210th Anniversary at Georgeville United Church
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.