I invite you on a brief journey. We’re travelling down the Hammonds
Plains Road, probably on foot. No fast moving cars, no blinding
headlights. It’s June 28,1933 about 7 p.m. We’re headed for the
First Baptist parsonage. When we arrive, Mrs. Ethel Jones greets us. She’s
our pastor’s wife. She leads us to the parlour, and we meet three
other women. They are engaged in serious conversation about a new topic
It has been only a few decades now since Hannah
Maria Norris, of Canso, appealed to prominent Nova Scotian businessmen
like Charles Tupper for funding for the unthinkable: a woman travelling
alone to Burma to help people. They sympathized with her, but couldn’t
come up with the funds, so she had barnstormed her way across the
Maritimes, organizing thirty-two new groups called Women’s Missionary
Societies. And now, in 1933, these societies are springing up in
Mrs. Jones wants us to be one of these churches.
Attempts were initiated before, but didn’t succeed. So, strategies are
developed. They form a “look out” committee. It’s aim: to look for
new members. It works. In the first year and a half membership jumps
from four to seventeen.
It’s Depression Era. Not an easy time to be
generous. People are starving in the east; crops are failing in the
west. But two barrels and one box of clothes are sent from this
community to prairie farmers. A young Baptist pastor, Rev. Douglas of
Weyburn, Saskatchewan thanks us in a letter to the WMS. That young
preacher later went into politics. We now know him as T.C. Douglas,
former NDP leader, named by the CBC as Canada’s greatest Canadian, and
father of our national health care system. Now we have something for
which to thank him!
So as we leave the parsonage and say good night to
Mrs. Jones, we might want to encourage her that, indeed, this time, her
plans will succeed. That for the next seven decades, the church women
will entertain missionaries from all over the globe in our homes, in the
parsonage, and in the pulpit. And we might want to encourage her that
the earlier generosity will prevail in the area of “home missions”
as well: whether it’s providing mittens to children, baby clothes to
local crisis centres, or Bibles to the Gideons.
Next month our society celebrates its 75th
anniversary, and we are still blessed to rely on the counsel of some of
those founding members. They have led us throughout the 20th century and
their inspiration will continue to lead us in the 21st century.
by Sandra Macleod, First Baptist Church, Hammonds Plains.