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History of Universalist Church in Harvey

Mrs Howard M Little (Lottie)

I have on loan from Regina Clarke a five page typed letter in an envelope. Regina describes it as Mum's History of Universalist Church in Harvey. Regina says her mother gave this address to The Unitarian Fellowship of Fredericton at a Sunday service while we were located on Charlotte Street.

Some identifying addressing information has been removed for privacy, however, the envelope was postmarked November 16, 1988. We are not sure when, exactly, the service was presented.

The history of any church, it seems to me, begins not with the erection of the church building; not necessarily with the organization of a group, but with the real birth of a movement. If such is the case, then the Universalist Church in Harvey is really almost a hundred years old. It must have been somewhere in the 1860's that Matthew Little first thought his way through from the most rigid Presbyterianism - to the Liberal faith. He, with his five brothers, and two sisters, had been nourished on the study of the Bible and the catechism. Their parents - good old Scottish Presbyterians - were nothing if not genuinely religious. For John Little, the father, to know that something was right morally - was for him the green light to go ahead. If he could not see it to be right, he avoided it completely. Harvey Universalist Church and Manse

Now to young Matthew and to some of his brothers, there was confusion. Their bibles taught them of a God of Love, a God of Forgiveness, and doubts began to arise in their minds. But it was to Matthew who had, like Jacob of old, wrestled with God for a blessing that the flash of inspiration came. Suddenly he saw the light. He came to his Brother James - Jims, he said, I've found the truth - He'll save them all, and you and I will have to teach it to the rest. And teach it they did - all down through the ensuing years the descendants of these two men sought to teach the new truth to the others. Personally, I have always felt that these men founded Liberalism in their community just as authentically as did John Murray, Hosea Ballou, or any other of the Church Fathers.

So much for the early beginnings. The leaven was working but it was not until about the year 1912 that tangible things began to happen. Vivian Little, a granddaughter of James, was living in Auburn, Maine, and attending the Universalist Church there. She met and became acquainted with Miss Hazel Woodbury, who had charge of Post Office Missions in the church, It was her business to know where the Liberal Churches were located and it was she who was able to tell Vivian of the Universalist Church in Halifax with its Pastor, Rev. Charles H. Pennoyer. Now things would begin to happen for Vivian was a live wire, and I have never met a greater organizer than Charles Pennoyer. After a brief exchange of letters, Mr. Pennoyer came to Harvey and preached in a hall near where the church is now located. Needless to say, he soon had a very interested group. He explained that there was in the Halifax Church a fund known as the West Bequest Fund. This money had been left in trust by a wealthy family of West's to be used for the extension of Liberalism in the Maritime Provinces. He began to talk about building a church and stressed the fact that provided the Liberal-minded people of the Community would do their part, the Trustees of the West Bequest Fund would certainly give substantial assistance. By this time, of course, a church group had been formed with Mr. Albert Little, a son of Matthew, as its president, and on a Sunday morning - 25 members were given the right hand of fellowship by Mr. Pennoyer. This membership grew over the next few years to nearly eighty.

The idea of building the church also grew and about the Spring of 1914 it was finally begun. Help seemed to come from everywhere - people donated lumber and other materials. Members and non-members worked day after day - many giving their services absolutely free. I can remember no campaign for funds, and yet necessary money always seemed available. Of course, much financial help came from the West Bequest Fund in Halifax. Finally in July 1915 the church was completed and dedicated with appropriate ceremonies on July 14th and 15th. I well remember on the second day of these meetings at the afternoon service, Mr. A. S. Wolfe and Mr. Edward Schaffer of Halifax came to me to learn the amount of indebtedness on the church - I happened to be Sec.-Treasurer at the time, and all bills were paid except a small one at our local store for hardware, etc., - this amounted to $41.76. These men had been instructed by the trustees of the West B. Fund to pay the indebtedness on the church provided it did not exceed $50.00 - they promptly wrote the cheque for $41.76 - the bill was paid and at the Evening Service that night, the church was dedicated free of debt. Harvey Universalist Church

Those dedication services were inspiring - the church was filled each evening - we had excellent speaker from Halifax, St. Stephen, Calais, Houlton, Maine and other places. We also had quite a large chorus choir at this time and a few good soloists. A few years later, we added the vestry to the church - then the community Pulpit, and still later the manse which was built mostly through the efforts of the Women's Group. Mr. Pennoyer was still the moving spirit though we had several other ministers - Eric Alton Ayer, a native of Lennoxville, Quebec - a student from Tufts College, Elmer Peters and Angus Cameron, both student ministers. Miss Hannah J. Powell from Maine, Ernest M. Whitesmith from Bathurst, N.B. and several others.

We have also had several conferences - one at the Harvey Church in August 1929; one at Huntingville, Quebec, in 1930 - a two day conference. Another at Harvey August 14th and 15th 1932. Later one in Houlton, Maine; one at Oakfield and one at Caribour, Maine.

But now it is getting on towards 1935 and many of the older members - and some of the most active, have passed on. The picture of the church life looks a little dimmer, and then, to save the situation - a letter from Rev. George F. MacKay, Eastport, Maine, in which he offers to drive up from Eastport bringing Rev. Benjamin H. Clark from Calais, Maine, to conduct services in the Harvey Church Sunday evenings. This they continued to do for several Summers for a sum that was ridiculously small. They worked mostly with the young people - a Junior Choir - also one of the Juniors chairman of the meeting - reading the Scripture lesson, prayers, etc. One of the ministers always giving the address. These men had the real missionary spirit, a strong affection grew between them and the young people, and this must have been their reward, rather than the salary they received.

After them came Rev. Robert Bath, who is still ministering faithfully to us for a few weeks each Summer. So many changes have taken place - all of the older generation have passed on. Many of the younger group have married and moved away. Some have married members of the other churches and are attending them so that our membership has now dwindled to about twenty-six, and some of these are not not living in Harvey.

The outlook for the Church is rather dim, and yet the church building is there.

We are very pleased indeed that you have such a vigorous group here and also in Saint John, and we sincerely hope that the movement will spread to other parts of the Maritimes. I would like to close by saying that if, at any time, our church could be of service to you people, we will be glad to have you use it. We especially hope that some of you will be able to attend our services in July when Mr. Bath will be there. He gives us some excellent sermons, and we always regret that his congregation is not larger.