Cradle of Christianity Proud of Heritage, Sustaining Faith (Dioceses of Central Newfoundland)

By Devine, Nancy | Anglican Journal, May 1999 | Go to article overview

Cradle of Christianity Proud of Heritage, Sustaining Faith (Dioceses of Central Newfoundland)


Devine, Nancy, Anglican Journal


LEGEND HAS IT that in 1497 explorer John Cabot and the crew of his ship, the Matthew, weighed anchor off Bonavista, Nfld. They were astounded by the sight of the waters teeming with codfish. One merely had to lower a bucket to catch them, said the crew.

That was 500 years ago. Times have changed.

In the Diocese of Central Newfoundland, based in Gander and encompassing 70,000 sq. km, few people still fish for a living. In the 1990s, concerns over dangerously depleted cod stocks forced a moratorium on the inshore fishery throughout the province.

The aftershocks of that decision are still being felt across the province, said Bishop Edward Marsh. The moratorium has challenged every aspect of life, including church life. Attendance is up, he said, because people feel a need to turn to God for answers.

"So many have been forced to spend more time at home than on the water," said Bishop Marsh. "It's not easy for families to adjust to a way of life they have never known before." Their fathers fished, as did their fathers before them, he added. Women who were the daughters of fishermen grew up to marry fishermen. "Becoming a `hang ashore' is a hard adjustment for everyone in the household, and for the whole community."

Formed in 1976, the Diocese of Central Newfoundland has an Anglican population of about 34,000, scattered in 31 parishes along the coastline. Though Anglican churches have been an integral part of life in the province for more than 200 years, they have only been part of the Canadian Anglican Church since 1949, when Newfoundland joined Confederation.

Central Newfoundland is justifiably proud of both its heritage and the fact that it is rightly considered the cradle of Christian faith in North America. The Anglican Church of St. Paul's in Trinity is among the oldest churches in the country. The beloved Anglican hymn, We Love the Place O God, was written for St. Paul's.

In churches that dot the coastline, people who lived in isolated communities and risked their lives to make a living on the sea, found an unshakable faith in God. That same faith is undergoing a renewal, said Bishop Marsh.

"There has been a strong emphasis on renewal, and it might be because we are going through some hard times. When you are relying on God to reap the bounty of the sea and then discover there is no more bounty, you look to God for answers," he said.

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