Every week, I share an excerpt from my Great Aunt’s book, As the Story is Told: A History of Morpeth and Community, which was printed in 1986. Note, this is a historical text and I don’t necessarily agree with all of the authour’s views or turns of phrase.
Until 1894 the church used oil lamps and heated with wood stoves. In 1894 a gas well was struck not far from the northeast corner of the church. This well supplied gas for newly installed gas lights. Eventually water flooded the well and it was abandoned. Electric lights were installed in 1922.
In the early part of this century the church flourished, during periods of relatively good times. Only during the period of the First World War did the church life face sadness, when young men from the congregation left to serve their country.
In 1923, the first major renovation occurred to the church. At this time the ceiling was lowered, the two outside flights of steps were closed and the present doorway opened. These renovations were dedicated in January, 1924, during the ministry of Rev. H. F. Kennedy.
At this time presentations on church union were foremost in the minds of all church members. Many heated discussions arose between those favouring union and those against. Finally, on June 10, 1925, union occurred between the Methodist, Presbyterian, and Congregational churches. In spite of the many problems caused by this union, our church gained an increasing membership all dedicated to furthering the religious needs of the community.
The church and its congregation faced the severe hardships of the Great Depression in the early thirties. At one time a congregational meeting was held to discuss the church’s financial plight. It was suggested by some that the church should be closed. Several staunch supporters made personal contacts among congregational members and enough funds were raised to insure the continuance of the church.
Another reorganization in the local circuit occurred on July 1, 1931, when the New Scotland church was added. The charge now consisted of Morpeth, Palmyra, and New Scotland. These three churches formed this charge until 1969 when the Palmyra church was closed.
After the severities of the depression passed, and during the progressing years, a faithful congregation carried on programs of repairing and painting. Much of the labour was supplied free by members of the congregation. Included were many projects such as new washroom facilities in 1974, new entrance doors, and the installation of storm windows and wood panelling in the entrance hall. The work was completed in 1976.
Through the years the church benefited by the benevolence of these who prevented gifts to be used in the church as a remembrance to friends and relatives. These remembrances will occupy a new display cabinet to be dedicated during centennial year.
Although the church building has stood the test of time for 100 years, its continuation has been made possible through the faithfulness of its congregation and the dedication of many fine ministers. A list is included of the pastors who served the church from 1852 to 1874, before the present church was built. Also included is a list of the pastors who served the present church from 1875 to 1977.
No church can survive without the loyal support of many organizations. The Sunday School has been a thriving organization ever since the inauguration of the church. Down through the years many people have given unselfishly of their time to ensure that children in the community had an opportunity to attend Sunday School. During the days of the early church the picnics and Christmas Concerts were the highlights of the Sunday School year.
Music has always played an important role in the life of the church. Church services have been made more meaningful over the years through the efforts of the devoted organists and choir leaders.
As a centennial project in honour of Canada’s one hundred years as a nation, a new organ was installed in the church in 1967 by the congregation. The organ was dedicated on May 7, 1967, on the 90th anniversary of the building of the church. The guest minister at this special service was the Rev. C. M. Jardine, who had been pastor of the church in 1952 when the centennial year of the founding of the church in Morpeth was celebrated.
The women’s organizations have provided staunch support to church life and have made possible the successful completion of many projects through their financial support. The Women’s Missionary Society was first organized in 1917. The W. M. S. Joined with the Women’s Association (W. A.) in 1955 and continued until 1960, spanning a period of 43 years. In 1960 the present women’s organization, the United Church Women (U. C. W.) was inaugurated. For many years the Annual Country Fair has been one of the major fund-raising projects organized by the U. C. W. This has been a very successful event and each year area residents and visitors from distant points look forward to attending this church fair.
At various times throughout the history of the church, many young people’s groups have been organized. Due to the effort and endeavour of many individuals these groups operated for many years. Unfortunately at times because of lack of leaders and the pressures of the “busy world” young people’s groups have not flourished.
Through the efforts of a devoted few and their continued support an A. O. T. S. Club was formed and charter night was on January 13, 1954. The first president was Clarence Stirling from the New Scotland congregation. The organizing minister was the Rev. C. M. Jardine who also was the pastor of the three point charge, Morpeth, New Scotland and Palmyra. This club has continued and expanded to take in members from other church congregations in the area.
Over the years, the church organizations have given generously of their time and money to many worthwhile activities and needs. The congregation has since the early years of the church, been unselfish supporters of church mission work and in recent years, the United Church Mission and Service Fund.
On July 1, 1969, a new pastoral charge of Highgate-Morpeth was formed with the manse located in Highgate. The pastoral charge was enlarged to include Turin on July 1, 1971, and continues as the Highgate-Morpeth-Turin pastoral charge to the present time.
This historical sketch of the Morpeth United Church is dedicated to members and ministers who have for so many years brought religious learning to the community. The church on the hill stands as a memorial to those who have gone on, and as a challenge to those who are left to take up the torch and keep the faith.
The Village Church
O strong old church
With timbers staunch and true,
Your bricks bear scars of all passing years
Still strong you stand
A symbol of the early pioneers.
To-day, the spirit of those loyal lives is felt
In this old church where we as families knelt,
You bring us dreams, and memories of the pastoral
Memories of folk, a faithful race
Whose influence in this world shall ever last.
To-day, we humbly bow in worship
To renew our faith in God,
And sing again the old familiar hymns.
To fell the handclasp of old neighbour friends
United in the brotherhood of men.
From “More Fragments”
Elected Poems by Pearl Edna Eager.
Pastors before church was built
1852-1853 Richard Phelps
1854-1855 Joseph Hugill
1855-1857 William Dignan
1858-1860 Abraham Dayman
1861-1863 Thomas Hannah
1864-1865 William Hawke
1866-1868 Manley Benson
1869-1871 William Chapman
1871-1874 John Kerr
Pastors since church was built
1875-1877 Rev. R. W. Woodsworth
1878-1880 Rev. J. German
1880-1882 Rev. R. W. Woodsworth
1883-1884 Rev. G. R. Turk
1884-1886 Rev. G. Andrew
1886-1888 Rev. F. Jackson
1888-1891 Rev. W. H. Shaw
1891-1894 Rev. E. W. Bristol
1894-1896 Rev. F. C. Parsons
1896-1897 Rev. A. J. Langford
1898-1898 Rev. A. W. Ashton
1898-1900 Rev. E. F. Powell
1900-1901 Rev. W. J. Millyard
1901-1903 Rev. R. Sutcliffe
1903-1906 Rev. George Rivers
1906-1908 Rev. J. C. Nethercott
1908-1909 Rev. J. A. Snell
1909-1910 Rev. J. C. Edmunds
1910-1911 Rev. J. W. Johnson
1911-1913 Rev. A. V. Walden
1913-1916 Rev. A. E. Hopper
1916-1917 Rev. J. C. Cook
1917-1920 Dr. A. H. Brown
1920-1922 Rev. J. W. Hisey
1922-1925 Rev. H. F. Kennedy
1925-1927 Rev. R. H. Parr
1927-1931 Rev. R. Southcott
1931-1935 Dr. W. W. Prudham
1935-1938 Rev. James Abray
1938-1940 Rev. W. A. Finlay
1940-1942 Rev. H. F. Kennedy
1942-1945 Rev. R. Russell
1945-1946 Rev. A. W. Baker
1946-1949 Rev. E. D. Stuart
1949-1950 Rev. A. W. Baker
1950-1956 Rev. C. M. Jardine
1956-1961 Rev. E. A. Martineau
1961-1962 Mr. Milton C. Wright
1962-1966 Rev. J. W. Howse
1966-1967 Rev. C. A. Perkins
1967-1969 Rev. John Wood
1969-1971 Rev. Thos. L. W. Lanceley
1971-1983 Rev. Herb Summers
1983-present (1986) Mr. Eugene Swain