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History Of The Anglican Church On Gabriola Island

In the early 1900's, the Anglican Church on Gabriola continued to be a mission church, with a number of Anglican ministers providing any services they could for the next forty years. In the late 30's and 40's, the Anglicans, led by Reverend J. Cooper, held services at both north and south schools, as Reverend G. W. Taylor had in 1896. In the late 40's and early 50's, Mrs. F.M. Boulton arranged for the use of the United Church, for worship on a monthly basis.

Subsequently, the Anglicans negotiated a lease of the old school house on the site where the Community Hall now stands. Eric Boulton, Len Dobinson, Dr. Stokes, and Frank Holland helped build pews and Bill McCall built an altar. Mrs. Boulton and the Stokes provided linens and other necessary articles for worship. The old school had been transformed into a Church, and was called St. Martin. Lay people took most of the services using Morning Prayer, only having a Eucharist if a priest happened to be available. Beginning in 1954, Reverend Dixon of Cassidy, led many of these services. Mrs. H. Cross was church secretary for ten years and Mrs. Haddock and Mrs. Ann Hill played the organ for the services.

In 1971, when the Reverend Peter Horsfield came to live on Gabriola, he was invited to take charge. He decided to make the services more ecumenical, closing the church and beginning his ministry at the Women's Institute Hall. The church building eventually burned down. A retired Pentecostal minister, Mr. Alpheus Bowden assisted Mr. Horsfield. They devised their own liturgy, based on scripture and prayer. From time to time, other ministers took part, including a Baptist minister. The Sunday services were held at 10 a.m. in the Women's Institute Hall, but summer services were held in the Log Church on Sunday evenings. On some occasions when the Women's Institute Hall was too small, the Agricultural Hall was used.  In 1981 when Mr. Bowden died, Mr. Peter Hodge became assistant to Mr. Horsfield.  Mr. Horsfield left the Island in 1984, and thereafter, lay members gave leadership in worship.

In 1986, all services ceased and the church closed because of declining attendance, but the community continued to hold meetings until new leadership could be found to restart public services. In April of 1988 Peter Hodge died, and in September, worship services began again, but in a new format. The time was changed from Sunday morning to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday. This allowed priests in both Anglican and Roman Catholic traditions to come from Nanaimo. Services moved from the W.I. Hall, first to the United Church, then in November 1989, to the renovated Log Church.

The population on the island had grown considerably from 1990 to 2000. Many retired people came here with a background of deep involvement in their own traditions of faith.  After living here for a while, they may discover that going to Nanaimo for church services is not satisfactory. Not only are distance and time factors major stumbling blocks but a sense of Christian community is missing since people are unable to get involved in parish life.

The Ecumenical Community of Our Lady of Victory and St. Martin was born out of necessity. There were not enough members in either the Anglican or Catholic denomination to survive independently. The Anglicans of St. Martin and the Catholics of Our Lady of Victory began worshiping together on a regular basis and consequently directed their energies into building a unique church community. The community holds alternate services on Sundays and on Wednesdays. Members of both faith traditions attend all services and welcome all baptized Christians to our fellowship and to our altar. At present several other denominations, including Lutheran and Presbyterian attend. All are welcome and we are a growing community.

The Anglican services were celebrated by retired Anglican priests Donald Gordon, Terry Allen, Barbara Huston and Linda St. Clair who live on the island and strongly supported and encouraged these ecumenical gatherings. Initially, Sisters Marjorie, Marie and Mary Anne came from Nanaimo to lead the alternate Sunday Roman Catholic services. The Sisters retired in 1997 to pursue other ministries. Lay presiders were trained to lead these services on a regular basis. On alternate Wednesdays, until his death, Father Kevin Wiseman came and after his death, Father Darek Zarebski came from St Peters Nanaimo to say a Mass in the Catholic tradition.

We rejoiced in our unity, and celebrated our differences, sharing each other's liturgies and traditions with great joy, as members of one united family. We found that what we were doing was more than just sharing a building and services. Through living and praying together, and we believed through God leading us, we were called to worship together. Heeding Our Lord's prayer "that they may be one", we were strongly committed to a shared life that went beyond mere co-existence into a mutually understood and accepting relationship as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Mention should also be made of the music ministry provided initially by Sibyl Rothwell who retired off island.  Music was provided by Carleen Gordon, Anne Soy, and Marilyn Smith on the organ or Nikki Westarp on the flute and other musicians when available. 

In 2004, the now independent St. Martin of Tours Anglican Church celebrated fifty years of worshipping together and being active on Gabriola Island. Over the years it had been a challenge to meet in different places, ranging from the old one room school house, people’s homes, the Gabriola Women’s Institute, the Log Church and the Theatre Centre. Despite no permanent home, parishioners still continue worshipping together every Sunday and supporting outreach programs for those in need both on and off the island.

On November 12, 2006 at 10 am Pastor Marvin Svingen gave a reflection and the Reverend Terry Allen presided at a celebration of the fifth anniversary of the full communion between the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada.     

At a meeting of St Martin’s church members, the Social and Environmental Issues Committee of the church helped members to focus and assess the work that was being done and that could be done for those in need in the local community and beyond. The people of St. Martin are committed to a range of programs from People for a Healthy Community to support for children in other lands.  A joint Friday Lunch Program at the Commons was developed and continues through the financial and volunteer support from both the Anglican and United Churches.

St. Martin offers a wide range of music and services each month, including a modern language Iona Eucharist, based on the Iona Community in Scotland, a Lutheran service of Holy Communion as well as the more traditional Anglican services. Details at

September 5, 2009 saw a Gabriola style welcome for Rev. Susan Hayward-Brown, the new half time paid Anglican priest to St. Martin of Tours Anglican Church. Susan Hayward-Brown followed Rev. Dr. Linda St. Clair, who served faithfully as Priest-in Charge for five years, assisted by Rev. Marvin Svingen, a Lutheran Pastor from Cedar, who celebrated Lutheran worship once a month. A contract was also negotiated with musician Steve Smith for our Sunday Worship.

The Rev. Dr. Linda St. Clair, whose compassion in pastoral care, gifts in teaching and preaching and hospitality were celebrated at a dinner at the Gabriola Golf Course on September 12th, 2009, will continue as an honorary assistant priest at St. Martin.

Sometime in 2010 St. Martin of Tours negotiated a rental agreement with the United Church for Sunday Worship. At Easter 2010, we said farewell to Rev. Susan Hayward-Brown who left to take another position in the Diocese. The Rev. Marvin Svingen stepped in for a little over a year to lead us in Sunday worship.

In 2011, St. Paul’s offered to share their Curate, Rev. Anne Privett with us for a year. A conversation was also begun with the Gabriola United Church to consider moving toward a Shared Ministry which would involve sharing a minister/priest and also the building on a regular basis. During 2011, a committee from both congregations and representatives from both denominations worked hard to negotiate an agreement, which was signed on June 16, 2011. Following this during the summer, a joint search committee as above, interviewed suitable candidates to replace Rev. Privett who was leaving in August to take charge of a parish in Oak Bay, Victoria. The Rev. Joan Scandrett, from a shared ministry on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, was chosen to be a part time minister for the Gabriola United Church and part time priest for St. Martin of Tours.   

St. Martin offers a wide range of music and services each month, including a modern language Iona Eucharist, based on the Iona Community in Scotland, a Lutheran service of Holy Communion as well as the more traditional Anglican services.

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The Anglican Diocese of British Columbia