Methodist Church on the Prairies, 1896-1914

Methodist Church on the Prairies, 1896-1914

Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Methodist Church on the Prairies, 1896-1914
    Book Description:

    The Methodist Church met the challenge with a centralized polity and a cross-class, gender-variegated, evolving religious culture. It relied on wealthy laymen to raise special funds, while small gifts fed its regular funds. Young bachelors from Ontario and Britain filled the pastorate, although low pay, inexperience, and poor supervision caused many to quit. Membership growth was slow due to low population density and church-resistant elements in the Methodist population (bachelors, immigrant co-religionists, and transients), and missions to non-Anglo-Saxon immigrants in Winnipeg, Edmonton, and rural Alberta spread Methodist values but gained few members.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6921-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Tables
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xxi)

    I began the revision of my doctoral thesis of 1970 with trepidation but rapidly became immersed in the work. First, I had additional research materials, obtained during the 1970s from three prairie church archives and interviews with former missionaries. I acquired more information in April and May 1999 by returning to the archives (now located in the Public Archives of Alberta, Edmonton; the Public Archives of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon; and the United Church Archives, in Winnipeg). Whereas my thesis research drew primarily from records of the administrative centre of the church in Toronto, the regional archives held local and district records,...

  6. Illustrations
    (pp. xxii-2)
  7. 1 The Prairie West as a Methodist Challenge
    (pp. 3-19)

    Economic development transformed Canada’s prairie region during the years 1896 – 1914. The white settler population grew explosively through migration from central and eastern Canada and immigration from Britain, the United States, and Europe. Native peoples paid the price. During the decade 1901 – 11 they lost a third of their population and dropped from 11 to 0.9 percent of the regional population. Nature, too, fared poorly as indigenous plants and animals gave way to the wheat farmer’s monoculture and weeds and the rancher’s livestock.²

    Except for native converts, Methodists were part of the predatory white settler population. Anglo-Methodists lamented neither the...

  8. 2 The Methodist Polity and the Social Profile of the Church
    (pp. 20-35)

    The religious culture, church members, financial resources, and administrative direction for prairie church expansion came largely from central Canada. This chapter treats two inputs from the national church: its political organization, or polity, and the social profile of its members.

    The polity of the church evolved during the settlement boom. As the western Canadian conferences acquired a rising proportion of the church’s national membership, the church’s political centre of gravity shifted westward and undermined the church’s bureaucratic central management of Western affairs.

    The church was a cross-class institution in which farmers, skilled workers, clerks, and shopkeepers helped to forge threads...

  9. 3 Methodist Traditions
    (pp. 36-55)

    Long-term Methodist traditions from outside the region exerted the primary influence on prairie Methodist religious culture during the Laurier settlement boom from 1896 to 1914. The prairie environment and frontier conditions created distinctive short-term features in the regional culture. In contrast, the settlement boom largely severed the regional culture from its early years (1840–95), when it was organized around Native missions.

    The Wesley brothers, John and Charles, founded Methodism as a religious movement within the Church of England during the mid–eighteenth century. The movement spread to North America and spawned Methodist religious denominations on both sides of the...

  10. 4 Money
    (pp. 56-77)

    The prairie region demanded much from Methodist resources during the years 1896–1914. The number of church stations rose almost fourfold, from 163 to 627, and church membership rose three and one-half times, from 16,316 to 56,964. Paradoxically, the Methodist population shrank in southern Manitoba, due to the displacement of farmer-owners by tenants and a trend to larger farms and fewer farmers.

    This expansion combined with population contraction cost more than prairie church members were able to raise. In 1914 48 percent of the prairie stations were missions – they were not self-supporting and required grants from the missionary society. In...

  11. 5 Clergy
    (pp. 78-103)

    The Methodists experienced a relentless need for pastors for the prairie region during the years 1896–14. The church increased the number of prairie stations from 163 to 627: in other words, there were 3.9 times as many prairie stations in 1914 as there were in 1896. There were 1.4 times as many in Manitoba, 8.8 times as many in Saskatchewan, and 8.9 times as many in Alberta (table 5.1). Above-average quit rates for prairie clergy exacerbated the demand. The high rates arose from low salaries, harsh living conditions, and large numbers of inexperienced probationers working with little supervision. Various...

  12. 6 Laity
    (pp. 104-125)

    Prairie church statistics encouraged Methodists, yet caused them concern. Certainly Methodists had big gains in membership and in the population identified as Methodist in the census. Compared to Presbyterians and Anglicans, they reported more church members and a higher ratio of church members to the population identified as Methodist. Nevertheless, increases in Methodist Church membership and census population lagged behind population growth. The denominational counts in the 1911 census enumeration, moreover, showed more Presbyterians and Anglicans than Methodists. For all three churches, the ratio of church members to the denominational census population was lower than in central Canada and declined...

  13. 7 Methodists and Non-Anglo-Saxon Immigrants
    (pp. 126-139)

    During the years 1901–11 the non-Anglo-Saxon percentage of the prairie population rose from 26 to 38. Methodists widely perceived non-Anglo-Saxons as a threat to Canada’s moral standards and standard of living as to its cultural homogeneity and national identity. Accordingly, they pressed the government to assimilate Canada’s non-Anglo-Saxon residents and discourage non-Anglo-Saxon immigration. Where the government’s role ended, the role of the Protestant missions began. Along the way, these missions met with resistance from the Roman Catholic and ethnic Old World churches, ethnic nationalists, and the non-Anglo-Saxon settlers themselves, so that by 1914 prairie society differed considerably from Methodist...

  14. 8 All People’s Mission, Winnipeg
    (pp. 140-156)

    Winnipeg was the metropolis and the gateway city for non-Anglo-Saxons in the prairie region. In 1911 “foreigners” made up a third of its population of 136,000. Clustered on the north side of the CPR tracks were 37,000 Hebrews, Germans, Ukrainians, Poles, and Scandinavians. Each group was a transient population with personal and institutional ties to the homogeneous bloc settlements in rural districts. For Ukrainians, Winnipeg was “the seat of Latin- and Easternrite Catholic bishops, headquarters of the Independent Greek Church and its Presbyterian sponsors, home base for most nationalist school teachers and socialist organizers, who carried their ideas into the...

  15. 9 The Ukrainian Missions in Alberta
    (pp. 157-184)

    During the quarter century after 1900, Methodists opened missions in Canada’s largest Ukrainian settlement — Alberta’s Star colony — and in nearby Edmonton. In 1912 the Methodist Ruthenian Workers in Alberta held their first annual convention and launched theCanadian, a Ukrainian-language newspaper. By 1914 the church had six missions and a staff of forty missionaries, missionaries’ wives, doctors, nurses, cooks, domestics, and interpreters. After 1914 the church reorganized its Alberta missions and opened five Ukrainian missions in Saskatchewan and Manitoba (table 9.1).

    By 1916 the Methodists had forty Ukrainian church members and two Ukrainian parsons. Most of the mission’s staff, however,...

  16. Conclusion
    (pp. 185-192)

    White settlers flooded into Canada’s prairie West during the years of the Laurier settlement boom, from 1896 to 1914. They came from central Canada, Britain, the United States, central Europe, and the Atlantic provinces. The regional population grew from 250,000 in 1891 to 1.7 million in 1916, and contemporaries expected millions more.

    In hindsight, their expectations went unrealized. The First World War halted the flow of immigrants, and although immigration resumed during the 1920s, it was at less than the prewar pace and ended with the depression of the 1930s. Thus, the prewar years were the region’s golden era for...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 193-236)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 237-256)
  19. Index
    (pp. 257-260)