COVER STORY: CANADA 150
Sunday morning at a typical Canadian evan- gelical church – about a hundred congregants, a building groaning with deferred maintenance, lots of grey hair, half the people not singing along with the familiar
music. But also a preacher who knows,
loves and teaches the Word. A small mob
of vibrant children off to Sunday school. A
youth group led by an earnest college student. And a monthly potluck lunch as full
of kindness as it is calories.
Some say its doom is nigh. Others agitate for changes they believe will bring
new life. Still others rejoice to see a
faithful if imperfect remnant.
Then, out of the blue, a friend’s teenage
daughter pipes up, “I love this church!”
Has evangelicalism been fading in
Canada? Is it poised instead for new
growth? Paradoxically, the answer to both
questions is yes. As our country celebrates
150 years since Confederation, let’s take a
quick tour from east to west to reflect on
the past, present and future of evangelical Christianity.
THE CANADIAN BIBLE BELT
By 1867, the year of Con-
ism was already long es-
tablished out in the
Maritimes. It came a
century earlier, when colonists in the
villages of Nova Scotia and New Bruns-
wick felt cut off from their fellow Yankees
in the Thirteen Colonies to the south,
and from the colonial establishment in
the city of Halifax.
Henry Alline, born in Rhode Island
and raised in Nova Scotia, brought a
radical form of the New Light gospel at
the time of the American Revolution in
the 1770s, a message of God’s favour
upon those whom the world had ignored.
He helped increase the Baptist movement in the region, while Freeborn
Garrison soon afterward enthused the
Methodists and James McGregor inspired the Presbyterians.
Together their work sparked the Canadian version of the Great Awakening
throughout the region.
This revival aimed at more than individual salvation as it sought to transform
the little settlements of the hinterland
into loving communions of worship,
A quick tour from Confederation to today
BY JOHN G. STACKHOUSE JR.