210th An­niver­sary at Ge­orgeville United Church

Stanstead Journal - - FORUM - Spe­cial col­lab­o­ra­tion Deane Mof­fat

Last Sun­day, Dec 7, 2014 saw the cel­e­bra­tion of the 210th an­niver­sary of faith­ful Christian wit­ness in Ge­orgeville. Some of the women in the con­gre­ga­tion came to church sport­ing fancy hats like women may have done decades ago, the min­is­ters wore Geneva gowns, and the as­sem­bled wor­ship­pers sang won­der­ful old Methodist Hymns.

Rev. Deane Mof­fat de­scribed how the fledg­ling Methodist Church (now The Ge­orgeville United Church) got its start. By1804 mod­est farms were cleared and small com­mer­cial un­der­tak­ings be­gan to take shape in Ge­orgeville. The early pi­o­neer fam­i­lies, mostly New Eng­lan­ders, brought their Christian con­vic­tions with them to their new wilder­ness homes. Th­ese fam­i­lies were in­clined to be Methodist – though there were Bap­tists and Con­gre­ga­tion­al­ist amongst the first set­tlers too.

Why were so many of the new ar­rivals Methodists? To an­swer that ques­tion Rev Mof­fat de­scribed the so­cial con­di­tions in Eng­land in the 1700s and through­out the In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion. Poverty, al­co­holism, fam­ily vi­o­lence, pros­ti­tu­tion, filth and dirt were the common ex­pe­ri­ence amongst the work­ing class. Life was cheap. John Wes­ley and his brother Charles and other Angli­can min­is­ters such as George White­field and nu­mer­ous women of The Church of Eng­land were in­creas­ingly con­vinced about the so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity of the church to speak out and con­demn the con­di­tions that lead to the de­prav­ity that held such a pow­er­ful grip on so much of the pop­u­la­tion.

Wes­ley be­gan to speak in the places where the poor and des­ti­tute gath­ered in fac­to­ries, mines, bars, homes. His ser­mons fo­cused on faith needed to change lives. He char­ac­terised hu­man na­ture as es­sen­tially sin­ful. He em­pha­sized that hu­mans can only be saved by the grace of God through faith alone.

The Methodist chapels (yes they called them chapels) that were formed were known for the pow­er­ful preach­ing, for the lively mu­sic, for the small support groups that taught the rules that led to lives saved. So­cial out­reach pro­grams, such as soup kitchens and whole­some en­ter­tain­ment were pro­moted. In 1738, Wes­ley was so feared by the lead­ers in the Church of Eng­land that they barred him from speak­ing in any church. This led to the even­tual split of the Methodists from the Church of Eng­land.

Wes­ley was not de­feated by his ex­pul­sion from the English Church. In fact, as his­tory so fre­quently shows, there are con­se­quences to ev­ery ac­tion. Wes­ley and his fel­low lead­ers de­cided to cre­ate lay itin­er­ant preach­ers to go wher­ever the gospel could be heard. The mes­sage and or­gan­ised method of the Wes­leyan ap­proach ex­panded by leaps and bounds. Lives were changed. There was no­tice­able and ob­serv­able ev­i­dence of pro­gres­sive so­cial val­ues amongst those who were at­tracted to the Methodists.

A ma­jor his­tor­i­cal event led to the amaz­ing growth of Method­ism. The Amer­i­can Revo­lu­tion not only cre­ated a na­tion but it was a fac­tor in the cre­ation of the Methodist Church. The Methodist tra­di­tion had al­ready sailed across the At­lantic. Dur­ing the revo­lu­tion and fol­low­ing that strug­gle for in­de­pen­dence, there was a short­age of pas­tors. The Church of Eng­land, with the King as head, was viewed as the ad­ver­sary and was not a likely or ac­cept­able source of min­is­ters. The Americans made a re­quest to Wes­ley and he took a rad­i­cal step. He or­dained min­is­ters mak­ing the fa­mous state­ment that “Now, the whole world is my parish”. Method­ism spread quickly so that by 1860, the Methodist Church was the largest de­nom­i­na­tion in the USA. New Eng­lan­ders were highly im­pacted by the Methodist tra­di­tion.

In the last decade of the 1700s the Bri­tish Gov­ern­ment opened up the East­ern Town­ships to set­tle­ment. Most of the new­com­ers to Ge­orgeville were New Eng­lan­ders. There is ev­i­dence that by 1804, Methodist fam­i­lies were meet­ing in Ge­orgeville homes. When the Brick meet­ing House was built var­i­ous groups wor- shipped there in­clud­ing the Methodist. It was not un­til 1838 that the con­gre­ga­tion was strong enough to re­quest a min­is­ter. The first set­tled min­is­ter was called Mr. Peake, and it was dur­ing his time that the first Methodist Church was con­structed. The con­gre­ga­tion seemed to out­grow that build­ing very quickly. The cur­rent build­ing was erected in 1891.

Fol­low­ing the ser­vice, the con­gre­ga­tion shared an An­niver­sary Cake served by three of the new­est mem­bers of the con­gre­ga­tion, Bran­don, 13, Thomas 11 and Dayna 8. The pub­lic is in­vited to join the con­gre­ga­tion for their Sta­ble Ser­vice in the pres­ence of farm an­i­mals to be held in the his­toric barn at the Coallier Farm on Sun­day, De­cem­ber 21 at 2 p.m.? The Farm is lo­cated at 520 Ma­goon Point Road 1.5k from Ge­orgeville.

Photo cour­tesy

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