Few Christian congregations in Canada can look back over two hundred and twenty years of life, but in 2012 that milestone has been realized by St. George's Anglican Church in St. Catharines. The records tell of some difficult years, with delay, disappointments and money problems, but the story also tells of prosperity, stages of growth, of significant accomplishments, of inspired leadership and meaningful outreach into the surroundingcommunity.
St. George's traces its beginnings to the year 1792 when the first Anglican clergyman, The Reverend Robert Addison, settled in what is now Niagara-On-The-Lake. People had come across the Niagara River following the War of American Independence in the 1780's, choosing to live under the British flag rather than that of the new United States of America. Those with religious commitments began to meet in homes for worship before any church buildings were established. In 1796 the first church building was constructed in this area, located near the present-day cenotaph, close to the east end of the Burgoyne Bridge. It was financed bycontributions raised from the new settlers, some of them being former members of the Butler's Rangers a regiment fighting on the British side of the War of American Independence.The new church building was not known at first by the name St. George's, but was more like a community church, it being used by Presbyterians, some Methodists as well as Anglicans. During the War of 1812-1814 it became a hospital for wounded soldiers. When that conflict was over, the Anglican Bishop of Quebec, who then had jurisdiction here, urged the local Anglican community to establish the building as a distinctive Church of England property and in due course a priest came from Quebec in 1828 to reside in St. Catharines.
After two years a priest newly arrived from Ireland, The Reverend James Clarke was put in charge and plans were drawn up for a new building and cemetery on the present site.
When the original church burned down in 1836, more urgency was added to completing a new building. Finally, in July 1840 after many delays the new building was opened and was called St. George's Church. Very sadly, two weeks later the rector was killed in a horse and buggy accident as he went to Port Dahousie to take a service there.
The construction and the opening of the Welland Canal in 1829 signaled new growth in St. Catharines and area. St. George's church enjoyed significant growth as well, under the leadership of the Reverend Abraham Fuller Atkinson. The building had become too small so the transepts were added in 1865, the chancel in 1874 and the sanctuary in 1878. The effects of the "High Church" movement in Anglicanism resulted in local theological and liturgical conflict within St. George's congregation, with a sizable number deciding to leave the parish in 1870 to found St. Thomas Church.
The split in the parish weakened the congregation significantly, with major struggles being involved in maintaining its life for the next forty years. ln 1910 a new rector came, The Reverend Lewis Wilmot Broughall, and within a very short time the parish began to grow. The life of the church was completely renewed and a Parish Hall constructed. A transformation had taken place bringing the old church back into prominence again. In succeeding years, because of the growth of the congregation, the Parish Hall was enlarged with the gymnasium added in 1936 and extended yet again in 1957.
Today the large congregation continues to use its buildings for worship. The large Parish Hall enables the parish to carry out a varied and extensive program of outreach into the surrounding City of St. Catharines, meeting the needs of many citizens as well as of parishioners.
St. George's Church looks to the future in confidence, with skilled lay and clergy leadership and to the adding of many more pages to its story.The Right Reverend Bishop Walter Asbil
The Anglican Church of Canada has its roots in the Church of England, which separated from the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century. Influenced by the Protestant Reformation, the new English church simplified rituals and introduced the Book of Common Prayer (1549), which enabled services in English instead of Latin. At the same time, the church preserved certain traditions, including the early church creeds and the succession of bishops from the line of the apostles. Because of this history, Anglicanism is sometimes referred to as Reformed Catholicism.
Anglicanism travelled abroad with British colonial expansion. In 1578, near present-day Iqaluit, NU, a chaplain celebrated the Eucharist as a member of Martin Frobisher's Arctic expedition. This was the first Anglican Eucharist in what is now Canada, but it wasn't until the 18th and 19th centuries that Anglicanism truly took hold, as military chaplains, Loyalists, and British immigrants fanned out and settled across the growing colony. Missionaries arrived as well, endeavouring to meet the spiritual needs of settlers and to evangelize Indigenous Peoples.
Gradually the Canadian church carved out its own identity. In 1787, Charles Inglis of Nova Scotia became the first bishop in British North America. More dioceses cohered as the population grew, and in 1893, the dioceses created the national body of General Synod. In 1955, the church changed its name from the Church of England in the Dominion of Canada to the Anglican Church of Canada.
Today the Anglican Church of Canada is an independent, self-governing church in communion with the other 44 churches of the worldwide Anglican Communion. It includes more than 500,000 members in nearly 1,700 parishes, and like Canada, the church has become culturally diverse. On any given Sunday the tradition of common prayer is expressed across Canada in many languages, including Inuktitut, French, Spanish, and Cree.
To learn more about our rich history, contact the General Synod Archives Source: Anglican Church of Canada website
Surrounding the oak entry doors are fifteen symbols of our faith carved in stone. From the lower left corner the symbols are: Trumpets, Censer, Font, Ship, Phoenix, Lily, Hand, Dove, Chi Rho, Lamb, Mitre, Sword & Bible, Chalice, Scroll and Cross.
As you enter through the doors into the porch of the church you will notice many plaques involving the history of the church. There is the headstone of Paul Shipman, a pioneer after whom this community was named. On the other side you will see three plaques in different print commemorating the donor of the bells. As we enter the church and turn left down the side aisle we encounter the beautiful stained glass windows that have become part of our heritage.
The first window tells the story of Ruth in the Old testament whose family and later generations led to the house of David.
The other pane is that of St. Paul who gave up the sword for the pen and became stronger because of it.
The next window depicts Christ feeding his flock.
As we enter the transept the window depicts the crucifixion with Mary, the mother of our Lord, John and Mary Magadalen weeping at the foot of the cross. This transept contains many memorials, especially of those who fought in the two world wars and gave their lives for this country.
In the Baptistry you will see a chair built for Rev. Abraham Fuller Atkinson, the second rector of this church. He served from 1840 to 1864.
As we move to the chancel and sanctuary you will see the windows on the left of St. Columba, St. Alban and St. Patrick. On the right you will see the windows of St. George, St. Michael and St. Andrew.
To the east the Chancel window is 14ft. x 7ft. It is sometimes mistaken for the last supper when in fact it is part of the story of Jesus on the road to Emmaus. The quotation reads "He took the bread and blessed it and brake it and gave it to them and their eyes were opened and they knew him."
Now we turn around and walk toward the Narthex Screen. The Screen was erected in memory of Flight Lieutenant William Deveaux Woodruff Hilton who died in active service during WWII.
Above the central doors stands a large figure of Christ with a child clutching his garments, symbolizing the hope of the future. Below are the words, The Way, The Truth, The Life. On either side of the smaller doors are four shields - the Font (Baptism), the outstretched Hand (Confirmation), the Chalice (Communion) and the Cross and Crow (Victory of the Christina Life). Other carvings are the Rose, symbol of Martyrdom and Immortality, and the Maple Leaves of Canada.
There are three more memorial windows. The first depicts the disciples meeting Jesus on the walk to Emmaus. The second depicts Christ rising from the tomb.
As we enter All Saints Chapel we see the Baptistry.