Page 31 - PC_Fall2020
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FALL 2020
 When 156-Year-Old Traditions Go Online
   An artifact shared in the historic snapshot included a photo of the Rev. Hector MacRury, who led the church building expansion project in the 1950s, and a scan of the loan docu- ment with the signatures.
1864. When we noticed that this year the last Sunday in May happened to be Pentecost Sunday, we knew we had one more reason to celebrate! So instead of cancelling our anniver- sary weekend, we took it online and stretched it to a whole Anniversary Week.
The pre-recorded service that was prepared for May 24 noted that we have been a congregation for 156 years, worshipping at this same spot. We invited people to check out our Facebook and web pages each morning during Anniversary Week for an historic snapshot about our his- tory, similar to the Heritage Minutes produced by Historica Canada. The pastor’s anniversary letter, which was coordinated to arrive just a few days before, also invited people to join the online celebration.
Several months ago, one of the tradesmen who was in the building as part of our renovation program was able to open a locked drawer in our fireproof safe that we hadn’t been able to get into for years. When we saw the treasure of historical docu- ments within—archives, handwritten minutes, letters and pictures—we started dreaming about how we might use them to build excitement and pride in our history. We actually found the original tally sheet from the congregation’s church union vote in 1925 with the handwritten counts and the signatures of the invigilators. These newly rediscovered docu- ments were the basis for our historic snapshots. We carefully combed through the documents and com- bined pictures and document scans so that each morning of the anniver- sary week featured another surpris- ing twist in the narrative. I think my favourite was the Thursday morning snapshot about how the addition of
the Fellowship Hall was made pos- sible.
By the early 1950s, two succes- sive outreach-minded ministers— with the assistance of immigration patterns—had managed to pack out the church. A plan was developed to almost double the seating capacity of the sanctuary and add a basement with a fellowship hall, kitchen and other utilitarian spaces, but the final cost estimate of $75,000 seemed out of reach to the blue-collar con- gregation that included many strug- gling new immigrants. They agreed on devoting $37,000, the first half of the expansion project costs, to the basement fellowship hall, kitchen and Sunday School spaces.
With only $8,000 raised in dona- tions, a loan was necessary, but the man who chaired the board of man- agers was told by the bank manager, “You guys are a white English Prot- estant Church in an immigrant neigh- bourhood, you’ll be closed in five years. There’s no way we’re giving you a loan or a mortgage.” (That was 64 years ago!)
A trust company eventually agreed but, unsure about the church’s fu- ture, they required an unusual con- cession. On signing day, Sept. 12, 1956, over 30 men from the con- gregation showed up at the trust company, and each in turn provided a personal guarantee for a portion of the loan. The pictures we shared on- line included the document with the signatures, names and occupations of those who had stepped up to be counted. Judging by the occupations listed on the loan agreement, some were co-signing for almost a year’s worth of income.
Each morning during Anniversary Week, members of the congrega- tion were inspired with stories and
pieces of our history. At previous an- niversary dinners, I had occasionally shared a few historical anecdotes and showed a copy of a document or an old picture on the projector, but with everyone home at their comput- ers this year, it was an ideal time to include collections of pictures and scans of documents. It was almost like sitting in your living room looking through a family photo album.
On Saturday evening, we posted a video titled, “A Few of My Favourite Places,” a reflective historical tour of several key spots in the building. We called it a documentary, but it was de- signed to be as inspirational as it was informative. It required many hours of planning, filming and editing, but the result is a lasting piece of memorabilia more powerful than any plate, mug or calendar we’ve produced for our an- niversaries in the past. And it’s still up on our website as visitors find us online at
The week culminated with the An- niversary Service on Pentecost Sun- day that included a couple of nods to our history, like actually reading the Psalm of the day from the old King James Pulpit Bible that is proudly displayed, but seldom used.
In response to changing circum- stances, it can be too easy to give up on important traditions, but when technology is well used, it can help us to affirm the things about our past that we still treasure. How fitting that part of the funds raised through our Anniversary Offering this year— which were given by mail, online and through direct deposit—will help us to expand our technical skills and equipment to minister even more widely than we have in the past to the community we have faithfully served for over 156 years. (I wonder whether that bank manager is still around...)
By the Rev. Joel Coppieters, Côte des Neiges Presbyterian Church in Montreal, Que.
To say that the people of Côte des Neiges love celebrations is an un- derstatement. We are Presbyterians after all, and the congregation of Côte des Neiges Presbyterian Church in Montreal, Que., includes over 20 different cultures that each have their own red-letter days on the calendar and like to bring their own flair (and their own secret recipes!) to the party. In fact, after eight years as the minister, most of the congrega- tion can now complete my favourite tagline; “There’s only one thing better than a Sunday with a cake...a Sun- day with two cakes!”
We’re not sure how far back it started, but our annual anniversary weekend at the end of May has be- come a can’t-miss tradition. We
don’t always go no-holds-barred like we did for our 150th, but most years, we can find something to inaugurate, dedicate, repaint, refurbish or reo- pen. Sometimes it’s commissioning new pew Bibles, inducting new el- ders or cutting the ribbon on the new side lawn... (Shhh, not yet!)
The weekend usually features a special, diet-throttling feast and mu- sical evening on Saturday, and cel- ebratory services joined by a guest speaker on Sunday. But this year, our guestspeakercouldn’tcrossthebor- der, we couldn’t serve dinner (of any calorie count!) and we couldn’t get to- gether as a congregation. The thought of cancelling crossed our minds for about 30 seconds, and then we came back with a vengeance.
Our annual anniversary shindig is usually held on the second to last Sunday in May to honour the con- gregation’s first service on May 22,

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