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.

Additional Note

Bishop Montgomery, the writer of this book, has asked me to add a few paragraphs in order to bring up to date the statements relating to Church work in Western Canada. During this summer (1910) I had the opportunity of visiting the dioceses included in the Canadian Prairie and of seeing some of the work which is being done by the clergy and catechists who are in part supported by the S.P.G. and by those who are being supported by the Archbishops' Fund, and it is a privilege to be allowed to add my testimony to the good work which is being done. No one who has read this book can have failed to be impressed with the magnitude of the task which awaits the Anglican Church in Western Canada or with the unique opportunities which are presented to its members at the present moment for grappling with this task. But the reader who can go and see for himself what is here described will be constrained to exclaim "the half was not told me". Never before in the course of its long history has the Anglican Church had an opportunity of influencing so directly those who are building up a great new nation, never before has its obligation to help been so pressing. Despite what has been done [126/127] by the Canadian Church, the S.P.G., and all other societies, to minister to the wants of it's inhabitants, there are at the present moment hundreds of small centres of population on the prairies at which no religious service and no Sunday school is held by any one. It is possible to find men, women and children who know hardly more about the Christian faith than do the cannibal races of Central Africa.

The average Canadian is, and has good reason to be, an optimist. He has reasons for believing that his is the country of the future and that its potential resources are inexhaustible. We, too, believe that there is a more glorious future in store for Canada than can be expressed in terms of acres and dollars, but we cannot blind ourselves to the fact that this future is being imperilled by the failure to supply any adequate ministration in view of the spiritual needs of its children and of the unnumbered immigrants who are streaming into its borders alike from Europe and the United States.

In response to the appeal of the Archbishop for Western Canada about £35,000 has so far been received, and work supported by this fund has been started in three different centres, two of which are in the diocese of Calgary and one in the diocese of Qu'Appelle. The first centre is at Edmonton, a large and rapidly growing town in the northern part of the diocese which, in the course of a few years, will become the cathedral town of a new diocese. Nine clergy and six laymen are working from this centre. A clergy house with chapel attached has been built at which two or three members [127/128] will reside permanently. It will also form a centre to which the other members of this Brotherhood will return about every six weeks for rest and devotion. The head of this Brotherhood is the Rev. W. G. Boyd, who was formerly chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is hoped that the members will be able to carry on work to the north and west at many different centres within fifty or sixty miles of Edmonton. Little wooden churches are being erected costing from £100 to £250 and shack houses in which it is proposed that one priest and one layman should reside. In a few instances it has seemed best to erect a larger clergy house. Thus in the Mission served by the Rev. A. H. Huxtable at Wabanum a mission house is being built, the dimensions of which are 24 feet by 28 feet. Half the ground floor will be available for a church and for club purposes and the other half will be the kitchen and sleeping-room, above which will be an attic for sleeping purposes. "We hope," Mr. Boyd says, "that by providing the clergy with something more than a two-roomed shack it may be more possible than it would otherwise be for them to make their home the natural resort of young bachelor settlers, who want to escape for an hour or two from their loneliness and have nowhere to go save to the store or pool-room if there is one."

The members of the Brotherhood have also taken charge of a parish in the town of Edmonton. One of the laymen who is working with Mr. Boyd hopes to take his degree at the new Strathcona University which lies on the other side of the river on which Edmonton stands.

[129] It would be difficult to name any place in the world where Mission work is being carried on more effectively and more economically than it is here. The enthusiasm, devotion, and capacity of the members of the Brotherhood will not only benefit the wide area in which the Mission works, but will influence the work of the Church throughout the whole of North-West Canada.

Another centre where work is carried on on similar lines has been established at Lethbridge in the south of Calgary under the charge of the Rev. W. B. Mowat, who served for nine years in the diocese of Manchester, and for three years at another town in the diocese of Calgary. He has with him one layman and is hoping to be joined by additional fellow-workers ere long.

The third centre of work established by the aid of the Archbishops' Fund is in the diocese of Qu'Appelle. The Rev. Douglas Ellison, who organised the Railway Mission in South Africa which has done much to minister to the spiritual needs of English-speaking people living in the neighbourhood of the railway lines there, offered to attempt work of a similar kind on the Canadian prairies in districts where the construction of new lines was creating centres of population and where no provision had been made for providing services for Church people. His offer was gladly accepted by the council and he has now been joined by four other clergy. In the diocese of Qu'Appelle alone there are 2500 miles of railway lines open, and it is expected that 1500 miles more will be opened during the next [129/130] three years. Mr. Ellison has made Regina his centre of work. When I met him there he had just returned from a prospecting tour along 400 miles of new railway. Every town situated on the line had been visited and a service and meeting held to which the Church people in the neighbourhood had been invited. Along one stretch of ninety miles the names of 400 Church people were obtained who are at present beyond the reach of any Anglican priest or catechist.

This work is of a pioneer character, and it is hoped that the places served by Mr. Ellison's staff may in two or three years' time become capable of supporting their own clergy, when the members of the staff will move on into another new district.

A few words should be said in conclusion concerning the relative claims upon our supporters of the Archbishops' Fund and our own funds for the support of work in Western Canada. One result of the starting of the Archbishops' Fund has been that the special S.P.G. Western Canada Fund came to an abrupt end. If the work which came into existence as the result of this Fund is not to be abandoned, at least £10,000 must be provided. The object of the Archbishops' Fund was to start new work, but the intention of its promoters would not by any means be fulfilled if the maintenance of this new work were to involve the abandonment of that which already exists. Moreover, the Archbishops' Fund is only intended as a temporary expedient and is not intended to supersede the work of the S.P.G. which has supported' work in Canada for two centuries. Contributions towards the [130/131] support of the S.P.G. work in Western Canada described in this book should be sent to the S.P.G. Treasurers, 15 Tufton Street, Westminster, and marked for this purpose.


Project Canterbury