Religion

This page is from a heritage partnered project. It was written in 1998 by students from Mount Pearl Junior High and edited by their teachers. It has not been vetted by the heritage website's academic editor.

In rural Newfoundland and Labrador, religion was often the core of the community. For these small communities were there was so little, the church was often the center of activity; where worship and social gatherings alike would occur. If your community had a regular clergyman, you were very lucky. In most cases, Sunday was a day almost entirely devoted to worship, Sunday school and visiting between friends and family.

The Importance of Religion

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Mr. Edgar Mudge

"I remember one time, I was probably about twenty. I was visiting a little tiny community on the Northern Peninsula and the bishop was about to arrive to do a confirmation. This was an Anglican bishop to do a confirmation. There was a great to-do about this. I took part in preparing an arch--a big arch--because he had to come in by boat. There were no roads there. On the wharf that he was going to walk in to we made a big arch made of green boughs with a big sign, "Welcome Our Bishop" on it. The women of the community had a lot of home- hooked mats--those large mats that you would hook. You see the Grenfell Mission selling them for lots of money. From where the bishop walked in, mats would be placed down all the way from there to the church so that the bishop could walk . . . like, remember the story of our Lord coming into the city and they cut down the palm branches and so on . . . he walked to the church on mats so that he couldn't have to walk on those gravel roads."

"A lot of men of the community would go out in their boats to greet him as the boat that he was coming in came in the harbour. I could picture now. They used the old sealing muskets to greet him because that was a form of greeting. Shooting off guns--New Year's Eve--shooting off guns. They would take these big old muzzle-loading guns with black powder and they'd load up. They'd start with like a finger; they'd call it. One finger was simply, you'd hold up a rod and when you'd pour it in you had that much powder. That's one finger, then two fingers--then five fingers! You'd have about this much black powder. Of course you'd look out and you'd see the puff of smoke, and flame, and then you'd hear the rumble coming in as those big old guns were fired off to greet the bishop. Of course, there was always an accident going to happen. I remember this particular time, one of the guys had a full load of powder in and he didn't have the old musket held tightly enough and it recoiled and the hammer came back and hooked in his hand and, you know, just did a number on his hand. Always happened, always when they were doing their thing with these old sealing muskets. That was a typical kind of greeting for the bishop. Bishops especially, but even clergymen were held in very high esteem with a degree of awe. My father never went to school very much in his life, and he could not read or anything like that, but tremendous respect for people like that. Whenever he was in the presence, and not only him, but all the men of the community, when they were in the presence of the minister-- always tilt your cap as a sign of respect."

The following is taken from in interview with Mrs. Ruth Anthony.

"Religion played a big role in my family. I was taken to Sunday school at a very young age, perhaps when I was a toddler. My mother was very involved, more so than my father. We would go to church in the morning and back to Sunday school for the afternoon. When I was in Junior High I helped out with the preschool class. By the time I was in high school I had my own Sunday school class. By that time Dr. Thomas, head of the Grenfell association did a Bible study class Sunday afternoon for high school students. Then we would go back to church Sunday night for choir practice."

"I practically lived in church on Sundays. I do remember this when I was 5 or 6 years old my grandmother came to live with us and I wasn't permitted to skate or ski or do anything like that on Sundays. Scissors didn't come out; you could use crayons or whatever but you weren't allowed to cut anything. I remember that when I got a bit older when all my friends would go skating my mother would put my skates out by the backdoor and I would sneak out because my grandmother wouldn't allow it."

Role of the Clergy

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Mr. Jim Langor.

"The minister of course would often be one of the most highly educated people in the community and he would be called upon for all kinds of tasks and things to do. If somebody wanted to write a letter, for example, to somebody in the government or somebody in an official way, the minister would be asked to do it."

Church and Social Events

As well as being the place of worship in a community, the church was often also the center of social activity. Usually, special dinners and social teas would be held there as it was an important, if not the most important, building in the community. Visiting among friends in the community was often also associated with Sunday worship. After church in the morning, family and friends would visit and gather together on their day of rest. Also, many of the holidays and festivals celebrated in the community were part of the Christian calendar such as Christmas and Easter. It can be said that the church was the social heart of the community.

Mrs. M. Rodgers told us in her interview that when she was growing up she had a huge crush on a boy but he was Pentecostal and she was Anglican. Her mother forbid her to go out with anyone who was Pentecostal. Today he is a millionaire and she looks backs at it and laughs.

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Mr. Jim Langor

"There was very little in the way of, I guess, organized groups and things like that in the communities but the church organized fund-raising events, social teas and dinners and things like that to raise money and also to provide entertainment for the members of the community. So the church was really the focal point of a lot of activities and involvement of people in the community socially. The church also, of course, because the ministers often didn't live in the communities full-time, they would welcome people coming in and visiting from other communities. If there was a church service in one community on a Sunday evening or afternoon, people would normally try to get there from other surrounding communities too. So it was a way to bring people together, not only in their communities, but from surrounding communities as well. So the church was really was one of the most basic, I guess, of the important elements of life in those tiny communities on our coast."

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Mrs. Glenda Knight

"Here's how it began and this is the truth. At 10:30 we had to go to what was called junior soldiers were we learned about the catechism of the church or what the church believed in. 11:00 then we had to go to church. 2:30 was Sunday school. 4:30 was singing company, which you people would probably know as junior choir in our church. 6:30 was junior was junior soldiers. Church was again at 7:00 and sometimes church would last until 10:00 and we had to stay 'til the end. Then we'd have to get up and go to school. We were not allowed to leave the porch, knit, ride our bike, go to the store, or buy ice cream. Sometimes I would keep $0.10 from my Sunday school money and go up to the little store called Powers and she used to make candy. Instead of putting $0.25 I'd only put $0.15 and go up and buy $0.10 of candy. I was found out once and wasn't able to go anymore then. Right? Sunday was a day really for Church and family."

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