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The Church on the Prairie

By H. H. Montgomery, D.D.

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

Chapter XI. The New Forward Movement

DURING the summer of 1909 two important visits of inspection were made to the prairie dioceses. The Rev. Douglas Ellison, well known for his leadership of the South African Railway Mission, and the Rev. W. G. Boyd, chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury, both spent some time in the West, but worked independently. Both returned with the same strong conviction, namely, that though the Anglican Church had certainly made great efforts of late, these were as nothing to the opportunities which were being neglected. Both spoke warmly of the labours of Archdeacon, now Principal, Lloyd. In the Diocese of Saskatchewan a definite attempt had been made to cover all the ground with infinite labour and with the best available material; and yet they felt that these efforts needed supplementing, especially in the Dioceses of Qu'Appelle and Calgary, and more particularly in that of Calgary, since the railway lines were now approaching the Rockies.

The Archbishop of Canterbury was much impressed by all the facts laid before him. His Grace sought advice right and left in order to decide what shape a further effort should take to aid the Church on the [103/104] Prairie. Finally, early in 1910 the Archbishops of Canterbury and York put forth a solemn appeal to the Church in the United Kingdom in the following language:--


An Appeal to the Church and People of England

In Western Canada a great nation is advancing to a foremost place in the world. The resources of the land are immense, and rapidly on the way to be developed. The two Provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta alone are larger than France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, and the British Isles all put together. England one way, Japan the other, are distant little more than a week's journey. An ever-increasing tide of immigrants is pouring in, thousands after thousands. Last year 180,000 entered Canada, most of them bound for the West. Plainly the history of the world will largely depend upon what this multitude comes to be in character, in faith, and in life.

Is the Church of England doing its duty by this vast and swiftly-growing nation? It is a nation linked with England by the bonds of history and institutions, of language and affection. Other religious bodies are working nobly. Our own Church, bound by its position to care most of all, seems to lag behind. A clear call comes to us. The Archbishop of Rupert's Land writes: "It is to supplement the efforts of the Canadian Church, and to fill up what is lacking in its power to help at this crisis in the history of the Canadian West, that I desire to see the Church in the Motherland make a supreme endeavour just now ". We, the Archbishops of the Church of the Motherland, plead for a real answer to this great call.

The way is prepared, and a beginning has been made. [104/105] Some account of what has been, is being, and may be done is given in the note below. We appeal for four things--for interest and prayer, for men and money. We want the clergy to see that the Church of England ought to be sending out fifty men for each of the next ten years. We want all to see that this boundless opportunity, which if not used must soon be lost, calls for earnest thought and action, and may make claim on many who have hitherto cared little for Mission work. Those who can ought to give large sums, and all ought to do what they can.

We are well aware that our appeal is made in an unusual way and with unusual emphasis. It is because we deliberately believe the occasion to be unprecedented that we write thus. We pray that God's own voice may speak to the consciences of those who read our words.


26th Feb., 1910


Work already being done

Various agencies in England (e.g., The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, The Qu'Appelle Association, The Algoma Association, and the Navvy Mission) are already assisting the Church in Western Canada in its great task. We trust that these agencies will receive continued and increased support.

The large and important work which is being accomplished in the Diocese of Saskatchewan, under the powerful leadership of Principal Lloyd, supported by the Colonial and Continental Church Society, demands especial mention. It is vital that this work should be strengthened both with men and money. It lies in the very centre of the foremost need.

Work proposed

To supplement and support the work already being done, and to inaugurate and sustain fresh endeavours, the "Archbishops' Western Canada Fund" has been formed. The Archbishop of Rupert's Land has consented to share with us the office of President. The administration [105/106] of the Fund will be under the direction of a Council appointed by ourselves. For one enterprise plans are already matured. The Rev. W. G. Boyd, Chaplain of the Archbishop of Canterbury, visited Canada last autumn to make himself acquainted with the nature of the work which is waiting to be done. Since then he has been in consultation with those in England who are best fitted to advise, and he shortly leaves England with a band of clergymen and laymen for work in and near Edmonton, the capital of Alberta. From a central clergy house in that city work will be undertaken in the neighbourhood, along the railways, and in distant out-stations in the bush. Every worker is to have intervals when he can escape from the isolation, the hardship, and the perpetual travel which the work involves, and gain refreshment of the best sort from the companionship of his fellows in the central home.

But one effort in one locality is no adequate response to the call we have received. We trust that further endeavours on the same, or on other lines, may shortly be set on foot, if sufficient money for them is entrusted to us. A scheme, similar to that of the South African Railway Mission, has been put before us by the Rev. Douglas Ellison, who received a warm welcome to Canada last year. His South African experience has taught him how to utilise the railway lines as the basis of effective work, both in religious ministry and in bringing to physical illness the aid which trained nurses can supply. The plan is under careful consideration, and we have good hope that Mr. Ellison will himself be the leader in this branch of work.

Contributions, great or small, to the Archbishops' Western Canada Fund, should be sent to the Secretary of the Fund, at 15 Tufton Street, Westminster, S.W.

We believe that there are not a few who, recognising the exceptional character of this crisis and its claim, will desire to inquire further as to the details of what, in an enterprise of national importance, we propose to do, and either to offer themselves for such service, or to give us financial aid on a substantial scale. We would ask such men or women to communicate as soon as possible with the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace, or with the Archbishop of York at Bishopthorpe, York, in order that we may take counsel with them as to the direction of their personal service, or the wise employment of their gifts.

R. T. C.
C. E.



England is beginning to awake to the magnitude of what is taking place in Canada. The Dominion of Canada is as big as Europe. By the end of this century it is probable that its population will outnumber all the English people in all the rest of the British Empire. It is destined to be one of the chief factors in the future history of mankind. Here, if anywhere in the whole world, the ancient Church of the English has work to do for God. That Church played a great part in the making of England, and surely has it in her to give a special contribution towards the building on strong Christian foundations the Canada that is to be. She has, moreover, special responsibilities in regard to the British Empire. Wherever she teaches her ancient faith she forges living links between new nations and the past history of the race, and strengthens the ties between the Mother Country and the Daughter lands.


The Church in Eastern Canada, with the exception of the Diocese of Algoma, no longer needs or asks for assistance from England. Indeed, it helps largely the Church in the West. In the West and in British Columbia the case is different.

British Columbia, separated as it is from Western Canada by the Rocky Mountains, is a country distinct in character as in climate from the rest of the Dominion. The Church there has her own special problems, and the various agencies [107/108] in England which assist her deserve increased support. But the inrush of settlers there is not yet so overwhelming as it is in the Prairie Provinces.

Western Canada consists of the three provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. Manitoba received provincial government in 1870, and the first stage in the process of its settlement is already past. It was not until 1905 that, in consequence of the incoming flood of immigration, the vast area between Manitoba and the Rockies was formed into the two provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. Into this enormous tract of country there is pouring an endless stream of immigrants from the British Isles, from the continent of Europe, and from the United States. Of those who come from the British Isles a large proportion are members of the Church of England. Every bishop in Western Canada is receiving appeals, from one distant part of his diocese after another, that he will provide some Church ministrations for little groups of settlers, located, it may be, far beyond the reach of railways, and in many cases a hundred miles from the nearest church. It is clear that in a new country, in conditions such as these, help must be sought from outside. Do what it will the Church on the spot cannot at once cope with such an influx of inhabitants over an area so vast. Generous though the people often are, in the early days of settlement they cannot provide much towards the maintenance of the clergy or the building of churches. They live a hard life, every dollar that they can lay out in making their agricultural work more effective hastens the time when they will get a return for the toil which they expend upon the land. They help the clergyman by most cheering hospitality and by gifts in kind; they have little ready cash to spare. For pioneer work men and the money to maintain them must be provided largely from outside. The Church in Western Canada rightly looks to the Church in England to help her in the gigantic task with which she is faced.


the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have made their appeal, and have founded the Archbishops' Western Canada Fund. This Fund will be administered by a Council appointed by the Archbishops, and under the guidance of this Council it is hoped that more than one method of work will be inaugurated and find support. One method has already commended itself to men well qualified to judge. It is proposed that groups of clergy, with some laymen associated with them, be formed, with central clergy-houses at important towns where several railways converge. Work of various kinds will be undertaken by them in the near neighbourhood, along the railways, and in distant out-stations on the prairie or in the bush. In some cases the men will be able to return at frequent intervals to head-quarters, in other cases not more often than once every three months. In such cases it is proposed that they be placed in couples--a priest and a deacon or a priest and a layman. The priests and laymen would at different times leave their districts to visit head-quarters. The help of laymen will enable more frequent services to be supplied; and whilst the layman will relieve the priest of most of his household and stable duties when they meet at their common shack, the priest in return will assist the layman in his preparation, intellectual and devotional, for the sacred ministry.

It will be seen that the scheme proposed adapts to Canadian conditions the Bush Brotherhood plan, which has proved so effective in the back blocks of Australian dioceses. The principle on which it is based is that of association. Every worker is to have some intervals when he can escape from the isolation, the hardship, and the perpetual travel which his work involves, and gain refreshment of the best sort from the companionship of his fellow-clergy in the central home. The rapid growth of the railway systems in Western Canada will allow of greater distances being reached, and of a larger body of men working from a common base than is possible in Australia. It is hoped that the central clergy-houses will provide a pivot for many kinds of religious [109/110] and social activity, and will often be the means of enabling the clergy to offer hospitality in town in return to that so generously given to them in the homesteads far away.


The Rev. W. G. Boyd, Chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury, has already secured the co-operation of six or seven clergymen as well as some laymen to form with him the nucleus for the first centre, to be placed at Edmonton, the capital of the Province of Alberta. Most of the members of this party leave England in April. The Bishop of Calgary holds out to them a cordial welcome.

But one effort in one locality is not enough. Many places could be mentioned in which efforts on the lines described above could most usefully be at once initiated. Each year new districts fill up with settlers, and new strategic points are developed. If men and money are forthcoming fresh enterprises will be put in hand. They will not necessarily be all of one character. Work on the lines of the South African Railway Mission is under consideration.


Where a population sparsely scattered over immense areas is to be ministered to the method of associated work described above has great advantages, but it is likely to be in some ways more expensive per man than when the work is in the hands of individuals working separately. The building and maintenance of the central clergy-houses in towns, where the cost of living is much higher than in the country, will make a heavy charge on the Mission funds; and the journeys to and from the centre for the quarterly gatherings will also involve expense. The clergy, however, are not asking for more than £24 a year in actual money, beside the cost of their board, lodging, and travelling. It is hoped that the cost per man will not work out at more than £150 per annum, which is generally recognised in Canada as the lowest stipend that a clergyman should [110/111] receive. The layman will be always living with a clergyman, and two can live together at a lower rate than two separately. It is, therefore, possible to estimate the cost of maintenance for a layman at a somewhat lower figure than that for a clergyman. Moreover, the layman will not as a rule have his own horses or so much money. Donations large and small are asked for.

£150 a year would maintain a priest.

£20 will pay a passage to Edmonton.

£75 would provide a priest with a pair of ponies, a buggy, and harness.

All letters and contributions should be addressed to the Secretary of the Archbishops' Western Canada Fund, 15 Tufton Street, Westminster, S.W. Cheques to be made payable to "The Treasurers of A.W.C.F." and crossed "& Co."


The Church in Western Canada is face to face with a problem which it is beyond the possibility of her own resources to meet. She asks and receives help from the Church in Eastern Canada; she asks it also from the Church in the old land. The future position of the Anglican Communion in the Dominion of Canada depends upon the force of prayer, and of statesmanship, of men, and of money which can be brought to bear in the West during the next ten years. Can the Church of England arise to a sense of her high calling, and to the sacrifice which it involves? Is she able and willing to send out into the West fifty young priests for each of the next ten years? There is work waiting for more than that number. They would draw after them lay-workers and emigrants of the best kind. It is impossible to exaggerate what might be the effect produced, not only in the strengthening of the Church, but also in the preservation of the British element in the character of the Canadian people, and in the consolidation of the ties which bind to the old Motherland the great nation that is to be.


(1) Priests or deacons unmarried and ready to give at least four years to Canada. It is no "soft job" that is to be performed. Indeed, for men trained in England the life involves considerable hardships, physical as well as spiritual. A clergyman in the West must be ready to do for himself things which he has been accustomed to have done for him. He must be ready to forego many things which he has been accustomed to regard as necessary. He will have to travel long distances to minister to minute congregations. He must be strong, manly, gritty, and ready to adapt himself to new conditions. That he is a clergyman will not count for much, it is what he is as a man that matters. He must not criticise, but sympathetically enter into the fresh ways of life and the instincts characteristic of the new people into whose country he is being welcomed. He had better not go unless he is sure that the Lord is calling him, and then he will go in the spirit of humility and self-sacrifice.

(2) It is not easy anywhere to keep the soul in touch with the highest and deepest things. Least of all is it easy for the Bush or Prairie parson. The multiplicity of household and stable duties to be performed, the continual travel and frequent absence for days together from his house or shack, make it specially difficult for him to secure his times of quiet thought and prayer. Moreover, the pioneer clergyman in the West lacks the help that comes from the joy of worship in a beautiful church, from daily services and parochial organisation, and from the support of a devout band of Church workers. He is working amongst a people who are living a hard, strenuous life, who have very little leisure, whom he sees, perhaps, no more than once a month. He needs to have the "root of the matter" strongly growing within him. Let him whom God calls to the venture build strong the "foundation of repentance from dead works and faith towards God".


This life will have its rich rewards. The climate, in spite of the cold and the mosquitoes, is magnificent; the keen dry air is exhilarating and health-giving. But beyond all this there is the privilege of ministering to a people, strong, virile, independent and progressive, and of being received by them into generous-hearted friendship. There is the privilege of knowing that some of those ministered to will very likely in a few short years be wielding great powers, for good or for evil, over the lives of thousands. There is the privilege of being allowed to take a part in the building of what is destined to be one of the great nations of the world, and in the planting strong in her midst the Church of Christ.

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