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Fitch Bay Chapel, Stanstead Township: New Cross Dedication

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--August 7, 2019.

Fitch Bay Chapel: New Cross Dedication
Stanstead Township, Descente 3
Sunday August 4, 2019 10:30 a.m.
Led by Lay Worship Leader Art Lovelace

larger_7_names_.jpg I am honored to have been invited by my dear fiend Art Lovelace to attend and be part of your very special unveiling ceremonial service on this beautiful blessed sunny August Sunday ……a great day to be alive!

This unveiling is being held on unceded Abenaki land that was subsequently lovingly colonized many years ago by your ancestors, beginning in the late 1700s. The 7 names on this sculpture will help all to forever remember the history of this area, Fitch Bay …the beautiful bay and the quaint village which was once adorned by 4 churches. By the way, a local group of philanthropists have recently undertaken to preserve and restore the St.Matthias Anglican Church to the tune of considerable private donations. The goal is close to $400,000 . “The times they are a changin’,” sang Bob Dylan in 1964 ….. and very fast, and so it has become most important to remember the past, like you are all doing today …… All the human history of this lovely outdoor chapel near water and deep in nature surrounded by cedars, spiritually initiated nearly 80 years ago in the last century. ( 1943 ) This sacred spot and the Anglo names inscribed on this granite cross will be remembered now for posterity with always needed extra added motivation to continue in the years to come. By coincidence some of these names were familiar to me in my own hometown of Arvida where I am also working to remember and preserve the anglophone history in the now Quebec government classified 13th heritage site in the province.

Yesterday I watched a young boy collecting rocks on the beach in nearby Weir Park. It brought me to reflect on why we put rocks on graves. This custom dates back to Biblical times when people used to put piles of stones on graves to firstly, mark the grave spot and secondly, to protect it from wild animals. Of course, a stone is much more permanent than flowers but I would now invite my friend Debra and her 8 year old grandson Dylan to please go forward and symbolically deposit both on your memorial monument at this historic, sacred site.

Blessings and heartfelt thanks.

Terry Loucks



larger_fitchbay_k-chapel_congregation.jpgWe are here today to dedicate a concrete, well granite actually, marker recognizing this lakeside chapel in the woods along Fitch bay that began over 75 years ago.

Specifically, we are also honouring the founders of this chapel by the lake – five families of clergymen who, having a love of nature and water but with scant construction skills and virtually no money, bought adjacent lots along this shore and one by one, using the cedar trees cut from their properties, built log cabins. They learned as they built, and they called their five little cottages “Klericlerrers”. Not long after, two scientists from Montreal built next along the shore and their “suburb was referred to as `Past-the-Pastors`. Although there was the common clerical theme that connected the Five Fathers, they offered a variety of backgrounds that included a Secretary of the United Church of Canada, Dr. David Forsyth; a senior official of the World Bible Society, Maynard Booth; a jewel of Greens Pond, Newfoundland, A.B. Lovelace who was the United Church minister in Beebe at the time; a former airforce chaplain and former Maritimer with a charge in Verdun at the time, Gardner Ward; a Montreal minister who ultimately spent much of his career in one of the most prestigious United Churches in Canada – Eaton Memorial in Toronto, Charles (Charlie) Plasket. They became life long close friends. Two of the closest, and lakeside neighbours, Art Sr. and Gardner rest in close proximity up the hill in the 1812 Apple Grove Cemetery.

Each of the clergymen were part of a team. Their spouses, Edith Forsyth, Lee Booth, Jean Lovelace, Madeline Ward and Ida Plasket were a key part of the founding and continuance of the chapel.

Those senior clergy were wise men and their spouses were wise women. The scientists of Past-the-pastors were wise too, of course , but we are dedicating a cross today. We will celebrate the MacRae and the Elliott wisdom which has obviously been passed down from generation to generation as well, at another time.

The pastors, as would be expected, conducted full services right here in the early days. Everyone else took Sundays off, but that was the pinnacle of their work week. They simply couldn’t abandon their calling and their faith during their holiday time so they went ahead, full throttle, with a shore line service. They also often spelled off the clergy in the surrounding local churches. A point worth noting, for those who were not there in the early days, is that often it was common for the women to actually conduct much or sometimes all of the service.

As the years passed and five pastors’ stamina began to wane the services got shorter. The next generation eased into the driver’s seat and much, but not all of the formality began to fade. There were still the essential elements of the more formal service , “This is the day that the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it” was followed by an opening hymn. There was a scripture reading, another hymn and then, instead of a sermon by someone trained in such things, the leader of that particular day would choose a topic and open discussion. The offering was collected by the youngest ambulatory child and the money received was divided each year between eight charities. Then came the “We give thee but thine own…” followed by announcements, a final hymn and the doxology.

Over the past couple of decades the format has remained pretty similar in pattern, except that many of the discussion topics now stray further and further from what the original sermons dealt with. The environment, some of the political events, near and far, that were of particular concern, and even issues specific to our precious lake were mixed with the more religious discussions that had dominated before. Children were involved where and whenever possible, and discussion topics aimed to appeal to the younger attendees were common.

One characteristic of the chapel through all the years is that it has welcomed any and all who wish to attend, participate or simply observe. Various faiths, strong, weak or absent were embraced into our little group. The locals even had a popular collective name for our community - “The Village”. I guess that would make us “The Village People”.

Over the years there have been crosses here on this site. They were wood, usually crude sticks bound with leather or cord in keeping with the natural setting. They were therefore vulnerable to the elements that nature hurled at them and needed periodic replacement. Of late, two of them were eaten (one during a service) by a canine attendee, a golden retriever called Marley. Marley may well have contributed part of the stimulus to seek a more lasting monument for the chapel.

Somebody asked if, as the now senior generation begins to fade, the chapel will continue to exist. There seems to be a strong consensus that it will. The tradition is too much an integral and precious part of our life here on Fitch Bay. Will it continue to change and evolve with each generation? Of course it will. The more formal churches are changing too. Who knows? Even in my least enthusiastic moments I can see services at this chapel, on this site, a hundred years from now – perhaps only one a year, but the strength of meaning to this community has become ingrained in all of us and will be passed down to future generations. The chapel may evolve but it will survive.

Art Lovelace (Art Jr.) , who is now the senior Klericalerrers representative has created a sheet which awaits the signatures of those in attendance here from each of the five founding families, from those who do not share DNA with the families’ ancestors but are in fact family via marriage, and from those who simply wish they were related to one of the families. We invite you to sign in the appropriate space. The plan is to, via some technology yet to be determined, seal this paper along with some other mementos and place it under the cross to serve, perhaps like a time capsule.

The granite cross we are dedicating today is an indication of the permanency of what this chapel represents.


Scott Brisbin