I am now almost 90 years old, but I still like to read, and recently saw your request in Anglican Life. I thought I’d write a little abut the early days of the Anglican Church in Gander. It is a rather unique story.
I came to Gander on January 2nd, 1940, at age 6, and have caved here almost ever since. There was neither church nor school that first year, and my parents worked hard to raise my two siblings and myself as belonging to the Church of England (as well as respecting other faiths). The Rev’d Mundan Bishop from Grand Falls made several visits during those early years. I think that the first communion service was in our living room.
Once the military came, a small church was built by the Royal Canadian Airforce. This has a Protestant altar in one end and a Roman Catholic altar at the other. The wooden benches had folding backs to accommodate both religions. I can recall clearly attending a service at a construction company mess hall. Bishop Abraham came and conducted that service. He stood on a wooden bench to preach, and I think that everyone attended. All were so grateful to have a service, no matter what the religion!
Meanwhile, my mother conducted a Sunday school for all of the children who wished to come. This was also in our living room. Mother played the piano and taught us all the hymns. Our home was always a welcome place for civilians and servicemen who were stationed here. We were told by my father that he had been treated likewise in Britain during his recovery from a wound during World War I.
Sunday supper was always attended by a large number, both civilian and military. My parents invited many to our house and many were glad of the invitation, and accepted it. After supper, my mother played the piano and we had a sing song. She always told the guests that they were welcome whether “Jew or Gentile,” but that a few hymns would be sung first. These would be followed by popular songs of the day. All were welcomed regardless of rank or position, and I don’t think that anyone ever left (at least, not until a “late supper” was provided). One evening, they welcomed the US President’s son, Lieutenant Colonel Elliot Roosevelt! We all felt that this was an honour. I have a very nice autograph from him in my book.
A Canadian Army Roman Catholic priest came with a Newfoundland friend one day and told us of his problem: the army had sent him material for curtains for his church, but there was nobody to make the curtains. My mother offered to help, and together they measured, and she sewed the fabric, and they made the backdrop for the Canadian Army Roman Catholic Church.
During World War II, all the children attended the same school. It made no difference that we went to different churches on Sundays, but it took a long time to make this normal in non war times.
At the end of World War II, we welcomed the Rev’d John Moss as our first pastor. It was under his guidance that we became St. Martin’s, and built our beautiful cathedral. Several leaders followed, with the Rev’d James Reid being here the longest. Presently, like some other parishes, we do not have a permanent ordained leader, and though I am no longer able to attend services, I still have the interests and problems of the Anglican Church very much in my thoughts and prayers.