Article 6 – 1905 – 1917
Church Tackled Controversial Topics But Stayed United
“We earnestly ask you to provide for Anniversary Sabbath (St. Paul’s 20th anniversary). Dear friends, do not be indifferent to God’s cause; it is a privilege to give”!
This was 1905 and the plea by parish council was the periodic sound of financial concern. During Rev. Marsh’s earlier years, St. Paul’s had no Rectory and he rented houses all over town. He was at 1 Glenelg St., 7 Russell St (no longer there) and 30 Colborne St. West. There were several early attempts to find him a Rectory. In 1907, “Mr. Wetherup (offered) to sell his residence to the congregation (as a Rectory) for $3000 which he had formerly bought at $3600”. Council turned the offer down because we were short of funds. Finally, in 1914, the current rectory was built next door to the church.
In the 1890’s, Lindsay learned it could be lit by electricity supplied by power generated 14 miles away at Fenelon Falls. Within months, McWaters & Sons, enterprising bakers on Queen Street, introduced ‘power bread making” and produced 1500 loaves per day.
If we shopped downtown then, we bought shoes from Finlay & Chantler, took our clothes to Victoria Steam Laundry, looked after our eyes with the Button Brothers, our teeth with Dr. Arthur Day and bought clothes from Albert Forman or George Milne. If it was our year to wed, we dropped in to Buttney Brothers for the engagement ring and, because they had brilliantly diversified, bought our marriage license there as well!
In 1890, St. Paul’s hosted a lecture series on “other religions”. The Rev. Ibsen from Utah, born in India, spoke fluent Hindi and talked about Hinduism. Interestingly, a similar successful “other religions” series occurred at St. Paul’s 110 years later in 2009-10.
Throughout these early years of the 20th century, the issue of “the Lord’s Day as a day of rest” created divisiveness between church and state in the larger sphere as well as among businesses competing for customers in a small town. Some businesses wanted to open and some didn’t. Some workers wanted the extra income and others felt coerced into working. For many, it was a complex question. For St. Paul’s, it was a simple religious decision. In 1906, we sent a “memorial” (probably a petition) to the Canadian Senate asking that Sunday be legislated as a total day of rest for all businesses and workers. The response from the Senate spokesperson is interesting. It can either be read as “highly diplomatic” or as an early example of how to use political language to straddle a fence.
“I think the Lord’s Day should be a day of rest. I am not favorable to any person being compelled to work on that day. Difficulties no doubt will arise as to how we should go in restraining the individual liberty of those who may feel willing to work on that day and who may feel that in doing so they are not committing any wrong”.
St. Paul’s in those early 20th century years always seemed able to tackle controversial topics while staying united. One such issue was music. A new hymn book was available. It meant change. Churches across the country discussed it, sometimes with more heat than light. In 1909, a large number of St. Paul’s leaders were present for a “Special Vestry Meeting” called to consider adopting the new Hymn Book, “The Book of Common Praise”. The minutes show no details of debate or controversy. We do know that a motion: “That St. Paul’s Church adopt the new Hymn Book”, passed unanimously.
In May of 1910, we again displayed our still-strong relationship with Great Britain when King Edward V11 passed away with a special memorial service and with special prayers for “Queen Mary, the Queen Mother and all the Royal Family” and for our new king, “our most gracious Sovereign Lord, King George”.
Each month, St. Paul’s published “Parish and Home Words”, an outline of the life of the church: its baptisms, marriages, funerals, the visits of guest preachers, the speakers at special events and the thoughts of Rev. Marsh on many topics. He was clearly a very busy man but what jumps vividly off the pages was the strength of his commitment to those in need, his personal joy at a parishioner’s happy event and his deep grief at their losses.
Another half-decade passed. World events spiraled toward war. Inflexible European alliances waited for a catalyst.
Yet life in Lindsay seemed tranquil on the surface. In May, 1914, the northern missionary, Rev. E. J. Peck, visited St. Paul’s and “gave us some interesting glimpses of the work done among the Eskimo on Hudson Bay and in Baffin Island.” In June, 1914, Mrs. Marsh led a number of young people from the church to a summer school mission study in Whitby.
Two weeks later, Serbian nationalists assassinated the Archduke Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.
Strangely, we didn’t talk about it right away. Instead, we discussed the delay in building the Lindsay Armouries, the impending “Trent Canal Opening” celebrations, and a new American vehicle law requiring lights on all buggies.
“It is probable that it will come to Ontario in time (as) there is always danger of serious collisions when buggies without lamps are on the road in a dark night.”
By month’s end, Austria declared war on Serbia and we woke up to the belief that we would go to war.
“The Austro-Serbian war is in full swing all along the River Drima. Germany and Austria are allies. Gloom prevails in Great Britain.”
On August 4th, less than a week later, those alliances pulled the rest of Europe into WW1.
Enlistment began at the Armouries. About 70 Lindsay and area men quickly signed up. Ads for military horses appeared. By early September, Canadian flour shipments were reaching England. When emptied, the flour bags were sold by patriotic entrepreneurs as souvenirs for the war effort.
In September, 1916, Rev Marsh spoke clearly about his own reasons why this war had to be fought. In a short sentence, he said: “Our cause is a just and righteous one: to defend the weak”.
The “Great War” carried on for four years. Back home, church leaders helped maintain “home front” stability and morale. Their churches were filled. The happy and tragic cycle of births, marriages and deaths found in any era continued but the added news of battlefield injuries and deaths brought Rev. Marsh and his colleagues to the doors of many grieving families.
Over the length of the war, Rev. Marsh spoke about every young man of St. Paul’s who signed up:
“Bandsmen Mark Ingle and Corporal (Walter) Scott paid their farewell visits to Lindsay before leaving with their battalion for overseas”; and “Mr. Theo Lamb who last year was in St. Paul’s Bible class, has enlisted;” and “Capt. Clare Sootheran was paying a farewell visit to Lindsay before leaving for overseas ..”. Walter Scott would later die in battle. On learning of his death, the grieving Rev. Marsh said: “Of the four young men from St. Paul’s who left Lindsay in October 1915 .. two have been wounded, one is (dead) and one is still at the front.”
To help “his boys” stay in touch with St. Paul’s, he asked their friends to send copies of “Parish and Home Words” to them.
One of his articles described a gathering in the “school room” to celebrate Private John Hartwick’s safe, but temporary return to St. Paul’s:
“This evening he was welcomed back to the Sunday School he had attended as a boy .. Mr. Hartwick (thanked) all for the hearty reception .. he had been wounded twice, but thinks he may be able to return to the front”.
About this time, Rev. Marsh’s daughter, Victoria and other young ladies of St. Paul’s left for Toronto to be trained as nurses and perhaps join the war effort.
Rev. Marsh also heard indirectly from young Arthur Pym of being 16 days in the trenches with constant shelling. Arthur finished with this comment,
“A great number of the boys over here will now appreciate the privilege of going to divine service each Sunday a great deal more than formerly. I know I shall if I ever get back again, and I hope to.”