Anglican Samizdat

September 23, 2009

Diocese of Niagara: St. Hilda’s, the new Mary Celeste

Filed under: Diocese of Niagara — David Jenkins @ 10:20 am

Ever since the day in February 2008 when St. Hilda’s voted to realign with the Province of the Southern Cone, the Diocese of Niagara  has maintained the pretence of needing the building – not to sell it for the value of the land, oh no – to hold services for those parishioners who wished to remain with the diocese. Except there weren’t any, so, over the last year and a half the diocese has imported people from other parishes – usually about 4 or 5 people – to create the illusion of a congregation.

This account in that bastion of conservative Christianity, the Toronto Star, is how it began in February 2008:

Preaching duel no contest.

In the battle of duelling pastors at St. Hilda’s Anglican Church in Oakville yesterday, Rev. Paul Charbonneau pitched a shutout.

More than 100 members of his flock turned out for what could be the last service he celebrates at the half-century-old building on Rebecca St. in the town’s west end.

It could be the last because the congregation has voted unanimously to split with the Anglican Church of Canada over several issues of fundamental faith, including same-sex marriage, which the congregation opposes. It has chosen to align itself with the principles of the worldwide Anglican Church, from which it says the Canadian wing split years ago.

Leaders of the Church’s Diocese of Niagara want to boot the congregation and Pastor Paul from the building, even though the local folks have paid off the mortgage, and funded the upkeep and utilities without a nickel from head office.

The congregation refuses to hand over the keys to the place and are content to await the result of a court hearing on Friday to determine who owns what, who gets to stay and who must go.

The Diocese parachuted in a relief reverend yesterday morning, ostensibly to preach to disenfranchised St. Hilda’s parishioners upset by the move.

The only problem? There weren’t any.

Sensing there would be rows of empty pews facing Rev. Brian Ruttan, the Diocese made calls and sent emails to members of three area churches, enticing about two dozen strangers to fill the seats.

Since then, there have been a total of 4 relief reverends, the penultimate being Cheryl Fricker who gave up for the summer and posted this on the diocesan web site:

St. Hilda’s Services for July and August will be held together with St. Aidan’s at 318 Queen Mary Drive in Oakville. Service Time is 10:00 am and all are welcome!

The date today is September 23rd and there has been no sign of the diocese in St. Hilda’s building on Sunday morning since June; even from the new  priest-poseur, Sue-Ann Ward. This makes the affidavit sworn by archdeacon Michael Patterson that the diocese has “15 to 25 adults and children in a creative and growing congregation” appear even more – creative.

There was the hint of a suggestion that I drove everyone away with a camera. Much as I would be happy to take credit for the cleansing of the temple, I fear that was not the case and the disappearance of the diocesan crew remains a Mystery.



  1. Wasn’t the Marie Celeste and insurance scam?

    Comment by Jim Muirhead — September 23, 2009 @ 4:04 pm

  2. The Mary Celeste (sometimes incorrectly referred to as Marie Celeste) was a brigantine merchant ship famously discovered in December 1872 in the Atlantic Ocean unmanned and apparently abandoned, despite the fact that the weather was fine and her crew had been experienced and able seamen. The Mary Celeste was in perfect condition and still under full sail heading towards the Straits of Gibraltar. The ship had been at sea for a month and had over six months of food and water on board. Her cargo was virtually untouched and the personal belongings of passengers and crew were still in place, including valuables. The crew was never seen or heard from again, and what happened to them is often cited as the greatest maritime mystery of all time. The fate of her crew has been the subject of much speculation. Theories range from alcoholic fumes to underwater earthquakes and waterspouts, along with paranormal accounts such as aliens, sea monsters and the Bermuda Triangle. The Mary Celeste is often described as the archetypal ghost ship in the sense that she was discovered derelict without any apparent explanation.

    Comment by Share — September 23, 2009 @ 11:48 pm

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