The Blue Banner

The Blue Banner: The Presbyterian Church of Saint David and Presbyterian Witness in Halifax

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    The Blue Banner
    Book Description:

    The Blue Banner is a case study of the survival of historic denominationalism grounded in resistance to church union. It traces the origins and near demise of Presbyterianism in Nova Scotia and the development of Saint David's from its beginnings as a new congregation and the only site of Presbyterian witness in metropolitan Halifax. The authors look at various aspects of congregational life - corporate structure and governance, education, worship and music, volunteerism, mission and outreach, and stewardship of the historic site and building that has been home to Saint David's since the beginning.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7454-0
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. INTRODUCTION: “The Church on Pizza Corner”
    (pp. 3-12)

    The Presbyterian Church of Saint David in Halifax, Nova Scotia, has been, through its history, both a sign of the times and a sign of contradiction. The city’s churchless anti-church-union Presbyterians of 1925 found sanctuary in a Methodist building that had become vacant and surplus because of church union. For eighty years since, Saint David’s has stood as a beacon on the little hill overlooking Grafton Park, once the Poor House burying ground and afterwards home to the Spring Garden Road Memorial Public Library. Yet Saint David’s arrival on the southwestern corner of Grafton and Blowers streets was as accidental...


    • 1 Church Union: Movement and Resistance
      (pp. 15-31)

      The prehistory of the church union movement in Canada may be considered to have begun with the Presbyterian and Methodist unions of 1875 and 1884 respectively. The intellectual and ideological origins of the movement have been thoroughly analyzed by historian Burkhard Kiesekamp and need not be gone into here.¹ Initial Anglican and Baptist interest in the project was defeated by ecclesiastical and doctrinal objections, and Congregationalist interest did not become significant until after the formation of the Congregational Union of Canada in 1910; but Presbyterians and Methodists persevered throughout. The Methodist Church and the Congregational Union were centralized, legislated corporations...

    • 2 The “Union” Disruption
      (pp. 32-45)

      When Synod met at Fort Massey in September 1921, Robert Johnston, newly appointed president of the Maritimes branch of the Presbyterian Church Association, attempted to obtain approval for an “overture” (petition) calling for a third referendum on church union. By a margin of nearly four to one, Synod refused to adopt the overture, instead deciding to transmit itsimpliciter(without prejudice) to the General Assembly. The overture did not, however, reach the floor of the 1922 General Assembly; it was decided that, instead of a third referendum on church union, there would be an act of Parliament merging The Presbyterian...

    • 3 Death and Resurrection
      (pp. 46-62)

      Ironically, the significant anti-union vote in St Andrew’s would pave the way for friendly relations between St Andrew’s United and the new “Presbyterian Church, Halifax.” As in the other congregations, not every Presbyterian who voted against the United Church left St Andrew’s – at least, not immediately. Of the 145 who voted against the United Church – the largest “anti” vote of any congregation in the presbytery – only 101 actually left. The pull of congregational loyalty was exceedingly strong, as were inertia, convenience, and the seductive principle that the devil one knows is preferable to the devil one doesn’t. Some Presbyterians left...


    • 4 Colin MacKay Kerr
      (pp. 65-75)

      In its first eighty years Saint David’s has had five ministers. Three have been new Canadians, one Canadian-born, and one a Nova Scotian. All have been men; women only became eligible for ordination to the ministry of word and sacrament in the first year of the third pastorate, 1966. All but one of the ministers were in their forties when beginning their pastorates; the oldest was fifty-seven, the youngest forty-one. The length of the four completed pastorates ranged from twenty-two years to nine; the average has been seventeen years. None of these four ministers died in office: the first and...

    • 5 Frank Lawson
      (pp. 76-89)

      The sudden loss of Colin Kerr in March 1944 could hardly have come at a worse time. “We do not want a long vacancy,” W.J. Kane wrote Frank Baird the day after he had had to announce from the pulpit the minister’s resignation.¹ It would, however, prove the longest and most difficult vacancy in the congregation’s history. That Kerr had been more or less forced to resign meant that achieving consensus on the choice of a successor would be next to impossible. Those who had not wanted him to leave wanted another Kerr; those who did, wanted anyone else but....

    • 6 Donald Bruce Mackay
      (pp. 90-102)

      The membership of Saint David’s reached its greatest extent, 632, during 1967, Canada’s centenary year. Frank Lawson had departed in 1965, but his impact continued to be felt into the next two pastorates. The people of Saint David’s reacted to his departure with confusion and uncertainty. The devil they knew was gone, and they missed his vigorous presence and the success Saint David’s had experienced during his heyday in the 1950s. The second vacancy, however, would be as short and painless as the first had been long and difficult. Despite the unexpectedness of Lawson’s departure, Session and congregation alike were...

    • 7 John Pace
      (pp. 103-119)

      Donald Mackay preached his farewell sermon on 22 June 1975 and never occupied the pulpit of Saint David’s again.¹ Unlike Lawson’s departure, which had been marked by shock at the suddenness and sadness over the untimeliness of it, Mackay’s allowed Saint David’s plenty of time to prepare for it. Yet the shortest pastorate in the congregation’s history would be followed by a longer vacancy than the one that had preceded it. The circumstances were unusual in that seven months elapsed between the minister’s resignation in November and his departure in June. Presbytery immediately set up a “pastoral relations committee” to...

    • 8 Donald Laurence DeWolfe
      (pp. 120-128)

      In February 1998 the clerk of Presbytery, Dr P.A. McDonald, was designated prospective interim moderator of Saint David’s, reprising the role he had played during the third vacancy in 1975–76. A Presbytery advisory committee convened by the interim moderator and comprising two ministers and two elders was struck, and Pace gave McDonald permission to start the ball rolling. The pulpit was declared vacant the first Sunday in October, and an interim minister took over two weeks later. The longest pastorate in the congregation’s history would be followed by a vacancy of just under a year’s duration. Collective soul-searching and...


    • 9 The Congregation
      (pp. 131-150)

      Among the paradoxes of the Second Disruption in Nova Scotia was that anti-union Presbyterians could not form congregations under the law of The Presbyterian Church in Canada. As of July 1924 the official PCC was going into the United Church of Canada as one body. Congregations, new and old alike, had to vote notinbutout. So the radical resisters to church union turned instead to the only avenue open to them: the law of the state. The organizational meeting of the Presbyterian Church, Halifax, on 26 February 1925 took place further to section 11 of Nova Scotia’s Religious...

    • 10 Worship
      (pp. 151-170)

      What continuing Presbyterians emphasized first and foremost was the continuity of public worship. But for that defiant assertion of minority rights, the public performance of the collective duty to glorify God, nothing more could have happened. Bringing non-uniting minority Presbyterians together for worship was the first step towards bringing them together to form a congregation. On Sunday afternoon, 18 January 1925, Presbyterians in Halifax declared their independence from the official church, which was perishing. Their very presence spoke to Presbyterian worship as Christian witness – praise and preaching.

      No order of service survives from that occasion, nor for any of the...

    • 11 Music
      (pp. 171-192)

      The first public worship service by Halifax’s anti-union Presbyterians, on 18 January 1925, came complete with guest organist and soloist. The person responsible for arranging the choral music on that occasion was Frederick Moir Guildford. Lacking a choir, Guildford put together a quartette that included himself as tenor/baritone and his brother Robert as bass. The quartette served as the nucleus around which, over the next three months, Guildford built a choir.

      The son and brother of elders, Fred Guildford (1885–1980) was a semi-professional vocalist. He sang as a child soprano at Fort Massey and in the choir of old...

    • 12 Mission and Outreach
      (pp. 193-203)

      As early as November 1927, Saint David’s held a reception for Presbyterian students in Halifax. The spiritual and social welfare of university students has always been a concern and a special feature of life and work at the church. In March 1931 spring Communion Sunday evening saw a special students’ service, sponsored by the local Student Christian Movement, at which elder H.L. Stewart preached on “The university and the church.”

      Colin Kerr was also interested in the Oxford Group Movement – alias “Buchmanism” or “Moral Rearmament” – and preached an evening sermon on the subject in January 1933. The Oxford Group Movement,...

    • 13 Voluntary Organizations
      (pp. 204-222)

      All the non-essential organizations at Saint David’s have, in their bewildering variety, contributed to its development as a congregation and its formation as a community. The second issue of its short-livedMonthly Magazine(November 1932) featured by way of “Notes on the Societies” a snapshot of current activity of the Ladies Guild, the Badminton Club, the Young People’s Society, the Trail Rangers (for young teenaged boys), and the Young Ladies Guild. “The Guild are at present engaged in sewing for the needy, especially for those among whom Miss Lena Fraser is working at the port [of Halifax]. Many who are...

    • 14 Expansion
      (pp. 223-238)

      The failure of the Presbyterians to hold either of the two Halifax congregations – St Andrew’s and Park Street – where resistance to church union was strongest meant that expansion into either of those areas would happen sooner rather than later. Northward expansion came first, followed thirty years later by westward. As the Presbyterian population of metropolitan Halifax grew, so too did the psychological distance from Saint David’s. But only after the mother church had fully cohered could the process of “deconstructing” it begin and the status quo ante the Disruption start to be restored at least in part. The successor to...

    • 15 Church Property
      (pp. 239-253)

      The site on which Saint David’s stands is far more historic than the church itself. Methodism arrived in Halifax in June 1782, when William Black (afterwards superintendent preacher), the “Apostle of Methodism” in the Maritimes, first preached there. Black settled in Halifax in 1786, and six years later Zoar Chapel was dedicated. The Methodists had a church but no cemetery. In 1793 William Goreham, a devout Wesleyan shopkeeper who a year earlier had stood third on the list of subscribers for the new church, gifted land for a burying ground.¹ The Methodist burying ground remained in use until 1844, when...

  9. Epilogue
    (pp. 254-258)

    The onset of the third Christian millennium coincided with the fourth quarter of Saint David’s first century. The congregation found itself in much the same position as The Presbyterian Church in Canada in 1925 – significantly down in its number of active members but determined on renewing its resources and energizing its call to worship and mission.¹ Twenty-first-century Christians are like first-century ones – evangelists for an inconvenient truth that concerns everyone. Presbyterians, for their part, are a minority among Christians, who are in turn a minority among persons of faith. Yet just as congregations, however small or shrinking, enrich the denominational...


    • APPENDIX A Glossary
      (pp. 261-262)
    • APPENDIX B The Constitution (“Eight Resolutions”)
      (pp. 263-264)
    • APPENDIX C Elders and Trustees
      (pp. 265-276)
  11. Bibliographic Essay
    (pp. 277-278)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 279-312)
  13. Index
    (pp. 313-324)