St. George’s

St. George’s Church Confirmation, June 23rd 1950

         The photo was taken in front of Russell and Jesse Brigg’s house, next door to the church.

Rev. Herbert J.  Hoyt,   Glenna Coy (11),   Frances McIntyre (11),   Maureen McKay (11),   Annette Coy (12),    Abigail Grant (12),

Doug Coy  (13),   Murray Warman (13),   Keith Hamilton (13),   Bedford McIntyre (14),   Eddy McIntyre (16)    2 unidentified adults

St. George’s Sunday School Picnic at Camp Medley.       
The photo was taken in the early 1960’s, when Basil Buckland was serving as Rector.

A Short History by the Reverend Andrew Horne

St. George’s Anglican Church was built in Upper Gagetown in 1945. Before that time, Anglicans living in the area would arrange for a visiting priest to offer a service locally, often at the home of Roy Post or David Appleby, or they would drive to St. John’s church in Gagetown, or St. John’s church in Oromocto. It was not until the end of the Second World War, with soldiers returning home and a booming economy, that they decided to build a church of their own. 
            The building of St. George’s was a community effort. The land was originally occupied by a store, run by Mrs. Christie. In 1944, Robert Coy bought the property and, with the help of his neighbours, had the store partly dismantled and rebuilt as a church. The work began on June 2nd, 1944, with Arthur Coy, Robert’s brother, supplying most of the lumber. All the labour, except the building of the chimney, was given freely, with Cecil Patton, a local carpenter, supervising the many volunteers. James Weston donated the lumber needed to complete the siding and roof, and on July 15th, only six weeks after construction had begun, Robert Coy sold the mostly-finished church to the Diocese of Fredericton for a single dollar. It lacked only a steeple to crown the tower. 
            The church was consecrated on Nov 14th, 1945 by Bishop Moorhead. Services must have been crowded for the next few months, however, for Cecil Patton spent the winter building the steeple for the church inside the building. It must have given rise to a great many jokes, that the large exterior ornament almost filled the interior of the building, and was too wide to fit through the door. But Cecil knew what he was doing. The west wall of the church had been only partially finished and, come spring, the wall was removed, and the steeple wheeled out on a wagon. With the help of an immense timber tripod, block-and-tackle, and a team of donkeys supplied by David Appleby, the steeple was fitted on top of the tower. 
            The Rev. Herbert J. Hoyt had become Rector of the Parish of Gagetown and Hampstead in 1932, responsible for both St. John’s church in Gagetown, and St. Stephen’s in Queenstown. He and his wife lived in the Gagetown Rectory, but he was a familiar figure in Upper Gagetown, especially in the Fall when he would often be seen and heard hunting ducks on the shores of Coy Lake. With the construction of St. George’s, Rev. Hoyt found himself with a wide-flung three-point parish. It would have made for a long Sunday, travelling between the three churches, a schedule made possible only because the road along the west bank of the St. John River had been paved in 1937. This road, connecting Fredericton and Saint John, was the first paved highway in New Brunswick. 
            Between 1945 and 2007, services were held every Sunday at St. George’s, led by a dozen different ministers, and well-supported by the lay people. The first church organist was Mrs. McAllister. She was succeeded by Sylvia Sutton, who led the music for over 30 years.  In 1954, in response to a growing congregation and the post-war baby-boom, Marion Corbett and her sister Venetta McIntyre began a Sunday School. They taught until 1971, when Gertrude McIntyre and Barbara Cruickshank took over. They led the school until 1986.
            St. George’s was renowned for the energy of its Church Guild, established in 1951, with twenty local women offering their time and talents. The Guild ministered not only to the church, but also to the wider community, generously supporting the Lions Club, the Oromocto Food Bank and the Gagetown School. The women offered cards and visits, flowers and food, to all who were sick or grieving. The Guild was especially famous for its annual Turkey Supper, held the last Sunday of September.  
            In 1945, Upper Gagetown was a growing community with a Post Office, three stores, a blacksmith, a sawmill, and more than a dozen small farms. It made sense at that time that every community along the St. John River would have its own Anglican church, for travel between towns was time-consuming. The riverboat, D.J. Purdy, would continue to carry passengers up and down the river until 1948, but it followed a leisurely schedule. The roads were rough, and even the paved road along the St. John River was winding and slow, and flooded every spring. There was, in any case, great local support for the many small churches along the river. 
            Things began to change during the 1970s. All across Canada, mainline churches began to see a general decline in membership. Small rural churches were particularly challenged because improved highways and better vehicles prompted many people to travel during the weekends: people might choose to attend a larger church in a larger town, or they might skip Sunday worship altogether. Finally, the prevalence of television and other entertainments made the social aspects of church membership less important for many people. 
            The three churches in the Parish of Gagetown were no exception to this decline. By the year 2000, Sunday services at St. George’s attracted only a handful of people. Weekly services ceased in 2007 when the Parish of Gagetown became a half-time position: the Rector was now also responsible for the Parish of Cambridge and Waterborough on the east side of the river.  With only one Sunday service in the parish, Gagetown became “the Travelling Church.” Parishioners attended St. George’s on the first Sunday of the month, St. John’s in Gagetown on the second and fourth Sundays, and St. Stephen’s in Queenstown on the third and fifth Sundays. Eventually, however, it was decided that weekly services for the whole parish would be held at St. John’s Church in Gagetown, with St. Stephen’s in Queenstown and St. George’s in Upper Gagetown holding services only a few times a year. Other ministries in Upper Gagetown, however, remained active. From 2008 to 2019, the parish led a week-long Daily Vacation Bible School at the Lion’s Hall. Margaret Cruickshank continues to lead “Connections,” a ministry that sends birthday and anniversary cards, and condolences for those who have suffered a death in their families. She also delivers the “Daily Bread” bible study to many people in the area. 
            In 2020 the parish began discussing the future of St. George’s, for there were many challenges: the land on which the church sat was too small to allow the building of a washroom or a septic system, the roof needed repair, both the electrical and heating systems were outdated, and there was little insulation. More importantly, there were regular Anglican services held in both Oromocto and Gagetown, only a 15 minute drive in either direction. And so, the difficult decision was made. After a congregational meeting, the members of Vestry decided to deconsecrate and sell the building, 
            We should be proud of those who built St. George’s Church 76 years ago. We must be grateful for the faithfulness of all those, both clergy and laity, who ministered there. But we must also remember that the strength of the church lies with its Lord and its people, not in its past, and not in its buildings. 
             Saint George, the patron saint of England, was a Roman soldier martyred by the Roman authorities in the 4th century. His only crime was to profess faith in Jesus Christ, and to insist that our allegiance to Him must be greater than that to any civil authority.  
            Let us pray that, just as the witness of Saint George has survived to the present day, so the memory and witness of St. George’s Church may continue to inspire ministry in our beloved Parish of Gagetown. Amen.   
The building of St. George’s in 1945.
St. George’s Anglican Church, Upper Gagetown     
This photo was taken after 1946, when the tower and steeple had been completed.

A quiet moment in a blessed place