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.
Historical Sketch of Church Life
Prepared by Centennial Committee.
Edited by Mrs. Robert McKinlay, 1977.
As we study the past, we learn of the devoted, loyal people with their sacrifices, sorrows, and joys all wrapped up to form a wonderful past and a preparation for another Century for Christ.
Gone is the weekly prayer meeting which ended in the thirties, as well as the preparatory service preceding holy communion, and missing also is the evening Sunday service. Gone is the Bible Class of yesterday with leaders such as Henry Wilkinson, Cyrus Smith, and John Wells, when the Church was filled. In our archives we have a list of 45 names of members of a Bible Class and the subjects studied. It was found in a Bible which was presented to the Morpeth Church by the Bible Society in 1852. When church union of the Presbyterian, Congregational, and Methodist churches came in 1925, the new United Church had new identities and the Church has a set up that is tailored to the needs of the congregations. Old Hymnaries and the St. James version of the Bible have been replaced by new versions. Liberation of church life has come very rapidly but the willingness to study, work and worship remains.
Since the building of the present church replacing the two small churches of the village, Methodist Episcopal and Methodist Wesleyan, many changes have taken place. The cost of the church built in 1877 so exceeded estimates that a loan of $5000 was taken out at 8 percent interest in 1878, and this was raised to 10 percent in later years.
Financial difficulties arose so extra help was needed and the women of the Church entered into the picture, as is usually the case. On July 18, 1894 they organized the “Willing Workers” under the leadership of the wife o the minister who served from 1894 to 1896, Mrs. F. C. Parsons. The members pledged to each raise the sum of $5 during the conference year. Their meetings often took place after the prayer meeting. They planned to have a tea once a month at the homes of the members. The first tea had proceeds of $5.70 with expenses of 45¢. By November, 1984 the Workers were able to pay $51.08 bank interest on money borrowed the previous year.
Quiltings were very popular. The bills showed expenditures for one quilt as .4c a spool for cotton thread, 6 yards of cotton at 8¢ per yard, a batt of cotton was 25¢, and turkey red cotton 30¢. The quilt was sold for $3.
The oldest autographed quilt, which is in the museum in Chatham, was made in 1892. The blocks were embroidered and sold at $1 each. Miss Lila Taylor gave the quilt to the museum to honour the Taylor family.
Another autographed quilt was made in 1894 and sold to Mr. Guyett for $3. Mrs. Donald Duck has one that was made in 1903. In 1926, Mrs. Thomas Hedley’s Sunday School class also made an autographed quilt which was presented to Reverend Harold Parr and Mrs. Parr as they left the charge.
In 1976 an autographed quilt was made and considerable amount of money raised by selling the blocks. Four of these quilts are now on display at the church for the Centennial festivities.
A “Harvest Home” in 1894 had expenses of $2.50 which included printed bills and livery expenses. Each lady member of the church was asked to supply sufficient food, exclusive of meat, to serve three settings at her particular table. The amount raised at this festivity was $46.50. It is interesting to note however some of the food prices in 1894. Mr. Henry Wilkinson, butcher, paid Mr. Austin Hill, a warehouse and commission merchant at Hill’s dock, according to Mr. Hill’s daybook which is in the Chatham museum, the following prices:
6 chickens (16 2/3 lbs.) $1.00
30 lbs. pork @ .08 per lb. $2.40
10 bushels of apples $3.75
48 lbs. Flour 1.08
8 lbs. Butter @ .15 per lb. 1.20
5 lbs. Cheese @ .10 per lb. .50
1 dozen eggs .15
A new carpet for the manse dining room was needed, so once more the Willing Workers arranged a tea to raise the money. They tore and sewed the rags for the rag carpet. Expenses included tea for the lunch, tacks to fasten the carpet amounted to .35c, warp cost $1.50, and payment for the weaving was $2. A fine rug—but not broadloom—was produced with a total expense of $3.85, leaving a balance of .25c which was given t the Sunday School.
Lawn socials were big events of the summer season. One, among many, was held on the lawn of the home of Miles McDonald with red handmade birds strung through the trees for decoration, lighted by kerosene lanterns. Frequently if there was to be a social event at the church, cut out pasteboard footsteps led the way to the excitement and fun of the evening.
The untiring efforts of the Willing Workers helped immensely in meeting the outstanding debt of the church, so that at the turn of the century the mortgage was burned under the pastorate of the Rev. E. F. Powell.
The two original glass communion plates, the flagon and the pitchers were purchased in 1902 from Mr. Guest of Ridgetown for $1.85. The glass pitchers were used to contain the “water of purification” which was mixed with the wine of the chalice representing the water and blood which flowed from Jesus’ side when it was pierced as He hung on the cross. This was part of the Methodist custom and tradition. This communion set was used at the opening Centennial service on January 9, 1977. A new chalice was used on that day which had been purchased with money given by Mr. John Lewis of the Barnwell Nursing Home in Ridgetown to Mrs. John Smith’s senior Sunday School class who had adopted him as “Uncle.” The money was to be used as the class wished in service to the church.
In 1955 a new communion set, table, and linens were given by the late Miss Minnie Passmore.
Mrs. John Smith’s Sunday School class sponsored the making of a wooden cross for the Easter service in 1974. Rob Smith fashioned the simple rough cross tied with leather thongs and it now stands in the church in its simplicity as the focal point of testimony of a class devoted to their church and their risen Saviour.
Eventually the Women’s Auxiliary was organized taking upon themselves the valuable work done by the Willing Workers. Mrs. J. W. Scane was the president for twenty years and working with her was Mrs. William Smith, the treasurer. Pancake suppers, lawn socials, tea meetings, and quilting continued to help financially with the upkeep of the church and manse. In 1896 the expenses of the manse were met. Taxes were $2.35, wallpaper $2.50, a mattress $2, shingles 30¢, window glass 10¢, paint 25¢, and covering for a sofa 30¢. But times had changed and the new Women’s Auxiliary found their expenses rising. Still the women persevered and met their obligations.
The Women’s Missionary Society was organized in 1917 and continued under the guidance of the United Church which was inaugurated in 1925. The Women’s Missionary Society and the Women’s Auxiliary were united in 1955. Eventually in 1960 the United Church Women was formed to unite all the women to grow in Christian faith and experience, to share in maintaining Christian family life, to share in community services, and to share in Home and Overseas Missions and World Citizenship.
The first W. M. S. Birthday party was held on November 11, 1934 when 105 guests from neighbouring churches were entertained, many of them contributing to the program. The traditional birthday cake which was decorated for a number of years by Mrs. Matthew Wade, a fine Anglican friend, added to the celebration. This party was enjoyed for many years. Mrs. Stephen Smith entertained the ladies of the W. M. S. at her home for the June meeting each year for over thirty years. Many bales were packed for Mission purposes overseas and at home and W. M. S. Allocations were always met.
The first annual UCW Christmas Sunshine Party was enjoyed by members and guests in 1952 with special offerings going to chosen recipi9ents such as Victor Home for Girls, Leone House of Windsor, Chaplain Service at the Southwestern Ontario Regional Centre and the Salvation Army.
In the same year, an Amateur Night was held in the Morpeth Hall and there was fine cooperation from all the community.
The Country Fair has, from a financial standpoint due to the great cooperation of the men, women and children, been an outstanding affair. The first fair was held on August 8, 1958 and has continued until the present year. Various booths, sewing, baking, used clothing, fish pond, and snack bar as well as amusements for the children, have provided fun and fellowship. Substantial income from this popular event has helped immensely in the church renovations. A smorgasbord dinner has been a great drawing card and has been followed by the auction sale of used and old articles. When No. 21 Highway was paved, a huge rock was removed from the roadbed and installed on the church property. Each year, the “Auction Rock” is sold and the buyer has the privilege of having his name printed on its huge face. In 1976 the proceed from the Country fair amounted to over $3000. It is interesting to note the comparison of that amount with the revenue from the first fund raging event of one hundred years ago, $5.70. In 1976 the net proceeds amounted to $2570.