Dear friends,

February 16 is sort of a big deal for Messiah. This is the first of five blogs to mark this date. The blogs are entitled, “Looking Back and Praying Forward”.

Up until the middle of 2011, Church of the Messiah was called “St Albans”. It was in 2011 that we changed our name. (I’ll talk more about this in the coming weeks). This means that we are, actually, a very old church by Ottawa standards.

St Albans started as a church plant in the fall of 1865. An Anglican minister named Thomas Bedford-Jones came from Ireland to plant a church in the Sandy Hill area of Ottawa. The first services of the new congregation took place in the early fall of 1865. It is a great irony that Messiah, an evangelical Anglican church, was planted by the Reverend Bedford-Jones. He was an Anglo-Catholic and planted St Albans to be an Anglo-Catholic church!

This is controversial today – some would say it is at best a dubious honour, but Sir John A MacDonald was part of the founding congregation of St Albans. In fact, several of the Fathers of Confederation also helped to found and establish St Albans. More on this in a moment.

St Albans was founded to be a place where the poor, the working class and the handicapped could attend, as well as the rich and the powerful. Unlike many, many churches of that time, Rev Bedford-Jones was adamant that there be no pew rentals. (People of means would “rent” their pew every year and no one else could sit there without their permission.) As well, unlike virtually all church buildings of the time, the church was built without stairs. This was to allow those in wheelchairs to attend. Sir John A MacDonald had a physically handicapped daughter.

Within about two years of the congregation’s founding they had bought land and built a building to worship together in. I will talk more of this in the weeks to come.

So Church of the Messiah has a 152-year-old heritage. Like any church so old, we have a mixed heritage. Some things to thank God for; some things to grieve. I will mention one important thing about our illustrious political and historical heritage. At some point in time it contributed to a backward-looking focus and a museum mindset.

It is pretty heady stuff to have had several Fathers of Confederation also found your church. I am not an historian and I am not 152 -years-old, so I do not know when this backward-looking, museum mindset developed; but by the time I arrived it was definitely a part of the church’s “culture” and mindset. Obviously not everyone embraced this, but it was part of the air the congregation breathed. Look at our glorious past! Remember our glorious past! Preserve our glorious past!

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the church is not to look back to its past all the time. We are not a museum. God made us to be part of a movement in Ottawa and to the ends of the earth. Pray that this will be so! More to come!