St. Philip’s – a look back as the church celebrates its’ 200th anniversary

Article submitted by Rod Hammill
Marjorie Cassidy 200th Anniversary Committee

AAs St Philip’s Richmond, celebrates its 200th anniversary , I would like to take you back in time. Those early settlers would have come a long distance to attend church, travelling on paths cut through the forest , to attend church which was held in the first school . (The school was constructed first). The Anglican Church used the same building. St Philip’s was one of the few Catholic churches in Carleton County at that time.

King George had given Goulbourn Township as a land-grant (gift) to Protestant settlers that came to Upper Canada from the counties of Northern Ireland , for being loyal to the Crown. Thus , there were very few Catholics that managed to secure property in Goulbourn Township at that time, and for many years later. If Protestants were selling property (mostly farms) , they were encouraged to sell to other Protestants. This was the way it was in Ireland , and this practice continued in Upper Canada pretty much into the late 1950s.

In fact , most of the good land in Southern and Eastern Ontario belonged to the Anglican Church. It was known as “Clergy Reserves” , since everything was controlled by the Anglican Bishops. Vast pieces of property around Toronto belonged to the Anglican Church. It is surprising that St Philip’s came into existence at this early time in Canada’s history, since all was controlled by the Colonial Government headed by the Church of England (Anglican). This sparked the Revolution of 1837 when Catholics, spurred on by a newspaper editor in Toronto, demanded fairness for poor farmers, mainly Catholic, who were fed up with government politics being controlled by the Protestant majority and supported by the Anglican Colonial Government from England. This animosity between Catholics and Protestants in Ontario continued until the 1950s.

History records that this was the environment that existed at the time that St Philip’s was built, and for decades after. Catholics at the time were very brave to even consider building a Catholic Church in Richmond. There were religious tensions in Richmond at the time. One prominent Catholic family grew up in Richmond after Joe Dallaire moved there around 1920, and set up a Barber Shop and married a local girl. Of course, there were many other Catholic families of great renown that contributed much to St Philip’s existence and growth over the years as well.

Church socials were popular from the beginning, and St Philip’s had its share of great socials in summer time,  as well as church suppers in the colder months. It was at these social gatherings that many a lad and lassie were attracted to each other , which often led to marriage and further enlarged the population as solid parishioners at St Philip’s.

At St Philip’s cemetery, graves were dug by hand until the late 60s. Neighbours took part in grave digging and, often as not, it was folks of different faiths working together for the sake of the grieving  family that got the job done. Wakes held in family homes in early times brought families together and strengthened relationships between folks of different faiths, and brought out the best in people living under the harsh conditions of the day. Neighbours brought food to the homes of those in mourning, offered help and tried to be a consoling force,  resulting in closer ties of people of all faiths and backgrounds.

St Philip’s didn’t get a Catholic School until the 1950s, but the school as part of St Philip’s faith community resulted in more Catholic families moving to Richmond.

Nowadays , the ecumenical spirit is thriving in the village of Richmond. The churches in Richmond raised enough funds to sponsor two families from the war-torn areas of Syria and Iraq. One family is actually living at the rectory of St John’s Anglican. The churches all support the Richmond Food Bank and ROSS (Rural Ottawa South Services) Program which drives the elderly to appointments. Church services are provided by the churches to the Richmond Care Home and the Richmond Lodge.

We gather together on the First Sunday of Advent to prepare for the Christmas event with our ecumenical “Sounds of Christmas” in which each church provides various sacred and secular Christmas music , as well as participating in an Advent candle-lighting ceremony. On Good Friday each year, the churches in Richmond come together for the Way of the Cross, winding our way through the Village and stopping at each church to enact part of the Passion of Jesus Christ. The churches mark each annual Richmond Fair by organizing an ecumenical religious service on the Sunday morning. This year, as part of the Richmond Village 200th anniversary celebrations, the churches organized a special ecumenical service on the fair grounds. Most importantly, the pastors hold regular meetings to pray and share about their ministry among the Richmond community.

There is a Power of Gathering together.

It inspires us  – Delightfully

To be more Hopeful, More Joyful, More Thoughtful

In a word, more Alive

(Quote by Alice Waters)

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