Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

An Acculturated Anglicanism: The Twenty-Three Churches of Trafalgar Region, Diocese of Niagara, Province of Ontario

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

An Acculturated Anglicanism: The Twenty-Three Churches of Trafalgar Region, Diocese of Niagara, Province of Ontario

Article excerpt

It would be hard to imagine a setting more favorable to the Anglican Church of Canada than Halton Regional Municipality (formerly Halton County), west of Toronto. For one thing, once the Mississauga Indians were displaced in 1806, the area was settled by British immigrants and American refugees loyal to England, for many of whom the Church of England was an essential part of the English constitution. And Anglicans enjoyed numerous advantages in pioneering days, including huge land endowments, generous funding from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, friends in high places, and the leadership of one of the most visionary and energetic figures in the annals of colonial Anglicanism, Archdeacon (later Bishop) John Strachan. Even after those advantages disappeared, the Anglican Church continued to enjoy the preference of a disproportionately large proportion of the social elite of southern Ontario, to an extent hardly found elsewhere in North America outside Virginia. True, since the 1960s fewer of the elite, and indeed fewer people in general, have been attending Anglican churches. But a connection persists between Anglicanism and privilege. It can be seen and felt, for example, on the campuses of two expensive and selective Anglican private schools in Halton, Appleby College and St. Mildred's Lightbourn School. Finally, for churches dependent on voluntary financial support, as the Anglican Church is, it comes as good news that in the 2001 census Halton ranked first among the 330 census divisions in Canada in the category "total earned income," and that well over 75 percent of the population declared themselves Christians.

So the Anglican churches of Halton, even with aging congregations, declining revenues, and falling attendance, can claim to be socially privileged, affluent, culturally attuned, and comfortable. A church reviewer decided to experience Anglican worship in this favored world. Between September 2002 and July 2003 he attended Sunday worship at twenty-three Anglican churches in the area.1 He found a faithful group of Christian communities led by dedicated clergy. But, in general and with various exceptions, he found them to be thoroughly acculturated, affirming and blessing what the white British-Canadian middle class is bred to value and trained to believe.

In Anglican administration, Halton is part of the diocese of Niagara, and makes up the largest of six regions into which the diocese is divided. The diocese calls this region Trafalgar, after the name given to one of Halton's original four townships soon after Nelson's victory. In choosing Trafalgar over all other local place names, including the more obvious Halton, diocesan officials must have wanted to highlight the linkage between Canadian Anglicanism and the glories of the old British Empire. Anthony Trollope would certainly have chosen Trafalgar, too, had he ever written a novel about Anglicanism in Ontario.

To be precise, there are two small discrepancies between the civil boundaries of Halton and the ecclesiastical boundaries of Trafalgar. Trafalgar excludes a single section of Halton (the somewhat gritty village of Acton), and it embraces one piece of neighboring Hamilton (the comfortable village of Waterdown). Halton is roughly a rectangle twenty miles high, with an extended base fifteen miles wide planted on the northwest shore of Lake Ontario. Trafalgar is therefore almost the same, except that it lacks the northwest corner, containing Acton, and has an addition on the southwest, for Waterdown.

Historically, St. Luke, Burlington (originally Wellington Square), was the first Anglican church in the region, built in the bush in 1834. With many extensions, alterations, and repairs, today's simple frame building with whitewashed walls is the same church in the original location. The first rector, Thomas Greene, ministered from 1838 to 1878, and at various times led services also at a dozen villages all across the county. …

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