The weekend of June 16-18 will be remembered by the congregation of St. Alban’s Anglican Church in Grand Bank for years to come.
The occasion was the celebration of the 70th anniversary of their church. The cornerstone for the first St. Alban’s was laid by Archbishop Barfoot on June 17th, 1953.
It was a weekend packed with emotion, nostalgia, memories, reflections, laughter, tears, and prayer. The Rev’d Charlie Cox, rector of the parish, was overwhelmed, and explained that it was “A true celebration is the greatest statement I could make as I summarize the events of the 70th anniversary celebrations. From the initial planning stages to the conclusion of the celebrations, I believe we were blessed beyond measure.”
The weekend started with a gospel concert setting a deep spiritual tone for the celebrations. A family day on Saturday, engaged the youth and their parents in a variety of fun activities.
This was followed by the banquet where people shared a beautiful meal and memories of days gone by. The congregation was joined by past rectors and members of other churches and denominations, as well as politicians from provincial and municipal levels.
Rev’d Charlie thanked the Rev’d Canon Reuben Hatcher for agreeing to be the guest speaker at the banquet, referring to his presentation as “the highlight of the evening.”
Canon Hatcher explained, “I was, indeed, pleased to be asked to be the guest speaker for the anniversary celebrations. I was a bit reluctant at first, since it’s been a long time since I served the parish in 1968. But I am glad I came.”
He added, “It gave me an opportunity to reflect on the beginning of the church and its growth over the years and to share that with those assembled at the banquet.”
And share he did, beginning when “the church” existed with no building, and worshipers assembled in places like the Temperance Hall, the Orange Lodge and Harry Grandy’s Theatre for services.
The big break came when resettlement of some communities took place from Brunette and other places along the coast.
Canon Hatcher noted, “It was this influx of these people, their strong will and deep faith that led to the construction of the church in 1953.” The first service was held in the basement on Thanksgiving Day, 1953.
That church served the needs of the congregation until 1975, when the vestry decided it was time to build a new church.
Canon Hatcher also shared some of the experiences he had during his tenure in the parish. Many of them were happy, but others very sad, especially the loss of life to the fury of the sea with the sinking of the Blue Mist and Blue Wave.
He spoke of one lady who lost her husband, her son, and her son-in-law in the one disaster. “Her response to me was, ‘Well, I guess God wanted them more than I did’. What faith! What faith!” explained a tearful Canon Hatcher.
Interspersed with the sad experiences, Canon Hatcher related numerous light-hearted experiences that kept his audience in stitches.
He told of one incident when he and his friend Tom Pope got stuck in the middle of the road between Hungry Pond and Lorries while returning from a Lenten service in Lamaline.
“We got so far but the storm got worse, and we got stuck. With no plow on the road we had no choice but stay in the car all night. Then after a while we saw lights of a truck coming towards us.
“Hardly seeing through the snow, I saw this man driving the truck; he had his stocking cap down over his head. I soon recognized him; it was my rector coming to look for us. Needless to say, I never got aboard the truck with him; I got in with the snowplough operator.”
The rector that he referred to was, of course, the Rev’d Wilson Tibbo. He spoke of the same incident at the 50th anniversary of St. Alban’s. “I needed confession and absolution after that night because I do believe when we found him, I used some not so nice language on him which he has never forgotten,” he joked.
The Rt. Rev’d John Watton, the rector of the parish from 1990 to 1996, brought greetings on behalf of the Diocese of Central Newfoundland and spoke of his experiences in the parish.
The anniversary celebrations ended with a Thanksgiving Service with Bishop Watton as the presider. Archdeacon Terry Caines, a native of Grand Bank, was the preacher.