Ringing Of The Bells To Mark One Hundred Years

By Rosalind Russell – Espanola has a quaint white church that fits in just right and has done so for one hundred years. This quaint little church features the usual, which ironically makes it unique, including lead glass windows, beautiful woodwork, and the steeple bell. That bell will ring one hundred times. That is right … one hundred times to mark the 100th Anniversary Year of St. George Anglican Church on January 1st, 2024.
Reverend Beverly Van der Jagt, “Rev Bev” as she is affectionately known, says she is excited to oversee the celebration in 2024. Ordained in 2019, she became a priest in 2016 and thoroughly enjoys meeting with her congregation as well as sharing in the activities that the church hosts throughout the year.
“We have a very small congregation, around 50 or so, but we are looking forward to putting on some activities throughout 2024 to celebrate this Centennial. The ringing of the bells will just be the first of many events. We hope to host at least one a month throughout the year.”
“We hope that the community comes out to celebrate the ringing arriving at the church around 11:30 am on the first with the ringing taking place at noon followed by cake and cupcakes to officially kick off our 100th anniversary.”
Van der Jagt adds there hoping to host a tea in the summer as well as their very popular yard sale.
“We will also be partnering with the United Church hosting an event between the two churches to allow for the congregations to get to gather to celebrate the Centennial.”
She adds members of the church will be helping to organize events throughout the year. The church has also received $1,000 in seed money, and she would like to see the funding used towards sustaining the building. She hopes to see a building committee formed to help support the church and admits it is a challenge with such a small congregation to meet the financial needs to sustain the building. Any ideas are more than welcome.
So how did this little church come to be such an important part of Espanola? Espanola was first settled at the beginning of the 1900s by Abe Aube and his homestead was built where the United Church now stands.
The fur trade and the supply route provided by the Spanish River led to more settlers, but the big focus in the Espanola area was on logging. Before the river was dammed to form Webbwood Falls, employment was centred more on the towns of Massey and Webbwood where logging provided the bulk of employment from men in the area. These towns were located along the new railroad line where hotels and boarding houses sprang up for workers, visitors, and temporary residents.
As the settlement grew, the need also rose for the spiritual well-being of the community. The Anglicans had met informally for over 20 years in homes in the Webbwood community and Espanola, and they had also set up a fund to build a church of their own. The day finally came when enough funds were available and the decision was made to build the church at the corner of Tudhope Street, one of two of the first streets in Espanola, the other being Sheppard Street.
One hundred years ago the cornerstone was laid in, construction began, and St. George Anglican Church formally opened its doors on October 2nd, 1924.
The church is named after George of Lydda, was a Christian who is venerated as a saint in Christianity. According to tradition, he was a soldier in the Roman army. He was sentenced to death in 303 A.D. for refusing to recant his Christian faith. In hagiography, as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers and one of the most prominent military saints, he is immortalized in the legend of Saint George and the Dragon. His feast day, Saint George’s Day, is traditionally celebrated on April 23rd.
The building houses beautiful hand carved wood designs, the unique, squared timbers that hold the roof, and the beautiful original stained-glass windows, each donated to the church and commemorating the families that founded it. The Good Shepherd in the stained-glass window above the altar is the centrepiece. The bell has its own steeple, that had to be rebuilt several years ago, and is located at the back near the main entrance. Dignitaries, church members and leaders, and other special guests will be part of the ceremony at next week’s New Years Day Celebration.
According to the Parish Magazine, the dedication of the church was an impressive event. The building was described as distinctly Anglo-Gothic in style, dignified and stately in its lines, chaste in its colourings and complete in all its equipment.
It was also noted that the service was attended by an array of church dignitaries such had never been seen in Espanola before. This certainly added a touch of colour to an already momentous occasion with the day including Holy Communion celebrated by His Grace the Most Reverend Dr. Thorneloe, the Archbishop of Algoma. According to the historical record, Thorneloe Street was named for the Archbishop shortly thereafter.
Van der Jagt says plans are in the works to host the present Archbishop Anne Germond to oversee the commemorative service on the actual anniversary weekend of the church. Archbishop Germond has served as Metropolitan of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario since 2018, as well as Archbishop of Algoma and Archbishop of Moosonee.
One of their premiere events will be the renewal of wedding vows. This will be done in a group setting in October led by the Archbishop herself.
She also invites the public to call or drop by and visit the church, find out more of its history and share in the momentous event adding she hopes to see many people come out to kick off the birthday of this beautiful little church on January 1st. See you there, with bells on!


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