Wor­shipped

Life­long mem­bers of 175-year-old South Lake Chris­tian Church of­fer fond re­flec­tions

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ISLAND WEEKEND - BY JIM DAY

They, like their church, are fix­tures of this small, scenic eastern Prince Ed­ward Is­land com­mu­nity

Robert Rose, Robert Baker and Stewart Cameron, all three within a cal­en­dar year or two of reach­ing 90, have great af­fec­tion for – and con­sid­er­able at­tach­ment to – South Lake Chris­tian Church.

All three have lived in this com­mu­nity their en­tire life, or a lit­tle more than half the life of the sto­ried South Lake Chris­tian Church, one of 13 in­de­pen­dent Churches of Christ/Chris­tian Churches on P.E.I.

Over the course of their lives, the gen­tle­manly trio have seen eight to 10 (none can peg the ex­act num­ber for cer­tain) min­is­ters serve at the church.

The first build­ing to house the South Lake con­gre­ga­tion was a small log struc­ture lo­cated near wa­ter’s edge in 1840, giv­ing rise to year long cel­e­bra­tions in 2015 mark­ing the 175th an­niver­sary to be her­alded with par­tic­u­lar fanfare dur­ing a spe­cial ser­vice on July 12 at 11 a.m.

For Rose, Baker and Cameron, each of whom farmed here for a liv­ing, South Lake Chris­tian Church has been home to a life­time of fel­low­ship and wor­ship.

Not sur­pris­ingly, the men did more than sim­ply show up on Sun­days and sit in the pews – much more, in fact.

Rose served as trea­surer for a time and dea­con for another spell. He also sang in the church for decades.

His late son Dean, who died from Cys­tic Fi­bro­sis at age 29, was at 24 the youngest dea­con of the church.

That dea­con dis­tinc­tion made Rose feel “pretty good.''

The church it­self, a place Rose once trav­elled to as a child in win­ters on horse-drawn sleigh, has long made him feel pretty good too.

“It was a very im­por­tant part of our lives - the wife and I and the boys as well,'' he says.

“There wouldn’t be many days we wouldn’t be by here.''

Rose’s late un­cle, Fred Rose, who lived next to the church, was care­taker for many years of the beau­ti­ful white church built in 1884 by lo­cal de­signer and ar­chi­tect Billy Dick Ding­well to re­place the small log struc­ture.

Baker con­sid­ers the build­ing that was long ago dubbed the Fish­er­men’s Church for its tall, sin­gle spire that served as a nav­i­ga­tional mark, to be a spe­cial land­mark.

“I guess you have a dif­fer­ent feel­ing for your home church,'' he says. “It’s a part of your com­mu­nity.''

This is the church he has at­tended all his life, the church where his wife Aletha served as the or­gan­ist for 50 years and the church where at age 16 or so Baker and oth­ers were taken to Both­well Beach to be bap­tized.

This, too, was the church for which Baker and Rose - the two Roberts - made an ad­ven­tur­ous trip in an 18-wheeler in the late 60's to Dorch­ester Pen­i­ten­tiary in New Brunswick to pick up 20 wooden pews made by in­mates.

Baker re­flects fondly back in the day when “whole fam­i­lies came to church''. Not so much to­day.

The con­gre­ga­tion has more than halved over the years, with about 25 mem­bers to­day, and roughly 20 show­ing up on any given Sun­day.

Rose ven­tures the church could quite pos­si­bly close in the next five to 10 years due to de­clin­ing num­bers.

Cer­tainly he could never imag­ine hav­ing lived his 88 years and count­ing in South Lake with­out this church.

“It’s a place where you wor­ship the Lord, where you meet your friends,'' he says.

“It’s prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant build­ing in the com­mu­nity.''

Cameron says the church still has a strong pres­ence in South Lake, propped ma­jes­ti­cally to af­ford ex­it­ing church­go­ers a stun­ning view over a farmer’s field out to­wards the Northum­ber­land Strait.

Cameron, twice a dea­con at South Lake, still at­tends the church ev­ery Sun­day.

“It’s kind of a place you can sit and think,'' he muses.

“Well, you’d sure miss it if it was gone.''

JIM DAY/GUARDIAN

Life­time res­i­dents of South Lake, from front to back, Robert Rose, Stewart Cameron and Robert Baker, have em­braced this church as a place of wor­ship and fel­low­ship.

JIM DAY/GUARDIAN

The in­te­rior of South Lake Chris­tian Church in­cludes pews that were made by in­mates at Dorch­ester Pen­i­ten­tiary in New Brunswick.

JIM DAY/GUARDIAN

Built in 1884 by lo­cal de­signer and ar­chi­tect Billy Dick Ding­well, this build­ing re­placed a small log struc­ture as the South Lake Chris­tian Church.

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