100 Years of Faith and Worship–St. Andrew’s Church, Bishop’s Falls

Church building Bishop's Falls
The banner outside St. Andrew's, Bishop's Falls
Doug Tucker

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Town of Bishop’s Falls came into being. The establishment of the G. A. Reid Groundwood Pulp Mill and the Newfoundland Railway setting up its central track and maintenance operation led to this new community’s inception. Anglicans in those early years met and worshiped wherever they could. In 1921 they held services monthly in the Albert Hall, generously loaned by the pulp company.

According to an article in the Diocesan Newsletter printed for May 1922, back in January 1921, Bishop’s Falls Anglicans met to “talk church.” Arising from this discussion, the ladies formed a sewing circle and the men started laying plans to build a church. Funds were raised, lumber was secured, and work began in August of 1921. On December 11, 1921, the first worship service was held at St. Andrew’s.

At that time, the building was only lacking furniture and some finishing touches. The cost at that time was $2,700. Of this sum, $2,100 was already in place, leaving a debt of $650 to $700. The church population at that time was approximately seventy souls. Since then, St. Andrew’s has been and remains a small but viable and vibrant focus for the Anglicans in the community.

Some time later a hall/Sunday school was built adjacent to the church, and for many years was the focus of social activities of the congregation. By the early nineties, the lack of washroom and cloakroom facilities in the church building led to an ambitious project for our people. The plan was to add to the existing church an extension, giving us a bigger hall and kitchen, meeting and storage rooms, fully accessible washrooms, and an adequate porch/cloakroom and lobby. On completion in 1993, a mortgage/loan of only $10,000 remained to be liquidated. This was done in short order.

Since then, this small congregation has added a new organ and has re-roofed the church and hall. Recently a decision was made to pave the church parking lots. This work was completed prior to our centenary.

Planning for our centennial celebrations commenced in earnest just before the COVID-19 pandemic set in. Much of what we had been considering doing during our centennial year (2021) could not be implemented as a result of lockdowns and restrictions. We were determined, however, to find ways to celebrate this milestone in the life of our church.

In mid June we “kicked off” our celebrations with the unveiling of our celebratory banner over the entrance of our church and the illumination of the large pine tree adjacent to our entrance (lit nightly until the end of the year). This ceremony was attended by members of the general public and by local political figures who brought greetings/congratulations.

A photograph from the prayer walk
A photograph from the prayer walk

The next day, our rector, the Rev’d Jeff Blackwood, undertook a “prayer walk” from one end of our community to the other (over 8km). Several members of our congregation accompanied Rev’d Jeff on his trek, with stops at various points throughout our town to offer prayer for individuals and circumstances needing God’s healing or guiding hand. This was followed by an open air barbecue in the church parking lot, with all COVID-19 safety protocols in place.

The highlight of our celebration was the worship service held on November 30th, 2021, celebrating our patron Saint Andrew and our centennial. This was well attended by our parishioners, Bishop John Watton, Archdeacon Terry Caines, a number of former clergy of the parish, and other dignitaries. We were also most honoured to have in attendance our Metropolitan, Archbishop David Edwards, who preached a most inspirational sermon and presided over the Eucharist. 

Of course, no celebration such as a centennial, would be complete without a banquet. Thanks be to the good Lord, the COVID-19 virus lay low long enough to allow this to proceed. This banquet was held on December 11th, 2021 which is a very significant date for our church: the first worship service for St. Andrews took place on December 11, 1921!

A lovely catered meal was enjoyed by all, with greetings and congratulations brought by various invited guests, both clerical and political. A highlight of the evening for us was the cutting of the centennial cake by two of our oldest congregants, William and Daphne Coffin. The evening concluded with a skit and some musical entertainment.

Unfortunately, the pleasure of the success of our service and banquet was reduced by the absence of our rector Rev’d Jeff, and his wife Victoria, who were in St. John’s as the result of a family medical emergency. Thank the Lord that everything turned out well.

The wardens and vestry would like to express our sincere thanks and appreciation to Rev’d Jeff and each and every one who helped make our centennial a success in spite of the pandemic.

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