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Brief History of the (Methodist) United Church in Hodges Cove
It isnt readily known at which time the arrival of the first Methodist people in Hodges Cove took place. Nor do we know how long Methodist religious services have been practiced here. Thus, determining the initial activities of the church is to approximate rather than to detail them, to suggest a probability rather than a definite beginning date.
It is generally agreed that in the early days of settlements such as Hodges Cove prayer meetings took place in peoples houses. It was quite common to take turns holding these meetings in different houses with the most capable or fit person acting as the clergyman.
One should not be amused, surprised nor cynical concerning the nature of these events. Most of the earlier people were God-fearing, deeply-religious folk, and these services were an integral part of their lives. Restrictions of time, finances and population retarded the progress of building churches in the first few years of their arrival but did not by any means discourage them from doing what just had to be done.
Construction of the first Methodist church in Hodges Cove took place on a site adjacent to the one by Ralph Bakers house today (now used by Ralph as a workshop). As was typical in such projects, the rough lumber was formed from logs cut in Deer Harbour country by such prominent men as messrs. Jacob Smith, Joseph Baker, Thomas Stringer and Albert Churchill. The fact that the building was locally referred to as Moses Wilcoxs church may indicate some type of leadership on his part, possibly what might now be termed chairman. Or it might just have been because it was located near his house.
Master builder of this first structure was Isaac John Smith of Fox Harbour (now Southport). It had two rows of pews and had luxury of real paint (red, it is said).
One interesting point relating to the early days of this church was that it didnt have an organ, the standard music piece of most churches. In fact, there was no musical instrument in the church at all. Jacob Smith, story has it, provided a list of hymns he had chosen and would hand it to the minister, or lay-reader, as the clergyman would enter the church. Mr. Smith would then rise the tune and the congregation would join in the singing. To take a phrase from the folk-singing group The Mamas and the Papas, they used to "make their own kind of music".
So far in this account, this particular building has been referred to as a church. In fact, the term is not truly accurate. Though the building was used as a church, it had another quite important function as well. It served as a school for the children whose parents had the inclination to send them. Indeed, the building had often been referred to as the school-chapel.
By the early 1920s this school-chapel had apparently outlived its practicality. A year after the Methodist Church changed its name to the United Church of Canada, in the fall of 1926, the cornerstone was laid for a new church which served the congregation for the next fifty-eight years. It is said that Deer Harbour was the source of the lumber used in its construction. All hands, Bakers, Smiths, Churchills and Stringers gave freely of their labour. Over the period of the next several years, this new larger church (Ralphs workshop, now) was completed under the guidance of master builder, John Baker.
There came a time during the construction period, however, when John Baker had used up his free time and needed to procure his firewood for the winter. But the congregation wanted to keep the momentum going, so an agreement was struck between Mr. Baker and themselves. In return for their getting his firewood, he would work on the building for another month. The finish work went along fine and at the end of the thirty days the altar and all except two pews were built and put in place. In 1932 the building officially opened its doors.
Yet even this church didnt have an organ. Occasionally Joe Baker would play one that was borrowed from his parents, John and Grace Baker. Later, at the age of just nine years, a new organist performed the first of her many times. Notably, this was at the funeral of Mrs. Hannah Baker, mother of the churchs master builder. Mr. Jacob Smith had to build up the seat at the organ so that his grand-daughter Clarice (today, Mrs. George Drover) could reach to play it. This organ belonged to Jacob and Mariah Smith who, like the Bakers, provided their organ on a temporary basis. It wasnt until much later that an organ was purchased for the church.
In 1952 a bell was purchased, the first and only one the church has used as of this writing. Indeed, it shall probably be the only one because in 1996 chimes were erected on the church in Hodges Cove Center.
It is interesting to note that the Random South Charge, which began more than a century ago, had more churches (11) than any other charge in Canada. Until recently, Hodges Cove had been a part of that charge. It now comes under the Little Hearts Ease Pastoral Charge and is known today as St. Andrews United Church.
P.S. Through declining health, many times Hannah Jane in the later years needed someone to fill in for her when she was in hospital or otherwise absent. That lot fell to two teenage girls, Annette Stringer and Debbie Whalen. As time passed the primary responsibility became that of Debbies who in 1991 took her first turn at the church organ. Now the wife of Bryan Stringer, she is the regular organist at St. Andrews United Church.
List of Ministers (United Church)
The following is a list of the many persons who have served either as clergy or did clergy duty in the absence of the designated clergy on that charge.
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Transcribed by Eric Stringer, March, 2000.
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