Lifelong members of 175-year-old South Lake Christian Church offer fond reflections
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.''
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.
The interior of South Lake Christian Church includes pews that were made by inmates at Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick.
Built in 1884 by local designer and architect Billy Dick Dingwell, this building replaced a small log structure as the South Lake Christian Church.