A Century in Retrospect - James Gunn
- 1 Title
- 2 Forward by Donald B. Moffatt
- 3 Acknowledgments (by the author)
- 4 Index
- 5 Psalm 100
- 6 Chapter One - "My Name Shall Be There"
- 7 Chapter Two - "In My Name"
- 8 Chapter Three - "Abounding in the Work"
- 9 Chapter Four - "Feed My Sheep"
- 10 Chapter Five- "Sent Forth"
- 11 Chapter Six - "Hazarded Lives"
- 12 Chapter Seven - "Messengers of the Churches"
- 13 Chapter Eight - "Gather Together"
- 14 Chapter Nine - "The Little Children"
- 15 Chapter Ten - "The Word of God Prevailed"
- 16 Chapter Eleven - "Women of Stirred Hearts"
- 17 Chapter Twelve - "Led"
- 18 Chapter Thirteen - "Strengthened Hands"
- 19 Chapter Fourteen - "Doing the Will of God"
(The Stone of Help)"Hitherto hath the Lord Helped us" - 1 Samuel 7:12
Forward by Donald B. Moffatt
Twenty-five years ago (1949) James Gunn was responsible for the preparation of a booklet celebrating the Seventh-Fifth Anniversary of the founding of the MacNab Street Assembly. It is most fitting that, in this book, he has undertaken the task of recording the history of this Assembly during the last one hundred years.
Over a year has been spent in research and in writing. The gratifying results are evident in the pages which follow. That he has been able to accomplish this while recovering his strength from a serious operation and while engaged in a busy schedule of meetings is remarkable.
James Gunn has given over fifty years to the service of his Lord. First as a missionary to Venezuela, then in most of the major centres in Canada and the United States. He has authored a number of books. Since its inception he has been the editor of Ministry in Focus, a monthly magazine devoted to the edifying of God's people.
The Assembly, now meeting in the West Fifth Bible Chapel, wishes to express to our brother our deep appreciation. We recognize that he has spent hundreds of hours in preparing this book. We are grateful to him and to the Lord for enabling grace.
The Assembly, now meeting in the West Fifth Bible Chapel, wishes to express to our brother our deep appreciation. We recognize that he has spent hundreds of hours in preparing this book. We are grateful to him and to the Lord for enabling grace.
The cover design is by Ruth Ter Smitte who also did the layout and prepared all the material up to the printing stage. Our sister expended much time and labour in this project and her efforts are greatly appreciated. Acknowledgement is also due to Janice Agnew, Sharon Grant, Liz Johnson and Janice Kirk who helped prepare the copy and assisted in proof reading. We are confidence that this record of the Lord's faithfulness to one of His Churches is for His glory.
"Jehovah is good; His loving kindness is forever, and His faithfulness to all generations."
It must be apparent to the reader that in a work of this kind materials have been gathered from many sources. It is therefore fitting that credit be given to these, and that sincere gratitude be expressed to all who have contributed information or suggestions.
We are grateful for the records found in the former Hamilton Herald, the Hamilton Spectator, The Witness, The Barley Cake, and Our Record. Quotations have been taken also from the biographies of Donald Munro, Donald Ross and T.D.W. Muir. Help has been received from the offices of Echoes of Service, Bath, England, and Food for the Flock Inc., Toronto, Canada.
Thanks are due to: Mrs. George Bentley, Fred Cameron, Mrs. Guy Cesar, Mr. and Mrs. Alex Grant, Mrs. W. Joyce, David Kirk, Mr. E. Little, Donald Moffatt, Mrs. A. Petrie, Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Price, Mrs. Louise taylor, Mrs. Thomas Telfer, and Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Thomson. Should inadvertently some be forgotten to whom credit is due, we ask their indulgence and pardon.
- Chapter One - "My Name Shall Be There" - An Introduction
- Chapter Two - "In My Name" - The beginning of the MacNab Assembly
- Chapter Three - "Abounding in the Work" - Developments and the occupancy at 140 MacNab St. North
- Chapter Four - "Feed My Sheep" - Deacons, Elders and Spiritual gifts.
- Chapter Five - "Sent Forth" - Home workers commended by MacNab Assembly.
- Chapter Six - "Hazarded Lives" - Missionaries commended by MacNab Assembly.
- Chapter Seven - "Messengers of the Churches" - Spiritual gifts from elsewhere.
- Chapter Eight - "Gather Together" - History of annual conferences.
- Chapter Nine - "The Little Children" - A survey of the Sunday School.
- Chapter Ten - "The Word of God Prevailed" - New assemblies arising from MacNab.
- Chapter Eleven - "Women of Stirred Hearts" - The Sewing Class.
- Chapter Twelve - "Divinely Led" - The entire property is finally secured.
- Chapter Thirteen - "They Strengthened Their Hands" - West Fifth Chapel is completed.
- Chapter Fourteen - "Doing the Will of God" - Assembly activities resume and expanded.
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before His presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord He is God: it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting; and His truth endureth to all generations.
Chapter One - "My Name Shall Be There"
"That Thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which Thou hast said, My name shall be there; that Thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which Thy servant shall make toward this place". (1 Kings 8:29).
The City of Hamilton, called the Pittsburgh of Canada, throughout former years contributed much to the advancement of "Upper Canada", that area now known as Southern Ontario. This it certainly did for the development of the Niagara Peninsula. The City derived its name from the son of a Presbyterian minister, Robert Hamilton of Dumfries, Scotland. This son, Robert, came to Canada about 1770. He settled first at Carlton and Kingston, but in 1784 he moved to the Niagara district. There he established a business.
In those early days there was a trading post for the Indians at what is known as Dundurn Park (home to Dundurn Castle). Robert Hamilton supplied the manager with the goods that were used in trading. In 1813 George, Robert's son, purchased land nearby, part of which was a farm that lay between what at present are called James and Wellington Streets. Later he had all this property surveyed as a township and gave it his name, Hamilton. About 1820 a young lawyer, Allen Napier MacNab, purchased a large tract of land. Here he built the distinguished castle, and called it after his ancestral home, Dundurn on Loch Earn, Perthshire, Scotland.
In the early years of expansion two names of this illustrious Scotsman were given to streets in Hamilton, Napier and MacNab Streets. To many of God's people scattered over Canada, the United States and, in fact, over the world, the names Hamilton and MacNab came to bear a spiritual import as well as a historical significance.
Since the beginning of this century there has stood on MacNab Street, Hamilton, a testimony to the Lord Jesus. The assembly there was to many a place of spiritual fellowship and edification. For many years, at annual conference time, the question frequently asked among the saints of God who gathered in Christian simplicity was, "Are you going to the MacNab conference at Hamilton this year?"
One of our poets wrote, "Change and decay in all around I see". While most changes do arise from deterioration, many result in progressive improvement. This has happened to the assembly on MacNab Street. In most large cities residential areas either deteriorate or move to the perimeter, urban areas being reserved more for commercial and professional buildings. Eventually it became necessary for the assembly on MacNab Street to move elsewhere. Spiritual roots had penetrated deeply. There had been so many sacred, precious experiences in that Gospel Hall. To move seemed sacrilegious, but with time, the move became imperative.
In spite of fears and doubts, after deep exercise of heart and much prayer, it became obvious that the Lord was directing. To some it was clear that a move to a more suitable neighborhood would be for the furtherance of the work of the Lord. They also felt that God's glory should be the only objective in such a move.
Naturally the assembly wanted to locate in a congenial residential community. Consequently they searched over the mountain district, the summit of the Niagara escarpment. Some of the Christians in fellowship were already living there. In a miraculous way the property on West Fifth Street was made available. Here the new spacious building was erected, and on Wednesday, March 4, 1970, the assembly took possession. It was soon apparent that God, who had been with the work in the Gospel Hall, MacNab Street, was still with His beloved people in the Gospel Chapel, 440 West Fifth Street. The presence of the Lord is not in anywise localized.
Because of the better facilities in the new premises, new activities were instituted and old ones continued. God's power was manifested in numerous ways. The saints were encouraged, and their progressive program is bearing fruit.
Chapter Two - "In My Name"
"For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20).
The name Fenton is probably not known by most of the Christians in this generation in Hamilton. Nevertheless all the assemblies in this highly industrialized area have received from William Fenton and his wife a rich spiritual heritage. We do not know much about this brother but apparently he was a business man. T.D.W. Muir makes reference in his "Reminiscences" to being in Mr. Fenton's office.
This beloved brother and his wife frequently conducted evangelistic services in the Gore Park, a beauty spot in the centre of the city planned and donated by George Hamilton.
During the rebellion led by William Lyon MacKenzie in 1837, Col. MacNab mustered in Hamilton a force of 100 men known in history as the Men of Gore. These brave men helped to crush the insurrection. Mr. and Mrs. Fenton were the Christians of Gore who preached the work of peace, the blessings offered to man through the work of Christ on the cross. Mrs. Fenton had a sweet singing voice with which she attracted the people and Mr. Fenton preached the gospel.
It was their usual custom to invite any who were interested in spiritual matters to come to their home. There they would show them the way of life or teach them the ways of the Lord for His beloved people.
One night a young man, John Carnie, recently arrived from Aberdeen, Scotland, accepted the invitation. It was soon evident that the guest had a deeper knowledge of the things of God than did his hosts. He taught them "Church Truths" as he had learned them from God in the Old Land.
Whether before or after he arrived it is difficult to sy, but on June 14, 1874, a few Christians met in the Fenton home, Catharine Street North, to partake of the Lord's Supper. On the suggestion of John Carnie two evangelists were invited to come to Hamilton for a special effort in the gospel. Soon two brethren, Donald Munro and John Smith arrived. They immediately began preaching on street corners and in homes. Later a hall was rented which was located on the north side of King near MacNab Street.
After several weeks without seeing any evident results, the evangelists decided to leave. Notwithstanding, God had other intentions, for before their last meeting ended, three young men were saved. We shall allow the first of these, T.D.W. Muir, to tell the whole story here.
"Two nights later (that is, after the first meeting he had attended), I faced the same question (The question was a large sign behind the platform: 'Friend, Thou art traveling to Eternity: To an everlasting Heaven or, to an endless Hell! WHICH?'), this time to acknowledge that I was a sinner, and dying as I was would perish forever, but John 3:36 was being quoted from the platform, so I looked away from self and sin, and found peace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God who on Calvary died for my sins according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3).
Seated by my side was a young man with whom I was slightly acquainted, William L. Faulknor. Like myself he had been invited to come and hear these men and their plain, decisive way of preaching the gospel. Turning to him, I asked, 'William, have you everlasting life?' 'No' was his reply, 'but I want it. Have you got it?' 'Yes,' I gladly answered, 'I received Christ as my Saviour a few minutes ago, and I know I have everlasting life, for His word has said it!' A few minutes later dear William Faulknor also trusted Christ. On a seat behind us sat my brother (Kenneth Muir) who unknown to us was also in soul anxiety. he too closed in with God's offer of salvation, and became a child of God through faith in Christ."
The preachers who had intended leaving the city promptly unpacked their valises.
The tiny assembly that had been meeting in Mr. Fenton's home eventually moved into a small rented hall on the second story of a building on King Street West. The saints remained in this location for approximately two years (1874-1876).
Here they saw much blessing, but they likewise experienced troubles. When God is at work one might well expect the evil one to oppose. There is an entry in Mr. Muir's diary dated Wednesday, April 19th, 1876, which reads: "Left Stratford for home. Arrived at noon, somewhat tired and with a sore throat. Saw Fenton at night and had a talk with him. The believers have had a sore trial here. Satan is trying to cause division among them."
From the first little hall the assembly moved into a larger one on the second story of a building which stood at the corner of Merrick and MacNab Streets.
Fourteen years of happy fellowship and service were spent there. Once more because of God's blessing in the growth of the assembly, it became necessary to find more spacious premises. The Treble Hall, known to many as the Larkin Hall, was rented. This hall was situated on the third story of a building at the corner of John Street near King East.
It has been said that the growth of a church, generally speaking, is in proportion to its missionary outreach. During the years spent in this hall the MacNab Street assembly proved itself to be a modern Thessalonica. Of her it could be said, "From you sounded out the Word of the Lord." In this, the Larkin Hall, the Duffs of China were married, and from it, they and Anne Lucas went forth to serve the Lord in the needy Orient.
Chapter Three - "Abounding in the Work"
"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58)."
A hall three stories above street level is not the most attractive centre for evangelistic efforts. The elderly find it difficult to climb so many stairs, and the unconverted usually refuse.
The growth of the assembly and its various activities in the gospel required a more suitable location. It was under these conditions that the assembly first became interested in a vacant (African/Caribbean-American) Baptist Church that stood on MacNab Street.
The congregation in the Baptist Church had experienced reverses and difficulties which sadly impaired its financial status. It had been unable for many months to pay on either the principal or the interest of the mortgage upon its property.
Just when and under what agreement the assembly moved into this building is not on record, but as will be seen they were occupying these premises before the mortgage company assumed the right to secure its equity in the property. A comparison of dates leads to the conclusion, whether correct or otherwise, that this was a period of nearly four years.
On January 14, 1904, the land and building were sold to Mr. W.A. Wilson, one of the elders in the Hamilton assembly. He was declared the highest bidder at the auction, and thereby because the purchaser at the price of $1635.00.
There seems to be a discrepancy between the document submitted by the auctioneer and the agreement made later between brother Wilson and the brethren representing the assembly. According to this latter document the property was purchased for the sum of $1400.00. $400.00 was paid in cash and a mortgage of $1000.00 covered the balance.
Brother Wilson's worthy act led to a very agreeable and generous arrangement with the assembly. The agreement in part reads: "Whereas the Lessor purchased the property herein after mentioned, known as Gospel Hall, on his own behalf and for his own use, but his intention in buying was that the said premises should be rented to said Lessees for a meeting house for the congregation of Christians commonly known as Open Brethren, who have for a short time prior to the purchase by the Lessor of the said premises, and subsequently thereto, been occupying the said premises as such a meeting house: The Lessees to hold the said terms and premises for the use of the said congregation, but the said Lessees are to be personally and individually liable to the Lessor for the Covenants and stipulations hereinafter contained."
Another paragraph of this interesting document reads: "Yielding and paying therefore, yearly and every year during the said term granted, unto the said Lessor the clear yearly rental or sum of One Hundred and Twenty Dollars ($120.00) to be payable on the following days of each month in each and every year during the continuance of the said term, without any deduction, defalcation or abatement whatsoever; the first of such payments to be made on the first day of July, A.D. 1904."
the representatives of the Hamilton assembly who entered into this agreement with brother Wilson were as follows: Peter Carroll, William Duncan, George Nunn, C. Maddison, Albert Marks, Arthur Thomas, Robert Patterson, Charles Carter, and Edgar Mortimer.
It should be added that brother Wilson was himself an elder in the assembly.
On January 12, 1912, brother Wilson prepared his will and testament, part of which reads: "It is my wish and desire notwithstanding anything hereinbefore contained that the property now owned by me, and commony known as Gospel Hall, Number 140 MacNab Street North, and now leased to me as a place of worship to the congregation or assembly of Christians now occupying the same, and of which I am a member, shall not be disposed of during the lifetime of my wife, unless it shall be absolutely necessary to do so for her support and maintenance."
"In the event of said Gospel Hall not being disposed of during the lifetime of my said wife, I direct my said Trustees after her death to convey and assure the same to the following persons: William Duncan, Peter Carroll, John Moreland, James Saynor, Arthur Thomas, Albert Marks, Angus Munro, Robert Patterson, John Anderson and Alfred Best in trust for the said assembly or congregation of Christians, upon terms and conditions usually set forth in Trust Deeds of church property. But I expressly will and declare that such Trust Deed shall contain a provision to the effect that if at any time the said assembly or congregation of Christians shall be dissolved or cease to meet together for the purpose of worship, or to maintain the doctrines now held by them, the said property shall be disposed of, and the proceeds paid over to the Christian Missions whose head office is at Bath, England, and who are the publishers of a pamphlet known as "Echoes of Service".
Both Mr. and Mrs. Wilson survived the demolition of the old church building and the erection of the more attractive and commodious Gospel Hall which occupied the site, 140 MacNab Street, for many years. It is certain that an arrangement must have been made between brother Wilson and the representatives of the assembly in regard to the ownership of the property. It is regretted that no such recorded transaction has been found.
It is quite evident that Mr. Wilson was willing and ready to make whatever agreement was considered necessary to sustain the assembly in Hamilton and to further the testimony for God there.
"To do good and to communicate forget not; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased" (Heb. 13:16).
Chapter Four - "Feed My Sheep"
"Feed the flock of God which is among you taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind" (1 Peter 5:2).
From the inception of the MacNab Street Assembly, it has maintained the biblical autonomy of a local church gathered in the name of the Lord Jesus. The elders have always believed that they were responsible only to the Risen Head of the Church, Christ, and that they had to be submissive to His absolute Lordship.
The Lord's people soon learned that for the proper functioning and the perpetuation of the testimony, God had fitted two groups of men. The first group was for administrative purposes; the second, especially for the ministry of the Word of God. Those for the administration are called in the New Testament elders and deacons; those for the ministry of the Word, gifts of the Holy Spirit. It should be noted that in Scripture there are synonymous terms for elders; namely, overseers, presbyters and bishops. It should be also noted that there are both deacons and deaconesses in the local church (1 Tim. 3:8-13, Rom. 16:1-4). It is generally believed that the elders actually care for the spiritual welfare of the people of God, the deacons and the deaconesses, the temporal requirements of the congregation.
God has throughout the years graciously provided MacNab Street Assembly with both splendid leadership by overseers and excellent ministry by spiritual gifts.
Many names could be added to the list of elders given in the preceding chapter, bringing it up to recent times. There always have been spiritual men who have manifested a deep interest in the progress of the assembly, men who willingly have given their time and talents for God's people. It would be difficult to single out any elder during the century who had been more dutiful and sacrificial than the others. Many many hours have been expended shepherding the sheep of Christ's pastures. These have ascended to God the Father as offerings of a sweet savour.
Many are the activities fo the elders. Among these is the very essential work embraced by the familiar name "The Correspondent of the Assembly". From a purely technical point this is the work of a secretary, but in the assembly of God it is not a matter of filling an office but rather a work demanding fidelity, reliability, and ability both spiritual and secular.
Surely brethren engaged in such services deserve the love, esteem and co-operation of everyone in the assembly.
In His vigilant care for the saints at MacNab Street Assembly, Hamilton, Ontario, God has provided from the earliest days men, who according to the measure of grace divinely given, have accomplished this particular duty. Some of these brethren have fallen asleep. Their names are remembered and revered by many. Some of these are still with us, and we love them for their works' sake.
The first Correspondent and Treasurer was Mr. James Muir, father of T.D.W. Muir. He was followed by Mr. Fenton in whose home the assembly had first gathered for its meetings. A little later Mr. Abraham Mullings fulfilled this ministry. He was succeeded by Mr. John E. Taylor. Mr. William Wilson continued this work and acted as correspondent for a number of years and then turned this work over to Mr. William Duncan who acted in this capacity for about twenty years, Mr. Albert Marks then carried on the work for another twenty years, until in broken health he was forced to discontinue. Our brother John Moreland then assumed the ministry of Correspondent, but enlisted the service of brother Guy Cesar as Treasurer. After several years brother Moreland gave his share of the work over to Mr. John Anderson. Brother Anderson filled the post for a few months until brother Guy Cesar undertook the service of Correspondent in the year 1945. He continued to serve in this capacity until he became ill in 1966. At the present (1974) Mr. Gordon Thomson is the assembly Correspondent.
In 1939 a special Correspondent-Treasurer was chosen to forward funds to the Lord's servants in foreign countries. Brother Anthony Price was the one selected for the first year; after all this time, he is still fulfilling this Epaphroditus assignment.
Chapter Five- "Sent Forth"
"When they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Spirit, departed" (Acts 13:3-4).
Not only was the MacNab Street assembly supported by capable elders and ministers of the Word of God, but the Lord raised up through it gifted men who preached the gospel and taught the truth of God in a much wider sphere, a sphere continental and worldwide.
Since there are several who merit honorable mention, it might be better to consider first of all those who were called to serve the Lord here at home, in English-speaking countries.
The earliest of such gifted men was T.D.W. Muir. It will be remembered that he was the first convert in connection with this history that we are tracing. He was saved under the preaching of Donald Munro and John Smith.
Mr. Muir at the early age of 29 was giving his whole time to making the gospel known. Shortly after his conversion, he began preaching the gospel throughout southern Ontario and rural parts of Michigan.
God used brother Muir to establish assemblies at Straffordville, Ontario; Detroit, Michigan and other places. However, he eventually settled in Detroit. In that city he spent the major part of his life in building a work for God. He labored incessantly to establish the testimonies in his adopted city and throughout the surrounding rural district. He traveled extensively teaching the ways of the Lord. In spite of his many activities in preaching, teaching, writing and counseling, he occasionally returned to Hamilton where he was always welcome. When here he worked for the edification of the people of God.
Another beloved brother commended by the MacNab Assembly to the ministry of the gospel here at home was T.G. Wilkie. A Memorial Booklet prepared at the time of his home going in 1965 contains a comment by one who really appreciated him, "Only God would mould a Thomas G. Wilkie".
Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, he immigrated to Canada in 1910. At the first he settled in Toronto, but eventually moved to Hamilton. Here in 1912, God reached and saved him. Through the influence of a Christian fellow-workman he was brought to the assembly. There the practical simplicity toward Christ deeply impressed him, and shortly after this observation he was received into the full fellowship of the saints. His zeal, loyalty and Christian piety soon endeared him to all the believers.
It finally became apparent that the Lord was entrusting to him abilities for extensive duties. This not only deeply exercised him but the elders as well. In 1919 it became obvious to the assembly that the Lord was indicating, "He is a chosen vessel unto Me." He therefore was commended to the grace of God and went forth to his life of service and sacrifice. From that time on he expended himself in the work of the Lord. Early in his experience he went with brother Albert Joyce to Grand Bend. There the Lord blessed their labors in a singular manner. Many were saved and guided in the believers' pathway. Eventually a hall was built and the assembly formed.
Tom Wilkie was primarily an evangelist and he used effectively the wonderful gift he had received from the Risen Head of the Church among both adults and children. his activities took him from the Canadian Maritime Provinces to the West Coast. When he, by the grace of God, had served his own generation, on March 16, 1965, he fell asleep in Jesus. He is now among the blessed who rest from their labors and whose works follow them.
Harold Greene who is devoting his life to the Best of Masters was commended to the grace of God and the ministry of the gospel jointly by the MacNab Street Assembly, Hamilton, Ontario and the 86th Street Assembly, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. (The latter assembly in Chicago is presently (2021) known as the Palos Hills Christian Assembly).
His first sphere of service was at Nashville, Tennessee, where he spent a number of years preaching the gospel and seeking to edify the people of God. More recently our brother has been conducting a radio ministry and doing pastoral work in Missouri as well as considerable itinerant preaching farther afield. Harold Greene, his wife and family live in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. (Note: Harold, alongside John Phelan, founded the Nashville Gospel Chapel, which is honored as one that is multi-ethnic, with dozens of nationalities therein. He later founded an assembly in Cape Girardeau that presently functions as an independent church, Hal's son has served in pastoral ministry here for many years as well).
Chapter Six - "Hazarded Lives"
"Chosen men... that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 15:25-26).
One of the first converts during the gospel effort by Donald Munro and John Smith, in the very early days, was William L. Faulknor. He was saved the same night as T.D.W. Muir, and like brother Muir, he dedicated his enitre life to the work of the Lord on both the home and foreign fields.
In the spring of 1887, just a few years after the assembly in Hamilton had been founded, brother Faulknor sailed for Africa, and in May of that year he joined brother Swan in Bihe. Brother Swan had left England in 1886, but it was Dec. 16th of 1887 before the young recruits reached Fredrick Arnot in Garenganze. Bro. Arnot had been living alone for some considerable time so, needless to say, the two younger brethren were very welcome indeed. Early the following year, brother Arnot left brother Swan and brother Faulknor to carry on the work while he returned to Britain for a much needed change and rest. For them it was a time of sowing, not reaping; that came later.
Humanly speaking it was a disappointment to all that during this time brother Faulknor took ill, an illness that weakened him and made him susceptible to one of the native diseases. From this malady he suffered greately but was tenderly nursed by his co-worker. Finally, deplorable as it may seem to man, he was forced to leave Africa. How difficult under such circumstances to say, "The will of the Lord be done."
After some recuperation in the Old Land, he sailed for America and settled at Pomona, California. He continued for a number of years to give himself wholeheartedly to the service of the gospel, particularly on the West Coast, but on May 30, 1908, the Lord called him home. The immediate cause of his death was a tumor on the brain. It is recorded by some of his colleagues that his beloved and esteemed servant of the Lord left behind him in Britain, Canada, Africa and the United States, a very sweet savor of Christ. How true! Man proposes, but God disposes!
While the assembly was still meeting in the Larkin Hall at the corner of John and King Streets, the wedding of Mr. and Mrs. J.L. Duff was performed. It is regrettable that the date of this happy occasion is not known. Shortly after their marriage this young couple felt called of God to go to China with the gospel. The records available of the period of time they spent there are very scanty, but it is known that they arrived in that needy country some time late in 1891. There is also published evidence that Miss Annie L. Lucas went with them. Probably here exercise was stimulated by the example of Mr. and Mrs. Duff.
There are difficulties in tracing any communication from them back to friends in Hamilton. Notwithstanding, there are a few letters from them in the only assembly missionary magazine of that time, Echoes of Service.
Henry Fletcher was born in Hamilton in 1895. His mother was a devout Christian and brought him and the other members of her family up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. As a result of her prayers and influence, he was saved when he was 13 years of age.
Henry grew up in the MacNab Street Assembly where he enjoyed the fellowship of saints and joined in the many activities. He taught a Sunday School class, distributed Christian literature and engaged in open-air work in the small towns and villages surrounding Hamilton.
In later years he used to relate how he responded to the urgings of the Lord in regard to Christian service in the foreign field:
"I had much interest in Venezuela for I knew of the labors of such brethren as Mitchell, Crane, Adams, Johnston and others." He also used to assert quite forcefully: "A point in life was eventually reached when in my bedroom before the Lord a complete surrender was made. Although I felt poor, weak and worthless in myself, I was ready for any service He might indicate."
In 1916 Henry was commended to the work of the Lord by the assembly on MacNab Street. He went immediately to Venezuela and four years later married Miss Agnes Renwick of Galt, Ontario. Together they labored to spread the gospel and founded assemblies in Duaca and Valencia.
About 1929 our brother became exercised about the deep spiritual need of Puerto Rico. Consequently the Fletchers moved there in 1930. Through their effort the assembly in San Turce was established and a small hall was built. The Fletchers remained there until 1941 when because of health they were forced to return to Canada, brother Fletcher continued to serve the Lord and the beloved people in Canada and the United States until he was called to higher service on May 17, 1968.
The appropriateness making mention of Donald Cox in this section of the assembly history must be obvious to all. True, he has not gone abroad to a distant land, but he and his family had to learn another language, French. They had also to master, at least to a considerable degree, another culture; this can be very difficult for some. While [[Quebec] is neighbor to]Ontario[[Quebec] , it presents some of the problems of a foreign country to one who knows only the English language and culture.In 1958 Donald Cox was commended to the work of the Lord in Quebec jointly by the assemblies in MacNab Street, Hamilton, Ontario, and 86th Street, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.For fourteen years our brother has diligently served the Lord in Drummondville. After these many years in that city, our brother became exercised before the Lord to move to the Gaspe Peninsula. He now lives in Ste-Anne-des-Monts, Gaspe Nord, Quebec. This is some four hundred miles north of his former home. In this northern area there is ample scope for pioneering. There are numerous towns and villages surrounding Ste-Anne-des-Monts, and in these some contacts have been made through radio and television ministry. A deep concern of our brother is that there are no French assemblies throughout the Gaspe Peninsula.]
Chapter Seven - "Messengers of the Churches"
[[Quebec] "They are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ. Wherefore shew ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love" (II Cor. 8:23-24).That the Lord has sustained the MacNab assembly by efficient administration and by the ministry of spiritual gifts, which he has developed locally, has been fully demonstrated. He also has supplemented these services and ministries by using other servants of Christ who, from elsewhere, have taken up residence in the Hamilton area. These beloved brethren, although establishing their homes in the City, continued their itinerant ministry among the assemblies in Canada and the United States.One of the earliest of these, if not the earliest, was Joseph Douglas. This brother was born in Limivady, Ireland, on July 13, 1869. In youth, before God saved him, he was pursuing the necessary education to become an attorney at law, but he eventually dismissed this objective and immigrated to the United States where he took up residence in Detroit, Michigan. There he learned from T.D.W. Muir the ways of the Lord more perfectly and some years later was commended to full time work for God by the Central Assembly, Detroit. He was not very robust, but when cautioned by the doctor to take things more easily, he replied, "How can I when there is so much to do?" he literally wore himself out in the service of the Lord.From Detroit he moved to Newbury, ]Ontario[[Quebec] , and from there to Hamilton where his presence and ministry were a benefit to the MacNab Assembly.Because of the condition of Mrs. Douglas' health, he was forced to move back to Detroit so that his wife, who suffered from severe paralysis, might be with her sisters. Although he was probably only two years in Hamilton, he became well known and greatly loved and highly respected.While visiting back in Newbury, he contracted pneumonia and passed home to be with the Lord on November 28, 1904, at 36 years of age. In the copy of Our Record for the month that followed, T.D.W. Muir wrote in the obituary: "Another of those who can be so ill be spared has gone from us, to be with the Lord".The family took the remains to Hamilton for burial, where brethren D. Munro and W.P. Douglas (no relative) spoke the word."Among the church notices in the Hamilton Herald, April 18, 1914, a newspaper long since discontinued, there is an insertion which reads: "Christians gathered unto the name of the Lord Jesus Christ meet at the Gospel Hall, 140 MacNab Street North. Lord's Day: Breaking of Bread, 11:00 a.m., Sunday School and Bible Class, 2:45 p.m. Mr. Robert McCrory from Ulster and Mr. George Duncan from Cleveland will preach at 3:45 and 7:00 p.m."This apparently was the announcement of brother McCrory's first visit to the City, he later adopted as his home. He had immigrated to Canada in 1910, but in 1914 moved from the Maritime Provinces to Hamilton. There he resided until 1961 when, after the passing of his wife, he returned to Ireland.There he went home to be with the Lord in October, 1964.It was written of him: "He was a man of the Book and ever sought to expound its meaning. When conflicting influences would have divided, and in some parts did, the assemblies, he firmly attested to the supreme authority of the Holy Scriptures in ALL MATTERS OF church administration. When amillenarian doctrine was being propagated among some of the assemblies, distressing the minds of God's people, his clear teaching on the doctrine of the imminent return of the Lord preserved in many hearts the living hope of the soon return of the heavenly bridgegroom."Brother David Kirk a fellow-countryman of Robert McCrory, also started his service in Canada in the Maritime Provinces, but eventually moved to Hamilton, Ontario. He was on a visit to Ireland at the time of brother McCrory's final illness and death. Brother Kirk was able to visit him and along with Robert Wright formerly of Japan, he conducted the funeral services.Brother Kirk was reared in Belfast, Ireland, and as a youth found all the needs of his heart in the Ebenezer Assembly of that City.In it he was saved, baptized, received into church fellowship, and from that assembly in August of 1931, he was commended, in a full time capacity to the work of the Lord in Canada. He lived and labored from the time of his arrival until 1942 principally in the Maritime Provinces, but that year he moved to Stirling, Ontario. During the years he lived there his service for the Lord expanded to a wider sphere of ministry. Finally, in 1948, our brother came and settled in Hamilton, and ever since has been in intimate fellowship in the MacNab, now the West Fifth Assembly. His presence and his ministry are a blessing to the saints in the assembly.It is appropriate that brother Donald Moffatt be mentioned in this chapter. He has given many years of his life to the dissemination of the truth of God. He labored for years in Newfoundland, Canada, and while there founded the radio broadcast, Family bible Hour. This broadcast, of which he is still a director, today is heard in many parts of the world. It has brought life and instruction to large numbers of listeners, both saved and unsaved.After brother Moffatt left Newfoundland, he spent some years on the Pacific Coast preaching the gospel and ministering God's Word among the assemblies. Eventually he returned east and settled in Hamilton, making MacNab Assembly his home. Although now engaged in secular business, he still spends much time in ministry among assemblies and at conferences. He faithfully serves the West Fifth Assembly with other elders seeking to shepherd the flock of God within which he has located.]
Chapter Eight - "Gather Together"
[[Quebec] "Gather My saints together unto Me; those that have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice" (Psalms 50:5).One of the practices that has contributed to the spiritual health and vigor of the assembly at MacNab Street, Hamilton, is the annual convention. In the early years the three day conference was conducted around the time of the New Year. T.D.W. Muir gives an account of the first of these conferences in the chapter entitled "Canadian Recollections" in the biography of Mr. Donald Ross. He writes: "I remember... the first conference held in Hamilton, Ontario, or, for that matter, among the assemblies gathered to the name of the Lord on this side of the water.The date was, I think, New Year, 1877."There is a note in The Witness of December 1927, in which the same brother, T.D.W. Muir, tells who the speakers were at this first conference. He writes: "I have just returned from attendance at the 53rd Convention held annually at Hamilton, Ontario. It is now held at Canadian Thanksgiving time. I was at the first one when about 75 were gathered from the United States and Canada. Such stalwarts as Donald Ross, Donald Munro, John Smith, James Campbell, James Smith, Henry Ironside, John Carnie and others were with us. This year nearly 1,000 came together." "Donald Ross' address (given at that first conference) deeply impressed many. He spoke from John's Gospel Chapter 21.""Many," continues brother Muir, "who were at that conference have gone home to glory since then, but many are still with us, and there are few of them who heard those words that have forgotten them. The savor of them still lives."The fifth conference, that of 1881 was advertised in The Barley Cake (an assembly magazine edited by Donald Ross) of December 1880. It reads: "Christian Convention in Hamilton, Ontario, on 13th, 14th, 15th, and 16th of January, 1881. The 'Larkin Hall' situated on John Street near King has been secured for the meetings. The meetings will be as follows: On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, for prayer, praise and ministry of the Word, at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. On Lord's Day, 16th, January: Breaking of Bread at 10 a.m. Ministry of the Word, 2 p.m. Gospel Meeting 7 p.m."In a report covering that conference we read: "Gospel meetings were held in the evenings, and were addressed by brethren: Smith, A. Marshall, W.P. Charles, J. Grimason, J.N. Carnie, Martin, Hughes, etc. There was much blessing every evening. The last Gospel Meeting was held in the 'Grand Opera House', a newly erected building which holds 1,500, but that evening between extra seats and standing there would be, no doubt, between 1,800 and 2,000 people. The rush was such, the doors had to be closed twenty minutes before time. Hundreds on hundreds returned home, and many remained on the street in the frost and snow, and we addressed them under the canopy of heaven".Another entry reads: "These Hamilton conferences have been a very great blessing to the Lord's people, and doubtless they will continue so, as long as there is liberty to preach all God's truth unreservedly."At the beginning of 1910 the assembly began to advertise the regular meetings and special events in the Hamilton Herald. These advertisements indicate that the saints enjoyed visits from such servants of Christ as: W.B. Johnston, D. McGeachy, George Duncan, Matthew Muir, John Smith, T.D.W. Muir, W.P. Douglas, Robert McCrory, W.J. McClure, Robert Telfer, Charles Ross, Geo. Gould, etc.In the January 17th 1914 issue of the Herald there is an announcement of the 39th Christian Conference. For some reason it was late that year; scheduled for January 23rd-25th. The meetings on Friday and Saturday were held in the Gospel Hall, 140 MacNab Street. On the Lord's Day they were held in the Association Hall corner of James and Jackson Streets.The Herald also carries an advertisement in its issue of January 14, 1916, of another conference scheduled for January 21st-23rd. All these meetings, with the exception of the prayer meeting which was held in the Gospel Hall, were held in the I.O.O.F. temple on Gore Street in downtown Hamilton.In the I.O.O.F. building the Hamilton Annual Conference was held for many years; in fact, until it burned down on November 2-3, 1939. Imagination, activated by memory, pictures happy scenes during the occasions. Even now it is not difficult to visualize George Gould senior on the platform preaching from the text, "This Man receiveth sinners and eateth with them".Nor is it hard to recall the advice to younger servants of the Lord given W.J. McClure. He spoke, so he said, as a father among us and gave us words of instruction, encouragement and caution.How nostalgic are the recollections of delightful fellowship with beloved brethren such as Charles Ross, Leonard Sheldrake, Tom Wilkie, John Ferguson, John Dickson, Ben Bradford, Robert Crawford, George Shivas, Dr. Matthews, Fred Nugent, C.F. Hogg, and a host of others. What delightful experiences they were! The conferences which had been so beneficial to so many both at home in Hamilton and in other cities and towns did not end with the conflagration that destroyed the I.O.O.F. temple. The brethren sought out another large auditorium, The Scottish Rite Cathedral, and there for many more years the annual conferences were held with equal interest and profit.Through certain circumstances and with the building of the West Fifth Chapel, the conferences for three years have been held in the assembly auditorium. Emmanuel is Jehovah. "God with us" is the Eternal Immutable One. Any change of location does not in anywise affect Him. His promise is true, "Lo, I am with you alway."A journalist's account of the 79th Annual Conference, written by Mrs. George Bentley, which appeared in the Hamilton Spectator on Oct. 9, 1954:Christian Conference recalls early customs: The weekend will see again an unusual occasion which has occurred yearly for 79 years since this city's early days. Several hundred visitors are fed and lodged for two full days, mostly... even today... through volunteer provision.Offered their best: The seventy-ninth annual conference of Christians continues, as from its earliest days, to draw large numbers from out of town as well as this district. It is held under the auspices of the MacNab Street Gospel Hall.One of the few such gatherings in this country in early times, the purpose was to provide ministry of the Word of God to Christians who were isolated from worship and fellowship throughout rural areas at that time. Then, it was held in January, the slack time of the year for country people. Mother and Father bundled themselves and the whole family into the horse and wagon or "rig", leaving the hired man to do the chores, and set off for Hamilton. With them they brought provisions, such as a pair of geese, a barrel of apples, or a sack of potatoes... all the best they had, as a kind of "first fruit" contribution to the occasion.Though the MacNab Street group of Christians was a small assembly of far less than 100 then, who met in a hall at Merrick and MacNab Streets, they made room in their homes for all who came. Hospitality has always been one of the principles of the conference.Everyone welcome: Some of the older members of today remember the upheavals in their homes. Their parents made room for up to two dozen visitors. Collapsible beds were brought out. When mattresses fell short, mattress covers filled with fresh soft straw served. In every available corner of their homes visitors were welcomed. Meantime, the latter found places such as the old horse market of those days on John Street to "put up" their horses and wagons.Away back in the 1870's and '80's, they held these conferences in the old YMCA and the Treble Hall north of King on John Street. For meals, they had to go to a nearby hall where volunteers cooked and served hot meals."We used to walk over singing hymns as lustily as we could, and none objected", recalls a daughter of one of those early members.Amazing Ability: The meals, which today are served to seven or eight hundred people for two full days, have always been hearty, well prepared, and served by volunteers. By a long tried system, hundreds sit down to meals which go "like clock-work".The men assist with conference planning and in the services. The women do not have any public part, but on them falls much of the work for actual hospitality. But always there is one capable volunteer man in charge of the kitchen and dining room arrangements, and others are on hand for the heavier work and washing dishes.The women still preserve extra fruit for the conference, and make cakes and cookies and pickles. Other supplies are purchased wholesale and prepared by the volunteers in the huge quantities needed. The pies they used to make are now mostly bought. Billeting is not so much needed now, most coming by car.From small beginning: For people who cannot remember early days, it is recalled that the MacNab Street group of Christians began with street corner preaching. Then the handful met in a small hall at Merrick and MacNab Streets, where they are listed in an 1879 directory as Plymouth Brethren. Preachers from outside Canada visited them. There were fiery men in those days: a John Smith, a Donald Munro, a David Oliver, a Ben Bradford, and a T.D.W. Muir. Such men were itinerant preachers going up and down the continent preaching the gospel and a simple faith and manner of worship.These preachers would often arrive a week or two before the conference and conduct prayer meetings. Prayer meetings are still held in the week before. Often, a series of Gospel and Bible study meetings followed the conference.Stalwarts of Old: Some of the earliest folk touched by the ministry of those days and responsible for starting the conference were: Mr. and Mrs. Tom Renton, whose home still overlooks the Bay on Bay Street North, the former being a signal inspector with the Old Grand Trunk Railway; (See Railroad for more Brethren who served in that industry.) Mr. and Mrs. William Duncan, who lived at Dundurn Castle, the former being city gardener for many years. Mr. and Mrs. William Mullings, Mr. Mullings being a cooper on Mulberry Street; Mr. and Mrs. Charles Carter; Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Kennedy, the former, a foreman at the cotton company; Mr. and Mrs. Richard Passmore; Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Mortimer, the former a sailor newly arrived from Newfoundland in the hope that his family would have a better chance here; a Mr. and Mrs. William Goodfellow, Mr. Charles Quee a veteran of the Crimean War; Mr. and Mrs. Peter Carroll, the former a pattern-maker; and Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Anderson.Faithful Descendants: While there are many newcomers in the assembly, quite a few children and grandchildren of old-timers are taking part this weekend. This conference is still anticipated with the enthusiasm that marked its beginnings. They find Christian fellowship and the encouragement and inspiration received from gathering in large numbers. They worship, pray, and hear preaching together from able preachers. But they feel the real results depend on the blessing of God. All the effort in these more complicated times to carry such an occasion through is worth it if people receive spiritual blessing.Simple Services: With simplicity always the keynote, the only music is congregational singing. The conference begins this evening in the MacNab Street Hall when visitors meet their hosts for the weekend. At the Scottish Rite, the "Breaking of Bread" service is held Sunday at 10 a.m.It is followed by dinner and Sunday School for the children, with public meetings at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. On Thanksgiving Day, meetings are at the same hours. On Tuesday morning, some still remain for an after-service, called "gathering up the fragments." Invitations of the conference have been sent out this year on behalf of the Assembly by messengers George Bentley, Joseph Smart and E.A. Bartmann.]
Chapter Nine - "The Little Children"
"Jesus... said to them, suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of God. (Mark 10:14).After a few earlier attempts which failed,
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Raikes Robert Raikes] and his friend Stokes were the main thrust to establishing the religious Sunday School. The first such school was opened in Gloucester, England, in 1780. Their purpose was to reach particularly the children of the poor with the Word of God. Each Sunday School, whether secular (Trade Unionism and similar groups did conduct secular school on Sunday for some time) or religious requires a curriculum and a text book.
This must ever be the method in an assembly Sunday School. The curriculum must be based upon the Text Book and derived from it. Our text book must not conform to our prescribed studies; our plan of studies must conform to the Divine Test (sic?) Book, The Bible.
Near the beginning of the its history the Hamilton assembly followed the worthy example of Raikes and Stokes; a very productive Sunday School was commenced. While we do not have authentic information regarding its start, we do have a report from a former scholar which scans that noble effort of some 70 to 75 years ago.
When George Nunn in 1899 moved from Bolton to Hamilton, he transferred his interests and fellowship from the assembly at Bolton to that of MacNab Street, Hamilton. So deeply involved did he become in the work there that eventually he was a member of the Trusteeship in connection with the property of the assembly.
His three children regularly attended the Sunday School. the youngest, Louis, who was born in 1892, is today a charming young lady of 31 years of age, and the manager of her own Health Food Shop in downtown Hamilton. Alert, and very acute of memory, she readily recalled her early days at the MacNab Street Sunday School.
"As a very little girl," began Mrs. Louise Taylor, for such is her name now, "I went first to the Sunday School at Bolton. Then when I was about seven, we moved to Hamilton and I went to the MacNab Sunday School with my brother and sister who were quite a bit older than I. I remember how my father prayed for his children, and his children's children yet to be. It was those prayers that changed my attitude of criticism and resentfulness, for in my teens I was embittered by certain restrictions; I wished that I could go to a bigger church, I can recall getting off the street car at the corner of Cannon and James Streets and wanting so much to go to Knox Church. All that resentment and grudge left when I was twenty, and I shall never forget how that one night I knelt by my bed and took Christ as my Saviour."
"You were twenty years old before you were saved," exclaimed James Gunn, breaking in upon the reminiscences. "Yes, I was. We had left MacNab before that. About 1915 we left and went to Bethany. In 1919, while in Bethany Chapel, just after partaking of the Lord's Supper, my father bowed his head and passed away."
"What a wonderful way to go home!" broke in both Gordon Thomson and James Gunn. "Yes, a very wonderful way; from the Lord's Table to the Lord's presence," answered Mrs. Taylor. "Do you retain the memory of your Sunday School teacher's name?" enquired Gordon Thomson. "There was a Mr. Grant," replied Mrs. Taylor. "Would that be Alex Grant's grandfather?" asked James Gunn. "No," replied Gordon Thomson, "he would be no relative." (Louise continues), "I can remember listening attentively to my teacher. He was very earnest and I really took in what he said. It was not until I was well on in my teens that I criticized."
"Do you have any recollection of who the elders were in those early years, Mrs. Taylor," questioned Gordon Thomson. "O yes! There was Mr. Best, Mr. Arthur Thomas - a great friend of my father, Mr. Harvey Galloway, Mr. Marks, Mr. Duncan and others." "You must have been one of the earliest scholars of MacNab Sunday School," added Gordon Thomson. "I suppose I was, the Sunday School was pretty small in those days," was the reply. "It seems that apart from your father's home," suggested Gordon Thomson, "MacNab was the first place where you understood the gospel." "Yes, definitely, yes, and although for a time I wanted to go to a bigger church and to parties and other places, that early teaching never left me. I feel that it was my father's prayers and that teaching which led me to kneel that night by my bed and give myself to the Lord."
"May I ask you, Mrs. Taylor, where do you fellowship now?" queried Gordon Thomson. "Yes, I go to the Baptist Church, the Hughson Street Baptist. After my husband died, I joined and took a class of boys, and I have been teaching ever since." "You are still teaching Sunday School at 81! exclaimed both men. "Yes, I am still teaching." "You are teaching the same truth that you yourself learned at the MacNab Sunday School those many years ago." "Thank you so much," said James Gunn and thus brought to close a delightful and inspiring experience.
Since Mrs. Taylor was a little girl numerous sincere brethren have carried the responsibility of the Sunday School. As one Superintendent grew older, a younger was prepared to assume the duties. We thank God for the leadership of such men as William Duncan, Angus Munro, Elwood Marks, William Fraser, Gordon Thomson, Alex Grant, Kenneth Jones, Stewart Jones, and for the brother who now holds the position, Douglas Agnew.
Occasionally one is asked if Sunday School work is productive and permanent. The two pictures of Mrs. Anthony Price's class answers the question better than words. A number of little children in the class picture taken in 1922 are seen in the second one taken 40 years later. All in the second picture are in assemblies in Hamilton. These former scholars met together to honor their teacher. Such an occasion must be a real compensation for the hours spent in preparation and teaching lessons to little folk.
MacNab Assembly also took a very keen interest in the first Sunday School Teachers' Conferences held in Ontario. The earliest efforts of this kind were sponsored by Angus Munro. Other brethren quickly gave encouragement and good support. These conferences were helped by Mervyn Paul, Ormer G.C. Sprunt, R.J. Littleproud, (all three of Toronto), William J. Pell (Grand Rapids, MI) and others. Their counsel and instruction to younger brethren and sisters were highly appreciated.
Chapter Ten - "The Word of God Prevailed"
"Many that believed came, and confessed and showed their deeds... so mightily grew the Word of God and prevailed" (Acts 19:18-20).
The life in Christ with its consequent love for Christ produced the spiritual urge to repeat the operations whcih had resulted in such blessing at MacNab Street. An exercise was created in some hearts to move with confidence in God in order that more local churches might be established in other parts of Hamilton.
About 1909, a number of Christians living in the East End of the city built the Ebenezer Hall on the corner of Ruth and Barton Streets. Here a second testimony was commenced with the happy cooperation and fellowship of the assembly on MacNab Street.
Regrettably, in time a group of believers, because of internal difficulties, felt forced to withdraw from the Ebenezer Assembly, and to form a third testimony in the city at the corner of Cathcart and Wilson Streets.
It became evident that there was a certain departure at Ebenezer from the simplicity toward Christ (1 Cor. 11:3, R.V.) and in spite of the fact that a new hall had been erected on Gage Avenue North, the spiritual deterioration continued until there was a defection in practice fro the priesthood of all believers. A well-known minister of the Methodist denomination was called to be the pastor at Ebenezer. He did not remain long so another clergyman was called to fill his place. The work did not prosper. Ultimately, all activities at Ebenezer came to an end.
The assembly at he corner of Cathcart and Wilson Streets was invited to purchase the Ebenezer Tabernacle. This the saints did, and they changed its name to Bethany Hall. Ever since then there has been a testimony for Christ at Bethany. While it took some years to re-establish confidence between MacNab Street and Bethany, this was finally accomplished.
That Samson found sweetness where death and corruption had been was a puzzle to the guests at his wedding. An even greater wonder is in the fact that God can bring about fellowship where once there was discord; intimacy where once there was severance. The Lord does reward the exercise and effort of the spiritual who would that all believers speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among them, but that they be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment (1 Cor. 1:1-2). Well might the Psalmist write: "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity" (Psa. 133:1).
With the growth of the city, and especially the development of heavy industry in the East End, it was only natural that some of God's children take up residence in sections of the city considerably east of Gage Avenue. About 1913, a group of Christians in the MacNab Street Assembly became exercised that they form another testimony in the Lord in the extreme eastern part of Hamilton. Because of the sad and bitter experience with the outcome at Ebenezer, the elders were very reluctant to approve this proposal. However, after much prayer and deliberation the move was finally endorsed and a hall was rented on Rosslyn Avenue.
This new assembly was likewise blessed of God. After about six years in the rented premises, the Lord's people were able to build the present Gospel Hall at the corner of Kensington and Cannon Streets. In this work they were greatly encouraged by the saints at MacNab Street who, although confronted by the need of a new building themselves, generously donated to the undertaking at Kensington and Cannon Streets.
As early as 1900, at MacNab Street plans were formulated to demolish the original building, the one purchased for the use of the assembly by brother Wilson, and to erect a new hall on the same site. A building fund was therefore opened on a purely voluntary basis. The MacNab Street Gospel Hall known to so many was built in 1921 at a total cost of $17,281.07. In order that the building be immediately completed a mortgage of $8,000.00 was raised, and this, plus the interest, $1,375.00, was fully paid in eight years. From the very beginning of its existence, the MacNab Street Assembly has sustained the policy, by the grace and power of God, to support itself, and at the same time to promote gospel work, and to assist others.
How the years roll by! It seemed but a short time till the expanding city had ascended "the mountain". Hamilton became so crowded that residential lots on "the mountain" were most desirable. Little by little the city gradually inched its way southward. The brethren at MacNab accepted this as a new challenge to spread the gospel in the southern areas. Consequently in 1952, a hall was build at the corner of Queensdale Avenue and East 36th Street. There they began evangelistic work among both adults and children.
Two advertisements in the Hamilton Spectator on February 16, 1952, indicated the purpose and extent of their plans for the new work. In the Monday evening edition of the same newspaper, The Hamilton Spectator, there was a picture of the new hall with the caption: New Mountain Mission Opens.
the report that accompanied the picture read: "Sunday School students can be seen here filing into the new Queensdale Gospel Hall, at the corner of East 36th Street and Queensdale Avenue, yesterday afternoon. Newly erected, the hall was opened for services for the first time yesterday. It was built under the sponsorship of MacNab Street Gospel Hall."
The Christians at Queensdale began to function as a local church, and for the first time gathered together to celebrate the Lord's Supper on September 4, 1955. Since then, as an autonomous assembly they have assumed the responsibility of preaching the gospel in the community, supporting the work of God elsewhere int he home and foreign field, and seeing to do whatsoever is conducive to the glory of God and the edification of the Body of Christ.
Chapter Eleven - "Women of Stirred Hearts"
"All the women who were wise hearted did spin with their hands, and brought that which they had spun, both of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine linen. All the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom spun goats hair" (Ex. 35:25-26).
Since ancient times the ministry of consecrated women has been invaluable to the service of the Lord. The beautiful draperies for the Tabernacle in the wilderness and the garments of beauty and glory worn by Israel's high priest were all of home spun cloth, and were all hand sewn, needle work (Ex. 38:18; 39:29). Throughout the history of the Christian Church there have always been women like Dorcas (Acts 9:38-42) who have followed the example of the women in Moses' day. In their work they have brought glory to God and encouragement and comfort to many of His servants.
A half century is a long time, and we would have to concede that in the passing of those years many miles of thread and yarn could be used in a Sisters' Sewing Class. It would be impossible to calculate the thousands of stitches in both sewing and knitting that might be made, the bolts of material that might be used, and the amount of secondhand clothing that by cleaning and repairing might be made serviceable, in such a protracted period.
The Sisters' Sewing Class at MacNab Street Assembly stretches back beyond the half-century mark. Through these beloved sisters, clothing of every description has been made available to missionaries abroad. Many bed quilts have been designed and made bandages have been rolled, toys for children have been made or purchased, arrangements have been made to send food parcels to famine stricken areas and sewing materials have been parceled and made ready for shipment to Quebec.
Throughout the years large quantities of much needed items of various kinds have been shipped directly to Quebec, India, Africa, etc. Quantities of new and reconditioned clothing have been sent to Cuba, the West Indies and Colombia, South America, and other places.
Obviously the sisters of the assembly are always ready for a new challenge. They meet every two weeks during the winter months, October to May, and are eager with hands and machines to work for the Lord's servants, anyone who may be in need of their services. When they meet, there is an average attendance of 25. The president starts the class with a hymn and a few necessary preliminaries. She then calls upon the sister with whom she has arranged to read a portion of Scripture and to pray.
Should there be a lady missionary home on furlough in the vicinity, she probably has been invited to address the class. If such the case, it is at this juncture of the proceedings that the president will call upon her to address the sisters. If there is no missionary report to be heard, the work begins immediately. Some will mail cards and letters to shut-ins. Others will send cards of condolence to bereaved ones. Still others will remove the pictures from old Christmas cards and prepare them for the use of foreign missionaries.
At half time there is a break for a cup of tea, and while the sisters relax and the tea is sipped, letters are read, suggestions are heard, and decisions are made. With the end of the break in the work for a cup of tea, machines go into operation and skillful fingers ply knitting needles, bodkins and sewing needles. Throughout these many years, the sisters have always taken a voluntary offering. With this they have purchased necessary materials, paid shipping charges, and have had fellowship with visiting missionary sisters. Consequently, they have accomplished their benevolent ministry without in anywise being burdensome to the assembly.
Chapter Twelve - "Led"
"I bowed down my head, and worshiped the Lord, and blessed the Lord God... which had led me in the right way" (Gen.24:48).
A growing consciousness of necessary change was reflected in the MacNab Building Fund. Notwithstanding it seemed agreeable to most that a relocation of the assembly would be postponed as long as possible. Years had accustomed many, in spite of deterioration, to the hall and to the district. The hall held the hearts of most by its traditional values; nevertheless, larger quarters with greater facilities were certainly needed if the work of God was to progress. With considerable money in the Building Fund, ultimately the conclusion crystallized that the time had come to seek a suitable piece of land in a more congenial district.
Search was first made in the western parts of Hamilton, but since no suitable property was available there, interest was diverted to western parts of "the mountain". From the beginning the experiences encountered in this move revealed the guidance of the Lord and the over-ruling of the Providence.
One day when the Committee of brethren, those chosen by the assembly to investigate the whole matter of building in a new location, was looking for land in the westerly blocks of Mohawk Road, they crossed and recrossed a piece of land at the corner of Mohawk Road and West Fifth Street. In a rather surprised tone one of the brethren exclaimed, "What is wrong with this land!" Rebuking themselves for not earlier seeing the obvious and aroused to action, the brethren began to investigate, negotiate. At the City Hall they learned that the land belonged to a Mr. Thompson.
It is a common cliche that truth may be more fascinating than fiction: perhaps it is so here. The details discovered in negotiating with Mr. Thompson were extremely interesting, a proof that "he that feareth the Lord, him shall he teach in the way that He shall choose" (Ps. 25:12).
Mr. Thompson had bought the property some ten years before, but shortly afterwards it had been expropriated by the City for a clover leaf. The original municipal plan was to make Mohawk Road a thruway, but the Town Planning had been forced to abandon that idea. Only a few days before the brethren had contacted him, Mr. Thompson had received a letter from the City offering to sell the land back to him. Was this merely a coincidence? Let us follow the sequence of events.
Mr. Thompson did not now have sufficient money to buy it back as the City offered it, but this he could do if the brethren would buy what land they needed. Consequently the Building Committee was authorized by the Assembly to purchase a parcel of land 150 x 140 feet facing on West Fifth Street for $17,500. This amount was already in the Building Fund. Thus in 1967 the Assembly owned land upon which it could eventually build. Was this, in spite of the unusual circumstance, the Divinely favored location for a new hall? Had the brethren really been Divinely led? After several months some began to doubt. Others began to feel that the lot was not large enough to use also for car parking, for throughout the immediate areas there were stringent parking restrictions.
The Building Committee therefore returned to Mr. Thompson to see if it was possible to secure another fifty feet of land. How disconcerting it must have been to learn from him that he had disposed of the property to a Mr. Morrow and his partner! A few days later, on making the same request to Mr. Morrow, it was refused because it was his intention to build a high-rise apartment there. Somehow the brethren ascertained that the Federal Government had taken an option on that very piece of land. The brethren therefore approached the Postal Authorities to see whether or not they were going to use all the land. From those Authorities they learned that it had been decided not to build, and that the option they had would not be consummated.
The outcome of the fears and doubts of the brethren and the failure to negotiate with either. Mr. Morrow or the Postal Authorities led to a new search for land. Farther south on the same street, West Fifth, a larger tract of land was found, its areas was ample for the new building and for an extensive parking lot. Nevertheless some were apprehensive, especially when they learned that at one time a stone quarry had been there, and that this had been filled with earth. One brother was quite insistent that the option to buy the property contain a conditional clause to the effect that before the actual purchase, the land be tested and approved suitable for so heavy a structure. Four test holes were dug and all indicated that the backfill had not settle sufficiently to bear the weight of the building planned without very costly pile driving and especially prepared foundation. The option consequently was continued.
What lessons was God teaching His people by these frustrations? Was it that one so difficult to us all, that reliance upon God is more essential and more productive than dealings with men? Was the Lord forcing the brethren into "wits end corner", as it has been called, in order to manifest Himself? Would the Lord make a strategic move? Would He intervene? You may judge for yourself.
Just at this juncture of affairs, Mr. Morrow contacted the Committee. He informed them that the opposition and registered complaint by the neighborhood against the high rise apartment had been sustained by the Municipality, and that his attempts to sell the property for a gasoline outlet, a station, had likewise been opposed. Consequently, he told them, he had divided the land into five lots and that he was making the first offer to the MacNab Assembly. How incredible it all sounded! Like Nehemiah, the brethren, "they perceived that this work was wrought of God" (Neh. 6:16).
Inasmuch as Mr. Morrow was asking $9,000 for the fifty feet and there was only $7,000 left in the Building Fund a special collection was announced on two consecutive Lord's Days. The Lord's people arose to the occasion and contributed more than was necessary. The agreement that was finally reached was to the effect that the $9,000 be paid to Mr. Morrow for the land, but with the understanding that he, Mr. Morrow, assumed all legal fees in the transaction. MacNab Assembly now owned a parcel of land 204 feet wide by 145 feet deep; adequate indeed for both the building they contemplated and an excellent parking lot, the entire price being fully paid; $26,400.00.
Other events at this time convinced the brethren that "the good hand of the Lord" was with them. Some years before, Mr. Joseph Smart, an elder of the congregation, had bequeathed to the Assembly a sum of money between $7,000 and $8,000 to be paid on the death of his wife. The recent fulfillment of this transaction once more increased the Building Fund. There seemed little room for doubt that through extraordinary circumstances the Lord was saying to the believers at MacNab Street, "This is the way, walk ye in it" (Isa. 30:21).
Chapter Thirteen - "Strengthened Hands"
"They that were about them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, and with beasts, and with precious things, beside all that was willingly offered" (Ezra 1:6).
Godly counsel is always acceptable to the spiritual, very especially under exceptional circumstances. Mr. Robert McCrory, while he was yet with the saints at MacNab Street, cautioned the brethren against disposing of the old hall without having a suitable building into which the Assembly might move. Without another adequate auditorium, he asserted, the Christians could become scattered and the collective testimony thus be lost.
A major triple task now confronted the Building Committee. First, that of finding temporary quarters for the assembly; second, that of selling the old hall; and third, that of proceeding immediately with the erection of the new building.
Diagonally across the corner from the assembly's new property, on the southeast corner of Mohawk and West Fifth Street, there lay a building complex owned by a Dutch denomination. It consisted of a church edifice, a high school, an elementary school, and a building equipped to accommodate 200 persons. The brethren were able to rent this hall for all their particular meetings at the nominal sum of $180 monthly, and for as long as it was necessary. WHen the time came, the entire assembly moved up "the mountain" and into the rented building. The beloved sister who deferred did so only because of the distance and the fact that she lived near the Kensington assembly.
The details of the transition were progressing favorable, therefore it was appropriate that contact he made with Stweards' Foundation, Wheaton, Illinois. It was from this Corporation that the brethren hoped to obtain a mortgage of some $60,000 to complete the new building. Mr. Donald Taylor, the representative of the Stewards' Foundation, met twice with the men of the Committee. he heartily agreed with their purchase of additional land. In fact, he said that in a building a chapel with parking facilities an area of an area of an acre and a half is not too much. Brother Taylor gave the Committee the impression that when needed the funds would be available, but regrettably the MacNab brethren at that time did not make formal application for the mortgage.
The time had come to control or repress sentiments and store away the precious memories of the past years, the old hall had to be sold. The vicinity in which it was located was now much commercialized and had also been designated for urban renewal. A friendly real estate broker assessed the selling price of the Hall at $35,000. The Committee thought this too reserved an estimate and tried to sell it themselves at a higher price. In this they completely failed. It was finally sold by a real estate agent at the broker's evaluation, $35,000.
A lovely human interest story must be told here. The elders of the assembly had promised the use of the hall to a young couple in fellowship for their wedding. In keeping their promise, they consummated the sale of the hall with the understanding the occupancy would not be yielded until Monday. The wedding was performed on Saturday the fourth. The last services in the MacNab Street hall were conducted on Sunday the fifth of November, 1968. On Monday, the building was vacated by the assembly and the new owners took possession.
A builder must not only sit down and count the cost before he starts, as the Word of God states, but he must determine, first of all, what he actually is going to build. The Building Committee had to know exactly what the assembly required: an upper and lower auditorium, Sunday School rooms, a baptistry, kitchen, toilet rooms, office, storerooms, the type of foyer, etc., etc. When these particulars were all resolved, the Committee submitted them to an architect for the final drawing of the plans.
When all plans were confirmed by the assembly, the contract to erect the new building was given to Mr. Shoalts of the Ridgeville Assembly. This Christian contractor studied the plans thoroughly and estimated that the total cost of the edifice represented by the plans would reach $130,000. This price included the pews and all related equipment as well as the paving of the parking space; in fact, it covered everything but the landscaping. Inasmuch as the assembly had $40,000 in funds and was prepared to assume a mortgage of only $60,000, it was agreed to forego certain details temporarily. These, it was felt, could be added later.
By early summer all was in readiness to start building; consequently, the brethren arranged a special sod-turning ceremony. The first sod was turned by brother Reg Larter. The notable day was Sunday, July 6, 1969. In a submissive, thankful and confident attitude the saints gathered on the lot that had at times deeply concerned them, the lot over which they had frequently prayed. One of the elders, a member of the Building Committee, brother Alex Grant, gave an appropriate message based upon Philippians 1:6, "He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ". The primary interpretation of the passage, of course, was to Christians at Philippi and to the work begun in their lives ten years previous to Paul's writing this epistle. The application made by brother Grant to the project that had brought the assembly together was obvious to all. The greater extent to which the Lord's people would need to rely upon Him was not then apparent. Notwithstanding, it was soon evident the willingness to make more sacrifices for the Lord and His work.
With the construction well on its way, the brethren wrote Stewards' Foundation for the mortgage, $60,000, which they had discussed with Mr. Taylor. What a surprise, if not a shock, when they received a reply stating that at the moment Stewards' had no funds available! Furthermore, the reply also stated that they probably would not have sufficient for the mortgage for a year. Was God again testing faith? Could He, would He, guide in the emergency? Would He fulfill the promise regarding wisdom? "If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not" (James 1:5).
The assembly was immediately informed of the problem. The suggestion was also made to all that if the Lord's people could tend sufficient money on a short term basis, the work would proceed. With smaller and larger amounts the saints quickly assumed the responsibility, and in a brief period had lent $59,600. Without doubt the Lord had directed the brethren in their proposal, He also had touched the hearts of His people so that unhesitatingly they responded sacrificially.
Not too long after this amount had been raised locally, much sooner than expected, word was received from Stewards' to the effect that funds had come in and that they were now able to forward the full amount requested. The brethren, therefore, were able to refund the amounts lent by the individual Christians. One of the brethren testified later, "This little test was good for us. It deepened our exercise of heart and increased our voluntary giving.
Other examples of zeal and sacrifice merit a place in these annals. Two sizable donations were given in order that those details being left until a later date might be finished with the rest of the building. By the guidance and grace of God, and for the glory, at the end of April 1970, the West Fifth Chapel was complete and ready for occupancy.
Chapter Fourteen - "Doing the Will of God"
"As the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men" (Eph. 6:6-7).