Researched and written by Shirley Geigen Miller
Chapter IX - The Winds of Change
The Reverend Durnford’s official farewell marked not only the end of an era but also the beginning of significant changes for the parish life of St. Anne’s.
Changes blew in with the person of John William French, an energetic 30-year-old theology student from Huron College. On April 12, 1942 – just one week after Durnford’s farewell – French officiated at the 11 o’clock service. He signed in as “student-in-charge” in the parish Preachers Book. Following the service, this plucky young man presided over a Special Vestry Meeting.
It was a time when St. Anne’s, Byron, was still part of a three-point parish along with Trinity Church, Lambeth, and Church of the Hosannas, Hyde Park. The vestry meeting was called due to a request from the Lambeth church for a change in their Sunday service time.
The faithful folk of Trinity Church had worshipped at three o’clock in the afternoon for nearly 80 years. They sought a morning service.
St. Anne’s members, being content with their 11 a.m. service, sympathized with Trinity in a guarded sort of way. Vestry passed a motion made by W. P. (Percy) Simpson, seconded by M. A. Sabine, “that the wardens be empowered to change the time of morning service, if necessary, to meet the requirements of the members of Trinity Church, Lambeth.” (from vestry minutes)
Grace Hertel suggested that St. Anne’s send a message to the Lambeth congregation “expressing our willingness to co-operate with them in every way possible.” (minutes)
The following Sunday Trinity got its morning service – at 9:30 a.m. St. Anne’s cruised along with 11 a.m. worship for another eight months. Hosanna’s Sunday service stayed at 7:30 p.m.
French’s able and friendly debut at St. Anne’s was the start of a multi-faceted growth spurt in the parish.
Born in Woking, Surrey, England, in June, 1911, John W. French received early schooling at the Church of England School in Whitley. While still young, he moved with his family to Canada, settling in Windsor, Ontario. Later he attended O’Neil business college, there. In 1934, he married Ena Evelyn Millican. Another move took French and his wife to Chicago where he attended McKinley Roosevelt University, graduating with a B.A, in 1941. He promptly applied for admission to theology studies at Huron College, London, and entered the three-year program in September.
These were uncertain times. French would be pastoring much sooner than he might have expected.
A New Reality
Effects of the Second World War had reached most sectors of Canadian life by then. The church, for example, was experiencing a severe shortage of clergy. Much like a worldwide pandemic, worldwide war compelled all of society to adapt and change to a new reality.
According to Rev. Canon Dr. Doug Leighton, an associate professor of history at Huron University College, “Many clergy volunteered for overseas service [during the war]. Finding interim priests for them was difficult enough. The human resources of the diocese were stretched to the limit.”
In appointing John French, a first-year theology student, to the three-point parish, the bishop [Charles Seager] would have taken into account that French was “mature” (age 30) and “stable” (married), Leighton pointed out.
The plan was for French to continue his theology studies while working part time in the parish communities. This, in turn, would require parishioners to take on more responsibilities in the churches.
The congregations must have agreed to oblige. They certainly pitched in.
French was ordained deacon by Bishop Seager on May 31, 1942. The next day, the Rev. French and his wife, Ena, moved into the rectory at Hyde Park. Hence the “student-in-charge” became the “incumbent.” He was ordained to the priesthood on Sept.19,1943.
At St. Anne’s, French introduced changes and new appointments gradually and often step by step. One of his first appointments would have been that of a new Sunday School Superintendent. The position had been vacated by Rev. Durnford himself. French chose Kathleen (Kae) Hart for the job.
Kae was a lifelong member of St Anne’s who had been a Sunday School teacher for seven years. She enjoyed the children, particularly her class of mischievous boys. With her experience, dedication, enthusiasm and willingness to serve, Kae was the ideal choice. Indeed, the Sunday School flourished under her leadership.
In the early 1940s, Sunday School gathered at 10 a.m. before the morning church service. Since a separate parish hall had not yet been constructed, children and teachers met in the church and in the large West Wing parish room. This was also before church offices were installed in the area. There was enough space for several Sunday School classes in the parish room. Moveable room dividers were used to divide the children into age and gender groups for lessons and Bible Stories.
Sunday School enrolment in 1941 “was down to 18 pupils and two teachers,” Kae said. But growth soon picked up and spiked after the war ended, due in part to the baby boom.
“We always had an opening hymn,” Kae went on. Music was provided by the Sunday School organist playing on an old organ. Later, violins were added. Her Sunday School “staff,” as Kae called them, were all parishioners glad to come to church early to contribute to the Sunday School.
By 1953, St. Anne’s Sunday School had skyrocketed to 110 pupils, nine teachers and six other officers. Although this may be explained partly by the changing demographic, a great deal of credit must go the outstanding leadership of the Superintendent.
In her later years, when asked to describe what John French was like, Kae (Hart) Ellis replied: “He was redheaded, very nice, and a lot of fun.” With all the appointments that followed hers, the church was soon a-buzz with cheerful, albeit meaningful, activity.
First Board of Management
At the annual vestry meeting January 27, 1943, St. Anne’s formed a Board of Management for the first time. The rector named Frances Hart, Bebe McEwan and John Meriam to the board. Taking nominations from the floor, vestry elected Kate Chapman, Muriel Foyston and Archie Kains to be on the board as well. Board members would hold their positions for one year and would meet monthly starting in February.
Vestry also established a rectory committee of two, naming Grace Hertel and Anne Simpson to keep track of any needs or improvements required at the rectory. As for the wardens, French appointed W. P. Simpson to be rector’s warden and the long-serving people’s warden, Thomas Sulston, was reelected for another term. In March, the Board of Management decided to inaugurate the duplex envelope system for offerings. They ordered 20 boxes for the year and Frances Hart agreed to become envelope secretary.
When the rector first shifted St. Anne’s Sunday service time from 11 to 11:30 a.m., he did so for a limited period – from Jan 3 to May 2, 1943. He then reinstated 11 a.m. worship for the warmer months.
But the subject of changing back to 11:30 was raised again in July while W. P. Simpson was presiding over a Board of Management meeting.
Simpson asked the board “if we were willing to change [our] service time to 11:30 to meet needs of Lambeth who felt [their] church attendance had dropped since they had had to revert to 9:30 services.
“The general feeling [of St. Anne’s board] was … that we, without much inconvenience, could have our service at 11:30 in place of 11. Majority in favour.” (from Board of Management minutes, July 18, 1943.)
St. Anne’s once again received a short reprieve. The 11:30 a.m. service time did not come into effect until Oct. 3, 1943. From then on the later time (by 30 minutes) lasted to the end of French’s tenure, and beyond.
Meanwhile, the rectory committee had been hard at work, checking through the rectory and identifying what needed to be repaired or replaced. Cost of improvements would be about $1,000, the committee reported. This caught the attention of all three congregations.
On March 30, 1943, the wardens of St. Anne’s, Trinity and Hosannas held a special meeting regarding the condition of the rectory. They decided to have the rectory put in good condition immediately. Work would include installation of a water pressure system, a new cesspool, furnace (secondhand if available), insulation in the attic, screen doors and windows, hardwood floors and linoleum in the kitchen. These jobs were contracted out to ensure best possible results.
Money for the improvements was borrowed from the diocese. Payments on the loan were divided equally among the three churches.
“In October, 1943, a reception was held in the rectory at Hyde Park, and many came to call and admire the improvements. Ladies of the Guild assisted at the tea.” (from The Story of St. Anne’s by Grace Bainard)
Changes in church services themselves also occurred during French’s incumbency. From the time of his arrival at St. Anne’s until the time he was priested (Sept. 1943), French was not eligible to celebrate Holy Communion. To fill the need, other priests were called upon to offer Eucharist about once a month. Often Durnford, but there were others, who made it possible for the congregation to receive the sacrament on a regular basis.
It is not clear when an altar guild was initiated. However, it was noted in Board of Management minutes on May 10, 1943, that “The Altar Guild is now functioning and made the preparation for Easter Communion.” In 1943, Easter Day was April 25.
Added to Sunday worship were services of Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage and Burial. At a special service, W.P. Simpson was invested as a Lay Reader.
During 1944, wartime concerns escalated in the parish. On June 6, Byron United Church and St. Anne’s Anglican held a combined “Invasion Service” at 8 p.m. The two denominations marked the original D-Day together with praise and prayer. The service took place at the United Church with Rev. L.C. Harvey and Rev. John French officiating. Subsequently, French introduced St. Anne’s to weeknight services of intercessions for the armed forces.
Just prior to this time, French had ended his study of theology at Huron College. His academic records show that he attended the college until May 19, 1944. He did not receive a theology degree from Huron.
Nevertheless, French continued to pour his time and energy into serving the three-point-parish. Reports at St. Anne’s next annual vestry meeting (January 29, 1945) disclosed that average church attendance had increased to 53 per Sunday and finances were in good shape with $418.70 left in the balance at the end of 1944. The women’s guild reported $451 receipts from fundraising efforts, and $331 disbursements with a balance of $120 plus a $50 victory bond, going forward. Sunday School attendance, of course, had risen as well. Not to be forgotten, the cemetery had been given a complete survey during this incumbency.
In February, 1945, French was granted a temporary leave of absence to become a chaplain in the Canadian Army. He conducted his last services in the three-point parish on Feb. 18. At a special gathering in the parish room, St. Anne’s bid him a fond farewell and presented him with a stole. French went overseas, was stationed in England, then in Germany after the war.
Upon his return to the Diocese of Huron in 1946, he was appointed to St. John’s Church, Tillsonburg and St. Stephen’s Church Culloden. The following year he transferred to the Episcopal Church Diocese of Michigan, where he continued to serve as a priest and was named a Canon there.
French did reappear, some years later, for a special occasion at St. Anne’s. On Oct. 5, 1956, he travelled to Byron from the U.S. to assist in the wedding service of Kathleen Hart and Nelson Ellis.
A grand and happy finale to his memorable connection with St. Anne’s.
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From the Deacon’s Bench - May 25, 2020
This week we are approaching Pentecost. Fifty days after Easter we celebrate the birthday of the Church. It is often seen as the second most important date in the Church year. We all know the story of the disciples and the coming of the Spirit. They went out from where they had been hiding in order to declare the love of God to the crowds as proclaimed by Jesus. An event to inspire us to live as Jesus showed us and to share God’s love with the world around us today.
There are places in Europe that treat the Monday after Pentecost as a holiday, in the same way that we used to treat Easter Monday as a holiday. In England, it was called Whitsunday; Whit Monday is a public holiday. White would often be worn with confirmations and baptisms being scheduled for the day.
Pentecost found its way into literature. In the stories of King Arthur, it was said that he always gathered the knights of the round table together at Pentecost and shared a feast with them. Unlike our world in 2020, it is usually a time for gathering to celebrate. We proclaim that the Spirit is with us in order to guide us to living and proclaiming the Word of God as shown and told to us by Jesus. Not quite the same this year, I guess.
Having said that, the world has experienced periods of isolation in the past. It just hasn’t been part of our experience in our recent history. We have ways of overcoming the isolation using technology unlike previous generations. But at the end of it all, our celebration of Pentecost must start within us. Being with others may help stoke the fire, but the embers of that fire known as the Spirit are within us, waiting for us to bring it to a flame that will show others how God is with us.
So many years ago, as a Scout, they taught us to make a campfire. When the embers were glowing, we would blow upon them in order to fire up the embers to catch the wood. Within us, our embers may be glowing, waiting for the breath of the Spirit to fire it up. The Spirit comes to us in so many ways. It can be through those around us as they inspire us. It can be from the words we take in from writings coming from so many sources. It can be from God’s world as we go through it. The Spirit flows through our world waiting for us to recognize it in God’s creation. We may not always be looking for it, but it waits for us to find it.
White may have been worn, yet red is the colour the Church has chosen as the colour of the day. Red as in fire. If it gets out of hand fire can also destroy, as we saw last year in Australia. When the Church has gotten out of hand, it has at times destroyed by imposing an over-zealous spirit as opposed to inspire. We need to build the fire, but we can’t let it lose the Spirit that keeps us on the right path.
Yesterday we celebrated Ascension Day. A clergy colleague wrote how that is the day that Jesus started to work from home. Next it is Pentecost. Let the Spirit guide you and inspire you so the world will finally experience the love of God as envisioned by our Lord. Alleluia!
No matter where we are, the intricacies and complexities of God’s world are around us. It is a beautiful world at times. It can be a scary world at times when we face the complexities of viruses or other parts of creation that can be a threat to us. It also makes me think about how often are we the viruses that threaten other parts of God’s creation? But at the end of it all, I am grateful that God has allowed us to appreciate those complexities and be a part of it. Over the upcoming weeks, I will look forward to watching the flowers emerge on my lilac bush. What will you be looking forward to?
St. Anne's is a lovely stone church built in 1853 by Robert Flint and our story is one that continues today. We hope this look into our past will give you an idea of the deep community roots on which the foundation of our church is built. If you have information to add to our story please use the Contact Us form to tell us your part of our ongoing story.
Stone by Stone: A History of St. Anne's (Byron)
Chapter I - How the Church Began
Chapter II - Looking Back (currently under revision)
Chapter IIII - Construction of St. Anne's
Chapter IV - The Mystery Years
Chapter V - Rejuvenation
Chapter VI - The Next Thirty-three Years
Chapter VII - The Durnford Era - Part A
Chapter VIII - The Durnford Era - Part B
Chapter IX - The Winds of Change - NEW
The Hunt Family - one of the area's early settlers
Life in Byron and St. Anne's - one parishioner's recollections
The history of our stained glass windows
A pioneer Christian had on his mind
A place to worship, and this he did find
Right here where we're standing: the Lord was willing,
Five acres were bought costing eight pounds & some shillings.
Many hands gathered stones with a mason, a Scot,
And proud were the families as they viewed what they bought.
Twenty years later, it looked pretty feeble,
Having been used by strange devout people.
Some of our grandsires began to rebuild,
With hard earned money from the fields that they tilled.
A family named Hall who owned a saw-mill,
Their names long remembered, helped the coffers to fill.
St. Anne's was now ready for its name & consecration,
Isaac Hellmuth, Huron's Bishop, came for the celebration.
Three short term rectors did duties at Glanworth,
Ten miles with a horse going back and forth.
Our long term rector - for thirty-one years,
was always on duty; vacations bored him to tears!
On a certain Good Friday, just after the service
The church roof blew off, making everyone nervous.
A few weeks later this practical guy (rector)
Was staining the ceiling from scaffold on high.
The grand climax to Mr. D's tenure,
Came in thirty-seven, in the month of September.
During the year, the things we acquired
New sanctuary and pews, so badly required.
Six beautiful windows and the new west wing,
Memorial furnishings, we lacked not a thing!
Downstairs in wartime, we made lots of jam,
A friend overseas found a jar labelled, "Byron, St. Anne's"
The following rector, John French by name,
Got a management board, soon after he came.
The Hyde Park Rectory got a good sprucing up,
Duplex envelopes and an organ that needn't be pumped!
Our first lay reader, Percy Simpson by name,
A wrought iron gate and a fence of the same.
Our gas furnace blew up, but our sexton survived,
Near the same time, the Joselyns arrived.
In 1950, a Rectory was planned --
Arnold Stoner was the builder, but others gave a hand.
Annual smorgasbords raised some money:
Also seed fairs and a play that was funny.
The greatest idea came along next,
"To feed the hungry" was our text.
Ken Smith was the one who led the way -
The Western Fair booth then came to stay.
Soon after that came our new parish hall
And "Every Member canvass" involved us all.
Our membership was growing fast,
On a Sunday, 164 average - would it last?
Railings at our chancel steps --
Rev. Reg & Helen, in memory we kept.
Bob Mills arrived, and we spent some cash -
Five acres, two houses - it did seem quite rash.
A few years back, we had added ten feet
To the church, to the north made our entrance look neat!
After we built the Heritage room,
We gleefully felt we were in a great boom.
Morley Pinkney had come with plans for improvements,
An office, new cupboards, up-to-date equipments.
Coffers kept filled by generous donors,
Made us feel like we'd hit some homers.
Now we're thinking of those who need assistance,
To use our parish hall, we trust there's no resistance.
As our special senior turns the sod,
With junior helpers and the Grace of God.
- Spring Plant Sale Spring Plant Sale
- Pollination Garden Dedication - September 2018 Pollination Garden Dedication - September 2018
- Victorian High Tea - May 2019 Victorian High Tea - May 2019
- Courage for Freedom event - July 2019 Courage for Freedom event - July 2019
- Heavenly Pies Heavenly Pies
- Quilters group Quilters group
Our in-person services at St Anne’s have resumed. We hope those of you who have attended worship felt comfortable with all the protocols in place for our safety. We look forward to seeing you and your mask again on upcoming Sundays.
The wardens have decided that for the moment NO registration will be required for Sunday services at this time. This will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and revisions made as needed. Some overflow space will be secured so that should our numbers exceed our capacity a few additional worshippers could be accommodated.
We continue to make online services available for all who are more comfortable staying at home, or who perhaps just want to hear the hymns sung.
Please note that sermons and hymn lyrics are posted in pdf format . Unless otherwise noted, sermons are preached by St. Anne's incumbent rector, Reverend Canon Valerie Kenyon. Visit our Sermon Archive for previous recordings of sermons, readings and hymn lyrics.
The Book of Alternative Services may be accessed in pdf format for use during the services.
Please make note of the safety protocols in this brochure.
Sunday, November 29, 2020
- Reverend George B. Sage, 1881-84 Reverend George B. Sage, 1881-84
- Reverend Clarence Widmer Ball, B.A., 1885-88 Reverend Clarence Widmer Ball, B.A., 1885-88
- Reverend S.E.G. Edelstein (Glanworth, Lambeth, Byron), 1889-91 Reverend S.E.G. Edelstein (Glanworth, Lambeth, Byron), 1889-91
- Reverend Arthur Rhodes, October 1893-1903 Reverend Arthur Rhodes, October 1893-1903
- Reverend H.H. Tancock, 1904-10 Reverend H.H. Tancock, 1904-10
- Reverend V.M. Durnford (Hyde Park, Lambeth, Byron), 1911-42 Reverend V.M. Durnford (Hyde Park, Lambeth, Byron), 1911-42
- Reverend John W. French, June 1, 1942 - 45 Reverend John W. French, June 1, 1942 - 45
- Reverend John W.Donaldson, April, 1945-47 Reverend John W.Donaldson, April, 1945-47
- Reverend John Hofland, June 15-September 16, 1962 (interim) Reverend John Hofland, June 15-September 16, 1962 (interim)
- Reverend Robert Mills, 1962-Spring 1969 Reverend Robert Mills, 1962-Spring 1969
- Reverend Morley Pinkney, 1969-86 Reverend Morley Pinkney, 1969-86
- Reverend Walter Mills, 1987-June 2001 Reverend Walter Mills, 1987-June 2001
- Reverend Peter Wickerson, 2001-05 Reverend Peter Wickerson, 2001-05
- Reverend Janet Lynall, 2006-15 Reverend Janet Lynall, 2006-15
- Reverend Rita Harrison, 2015-17 (interim) Reverend Rita Harrison, 2015-17 (interim)
- Reverend Canon Valerie Kenyon, 2017-present Reverend Canon Valerie Kenyon, 2017-present
Researched and written by Shirley Geigen Miller
The Durnford Era – Part B - Church Improvements
At the end of the roaring twenties, parish life was flourishing. Having accomplished so much in the previous decade, the congregation approached the 1930s with high expectations.
They began to think of making improvements to the church building, which now failed to accommodate their needs. Parish organizations dreamed of having an on-site parish room where they could hold meetings and events. So far they had been meeting in members’ homes or going elsewhere. Coincidently, Bishop Williams, in conversation with the rector, had suggested that St. Anne’s chancel be enlarged and upgraded.
Hence, in the early thirties, with only a vague idea of what the future shape of the church structure might be and with no idea how they would pay for an addition, members formed a building committee and established a building fund. This was a remarkable act of faith in the days of severe economic depression.
As early as 1932, the women’s guild quickened its efforts to raise money for the building fund. But it was a seesaw battle. While the building fund inched upward, the general church revenues fell.
At the vestry meeting on January 16, 1933, the report on general accounts showed a deficit of $67. This, after 10 straight years of successfully meeting expenses. Even a special appeal to the congregation failed to bring in enough money to cover the year’s costs. Parishioners were struggling to make their own ends meet. It was only thanks to the rector, that the budget was met. Without fanfare, Durnford supplied the funds needed to close the books.
A year later, when the church’s financial situation had improved, vestry decided “that the sum kindly donated last year by the incumbent to balance the books be returned to him.” (from vestry minutes, January 15, 1934)
At the same 1934 vestry meeting, Matilda Hart, representing the women’s guild, raised the subject of building a parish hall. Some St. Anne’s women, it seems, had visited the United (formerly Methodist) Church down the road, and were impressed with that church’s activity room. It was just what St. Anne’s needed, they felt.
(The United Church of Canada had been established in 1925, the result of an amalgamation of Methodists, Congregationalists and Presbyterians.)
Vestry threw the ball back to the guild. Minutes of the meeting state: “After a lengthy discussion the matter was referred to the Guild to investigate as to the cost of such a building as the United Church Room.” (January 15, 1934)
And the guild ran with the ball. By the following January, Ms. Hart was able to present vestry with an architect’s letter, plans for a proposed parish hall, and an estimate (nearly $5,000) for labour and materials.
The plans, although favourably received, were not implemented at the time. The building fund had only reached $1,700 and the congregation was reluctant to put the church into debt.
Turning to more affordable goals, the guild continued to press for church improvements. A few months later, the organization offered to donate money “toward some satisfactory heating arrangements for the Church.” (from special vestry minutes, October 14, 1935)
Again, no immediate action took place (in fact, the meeting was adjourned due to poor vestry turnout). But at least the subject was placed on the agenda for the next annual vestry meeting and the women could anticipate progress in the near future.
While the struggle for funds was not over, a turning point in the financial standing of St. Anne’s was reached at the vestry meeting of January 27, 1936.
Firstly, the general accounts for the year showed a surplus of $124.60, which was good news in itself. Secondly – and more importantly – Lily Kains presented the rector with two cheques for $1,000 each from the estate of her late husband, Fred, who had died the year before. One cheque was designated for cemetery upkeep and the other was for church repairs.
The new bequest brought the building fund, including the guild’s fund, to $2,765.35. The prospect of a church addition was in sight.
A New Furnace
The congregation’s first priority was to modernize the heating system. During the summer (1936), the old box stove with its overhead stovepipe was removed from the building. Soon afterwards, a new gas furnace was installed beneath the floor near the front of the church. This was no simple task.
St. Anne’s had no more than a crawl space (no basement) under the floorboards. An excavation was required to make room for the furnace.
A large round hole, three or four feet in diameter, was cut in the floor. The hole extended partway into the area that is now the foot of the chancel steps. When the furnace installation was complete, the hole was covered with a metal grate to allow the heat to rise and fill the building. The grate was later to cause an inconvenience for some parishioners.
After the raised chancel was added to the church a year later, parishioners were required to walk over the heating grate on their way to the altar rail. This meant women wearing high heels had to do a sidestep to avoid getting a heel caught in the grate as they proceeded to Holy Communion. It also meant the sidesmen needed a steady hand with offertory plates. If they lost their grip and the plates were dropped, the coins could roll down the grating. That, by all accounts, never happened, though it was often speculated upon by roguish parishioners.
The inconvenience of the grate, however, was more than compensated for by the comfort of even heat in winter.
Decision to Expand
By the beginning of 1937, the congregation was poised for the plunge into expanding and upgrading the church building. The building fund had a substantial start, the rector championed the project and many parishioners were itching to proceed.
At the vestry meeting held January 19, Durnford presented his own rough sketch of possible church alterations. His design called for using the present church as the nave, adding about 12 feet to the front for a new sanctuary and building an adjoining parish room at the side. The parish room was to double as a Sunday school room.
The general response to the design was favourable.
Durnford also reported having discussed expansion options with Bishop Charles Seager who had succeeded Bishop Williams as Bishop of Huron. Bishop Seager, it was stated, objected to the current arrangement of the altar, “it being on a level with the Church floor whereas it should be raised above the general level of the surrounding Church floor.” (vestry minutes) Hence, a raised chancel became an accepted part of the plan.
Only a few stumbling blocks remained to full endorsement.
While the overall concept was approved, a concern was expressed as to whether the original structure was strong enough to withstand alterations. A committee was appointed to investigate and they later reported that the condition of the building was sound.
Some parishioners at vestry urged caution in proceeding with the project before enough money was in hand. At least one person felt the church should be kept the same, with no addition at all. But the sentiments of F.B. Hertel carried the day when he proclaimed that now was the time to begin “before prices commenced to rise again.” (vestry minutes)
Vestry unanimously agreed to ask Mr. Murray, architect, to draw up detailed plans for the project.
In March, the women’s guild made a last-minute request for a slightly larger parish room (22 feet by 25 feet inside, 24 by 27 outside). And they volunteered to raise an extra $400 to pay for the change.
After the building committee had accepted the guild’s proposal, the rector put forward a progressive suggestion. Durnford moved “that the building committee should include some of the ladies and those who have been instrumental in making provision for the Parish Room.” (from special vestry minutes, March 8, 1937)
As a result, the following five women were named to the building committee: guild president Grace Hertel, past-president Matilda Hart, Alice Ormond, Lily Kains and Mabel Wickerson. They joined the existing committee, made up of Durnford, Bert Foyston, Thomas Sulston, Alfred Kains, F.B. Hertel, W.P. Simpson, John Meriam, A.Y.P.A. president Philip Chapman, and Miss D. Grove.
From then on, this 14-member group navigated the expansion of the church building, moving through preliminary steps with lightning speed.
The architect finished his plans and submitted them to the bishop for approval. With that granted, tenders from contractors were called for. On April 12, five tenders were opened and read at a meeting of the congregation. J.B. Pittaway of London, who offered the lowest tender, was awarded the contract. Members of the building committee signed the agreement and in no time, construction was under way.
Full Steam Ahead
The next five months were action-packed for the congregation of St. Anne’s. The church site, of course, was bustling with construction work. Pittaway’s crew dug a basement for the new addition, removed the south (i.e. front) wall of the original church, extended the front of the church to accommodate a raised sanctuary, and built an attached parish room on the west side (now called the West Wing). The crowning touch was the stonework on the new exterior walls. Using mostly fieldstone, the workers created a look similar to the original cobblestone. Today, it takes a trained eye to see the difference in stonework between the original side walls (built in 1854, repaired in 1877) and the walls added more than 80 years later.
Off-site, parishioners had their own work to do. Some, like their predecessors in the 1850’s, went out to nearby fields, pushing wheelbarrows, and gathering stones for the walls of the addition. The women’s guild, meanwhile, was fundraising to meet its commitment, the collections committee was drumming up further cash donations, and the rector was conferring with members of the parish about donating suitable memorials. Durnford requested a set of pictorial stained glass windows with Christ as the central figure. Several parishioners answered the call and began the process of choosing the size and theme of their memorial gifts. Others opted to donate new pews or other church furnishings.
In June the congregation directed the wardens to sell the old wooden drive shed which still stood to the west of the church. Since most parishioners drove automobiles by then, a horse and buggy shelter was no longer needed. In fact, it was in the way, hindering access to the proposed parish room.
In due course, the wardens succeeded in selling the shed for $65. Its removal from church property marked the end of an era at St. Anne’s.
When alterations to the church building were completed on August 20, the project was into the home stretch.
On September 8, five memorial windows were delivered and installed by Robert McCausland Limited of Toronto. (For details on these windows, see page .) A reputable glass manufacturer, McCausland agreed to give St. Anne’s donors a reduced group rate on the windows. Final cost was $1,200 for the set of five. For the donors, this still represented a hefty sum. But in light of the inspiration the windows have provided to St. Anne’s worshippers ever since, the fee was a bargain indeed.
The historically significant Henry Hall window had been removed from the original south wall before the wall came down. The window was given a new home on the nave’s east side, where it remains today.
Just one task – the installation of furniture - remained.
On September 9, new oak pews and other furnishings (altar, rail, clerical chairs with kneeling stands, pulpit and lectern) were brought to the church and anchored in place. The furniture was made by The Valley City Seating Company of Dundas, Ontario, a firm known for quality materials and craftsmanship. (The company is now called The Valley City Manufacturing Company Limited.)
Except for the choir seating, all the furniture in the sanctuary, plus a number of pews in the nave, were paid for by individuals and families as gifts and memorials. These donations, like the windows, were above and beyond donations made to the building fund.
And so everything was ready for the official opening of the expanded and refurbished village church.
The congregation was justly proud of its accomplishment. With careful planning and clockwork execution, with an eye to preserving the building’s history and character, and with a desire to bring glory to God, members had persisted to the end. Adverse economic conditions had not stopped them from reaching their goal.
Much credit for the successful completion of the project must go to Durnford. Although he had already passed his 70th birthday and might have been excused from such a large undertaking, nonetheless he devoted countless hours and seemingly endless energy to overseeing the extension and improvement of St. Anne’s. Certainly, decisions and actions were handled democratically. But it was Durnford’s unwavering resolve that led the way.
His role in the beautification of the church received special mention in The Story of St. Anne’s. Grace Bainard wrote: “These beautiful windows and oak furnishings, though lovingly given in memory of friends of the parishioners, are in a way also a memorial to Mr. Durnford’s untiring efforts to beautify the Church.”
The renovated church was opened and consecrated on September 12, 1937. Archdeacon George B. Sage, a former rector of St. Anne’s, officiated at the 11 a.m. service, and Bishop Charles Seager at the 7 p.m. service. Edith Kains, organist and choir leader, provided a special musical program for the occasion. And the people rejoiced.
When the work was finished, all necessary expense had been provided for. This was mainly due, as Durnford said, to the “outstanding generosity” of parishioners. The final tally in the building fund was $6,271.80, accumulated from bequests, fundraising efforts and donations. A new generation of living stones had made their mark on the church.
Once the choir had seating in the new raised chancel, it seemed fitting that choir members be properly robed. The guild and some of the choir mothers, being a creative and industrious lot, took the matter in hand and began to make the vestments.
According to Marjorie (Foyston) Soper, who was in the choir at the time, the outfits consisted of “a white surplice over a long black smock topped by a mortarboard-type hat which was made from a man’s bowler hat, cut to shape and topped with a cardboard square covered with matching black fabric. It was completed by a lovely black tassel on one side. We felt very smart indeed…” (from Serendipity, memories of St. Anne’s seniors, 2003).
The choir was robed for the first time on Easter Day, 1938.
Prior to church expansion, the small parish choir sat in two short rows of seats at the front of the church on the east side. Nearby and next to the front wall, sat the pump organ, played, since 1933, by Edith Kains.
The enlarged chancel allowed for a much bigger choir, hence some of the young people were recruited to fill out the space, said Marjorie, “whether or not we could sing.” But the congregation was indulgent and with their “real” vestments, at least the choristers looked the part.
Financial strain due to the Great Depression continued to plague individual members and the church itself. In early 1939, Durnford’s generosity – to the point of self-sacrifice - kept the church afloat.
At the annual vestry meeting, January 17, 1939, a letter was read from Bishop Seager stating that the incumbent’s stipend had been below canonical minimum for years. The bishop urged the congregation to take some action on the matter.
Passing over the issue lightly, however, Durnford suggested it be kept in abeyance. He pointed out that St. Anne’s had consistently met its budget apportionment to the diocese and had covered all other expenses. These were his priorities.
Vestry (and indeed the incumbent) must have known that parishioners’ purse strings were already stretched to the limit. Those attending the meeting gratefully accepted the rector’s suggestion and took no action on the matter of raising his pay. Appreciation for Durnford’s efforts, however, were “duly expressed.”
Another World War
Some months later, parishioners were taken up with other concerns. In September, 1939, the outbreak of another world war tore their world apart.
Once again, young people in Byron, along with thousands across Canada, volunteered for active duty in the armed services. Many of them proceeded to Europe to try to stop the advance of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi forces. The deadly conflict was to rage on for six years. Eventually war would encompass most of the globe and would cost more than 60 million lives.
Members of St. Anne’s who enlisted for service in World War II were: Philip Chapman, George Cross, Marjorie Foyston, John French, Ernest Grove, Dennis Holland, Bruce Johnston, Barbara Kains, Nora Kains, Milton Keam, Grace Lamb, Harry Lamb, Jean Lamb, John Lamb, Thomas Lamb, Edward McFadyen, Charles Minzen, Walter Middleton, Lloyd Osborne, Harriet Sabine, William Shearme, Daniel Ward, Gordon Ward, Reid Waring, Albert Watson, Bartholomew Wells, Cecil Wells, Harold Wickerson, Oscar Wickerson, Richard Winnett.
The war dramatically altered parish preoccupations. Everyone had a friend or family member or at least knew some one who was serving overseas. This meant the war and the soldiers were constantly in the congregation’s thoughts and prayers. Which naturally led to action…
To help with the war effort, St. Anne’s was pleased to allow Byron Women’s Institute (W.I.) to use church kitchen facilities for its war-time jam-making project. The kitchen, at the time, was located in the basement of what is now called the West Wing. Toiling in the heat of summer, the women – many of them members of St. Anne’s – cooked great quantities of fruit on the church gas stove. The resulting jam was canned on site and shipped to Britain for the service men and women.
According to Anne Keam, the two people in charge of the jam-making were parishioners Dorothy McEwan and Muriel Foyston. The project was under the auspices of the Red Cross who imposed strict regulations on how the jam was made. The product, after all, had to survive a long journey and then a different climate, without spoiling. The following story shows they achieved their goal.
Anne’s husband, Milton Keam, was stationed in England during part of the war. Just before VE Day, while hospitalized outside London, England, Milton was served some Canadian jam. When he checked the tin, he found it was marked “Made by Byron Women’s Institute,” said Anne.
Milton must have been thrilled to receive a taste of home, thousands of miles away, especially since the jam was made at his own home church and by people he knew.
Besides jam-making, the W.I. undertook other war-time projects in the village. The group equipped the activity room at Byron United Church with sewing machines so that women could go there to make pyjamas and other items for overseas. A number of St. Anne’s parishioners took part in the sewing project as well. Then there were the special boxes, provided by the W.I., packed and shipped to Byronites serving in the war.
Clearly, the women who stayed home in the area, served their country well.
Early in 1940, Durnford tried to bring his ministerial duties to a close. At the age of 73, the long-serving priest who was pastor of three parishes (Byron, Lambeth and Hyde Park) and chaplain at the sanatorium, was running low on energy. At the vestry meeting, January 16, 1940, he announced he had handed in his resignation but the bishop had not accepted it. On the bishop’s request, Durnford would continue his work until arrangements could be made for another incumbent.
A full year later, with no sign of a new incumbent, Durnford told vestry he had “definitely decided to hand in his resignation this year, to take effect October 1, 1941.” (from vestry minutes, January 21, 1941)
Durnford was officially superannuated in 1941. But he remained as priest-in-charge, or as he called it, “supply rector,” for months to come.
At the vestry meeting of January 20, 1942, Durnford read a letter from Bishop Seager, explaining that “the delay in appointing a new rector was due to the inability of the three congregations to meet the $1,600 [annual] salary expected.`` The bishop found only $940 could be raised by the combined three parishes. (from vestry minutes)
Extra expenses were draining church resources. St. Anne’s budget apportionment, for example, had jumped considerably, and the gas bill had risen, due in part to the W.I.’s jam-making project in the kitchen.
Durnford suggested the wardens (Thomas Sulston and John Meriam) make a thorough canvass of the congregation to determine the amount the church could count on for the current year.
Guild president Anne Simpson immediately promised the wardens $150 from guild funds for 1942. Her husband, W.P. Simpson, thanked Durnford ``for carrying on for a number of years without full salary.``(from vestry minutes)
The Simpsons were highly regarded members of the church community. For several years, W.P. Simpson had been president of the Laymen`s Association for the deanery of West Middlesex. He had spoken in many churches of the diocese, inspiring lay people to redouble their work for the church. One can easily picture Simpson advocating for a positive response to the wardens` canvass at St. Anne`s.
With Durnford, now 75, presiding, the wardens reported the results of their canvass at a special vestry meeting on March 9, 1942. It was good news. They had raised enough in cash and pledges to meet minimum stipend requirements for a new incumbent and to cover church operating costs for a year.
The wardens apparently knew the incoming incumbent would be a theology student. Vestry minutes indicate the church would "offer to pay $5 per Sunday to the new minister until he is made deacon, then his salary would be $750 a year."
St. Anne`s share of Durnford`s salary had been $550 a year, at the time.
Shortly thereafter, in April 1942, Durnford retired from full-time ministry. But because the new incumbent was not qualified to do so, Durnford continued to administer Holy Communion periodically for another year at least.
St. Anne’s beloved rector for 31 years was honoured and celebrated at a special evening in the parish room he helped to bring into being. Gifts for Durnford and his daughter Mary Tuckey, though generous, could not possibly express the depth of gratitude felt by the congregation towards this man of God. His legacy of love lived on in the beautified church building and in parishioners` hearts.
Durnford died in London in December 1953. His funeral was held at St. George`s Anglican Church, London West, and he was buried next to his wife, Isabella, in Lakeview Cemetery, Sarnia.
Researched and written by Shirley Geigen Miller
Chapter VII - The Durnford Era - Part A
Despite the influx of even more modern conveniences (electricity, the radio, the motor car), life in the next 30-plus years would be like a roller coaster ride. Slow climbs and exhilarating highs would be followed by crashing lows, as the effects of the first world war, the roaring 1920s, the depression of the 1930s, and another world war, would rock the world scene.
Byron, of course, would experience its share of upheaval. Yet through it all, the people of St. Anne’s were provided with a human anchor. The Rev. Villiers Montague Durnford, a faithful and devoted pastor, shepherded the congregation through these turbulent times.
When Durnford took the parishes at Byron and Hyde Park in 1911, the world was still in a “slow climb” period. Originally assigned as an interim clergyman, presumably for a few months, Durnford wound up staying as rector for 31 years – until 1942.
He was 44 years old and already “seasoned,” when he arrived at St. Anne’s. A merchant for a few years before training for the priesthood, he was ordained deacon in 1895 and priest in 1896 by Bishop Baldwin, then spent 15 years serving in other parishes. Durnford and his wife, Isabella, had two sons and two daughters.
The Rectory at Hyde Park
Like the Rhodes family, the Durnfords took up residence at Hyde Park. Soon plans were underway to build a rectory there, on property donated by Vaughan Morris. The land was located adjacent to Church of the Hosannas property.
The commitment of the two churches (Byron and Hyde Park) to provide a rectory for the new minister, must have been a factor in determining that Durnford’s stay would be long term rather than “interim.” In any case, he settled in.
Byron offered to contribute $600 towards the cost of the rectory; Hyde Park agreed to raise $1,200. In a written statement signed by V. M. Durnford on December 14, 1911, the executive committee of Church of the Hosannas promised to repay St. Anne’s its $600, in the event that the parishes became separated and were no longer served by the same incumbent. (When the separation took place some 40 years later, the money was returned to St. Anne’s, as agreed.)
A substantial brick house was built for the allotted $1,800. Durnford himself did much of the construction, which was typical of him throughout his ministry. Not only was he prepared to tackle hands-on labour when he deemed it necessary, but he was also loathe to take advantage of his parishioners’ money – to the point, later in his ministry, of financial self-sacrifice.
St. Anne’s raised its share of the rectory cost by canvassing members for subscriptions. A small loan was needed to make up the total.
In terms of its general accounts, however, the parish was, as the rector put it, in “a very prosperous condition.” (from vestry minutes, April 9, 1912) Fiscal reports show a surplus of funds at the end of each year from 1911 right up to 1919. Byron readily increased its share of the rector’s annual stipend from $225 to $300 in 1912, then to $350 in 1917, and up to $400 in 1918. In the same period, wages for the sexton, whose job included tending the fires and sweeping the church, were raised from $15 to $20 a year.
A Mighty Wind
About a year into Durnford’s incumbency, St. Anne’s saw what is probably the most spectacular event in its history. Durnford recorded the occurrence in his diary, and contributed his notes to Grace Bainard for The Story of St. Anne’s (1853-1953). The description is worth repeating here as Durnford wrote it:
"Having been requested to recall some of the outstanding incidents in the history of St. Anne’s Church, Byron, I might mention the wind storm of Good Friday, 1912, which lifted the roof completely off St. Anne's Church and dropped it at the front of the church shed. After the Good Friday service Mr. Frank Kains and myself remained talking about church matters in front of the shed after which Mr. Kains left for his home and I decided to go and call on Miss Maud Meriam who was dangerously ill. On my way to the Meriam home a terrific wind sprang up and for some minutes my horse was unable to pull the buggy and endeavoured to turn around. After my visit to the Meriam home, the wind having subsided, I started for Hyde Park. When passing the Church I observed that the roof of same had been ripped off and was lying on the very spot where Mr. Kains and myself had been standing after coming out from the church service. I called at the Ormond home and informed them of what had happened. Mrs. [Alice] Ormond immediately started to phone the members of the congregation, telling them of what had occurred. The following night there was a heavy fall of snow which spoiled the plastered ceiling.
“The Easter Day service was held in one of the rooms of the school, while the rest of our Sunday services until the repairs were made were held in the Methodist Church, having received a most cordial invitation from the officers of that church. A meeting was called and arrangements were made to start replacing the roof, which was done by the men of the congregation, and I was asked to draw a plan for a wood ceiling which I furnished Mr. Kernohan, who supplied the material, and the work of placing same was done by Mr. Cyrus Wells and his brother Lawyer. The work of staining the wood of the ceiling was done by myself, the Wells Bros. having provided the scaffold which was moved as needed from place to place.”
The congregation and rector responded to the incident with characteristic practicality. They rolled up their sleeves and proceeded to repair the damage. If there was a moment when Durnford’s relationship was cemented with St. Anne’s, it would have been when parishioners saw him up on the scaffold, staining the ceiling. Yet, besides assisting with repair work, he also made sure that worship services continued on schedule.
Durnford’s parochial duties were increased late in 1912, when Bishop David Williams added Trinity Church, Lambeth, to his charge. (Once again, Byron and Hyde Park were linked with Lambeth in a three-point parish.)
Later, Durnford took on further ministerial work. For some years, he was also chaplain to patients at Beck Sanatorium. The sanatorium (now site of Child and Parent Resource Institute) was opened in 1910 to house persons with tuberculosis.
Synod reports document some of Durnford’s work at the sanatorium. In 1936 alone, he made 122 trips to the institution, visited 1,017 patients, and administered Holy Communion to 107. He received a grant of $100 a year from the diocese for his chaplaincy work and was praised by Synod for his “most excellent work among the patients at the sanatorium.” (from the 1954 synod journal)
Meanwhile he fulfilled all his priestly responsibilities in the three parishes. His reputation as a tireless pastor was well-earned.
It is not surprising that, when the horse and buggy gave way to the automobile, Durnford was among the first in the area to acquire motorized transportation. With all his on-the-job travel, he needed it. His “machine,” however, did not always work properly. This meant that parishioners took a great interest in the car on a Sunday morning, especially when something went wrong. An audience often gathered outside the church after the service, to watch the rector’s precarious take-off. (from a published article by Grace Bainard)
In his early years at St. Anne’s, Durnford organized, strengthened and expanded parish activities. He organized an Anglican Young People’s Association (A.Y.P.A.) in about 1912, supported the formation of a women’s guild in 1922, and established a cemetery board in 1925.
At the same time, the W.A. maintained its work for missions, adding a Junior Auxiliary (J.A.) in 1917 and a Girls Auxiliary (G.A.) in 1925. The choir thrived under the faithful leadership of Alice Ormond who was church organist from 1903 to 1933. And the Sunday School grew.
Durnford assumed the role of Sunday School superintendent throughout his incumbency. While numbers of pupils had been small in previous years (just six children in 1906), attendance increased to about 25 by the late 1920s. Lessons were held in the church nave, and started one hour before the regular Sunday 11 a.m. service.
Marjorie (Foyston) Soper, who attended the Sunday School during the 1920s and early 1930s, remembered the church as being cold and dark. In winter, the children who squeezed into the long front pew kept most of their outdoor clothing on, to stay warm, she said. The heating system – a wood-burning box stove at the back – sent precious little heat to the front. The heat was supposed to travel through the overhead stove pipe that ran the length of the building to the chancel. But it didn’t, to any appreciable extent. Meanwhile, the youngsters meeting at the back of the church sweltered near the stove. A similar variation in temperature prevailed when the adults came to church afterwards.
Another inconvenience of the era was the outdoor privy – a drafty structure located at the back of the church property – which some parishioners avoided using, if at all possible.
Still the children came, week after week, for their religious education… because it was expected, because it was their way of life, because they were part of the small St. Anne’s community.
As for the lessons, “there were no Sunday School books or materials except for a calendar-type book which hung on an easel and was turned weekly to the appropriate lesson,” said Marjorie. “Of course we also had a Bible and a Prayer Book.” (from “Serendipity,” memories of St. Anne’s seniors, 2003)
In Marjorie’s time, three classes – junior girls, senior girls, and a boys’ class – were conducted simultaneously in the church. Each class had its own teacher.
When Durnford started St. Anne’s A.Y.P.A. in 1912, he could not have anticipated that a world war would interrupt the group’s existence. The organization was set up to provide recreational, cultural and spiritual activities for the youth of the parish. Meetings were held in members’ homes.
But as Orlo Miller wrote in his book London 200 An Illustrated History (1992): “World War One abruptly ended the blissful age of innocence so familiar to the entire country.”
After war was declared in 1914, local young people began signing up to join the armed forces. Before long, some of them were headed for the battlefields of Europe. The A.Y.P.A. in Byron disbanded when Cuthbert McEwen, one of the group’s presidents, enlisted for the war. These were trying times.
Many women of the parish did their part for the war effort by sewing and knitting for the Red Cross.
Although the war ended in 1918, it was 1923 before the A.Y.P.A. was revived at St. Anne’s. The group then continued to function until the outbreak of the second world war in 1939.
Between the wars, the youth of the parish were active in area A.Y.P.A. competitions, held card parties and breakfast cookouts, participated in church services and gave dramatic presentations. In 1932, they performed “Good Morning Bill” in Byron and neighbouring villages. For many participants, this was the highlight of their experience with St. Anne’s A.Y.P.A.
St. Anne’s Guild
The women’s guild that operated at the church in the 1890s, apparently stopped functioning by the end of the nineteenth century. Subsequently, parochial work and fundraising had become somewhat haphazard, depending on new (or same-old) volunteers, every time a job needed doing.
But in 1922, the congregation was in high spirits. The church had just been electrified and members were ready to spread their wings in new ways.
The women of the parish were eager to meet the needs of the church in a more planned and organized fashion. Hence, with Durnford’s blessing, they met on an early summer afternoon in 1922, and formed St. Anne’s Guild. Isabella Durnford was named honorary president, with other officers being Alice Ormond, president, Matilda Hart, secretary, and Minnie Grove, treasurer.
Putting their heads together and hands to work at monthly meetings, guild members soon devised ways to raise money. They sold home baking, preserves, crafts and articles of sewing, hosted afternoon teas and social evenings. Profits were used for improvements to church property and occasionally for general church expenses.
One year, Ms. Durnford invited the guild to hold its June meeting at the rectory in Hyde Park, where the women served refreshments and offered home made goods for sale. This turned out to be the inauguration of the “June Tea,” an annual parish event for decades to come.
From the beginning, the guild also took on the duties of arranging flowers on the altar for special occasions (later, every Sunday), delivering food or flowers to the sick and bereaved, welcoming new babies with gifts, assisting with Sunday School picnics and Christmas programs.
Similar work is carried on in 2019 by the Anglican Church Women (A.C.W.).
The Cemetery Board
Care of the cemetery was sporadic through the early period of Durnford’s incumbency. The church wardens would call a “bee” when maintenance was needed, and no charge was made for burials.
But the congregation was in a mood to run its affairs more efficiently. When Durnford called a parish meeting in June, 1925, to consider the upkeep of the cemetery, many concerned parishioners turned out. A six-person Cemetery Board was established, three members being appointed by the rector and three being elected. Durnford named the two church wardens (Alfred Kains and Thomas Sulston) plus Wesley Meriam to the board; the congregation elected Mabel Wickerson, Leslie Griffeth and Elsie Frank.
A breakthrough decision was made at the first meeting, namely, that “a fee of ten dollars be charged for the privilege of breaking ground for a burial.” (from board minutes).
Furthermore, a committee was named to canvass for funds for cemetery maintenance. Canvassers received a “hearty vote of thanks” at a follow-up meeting a month later, when they reported collecting $147.75 for the cause. The same July evening, Mabel Wickerson became secretary-treasurer of the board, a position she held continuously and conscientiously until 1954.
The first custodian of the cemetery was Fred Kains who started work in the spring of 1926 for 40 cents an hour, and continued tending the grounds until 1933. He was followed by a Mr. Woollard.
There is nothing in cemetery board minutes to indicate that Kains and Woollard, as custodians, were expected to dig graves. However, William Handley, their successor in 1942, was responsible for digging the graves as well as maintaining the cemetery grounds. His starting wage was a meager 25 cents an hour, which was raised the next year, on Handley’s request, to 40 cents.
The cemetery board executed a number of improvements in the early years. They had earth hauled in to fill in the cemetery’s low spots, obtained proper drainage, started an endowment fund, and drew up a plan to ensure that the names and grave locations were correct. Seemly functioning of cemetery business was well-launched in Durnford’s time.
A Family Calling
Durnford’s ministry at St. Anne’s was a family affair. Several of his family members played an active part in parish life.
His wife, Isabella, for example, besides being honorary president of the guild, was also a Sunday School teacher, a choir member, and belonged to the Women’s Auxiliary.
When she died on August 2, 1931, the entire congregation mourned her loss.
Grace Bainard remembered the day of Ms. Durnford’s death this way: “One sad Sunday morning, our rector V.M. Durnford came as usual and conducted the service but instead of the sermon he said, ‘My dear wife died this morning at five o’clock.’ Quite a shock and some tears shed.”
With sympathy, prayers and support from the parish, Durnford carried on.
The Durnfords’ daughters, Mary (Tuckey) and Louise (later Clark), continued their active involvement at St. Anne’s. After the loss of her husband Arnold, Mary and her daughter, Mary Lou, resided in the rectory with Durnford.
Mary Tuckey made some significant contributions to the parish. Even though a Junior Auxiliary (for girls ages 6 to 10) had been started in 1917, it had only lasted for three years. In 1925, Mary revived the J.A. and also started a Girls Auxiliary for teenagers (ages 11 to 18). She ran both groups with assistance from other parishioners. Like the W.A., with whom they were affiliated, the girls’ branches supported missions. Later a Little Helpers group for tots under the age of seven was added. Mary, along with Muriel Foyston, led this group as well.
Mary was also a dedicated Sunday School teacher and her daughter, Mary Lou, attended Sunday School and J.A. at St. Anne’s.
Researched and written by Shirley Geigen Miller
Chapter VI - The Next Thirty-three Years
From 1877 to 1893, St. Anne’s endured a series of short incumbencies. The congregation apparently took this in stride. Having learned to be well-organized and to take charge during recent renovations, perhaps parishioners simply carried on in the same way. Every new rector was accepted into their midst in a leadership role. But the congregation had become accustomed to sharing in the responsibility for the affairs of the church and continued to do so.
After De Lew, Rev. Robert Fletcher was named rector for Glanworth, Lambeth and Byron. Scottish by birth, Fletcher ministered to St. Anne’s from 1878 to 1881. He was made rural dean while serving here.
Next came Rev. George Bloomfield Sage, a capable and personable young man who had just been ordained deacon. During his four years at St. Anne’s, he became highly regarded by the parish.
Sage was appointed to Byron and Lambeth in 1881, and was priested the following year. In 1882, the congregation at Hyde Park was added to his charge. At the time, services in Hyde Park were conducted in the village school. The Church of the Hosannas was built and opened in1888, said to be a result of Sage’s efforts there.
While rector at St. Anne’s, Sage resided in London and travelled to his services on horseback. Usually entertained for dinner on Sunday, horse included, he took the opportunity to get to know his parishioners. When he dined at the Kains home, he would wade his horse across the Thames River and proceed to Hyde Park through the woods.
The river was not always accommodating, however, and on one occasion, at least, Sage would not have been crossing it.
On July 11, 1883, the Thames became a torrent. Severe flooding washed away the Byron bridge and badly damaged Kenny’s grist mill, Sissons hame factory, a distillery, and the wooden dam at the pump house, upstream. Some 17 lives were lost in London and area due to the flooding.
Sage would have had his hands full ministering to a community affected by such devastation. Fortunately for him, he would soon have a life partner who would assist him in his parish work.
In 1884, he married Jessica Olivia English, who, besides helping her husband, would also make her own mark on the church as a leader of the diocesan Women’s Auxiliary.
Sage sustained a long and accomplished ministry in the Diocese of Huron. After serving in Byron, he was rector of St. George’s Church in London for over 50 years. He was made a canon in 1912, archdeacon in 1923, and was examining chaplain to three consecutive bishops.
He also spent a number of years as professor of apologetics and church history at Huron College. In a particularly lean period, when the college ran short of funds, Sage and others lectured free of charge. Recognition for his work came later, though, when the University of Western Ontario conferred on him an honorary doctor of laws degree (L.L.D.). Sage died in St. George’s rectory in August, 1938.
The Drive Shed
It was during Sage’s time at St. Anne’s that another building project was undertaken. The congregation decided to build a shed to house horses and buggies for parishioners attending services.
The wooden structure, open on one side, was erected to the west of the church in 1882 or 1884 (sources vary). According to historian Roy Kerr’s research, the builder was J. B. Wells with material being donated by the Kains brothers, Wesley Meriam, Meredith Ormond, Walter Boler, Henry Wickerson, Robert McEwen, Burley Janes and John Stevens.
The drive shed was a fixture beside the church for many years. Anne (Ormond) Keam, a life-long parishioner, remembered that, in the early twentieth century, a special walled section of the shed was reserved for the rector’s horse, and that all the horses would be covered with warm blankets against inclement weather.
“If there was not enough room for all the parishioners’ horses, [some] would have to be tethered outside,” she added.
The drive shed had another important use, as well.
“The school [next door] always had a ‘Fair’ in September and the shed would be used as a market where chickens, eggs and produce of all kinds would be sold. This was a special and happy day for the people of Byron,” said Anne. (from “Serendipity,” memories of St. Anne’s seniors, 2003)
The shed was dismantled and removed in 1937 after the coming of the automobile made it redundant.
More Short Incumbencies
From 1885 to 1888, following Sage, Rev. Clarence Widmer Ball was rector of Glanworth, Lambeth and Byron churches. Ball had been a lawyer for a few years before entering the study of theology in Toronto.
In Westminster Township, he lived in the rectory at Glanworth, and married a local woman, Frances Shore, in 1888. Soon afterwards, the couple moved to Port Burwell where the work of this kindly man was cut short. He was struck while driving his horse and buggy to a service in 1893.
The next incumbent of St. Anne’s lasted only a few months. Rev. Richard Dingwall Freeman was assigned to Lambeth, Byron and Glanworth in May 1888. He died in October and was buried at Glanworth.
Still another short incumbency followed. Rev. Simeon Emmanuel Gottfried Edelstein was appointed to Byron, Glanworth and Lambeth at the beginning of 1889. Eighteen months later the parishes were realigned and Byron became attached to the Ilderton and Hyde Park congregations. This meant Edelstein was no longer rector of St. Anne’s. He did minister at Lambeth and Glanworth, however, for a full 20 years.
Edelstein was known as a man of deep spirituality and high moral character. Born in Poland of Jewish parents, he later converted to Christianity and migrated to Canada He was ordained deacon in 1877 and priest in 1878 by Bishop Hellmuth. Edelstein and his wife, Elizabeth Mary, had four children. Besides fulfilling pastoral and family responsibilities, Edelstein was also a professor of Hebrew at Huron College for 15 years.
The arrival of Rev. Henry Robert Diehl, on July 1, 1890, heralded a lively three years for the parish of St. Anne’s. A freshly-ordained deacon, Diehl took on his charges at Byron, Hyde Park and Ilderton, with vigour. He was soon ordained priest in 1891 by Bishop Baldwin.
His time at St. Anne’s was marked by many parish social events, with Diehl himself sometimes providing entertainment. His tenure also saw the formation of a women’s (then called “ladies’”) guild, although the group was later disbanded. And during his incumbency, Diehl encouraged inclusiveness by inviting other churches and denominations to take part in parish events.
Some of the social occasions were reported in the London Advertiser, a London daily newspaper that competed with The Free Press for many years. Among the events given coverage in the Advertiser were:
- a program of music and recitations presented by the Sunday school, featuring an opening address by 13-year-old Mabel Wickerson, and solos by the rector and his brother, Rev. Louis W. Diehl (January, 1891);
- a Sunday school picnic, sponsored by St. Anne’s, to which “four other Sunday schools [were] invited viz., the Methodists of Byron and the English, Presbyterian and Methodists of Hyde Park.” After races and “an excellent tea,” activities concluded with a “keenly contested tug-of-war” between Hyde Park and Byron, (June 30, 1891);
- a garden party and concert, sponsored by the guild, held “in the open air by torchlight” in James Griffith Grove. Musical entertainment included the Routledge Orchestra of Hyde Park. Tea and strawberries were served. (June 30, 1893).
The good times notwithstanding, Diehl’s departure was on the horizon. A controversy arose in the parish over the rector’s position on a theological issue. The following article published by the London Advertiser on August 18, 1893, helps explain the situation.
“A correspondent from near Byron writes, ‘A largely signed petition has been gotten up both here and at Hyde Park, asking [the] Rev. Mr. Diehl, Church of England, to resign his charge in both places. The cause of this action … arises from some alleged heterodoxy on the part of the reverend gentleman. He emphatically denies the Scriptural authority for eternal punishment and he further asserts that there is nothing in the articles or dogmas of the Episcopal church that teaches eternal punishment.’
“Quite a sensation has been created in religious circles in Byron and Hyde Park … and the Rev. Mr. Diehl has a great many sympathizers in all the churches. Several in both congregations in Byron and Hyde Park have appealed to the Bishop of Huron on the matter and it is thought a commission at an early day may be appointed to try the case and determine this theological point.”
It is unlikely there was ever a commission or a trial. However, on August 31, 1893, less than two weeks after publication of the aforementioned article, Henry Diehl resigned from this three-point parish. He was appointed to Florence and Aughrim parishes (north of Chatham) in September and married Caroline Maria soon afterwards. Diehl served in various churches throughout the diocese for the next 40 years. He died in 1943.
Given the circumstances of Diehl’s resignation, it could have been a tricky situation for a new rector entering the congregation. The parish needed a minister who could calm the waters and steer a steady course. The next rector, Rev. Arthur Hugh Rhodes, an Englishman and a man of strong faith, was the right man for the job.
Rhodes took the congregations at Byron, Ilderton and Hyde Park in October, 1893. His was to be the longest incumbency any of them had seen yet, which, in itself, brought stability to the congregations. During his tenure, Grace Church in Ilderton was built and opened in 1896, giving the Anglican community there a permanent home.
Rhodes had been ordained priest by Bishop Baldwin in 1892. He married Eva Lorena Jane in early 1893, and after his new appointment, the couple moved into a home of their own in Hyde Park.
Fred Kains (of St. Anne’s), who was helping them move, stopped to rest after wrestling with a heavy piano. He remarked, “We won’t move you again for 10 years.” His words turned out to be prophetic. Rhodes did not resign until 1903.
During his incumbency, Rhodes spent long hours visiting parishioners, sitting with them in times of sickness and grief, and even giving money if needed. He became a familiar figure driving along the road between Hyde Park and Byron with a fine Shetland pony. Sometimes those journeys presented challenges.
A story is told about Rhodes making his way to St. Anne’s for services at a time when Byron bridge was closed to vehicular traffic. Tying his pony to a fence under the trees at the top of the riverbank, he would descend the steep hill and cross the bridge on foot.
Such was this cleric’s commitment.
At the time, the rector’s total annual stipend from the three parishes was $750. With four children and a home to maintain, Rhodes could have used every penny. Still, he managed to spare some for those in greater need.
Years later, his daughter, Frances Rhodes, wrote: “Father’s great passion was to win souls to Christ. He so often quoted, ‘For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.’ I Corinthians 2:2. He endeavoured to lose no opportunity in sermon or conversation.” (from The Story of St. Anne’s)
In his preaching, Rhodes was evangelistic and his services were augmented with music. While specific details are not available, it is known that an old pump organ, an organist and a choir were in place at St. Anne’s before the turn of the century.
Parish social events, which had become traditions by then, continued as usual, during Rhodes’ tenure. The London Advertiser, once again, provided coverage. In its June 20, 1896 edition, the newspaper reported that the annual garden party, strawberry festival and concert had taken place the evening before “at the residence of Misses Flint … in aid of the guild of St. Anne’s Church.”
“Everything was done ‘up to date,’” the article said. The program included a humorous speech, rousing music, and an address by the rector.
The Women’s Auxiliary
It was also in Rhodes’ time, that the women of St. Anne’s decided to move their focus beyond the immediate community and assist the broader church. Inspired by Jessica Sage, who spoke to them in June, 1900 on behalf of the diocesan Women’s Auxiliary (W.A.), the Byron women formed a W.A. branch of their own.
In so doing, they joined Anglican women from across the country who supported missions in Canada and overseas. In practical terms, this meant sewing and quilting and sending bales of items to native missions in the Canadian north, plus raising funds for foreign missions. At their gatherings, the women learned about and prayed for missions around the world.
With the guidance of Ms. Sage, (wife of former rector Rev. George B. Sage), the St. Anne’s group organized immediately, electing Elizabeth (known as Lily) Kains as president, Mabel Wickerson secretary, and Margaret Kenny treasurer. Then they set to work.
Scrounging materials wherever they could find them, the W.A. met in members’ homes, hand-sewing garments and household articles (no electricity in those days), and forwarding their output for missions. Quilt-making was a major activity for the group. For several years they gathered fortnightly, then changed to monthly meetings. Tea, a biscuit, and a good chinwag, were no doubt part of the agenda.
The tasks begun by these dedicated women have been carried on by succeeding generations.
At a national level, the establishment of the W.A. made a significant impact on the mission work of the church. Even though the official mission society remained male-controlled, a shift in this ministry occurred. Women, in large numbers, were now involved. And they were organized.
Founded in 1885 by Roberta Tilton of Ottawa, the W.A. touched the hearts of Anglican women and spread rapidly. Within 23 years, there were branches across Canada – including the one at St. Anne’s.
The rector must have been gratified to see this development of outreach in the parish.
Leaving St. Anne’s on a solid footing, Rhodes went on to Point Edward where he served for 26 years. At his funeral in 1936, Bishop Charles Seager said: “I thank God for men of the caliber of Mr. Rhodes.”
His successor at St. Anne’s, Rev. Henry Heylon Tancock, is remembered as a jolly man who enjoyed children. He became rector of Byron, Hyde Park and Ilderton in 1904. Maintaining his own home in London, he drove a horse and buggy to the three parishes.
Although born in England, Tancock had come to Canada at a young age, and had been a choir boy at St. Paul’s Cathedral in nearby London. A fine singer, he often rounded off his service with a solo. He made much of baptisms and gave gifts to the babies.
Ordained deacon in 1897 and priest in 1898 by Bishop Baldwin, Tancock married Alice Claris of St. Thomas. He left St. Anne’s in 1911 and went to Norwich.
By then, the world had changed. The twentieth century had arrived, the Victorian era had ended (Queen Victoria died in 1901 after a 64-year reign), and an eagerness for progress was in the air.
The landscape around Byron had changed as well. After purchasing acres of riverfront property, the city of London had opened Springbank Park to the public in 1896. It was situated right on Byron’s doorstep. At first, residents of London reached the 325-acre park by horse-drawn streetcars. Later the tramline was electrified. Either way, Londoners came by the thousands to enjoy the immense parkland - a park that neighbourhood villagers could access, on foot, every day. Springbank Park remains a major city and area attraction in 2019.
Probably the biggest lifestyle change for Byron residents in the period, however, was due to the arrival of the household telephone. Day-to-day life altered in this rural community, after local folk formed the independent Byron Telephone Company in 1906. Soon lines were extended throughout the district and a telephone became a “must have” for homes and businesses alike. Byron, by this time, was connected.