Researched and written by Shirley Geigen Miller
Chapter X - Metamorphosis Continues
More on the 1940s
By the time of Rev. French’s departure in February, 1945, the members of St. Anne’s were well-practiced at taking responsibility for the functioning of the church. They had also learned to co-operate and negotiate with the other two churches in the three-point parish. A growth-spurt indeed.
Just as French had empowered church members to serve as leaders, parishioners could now empower each other to accept opportunities to serve.
To be sure, the priest would always be the spiritual/pastoral leader who would also act as adviser, listener, teacher, visionary, administrator or cheerleader, as required. Still, many parishioners now saw their own roles as being essential to the life of the faith community, as well.
In this spirit, St. Anne’s welcomed their next priest, the Rev. John William Donaldson into their midst on April 22, 1945. The son of a priest and a “seasoned” priest himself, Donaldson brought his own gifts and experiences to his ministry at Byron, Hyde Park and Lambeth.
John W. Donaldson was born in Halifax in 1907, grew up in Nova Scotia and graduated from Dalhousie University with a B.A. He earned a Licentiate in Theology (L.Th) from Wycliffe College in Toronto and was ordained deacon in 1934 by Bishop Warrell of Nova Scotia. Then he went to serve “Christ and His church” in the Peace River District of Alberta.
In April, 1935 he married Katherine Elizabeth Hessey at Spirit River and in May he was ordained priest at Peace River by Bishop Sovereign of Athabasca. Living near two rivers with inspiring names – Spirit and Peace – the couple spent over five years in the area with Donaldson serving the church as he intended.
In 1941 the Donaldsons travelled east to Ontario, entering the Diocese of Huron. At the bidding of Bishop Charles Seager, Rev. Donaldson ministered at Ailsa Craig (a three-point-parish), and then at Lucknow (a four-point-parish), before arriving at Byron, Hyde Park and Lambeth in April, 1945. The Donaldsons moved into the rectory at Hyde Park.
At this time, all three of the parish communities - Byron, Hyde Park and Lambeth - were experiencing rapid population increases. St. Anne’s was struggling to accommodate the needs of a “fast-growing” congregation.
Board of Management considered putting an addition on the West Wing to create more space for the Sunday School. But there was a snag. The Canadian government had imposed wartime restrictions on many construction materials which were needed by the military. Any materials available were expensive. The board put the plan on hold until restrictions were lifted and construction was “feasible”.
In this time period, Kae Hart resigned as Sunday School Superintendent. Milton Keam and J. R. Mitchell acted as superintendents from 1945 to 1948.
In May, 1945, when the board was informed that the primary Sunday School class had doubled in size, board members ordered “another table and benches.” (from board minutes)
A more realistic solution would be found later.
War Front News
Into the midst of this quandary came good news from the war front. On May 8, 1945, Germany surrendered to the Western Allies and to Russia on May 9. Both dates marked V-E Day, Victory in Europe. A relief in stressful times.
War in the Pacific Theatre, however, was to continue for another four months. The people of St. Anne’s, of course, had no idea when the war would be over. They turned to a more do-able project at the church. With so many factors beyond their control, there was one thing they COULD do – build a fence.
For some time, the congregation had liked the idea of installing a new fence across the front of the church building. Iron and wood fencing were in short supply, therefore costly. A stone fence, however, was in the financial ballpark.
On Sunday, April 29, 1945, at a meeting of the congregation, the board presented a proposal for a stone fence. The members of St. Anne’s approved the proposal and urged the board to hire an architect and proceed.
Action was taken immediately. There were sketches by an architect, a detailed design by stonemason, Alfred Frank, and a fund for the stone fence was started by the Bible Class.
The adult Bible class, led by layreader W.P. Simpson, ran for several years in the 1940s.
Enthusiasm for the new stone fence seems to have touched most sectors of the congregation. Whether it was because of the fence itself or because the project gave parishioners a diversion from worldwide woes, we’ll never know.
However, in July, 1945, circumstances suddenly changed. From the first of the month, some restrictions on construction materials were lifted.
During a meeting of Board of Management on July, 10, parishioner George Cotton presented the wardens with a cheque for $500. toward the fence. He said that “more [money] would be given if needed” and “he and his wife wish the fence to be whatever the people wanted.” (from board minutes)
The end result from Cotton’s generous gift was – not a stone fence – but a wrought iron gate and fence with stone pillars. As Grace Bainard put it, the fence “makes a graceful and dignified entrance to the church.”
In early August, the United States took action against Japan, dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The devastation caused by the bombs was huge. On Aug. 15, Japan announced its intention to surrender. The formal surrender took place on Sept 2, 1945, officially ending the Second Global War.
Between the date of Japan’s intention to surrender and the date of formal surrender Rev. Donaldson held a “peace service” at St. Anne’s on Aug. 19.
Meanwhile, some of the younger church members had already been thinking ahead. The Junior Auxiliary (JA) had presented the church with an Honour Roll listing the names of St. Anne’s members who did active service in the war.
The JA was a group of pre-teen girls affiliated with the Women’s Auxiliary (WA). Names on the Honour Roll were inscribed by Kae Hart and the Roll was placed in the church entrance.
Sunday School Accommodations
Then the congregation was ready to tackle a pressing issue – the overcrowded Sunday School.
Still expecting to build an addition on the parish room in the near future, church members looked for a temporary solution. It was found quickly. St. Anne’s was fortunate to obtain permission to use a classroom in the “old school” next door. The church could avail the classroom on Sunday mornings until an extension to the West Wing was possible.
Due to unforeseen circumstances that addition was never built. And temporary solutions for the Sunday School would be needed for more than 10 years. Nevertheless the issue of the overcrowded Sunday School WAS resolved. For the time being.
It was an era when circumstances and regulations were constantly changing. St. Anne’s successfully adapted to the needs of this chaotic time.
Through it all, the congregation faithfully maintained a Sunday School program for an ever-growing number of children. This required more teachers and helpers, more supplies, more planning and organization. At various times, classes were held in the church nave, the parish room, the old school, the church basement, and eventually the rectory, to meet the need.
In total, all these sites helped provide enough room to accommodate those who came to learn the Faith.
In his rector’s report to the annual Vestry meeting, January 20, 1946, Rev. Donaldson remarked on how unforgettable the year 1945 had been. He urged parishioners to give “heartfelt gratitude to God for the great victory.”
He also introduced the Anglican Advance Appeal campaign. A donation to the appeal would be a thank-offering for the victorious ending of the war and would be used to support the church’s work throughout Canada.
There were now 53 families on the parish roll – a total of 192 souls. Average attendance at Sunday services had risen to 58.
During vestry, Thomas Sulston was recognized for his 35 years of untiring service as People’s Warden for St. Anne’s. Archie Kains presented him with a billfold and $50.
A year later Mr. Sulston was laid to rest in St. Anne’s Cemetery.
During the remainder of 1946 and 1947, St. Anne’s dealt with a number of issues simultaneously. They will follow, one at a time, for the sake of clarity.
William Handley was the church sexton, also known as custodian, from 1942 to 1955. He cleaned the church and parish room and saw that they were properly heated as needed. He tended the gas furnace. When the classroom in the old school was being used by the Sunday School, Handley cleaned that as well. In winter he kept the school’s coal furnace operating on Sunday mornings.
Besides all this, the sexton was responsible for maintaining the cemetery which included digging the graves. (from A History of St. Anne’s Anglican Cemetery)
In late 1946 or early 1947 “an unfortunate accident occurred when our sexton, Mr. Wm. Handley was badly burned while inspecting the gas furnace…The explosion caused considerable damage to the heating equipment. (from Grace Bainard)
Handley’s injuries were so severe, he required in-hospital care. This was long before OHIP was in effect.
On April 17, 1947, Board of Management received a letter from Handley about making a claim on Union Gas Company [for damages]. Board member A.R. Clinchy agreed to contact the gas company on Handley’s behalf. (Board Minutes)
A reply from Union Gas was read to the board on June 5. The company wrote that “they do not accept nor assume any responsibility” [for the incident]. (Board Minutes)
The board moved to “offer Handley payment of his doctors and hospital bills to the end of his stay in hospital” and to “inform him that neither the gas company nor the church accept responsibility.” (Minutes, June 5, 1947)
The church would later have the furnace repaired by Stacey & Co. Then on Sept 21, 1948, the board announced that $200 had been “paid by the insurance company for damage to the furnace.” (Minutes)
While St. Anne’s was dealing with issues involving the sexton and the furnace, they were also grappling with a bigger challenge.
A Crack in the Wall
W.P. Simpson was the first to publicly sound the alarm.
In September, 1946 he spoke of the large crack in the church’s northwest wall, a crack that was gradually increasing. He predicted “they would have to erect buttments at each corner to balance or else tear it all down.” (from Board of Management Minutes, Sept. 11, 1946)
Simpson’s warnings went unheeded for several months, until…. On Jan.31, 1947, Rev. Donaldson raised the matter of “repairs to the north end of the church,” (from Board Minutes)
THEN the action started. A committee was formed which, in turn, engaged Philip Johnson as architect to make an assessment of the north end and make recommendations.
Johnson was a parishioner, familiar with the building. His professional findings included: the church building was sagging and falling away from the windows, the ceiling could collapse, the foundation was inadequate and needed to be upgraded, and the northwest wall had to come down. (April, 1947). By September, Johnson added the “rotten state of the wood in the porchway” to the list.
Addressing Board of Management on Sept. 10, 1947, Philip Johnson, architect, stated: “If there was any idea of extending the church, now would be the time to do it. The approximate cost of adding 10 feet would be $3,500.” The contractor would be a Mr. McClure.” (Board Minutes)
After much discussion, the board agreed to put the matter to the congregation with the board recommending the 10-foot extension. (Minutes)
Four days later the congregation approved the addition.
Once again a major project was under way. The work would include rebuilding the whole north end of the church and porch, plus extending the church to the north by 10 feet.
Financing the Project
St. Anne’s launched a fundraising campaign the week of October 19, 1947. The goal was to raise $4,000 in one year.
Rev. Donaldson got the ball rolling. He prepared a mimeographed letter to send to current and former parishioners of St. Anne’s, explaining the reason for the campaign. The letter was endorsed by Archie Kains (Rector’s Warden) and A.B. Sabine (People’s Warden). A mailing committee of five church women readied and posted the letters.
Shortly thereafter – with work on the building already in progress – canvassers visited all members of the church. These dedicated canvassers answered questions on the building project and offered suggestions for making cash or pledge contributions.
Just three months later, the building committee reported the campaign results to date: $3,245.06 received and approximately $1,000 [in pledges] still to come in. (from Annual Vestry Minutes, Jan. 29, 1948).
The campaign had surpassed its target. This was a great blessing to St. Anne’s, especially as the full $4,200. was needed in the end. An extra $400. had been required for strapping the church with InsulBoard and $50. more went to a new porch roof.
With the nave out of bounds due to rebuilding, changes were made to keep the church functioning. Sunday services were held in the West Wing and a couple of Sunday School classes were moved to the church basement. Worshippers and children, at their appointed times, entered by the West Wing door.
Current parishioner Barbara Kightley remembers attending Sunday School in the church basement.
A Pile of Dirt
In June, 1946, the sexton requested the removal of a pile of dirt in the cemetery at the back of the church. The request was approved by Board of Management, but follow-through was delayed until running water could be installed in the West Wing. Water installation was completed in Sept. 1946. Then a bee was arranged for Oct. 7, when willing church members removed the pile of dirt and distributed it as needed in the cemetery.
Rectory Costs – Paying our Share
In January, 1947, the rector pointed out that Church of the Hosannas had been paying all the taxes on the rectory at Hyde Park for some years. He wondered why Hyde Park had “shouldered the expense entirely.” (from Board of Management minutes)
As a result, St. Anne’s board voted to pay one third of the taxes for the rectory. (from board minutes, March 5, 1947). This may sound like a reasonable response but it’s not the end of the story
Hosannas had been paying the insurance on the rectory for some time, as well, without any input from St. Anne’s or Trinity. The cost of insurance and taxes together was $50 a year. Negotiations by the three congregations were required.
Hence, wardens from Hosannas, St. Anne’s and Trinity met on May 20, 1947 to discuss rectory expenses. A motion was put forward that rectory costs be met on the same basis as the rector’s stipend. Archie Kains, from St. Anne’s, said he wanted to speak to his Board of Management before agreeing to the motion. (from meeting minutes). Archie’s uncertainty may have been because Byron’s share of the rector’s stipend was now 50 per cent. Hyde Park and Lambeth contributed 25 per cent each. It was no longer an even three-way split.
Nevertheless, after discussion, St. Anne’s board decided in July, “to pay our pro rata share of taxes, insurance, telephone and minor repairs” at the rectory. (from minutes)
Precisely when the rector’s stipend arrangements were changed, is not clear. However, it is likely the stipend shares for the three-point parish were modified sometime between January 1944 and March 1945. Curiously, St. Anne’s Board of Management minutes for the relevant 14-month period are either missing or were not recorded. They are not located at the Diocesan archives nor have they been found at St. Anne’s. It seems highly unlikely that the board would stop meeting altogether for such a long stretch. They must have met “in camera” (i.e. in private).
After the 14- month hiatus, board minutes went on as usual and St. Anne’s 50 per cent share of the stipend was definitely in effect. The change occurred, therefore, during the latter months of Rev. French’s incumbency.
As to why the rector’s stipend payment was changed?
Archdeacon Tanya Phibbs explains: “The stipend arrangement would have been negotiated among the three parishes according to the time the rector spent ministering to each one.”
This is the same today for multi-point parishes. Churches that need or want more of the rector’s time, agree to pay a larger share, while those requiring less of the rector’s time pay a smaller share. Reasons for wanting more time can vary. It could relate to the number of members in the various churches. But not necessarily.
In Byron’s case in 1944-45, it may simply have been that St. Anne’s parishioners enjoyed getting to know their rector as a friend. What better way to do that, than to have more of his/her time?
The first thing that Byron, Hyde Park and Lambeth probably agreed upon was to negotiate in private and not to keep minutes. No surprise this time - records of these negotiation meetings from Trinity and Hosannas are not located in the Diocesan Archives, either. So all three kept that agreement!
The Rector – A Profile
Rev. John Donaldson seems to have been a mild-mannered priest with the strength and patience of God within him. He arrived into St. Anne’s during a chaotic time – in the world (due to World War 2), in the community of Byron (due to a population explosion), and in the church itself (where parishioners were dealing with changing realities). Through it all, Donaldson was a steadying presence as he focused on his purpose…. “For Christ and His Church.” (Donaldson’s slogan)
He was compassionate as was shown in his kindness toward the sexton, William Handley. Handley’s pay had started at 40 cents an hour in 1942, and was increased by small increments thereafter. At the annual Vestry meeting, January, 1947, Donaldson proposed that St. Anne’s supply Handley with a telephone. But “due to a shortage of phone equipment, the matter was put over to next year.” Handley did receive a raise that day, however, of $3, per quarter, making his annual income $108.75. (from vestry minutes)
Whether Handley ever received a telephone was not recorded. He may have. Or not. Perhaps he preferred the extra pay anyway. And maybe the rector’s gesture moved church members to respond kindly.
Donaldson was also a man of integrity. Later in January, he asked the Board of Management to ask the school board for a bill for the coal being used on winter Sunday mornings. To him, it was enough that the school board provided space for a Sunday School class. His intention was not to cause the school board extra expense.
Again, the result of his gesture was not recorded.
A major piece of Donaldson’s profile was the wholehearted support, help and advice he gave to the entire congregation, as they worked through the upheaval of church reconstruction and raised all the money required for the project. Whenever the rector himself was unsure about something, he visited the bishop (Seager) for advice.
Given the rector’s attributes, the members of St. Anne’s were dismayed when he made an unexpected announcement on Nov. 17, 1947.
Speaking to Board of Management, Donaldson said the bishop had asked him to undertake missionary work at Muncey. Stressing he could not ignore this challenge, he cited two factors in favor of him accepting the new post. (1.) ”The living conditions might be happier, at least as far as his wife was concerned,” and (2.) “the nature of the work as the bishop expressed it was quite a challenge.” (from board minutes.)
Reaction was swift. “Bebe McEwan expressed the regret we all felt at the thought of Mr. Donaldson leaving us and said how tremendously we should all miss him.” And “Archie Kains expressed regret and indignation that the bishop had seen fit to suggest Mr. Donaldson’s removal from us.” (minutes)
Two ways of expressing the pain of loss.
The rector “promised to see the bishop again and said he had no idea the people of St. Anne’s might want him to stay on.”
John Donaldson’s last Sunday services in the three-point parish took place on Jan. 4, 1948, after two-and-a-half years of ministry here. He also resigned as AYPA and SS secretary of West Middlesex, a position he held throughout 1947.
After serving at Muncey, Chippewa and Oneida for two years, he transferred to the Diocese of Arizona, in 1950. But Donaldson didn’t forget the people of Byron.
Prior to this church’s 100th anniversary (1953) he sent greetings to all at St. Anne’s from Morenci, Arizona. (from Grace Bainard)
Following Rev. Donaldson’s departure, the three-point parish was pleased to receive the Rev. Sidney Semple as their interim priest. Semple was a pioneer in his field of work as an industrial chaplain. With the bishop’s blessing he served the workers of three major industries in London.
Using a pastoral ministry of listening, he sought to help, not convert, those who came to him for counsel. As a chaplain, he accepted all who asked for his services, regardless of church affiliation. (from London Free Press)
Semple put his regular work on hold to minister to Byron, Hyde Park and Lambeth for nearly eight months, until a permanent priest was confirmed. According to Grace Bainard, Rev. Sidney Semple “made many friends” at St. Anne’s.