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 VI. The Diocese of Qu'Appelle

It must be understood that the work in the other prairie dioceses is of the same character as that in the Diocese of Saskatchewan. The dioceses I refer to, such as Rupert's Land, Qu'Appelle and Calgary, are more advanced in organisation because the railways have traversed them for a longer period; consequently they have resolved not to resort to any abnormal methods for their further development. If, therefore, I do not take up so much space in the description of these Dioceses, all on the first direct route to the west coast, it is in no sense because the work is not extremely important but because it is unnecessary to give many more instances of actual work on the prairie and also because the abnormal element is not in evidence.

Qu'Appelle lies west of Rupert's Land and the Canadian Pacific Railway passed through it from the first on its way to the Pacific. It covers an area of some 90,000 square miles, about the size of England, Scotland and Wales. Bishop Anson was consecrated the first bishop in 1884 and had then only two clergy under him, but he left twenty in 1893 when he resigned. In about 1890 the great influx of population began to come in and it amounts now to about 200,000 annually. Population [58/59] grows just as elsewhere in these regions. "A town sprang up and flourished exceedingly within ninety days of the first house having begun." Services are held in hundreds of places by the staff of the diocese, which now includes sixty-two clergy, three stipendiary readers and thirty-five honorary lay readers. Twelve parishes are now entirely self-supporting. But statistics such as these need to be illuminated by further details. For example, to show how scattered the farms may be at present, but an earnest of a mighty influx of workers, I insert the following account of a journey through snow and slush. Compare the number of miles travelled with the number of visits paid. Yet it is just this individual, painstaking work which is the first duty of a prairie parson. The Rev. C. R. Littler writes:--

"On the morning of 10th February I started on my northward trip, taking the train to Hanley, 122 miles from here; from there I drove westward 30 miles to Rudy, where I was met by one of our parishioners from the Goose Lake district, who drove me to Warminster, the strongest of our Goose Lake centres. I stayed with some good English people, and, although we slept eight in a room, my welcome was most warm and hearty; next day I visited every church family within a radius of five miles and secured promises of considerable support towards the stipend of a resident missionary. On Wednesday I drove northward thirty miles to Helena; the roads were abominable and in places almost impassable owing to the severe storms of the previous week; we were nearly eight hours covering [59/60] the thirty miles. A good congregation was awaiting us at Helena for evensong and parish meeting; liberal support was forthcoming from this point. Next morning we had a celebration of the Holy Communion in the school-house and three baptisms; I visited four families in the district and then returned to Warminster, reaching there late at night. Friday--St. Valentine's Day--rested in the morning and in the afternoon helped to prepare the school-house for a "Pie Social," the proceeds of which were destined to meet the needs of our organ fund; about seventy persons gathered in the evening for the social, and an auction of a marvellous assortment of pies of all shapes, substances and quality, was conducted by the Warden of St. Chad's, the net proceeds being $59.50, rather more than was needed to complete the purchase of the organ. On Saturday I visited Glenhurst and again obtained subscriptions towards the missionary's stipend. On Sunday we had Matins and Holy Communion at Warminster, a capital congregation, liberal offerings; Evensong at Swanson, congregation small owing to terrible condition of the roads. On Monday morning in a driving snow-storm I drove back to Hanley, forty miles, and took train to Saskatoon where I arranged to meet a settler from the Eagle Hills district, a portion of our diocese which is becoming settled and where hitherto no church services have been provided. I arranged to open a mission in the Eagle Hills during the early part of the coming May; it will be an expensive mission owing to the distance from a railway, viz., 120 miles from Hanley. I am [60/61] thinking of sending Mr. Evans, one of our new students, there; will you remember this mission in your intercessions? On Tuesday I returned to the Hostel, having during the nine days of my absence driven 186 miles over heavy trails, 360 miles by train, and having held four services, visited twenty families and procured subscriptions of about 260 dollars per annum towards the stipend of the first resident clergyman in the Goose Lake district. When you remember that we only commenced work in this district on the 18th August last, you will acknowledge that we have met with much encouragement and success."

But let us turn to two most interesting ventures in this diocese.

St. Chad's Hostel at Regina in Qu'Appelle Diocese

The Archbishop of Rupert's Land had been stirring up the hearts of Church people in Shropshire by telling them of the needs of the prairie settlers. In the same diocese the S.P.G. had as their organising secretary the Rev. C. R. Littler who had been working previously for twenty years in the Diocese of Rupert's Land. Shropshire Churchmen determined to start a Special Fund to assist Western Canada. Leading Churchmen lent their aid earnestly, and in a very short time they had promised £500 annually for five years for a Hostel from which as a centre men might work while they were being trained for the ministry. Obviously the Rev. C. R. Littler was the man to be at the head of such a venture. Mr. Littler and his wife were prepared to go. The Bishop of [61/62] Qu'Appelle offered a region round Regina of 6,000 sq. miles in which no Church work had ever been done, though plenty of Churchmen resided there and ministers of many denominations were in evidence through it. On 3rd January, 1907, the arrangement was completed, but Mr. and Mrs. Littler left a son behind them to go to Cambridge as one of the S.P.G. students. They took with them four men as catechists, some of them from Shropshire. Now let Mr. Littler tell his own tale as to his commencement.

"I arrived here with three of my men on 29th May, after a most prosperous ocean passage, though we narrowly escaped a serious accident on the railroad journey west, a part of the road bed being washed away just as we reached Lake Vermilion. Fortunately the engineer saw the washout in time to pull up the train about 150 yards from the point of danger. It was Sunday and we were delayed twelve hours, so we had two services on the tourist car, and they were much appreciated by the passengers.

"On arriving at Regina I found the Hostel was in a very unfinished condition. I left my wife and family at Winnipeg, and so the three men and myself camped in two of the unfinished rooms for two weeks while work was going on. We reached our bedroom by a ladder and found ingress through the window. Irwin was cook, and Hitcheon, Rowland and I being amateur carpenters, spent the time making tables, bookshelves, etc. On 9th June we commenced mission work; the dining-room of the Hostel is our church, and there we have daily Matins and Evensong, Holy Communion [62/63] Sundays, Wednesdays and holy clays. The congregation is growing, and we hope to build a church ere long.

"On 7th July we opened a mission at Davidson and Bladworth and Helmsing's, and I have placed Mr. Hitcheon in charge. Both Davidson and Bladworth are promising centres.

"On 14th July Mr. Rowland commenced work at Hanley and Dundum on the C.N.R., and though the congregations are small the work is growing; we hope two other centres, Sunny Plains and Box Elder, may be opened in this district, Hanley and Dundum having weekly services and Sunny Plains and Box Elder fortnightly.

"On 7th July Mr. Irwin opened St. Alkmund's Mission in the district immediately to the north-east of Regina. He has a most hearty congregation, and is doing an excellent work there.

"I have just returned from my second organising trip. I visited Davidson, Bladworth, Stringfield, Garden Valley, Warminster, Delisle, Fertile Valley and Hanley during last week, and then spent the Sunday at Davidson and Bladworth, where I had most encouraging services.

"I drove during the week 281 miles over an entirely new country, where no Church parson had been before, though Methodists, Presbyterians and Baptists were in evidence at every centre. I found many Church people almost despairing of ever having the Church's services, and most enthusiastic in their desire to help. I arranged for the opening at once of six centres, and have now [63/64] sent Mr. Smith to reside till October at Fertile Valley; he will hold services at Hassocks, Warminster, Staffords and Rushbrook's, all in the Gorse Lake district to the north-west of Regina, on the borders of the Diocese of Saskatchewan. I want another man at once for the Garden Valley district. If I only had the money I could keep ten men at work in districts hitherto untouched. We must be aggressive if the Church is to hold her own in this marvellous land. Everywhere I am told, 'Oh, the old Church is too slow, it lets every denomination get on ahead'. We are going to stop this if possible, but the old Church at home must help us liberally. I am handicapped for want of money for more men; the men are available.

"We have bought this house and it makes an admirable Hostel, but the heating and furnishing are costly items, though you may be sure we do not indulge in any luxuries. We have made a good deal of furniture for ourselves, but boom prices prevail in Regina.

"I am delighted with my four men. They are all good, though of very different types.

"The Bishop has made me responsible for organising a district of 6,000 square miles in which no church services had been held prior to our arrival. It lies west of the railroad from Regina to Saskatoon and north of township twenty-four--that is north of a line lying forty-two miles northward from Regina; the distance of the district from the Hostel adds to our expense, but the work must be done. We have already arranged our scheme of reading and lectures, and during the weeks the men were here in residence I gave twelve [64/65] hours' lectures a week, and we got through a good deal of work. I shall be reading regularly with Invin and Rowland until October, when Smith and Hitcheon come into residence again, and then full lecture courses will begin. I hope to have seven men for the winter."

Let six months pass: now read again:--

"Six months ago to-day we recommended active work in connection with St. Chad's Hostel. Of our first efforts you have already had a report. During the autumn we have provided services at eighteen centres; a few of these in the Goose Lake District have now been closed until Easter on account of the distance from railway communication, but we hope within the next two weeks to commence services at three or four mission places within easy reach from the Hostel. The various missions have contributed towards the maintenance of the work, but owing to the distance of several groups of missions from the Hostel the unavoidable expenses have been greater than anticipated.

"You will be glad to hear that we have now nine students in residence and are expecting a tenth. There is no lack of applicants for training for Holy Orders. The great need is for means to provide for their support. One of the students supported by the Shropshire Mission has passed his examinations in four of the subjects necessary for Deacon's Orders, with great satisfaction to the Bishop's examining chaplain. Other students will shortly be examined in some of the required subjects.

"We are just about to build a mission church for St. Chad's, or to purchase a suitable building if the terms of [65/66] purchase can be arranged. This will involve us in an expenditure of about £400. The congregation of St. Chad's, if provided with suitable accommodation, will rapidly increase and become in a large measure self-supporting.

"We have had difficulties to contend with in some missions owing to the scattered conditions of the population and the great distances between the various settlements. Still, there is much to encourage us, and we hope next summer to open missions in several districts in which no services of the Church hitherto have been held.

"From within the Diocese of Qu'Appelle we have received much sympathy and support. The thanksgiving offerings at many harvest festivals in the parishes and missions of the diocese have been devoted to the capital fund for the purchase of the Hostel building, on account of which we still owe about £700.

"Friends in England sent a bale containing a full supply of bedding for one bed, and other useful articles. Still, there are many things required completely to equip the Hostel for the carrying on of the work, which is urgently needed and much appreciated by the settlers in our many missions."

Pass over three months more and Mr. Littler writes:--

"At this time of the year I have nothing to report in the way of expansion of our mission work, but I am now grappling with the problem of assigning our students to their various fields of activity for the summer campaign. In addition to the districts which we were working last year, we shall open up the Elbow country, [66/67] the Eagle Hills district, and extend the bounds of our Fertile Valley Missions. There are other places that should be attended to at once, but we have not sufficient means to maintain more than ten students. The Garden Valley, Zealandia, Oliver, Sunny Plains and Chamberlain districts should each be occupied this summer, but to enable us to meet this need we should require an additional .£250. We are still anxiously hoping that the means will be forthcoming for the purchase of five ponies and buggies, which are essential for the carrying on of our work this summer. At present the hostel exchequer is empty. We are all in good health. Some of the students are busy with preparations for examination, which will probably take place next week. The others are carrying on their ordinary studies. At the beginning of May I expect to start on a long tour for the organisation of the Elbow, Fertile Valley and Eagle Hills districts."

These extracts from letters cover just twelve months and in days to come they will make an exceedingly interesting bit of history. Quietly and sensibly the venture has grown; no mistake seems to have been made; the capital of the Civil Province of Saskatchewan--Regina--was selected; ten men are now working hard in the field, yet all the while they are in close touch with an experienced clergyman and are taught at every step; they are not condemned to loneliness, but have experience of a corporate life, and thus they not only gain spiritually but they make lifelong friendships and possess traditions connected with their training home. Unto what may not all this grow in the [67/68] next twenty years! The S.P.G. has, of course, helped this venture. In 1907 we gave the diocese for its mission work about £3,400 and were rejoiced to be able to do it. The picture of the Warden and his staff of students will become historic some day. [The Rev. C. R. Littler has been compelled to resign his work at the Hostel through ill-health. His place has been taken by the Rev. G. N. Dobie and the Rev. R. J. Morrice.]

The Qu'Appelle Brotherhood of Clergy

In 1908 another venture of exceeding interest has come into existence in this diocese. One of the clergy of the diocese, realising the loneliness of the life of the prairie parson and its dangers, offered to obtain the assistance of brother priests in England in order to start a "Prairie Brotherhood" on simple lines based on the plans adopted by the well-known Bush Brotherhoods in Australia. The Bishop gave his consent, but said that all the means at his disposal were already appropriated. If the S.P.G. would make itself responsible for the expenses for a term of years he would set apart a region in his diocese for this venture. Brotherhoods are a very acceptable method of missionary work' with the S.P.G. We believe that more and more mission work will be done on these lines. The perils of isolation, the loss by reason of the strain on the spirits and the greater chances of a breakdown make us look more than sympathetically on all such schemes. Accordingly we put ourselves into communication with the Rev. W. J. McLean, the originator of this movement, as well as with the Bishop. A sum of £1,000 was [68/69] considered to be sufficient to defray the expenses of passage, outfit and board and lodging for the first year, and £500 for each of the next two years. We made a special appeal for £2,000 for this purpose; and obviously we could make a good case. The Bishop was willing; the men were ready; all of them are university men of excellent standing and reputation; they are of course unmarried; nothing was needed except the money. That sum of £2,000 was obtained in about six weeks. The clergy have sailed for their destination and their names are: the Revs. W. H. McLean, J. A. Horrocks, C. R. Leadley Brown,and M.Buchannan.

The Bishop of Qu'Appelle has apportioned to the brotherhood an area of 12,000 square miles in the south-west of the diocese. Settlers arc now pouring into it, and when the appeal was made the only ministrations of religion were supplied by Roman Catholics and Christian Scientists. At present there are no towns, but the railway is planned to pass right through this region, and next year it is expected that a dozen towns will come into existence. A settler has promised to put his "shack" and stables at the disposal of the clergy, if only they will come at once to minister to the 20,000 or 30,000 people who may soon be expected to settle there.

We hope and believe that twelve months' work will be able to give a report as happy on its own lines as that which we have received from St. Chad's Hostel at Regina. The Diocese of Qu'Appelle has given the first examples in Canada of a Hostel and of a Brotherhood of Clergy at work. At the same time we look with special [69/70] interest for good accounts of this Brotherhood because a great deal depends upon it. There is no doubt that speaking generally Brotherhoods are not at present in favour in Canada. The prophecy there is that they will fail; the bright experience of Australia does not much appeal to them; and yet, in my opinion, the conditions are harder in Australia, the population is smaller and the distances quite as great. Some think also that a Brotherhood of clergy from England will continue to foster the English stand-offish spirit and will less quickly adapt itself to Canadian ways. I am glad to have the opportunity of mentioning these facts by way of warning. We hope that the Qu'Appelle Brotherhood will justify our hopes and commend the movement to the Canadian Church. It will need tact, humility and great adaptability. There is no doubt also that a very fine contingent of clergy have gone from England to help this diocese at this time of stress in response to the appeal from the Archbishop of Canterbury for Western Canada. To speak only of those who have been passed by the Board of Examiners at S.P.G. House--this Board is appointed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishop of London--we can tell of 7 clergy and 7 laymen who have gone either permanently or for a term of years to fill vacant places in Qu'Appelle. In this diocese also, not only have the old posts been all filled, but in 1907 at least thirty new places were occupied and permanent possession taken of them, and, of course, these thirty centres include many smaller centres. But there are whole regions still left to other denominations, in which Churchmen are [70/71] living untended by their own Church. We cannot rest content till every member of our Church has been brought within reach of the ministrations of his own Church.

The following story was inserted in the first edition of this book as if it had been an incident on the prairie. It really hails from the hills of Scotland, told by Mark Guy Pearse, and put into verse by Miss E. A. Walker. I have left it in its place here by way of illustration.

A minister met upon the hills one day a boy of fourteen herding a few sheep; a farm house was visible not far away. The traveller stopped and entered into conversation: after awhile he, longing to drop some seed secretly, asked, "Do you ever pray?" The question seemed to have no meaning, and he gathered the same effect from a question about Bible reading. Prayer and Bible seemed unknown at the farm upon the ridge. So he said--"I wonder whether you would do something for me, a little favour?" "Yes, governor, I think I could." "Well, learn five words for me. I shall be coming this way again, perhaps not before next summer, but I will certainly come, and then I will see whether you remember five words. Say--'The Lord is my Shepherd'.'' The boy repeated the words. "Now take your right hand, stretch out the five fingers, so; now put each word on a finger beginning with the thumb." The boy did it. "Now you see you come to the last finger but one and find 'my' on it. Is that not so?" "Yes." "When you come to 'my' and to that finger put the finger down; crook it; then say the whole five words, 'The Lord is my Shepherd '. You will get to like [71/72] those words: good-bye, my man; I shall return soon, don't forget your promise;" and he went his way. Next year again in the summer he was passing that way and the sight of the farm brought back to his memory the incident of the boy and the five words. So he went up to the shack, saw a woman at work and accosted her. "I met a boy, ma'am, on the track last year and talked with him and promised I would come and call on him when I passed again. Is he your son? May I speak with him?" The woman looked at him in silence; at length she said, "Are you the man that taught him some words?" "Yes, I did. How is he?" "Dead." There was a hush, then he spoke quietly. "How was it? tell me more." The mother said, "He was wonderfully set on those words: I used to see him holding up his hand and crooking his ringer and singing his words". "Yes, go on, tell me all." "One day he was out getting in the sheep and was caught in a blizzard. We ran for him but could not find him anywhere: we shouted and looked, and I was terribly afraid and hoped he had got to some neighbours. We found him dead in the morning." Once more silence fell: the minister could not speak. After awhile the mother went on: "I think those words were the last he ever spoke, for we found him dead with his hand stretched out and the finger was down". A sower went forth to sow: some seed fell by the wayside but the fowls of the air did not get it. The reapers are the angels.

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