Pictou Islanders and religion …

Community Online First Pictou Island Memories

Religion had always been an important part in the lives of Pictou Islanders. The first settlers in 1814 honoured the Sabbath in their homes. In the middle 1850s, the Islanders built their first school. Religious services were then held in this structure along with Sunday school.

There were approximately 30families on Pictou Island in 1909. The Rev. Archibald Sutherland of Trenton was then the island minister. Under his leadership, a Presbyterian congregation was organized and a place of worship was considered and was constructed in 1910. It has been disclosed that each household on the island was asked to donate $50  for materials used in the church construction. That was an extremely large sum of money in 1910. Those families who could not afford the money would work on the church construction to the value of that amount.

Those early Pictou Islanders named their new house of worship The SUTHERLAND PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH after the minister who organized its construction. At that time there were at least two different religions on the island, United and Presbyterian.  In 1925, the National Church Union had to be settled. The three denominations – Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational across Canada were ready for receiving the final word. The Methodist and Congregational Churches across Canada were unanimous in their decision to unite. The Presbyterian churches were not. This had some of the United Pictou Islanders reverting back to worshipping in the school and leaving mostly Presbyterians to worship in the new church. Neither group alone could afford a minister so they eventually agreed to have a Presbyterian minister one summer, a United minister the next. By being in agreement to this, all islanders gathered in the new house of worship.

During the 1950s and early 60s when I lived on Pictou Island, we had church services every Sunday during the spring, summer and autumn months. A young student minister was always obliged to live on the island with a family during those months. I, being the youngest in our family, was always obligated to accompany my mother to church every Sunday. My mother was a regular member of the Pictou Island church choir and Ladies Auxiliary. Sunday school and Summer Bible School was always a part of our lives for we island kids. I can remember Isabel Rankin, Doris and Hazel MacDonald, Vinie MacLean, Alfie MacLean, Francie Munro and Shirley Rankin being some of the leaders at these functions. I apologize if I missed any other teachers; it has been a long time.

The sacraments of Holy Communion would be conducted in our little church on Pictou Island at least once every summer. An ordained minister from the mainland would officiate at this ceremony. As I write this story, I can visualize Tom (Flin) Munro and Carl MacCallum taking the collection every Sunday. They would always sit in the back row on the right of the church. I can envision us Pictou Island kids sitting, chatting and playing as Sunday school was being conducted in the portal of the church.

Our minister in 1961 was David Newell and I reflect back to Sunday, Aug. 6th when Billie MacMillan and myself were selected to sing the hymn, How Great Thou Art at an evening church service. Billy’s mother Loraine was also a regular member of the church choir. I’m guessing that our dear mothers figured that by having their two cute little nine- and ten-year boys sing this hymn every Pictou Islander would attend. I have been informed by my mother that the little church was pretty well packed for that event. Oh well, I guess Garth Brooks and Allen Jackson had to start somewhere, too.

To the best of my knowledge, there was only one wedding that took place in the  Pictou Island church. Florence Rankin from Pictou Island and Vincent Heighton from Pictou made history by exchanging wedding vows in the Sutherland Presbyterian Church on August 20th, 1960.

A number of years have passed since regular Sunday Church services have been held in the Pictou Island Church. The doors of the church are still open, however, and I believe that a service is still conducted by a member of the cleric at least once a year for anyone wishing to attend.

Janet Rankin, Jean MacKenzie and Loraine MacMillan had mounted a very interesting HONORARY ROLL plaque on a wall in this church in honor of Pictou Islanders who served their country during 1939-1945. It reads as follows.

GLOVER, ELMER – RCN

HOOPER, ELMER – RCA

HOOPER, LEONARD – RCA

HOOPER, RALPH – R.C.E.T.C.

HOOPER, ROLAND – RCA

HOOPER, WELSFORD – RCA

HOOPER, SIDNEY – RCA

MacCallum, Andrew – RCAF

MACCALLUM, JOHN  – RCN

MACCALLUM, RALPH – M.N.

MACDONALD, CAMERON – RCA

MACDONALD, CHARLES – RCN

MACDONALD, CHAS – RCN

MACDONALD, HIBBERT – RCA 

MACDONALD, MURRY – RCN

MACDONALD, HENRY – C.C.A.A.

MACDONALD, RALPH – RCN

MACDONALD, REGINALD – RCN

MACLEAN, GERALD – RCA

MUNRO, CHARLES – HFX.R.

RANKIN, LAUCHIE – RCA 

 jimturple@eastlink.ca

 

 

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