity College,' and I am bound to admit they don't look quite like Oxford; but if you shut your eyes you can imagine Oxford quite well. On the east the dormitory, on the south the schools, and on the north the refectory. What is that but a quadrangle opening on to the river? Every man brings his own cot, blankets, washing-bowls, etc., etc., and we are buying chairs and lamps, and having seven-foot trestle-tables made.

"Anyhow, although the surroundings will not be fine the men will be warm, well fed, and will have abundance of lectures. These begin at nine and go on to one; then dinner and outdoor exercise for two hours; then two hours' more lectures and tea, evening service and private study. In the morning we are going to take family ' prayers' in the dining-room, and in the evening the service in the church. The lecturers will be the Bishop, Archdeacon, Secretary and Treasurer together with the Rector of St. Albans, Rev. C. L. Malaher from Liverpool, and Rev. H. S. Broadbent from St. Helens. So the men will get as much as they can possibly digest in the time. The subjects will largely follow those set by the General Board of all Canada for the Preliminary Examination for Holy Orders. Some of the men, we hope, will take this examination before long.

"We are looking forward to large things, and expect to do work second only to one, or perhaps two, colleges in Canada. We are short on the buildings [51/52] and surroundings, but we are not short of instruction."

A few weeks later the following message reached us from the Archdeacon:--

"The first term of the Divinity College at Prince Albert closed at the beginning of February, and all the men--about thirty--departed for their fields. Immediately the next thirty men arrived, including four or five deacons; these all come for three months' study, as did the others. We are to have sent us the list of marks gained by the men in every subject. And it is interesting to note that in giving marks, everything has been taken into account, work done in the field as well as the study in the college. It has been constantly set before the men that they must have not only good heads, but good feet to cover the ground. For instance, one of them 'came very low down in his lectures, but stood top of the tree in the number of services and people attending, 1,6oo odd'. It is the all-round man that counts. Speaking as a whole of the men and of the term here, I can only say that I am satisfied up to the last point. We have a fine body of men, and they are doing good work. Of course the work has been done under every possible inconvenience. An old Government Land Office at one end of the town, some men in my own house at the other, a little old mission hall for lecture rooms, and a makeshift dining-room, are not altogether equal to the Oxford schools. Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that sometimes men wrote their lectures with the pencil because the ink had frozen, the work was thoroughly well done. ... It would be very difficult [52/53] to get a larger percentage of really good men than we have."

I think it will readily be granted that exceptional circumstances have been met by exceptional measures to meet the crisis. It is very easy to criticise the movement. But no one can fail to thank God for the enthusiasm which can carry through such a movement in the attempt to make up for lost time and to give the simplest ministrations of the Church to settlers on the prairie. Bishop McLean obtained a charter twenty-five years ago for the Saskatchewan Theological College. Now all at once in this rough and ready fashion this college has sprung into most real existence. Emmanuel College in which Indian work has been done at Prince Albert has been bought for £3000 from the Church in order that Government may carry on the reformation work here. The money so obtained, in addition to part of the Saskatchewan Thank Offering Fund, with other sums, is to go towards permanent buildings for the Theological College. There is another object in Prince Albert which will appeal strongly to all who take interest in the Church abroad. Mrs. Newnham, wife of the Bishop, has nobly raised money for a secondary school in Prince Albert. Her own children taught her the need for this institution. The Pan Anglican Congress and the Lambeth Conference both assure the Church that education for our clergy, for our sons and daughters everywhere, on Christian lines is the greatest question of the day.

Then on Sundays the men are not idle: here is the account from one of the catechists:--

[54] "On Sundays the following missions are served by the men. A. visits two missions among the lumber men, one thirty-two and the other seventeen miles away. B. goes to a mission distant eighteen miles. C. to one sixteen miles. There is also the Emmanuel College Mission, two and a half miles, and, lastly, the Hospital and Prison Missions in Prince Albert.

"To work these missions involves driving distances from three to thirty-two miles each way, and there are ponies available for this purpose, none of which will ever see their youth again! They at least do their share in testifying to the antiquity of the institution: no Don treading the sacred turf of the quad could display greater deliberation. However, they can, on occasion, do wonderful things, and some adventurous experiences have already occurred. For instance, last Sunday the two men on the Colleston Mission started out on their sixteen-mile drive with the thermometer at 63 below freezing-point After going ten miles they found the snow was so deep that the pony could hardly pull the sleigh, and after being eleven and a half hours on the road, the men arrived home at 10 P.M., having had no proper meal since breakfast. The Sunday previous the two men who took that mission lost their way owing to the trail becoming entirely obliterated by a snowstorm, and being off the road, and in the dark, the sleigh came to grief over a tree-stump, with the result that they had to complete the journey on foot knee-deep in snow, and arrived home very tired, having taken five hours to cover the last five miles.

"This mission holds the record so far for adventure. [54/55] Another man returning thence was run away with just as he had reached Prince Albert (this was a borrowed team, not one of the veterans mentioned above), and had to jump out of the sleigh in order to avoid being dashed against a tree. He escaped with a severe shaking, but the sleigh (also borrowed) was smashed in pieces.

"We are by no means idle. In fact every minute of time is completely occupied. The work is heavy, but as everything is done by each man in turn, the burden is laid equally upon all.

"We have to thaw out our ink bottles every morning on the top of the stove before we can write.

"This year we have had two sessions attended by sixty men. Next year we hope to have three sessions attended by ninety men, and to be in our own buildings."

It is a matter of real thankfulness that statistics do speak of very distinct advance. In the Saskatchewan Diocese in 1906 we read that there were twenty-five clergy and twenty catechists. In 1909 the number had become forty-two clergy and seventy-nine catechists. Of course the majority of this enormously increased staff has been set to cover new ground. Every missionary bishop knows the anguish caused by church buildings closed and parsonages uninhabited because there were no clergy to be obtained. The bishops on the prairie have all felt such sorrows. But here in Saskatchewan not only have all already occupied districts been filled, but the advance as stated has been made into what for the [55/56] Church were the waste places. Seven catechists have been ordained deacons. These doubtless are men who have long been at work; they are not any of the new contingent. It is interesting to know also that each catechist has under him from three to seven centres of population. This means that in twelve months or so in some 200 new centres of population, where our Church people live, regular ministrations of the Church have been commenced and weekly or fortnightly services held. Of course at times it may be necessary to drop back to a service once in three weeks or a month; but long experience has taught me that nothing less than a fortnightly service is of much avail; you cannot keep your people together with less. These 200 new centres are chiefly on the new lines of railway. The Canadian Pacific Railway and the Grand Trunk Railway are making these centres, in addition to the effect of the Canadian Northern Railway, which has been the cause of the growth of such well-known places as Saskatoon, Battleford, Lloydminster and Vermilion. But the Bishop and his council have not forgotten another kind of settler--the lumberers in their camps. North of Prince Albert there are four catechists at work among these communities, doing much the same work as our men are doing in Columbia among the logging camps by the water-side.

Most carefully, too, have the authorities to watch the prices of necessities. When a diocese has to supply sixty ponies it is a serious thing to find that ponies have gone up 75 per cent., or that timber is twice as much as it was when shacks must be bought if men [56/57] are to live. In 1907 there was a bad harvest: how then could our men get money to buy the necessary furs for winter use? We at S.P.G. discovered this particular just in time to wire out an additional £200 beyond our grant, and were only too glad to furnish them with their first suit of furs. At the same time we are most anxious that the settlers should not be led to look too long to English Societies. Archdeacon Lloyd said that in three years these missions would be self-supporting. We hope it may be so. And we also have to remember that no one knows so little about self-support in the Church than the English Churchman in his own land. He has lived upon endowments of the past, and the support of his clergyman in many an English parish is almost an unthinkable proposition. In September, 1909, the Divinity School was moved from Prince Albert to Saskatoon because the University for the Civil Province of Saskatchewan is to be erected in that town. A square mile of land has been given; the Principal of the University has been appointed; blocks of about five or six acres have been allotted to those who desire to build Colleges,--and the first in the field have been the Anglicans. Archdeacon Lloyd has been appointed to be the first Principal; the Pan Anglican Committee has granted £5000 to this Divinity College, and in the Spring of 1910 the College will be erected at a cost of £8000.

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