BY JOHN DECOSTE
Kings County Advertiser/Register
This month marks the 85th anniversary of the formation of the United Church of Canada, and the Valley Presbytery will mark the occasion in a big way.
June 13 at 11 a.m., an expected 600 people from United church congregations from Weymouth to St. Croix will gather at the Old Orchard Inn for a special anniversary service.
“To our knowledge, we’re the only presbytery in Atlantic Canada to organize a worship service for the entire region,” Rev. Michael Mugford of Kingston, head of the Valley Presbytery, says.
“We met as a presbytery back in September and talked about how wonderful it would be as a demonstration of unity and church union” to hold a regional service.
A committee with membership from one end of the presbytery to the other was struck, meeting and organizing since October. As late as June 3, the committee was “putting the final touches on liturgy, seating and other last-minute arrangements.”
As there is no single church in the region able to accommodate this many people, the committee went looking for an appropriate venue.
Greenwich’s Old Orchard Inn is “good and central, accessible with lots of parking,” and accustomed to hosting large events.
Mugford is expecting “close to 600 people” for Sunday’s service, which will feature “a great mix of traditional and modern approaches to worship.”
A big part of the service will be the music, a blend of old and new traditions, including performances by bands made up of Valley youth. There will also be massed regional and adult children’s choirs, which “have been practicing in their own churches” for some time.
Communion will be celebrated, as each United Church in Canada provided flour to be made into special anniversary bread. The special guest speaker for Sunday’s service will be Rev. Robert Oliphant, a United church minister from Toronto and also a sitting federal MP.
The United Church officially came into being June 10, 1925, when the Canadian Methodist and Congregationalist churches, 70 per cent of the Presbyterian church and other smaller denominations entered into a formal union.
“We’re a uniquely Canadian church, the only one formed by an Act of Parliament,” Mugford points out, “and we continue to be Canada’s largest Protestant denomination,” with 3,500 congregations and close to three million members. Here in the Valley, there are 20 pastoral charges, some made up of more than one congregation; 40 different congregations in all.
“We’re really excited and looking forward to it,” Mugford says. “It’s great to be able to celebrate the anniversary, and the best thing is that we’ll be all together in one place.”