100 years and still going 0
The Haliburton United Church's pews were packed for this past Sunday's service, as it marked the 100th anniversary of the building and included past pastor John James. The event started with a ceremonial march by the Haliburton Highlanders Pipes and Drums down Highland Street. DARREN LUM/HALIBURTON ECHO/QMI AGENCY
From the sound of the Haliburton Highlanders Pipes and Drums as they made their way down Highland Street to the Haliburton United Church, to the beaming smiles of the current and past members of its congregation, there was no denying the strength of its 100 years.
This past Sunday the Haliburton United Church came together for a service and to celebrate the building's 100 years. It was packed and, despite balmy weather, there was a comfort conveyed through the words spoken from the front and the hymns sung such as Holy Holy (a weekly tradition) for the landmark anniversary celebration.
It included dignitaries such as Haliburton County Warden and Dysart Reeve Murray Fearrey and MP Barry Devolin.
Past pastor John James (January, 1981 to June, 1986), who was the guest speaker from Niagara Falls, recognized the milestone, but believes the race is far from over.
He credited the faith, toughness and perseverance of the church's congregation and praised the legacy of others who came before. Barbara, his wife of 39 years, summed it best for both of them when she wrote in the guest book, "home again."
To this day, James cannot believe what happened when he braved a cold Sunday in 1981 for his first visit to the church and its congregation.
"The Sunday we arrived was a bitter cold [day] . they gave us a standing ovation for showing up. I hadn't done anything yet," he said. "There was food in the oven when we arrived at the house."
James, 27 at the time, said the warmth he felt from the congregation extended to the community of Haliburton.
He said these were his formative years.
More than 20 years have passed since he served here, leaving for Mount Forest, serving Mount Forest United Church for four years before going to his current service at St. Andrew's United Church in Niagara Falls. He has served that church's congregation for 22 years.
He is inspired to know the congregation continues and the place he remembers vividly exists.
"There's a real sense of perseverance and determination," he said.
The church came from the First Methodist and Presbyterian Churches joining, and was named United in 1925. The building seen today was constructed in 1912 by the First Methodist Church and has gone through a few changes from expansions to renovations over the years. This union between the Presbyterians and the Methodists in 1918 predates the eventual national union of the two dominations as the United Church of Canada by seven years.
Harry Morgan, the church's current pastor, said he has grown in his 20 years serving the church, as part of his pastoral charge that includes churches in Ingoldsby and Lochlin.
He was honoured to be part of the anniversary, but credits the congregation for its longevity and vitality.
"The people make it work and make it happen. The congregation itself work hard to make this place a place of worship and witness," he said. "We try hard to be a place of outreach and be involved with the community."
Youth Unlimited and the 4Cs are a few of the things it is involved with.
Morgan, who is as skilled with oration as he is with a guitar, has been a pastor for the past 20 years.
Although the church's congregation numbers have remained constant, he said, there is not the same regular attendance as there used to be. He acknowledges the societal change, which influences the place church and religion has in people's lives.
"It's a day of dwindling congregations across the nation. How do we serve the community in that kind of changing cultural shift. It's a post-Christian world we live in. That presents pretty big challenges," he said. "It's forced us to think why are we here? We're here to serve others and we need to do that effectively to have a right to have our say. To say, if we want to proclaim the goodness of Jesus Christ that has to be lived out in some way that is visible."
Morgan tries to engage more people and give an interactive experience for potential additions to the congregation.
He said the church is looking to expand upon its outreach programs.
He isn't certain about what will happen in the next 100 years except that "it's a time of hope and a time of challenge," he said.
- with files from the Haliburton United Church