Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Little white church in Norway Bay celebrates 100 years

Glen Hartle
Norway Bay July 2, 2023
The old Norvic ferry bell rang out Sunday evening marking the start of service at the Cushman Memorial Hall in Norway Bay, and this wasn’t to be just any service. This was a special evening marking the start of the 2023 season of services as well as commemorating 100 years of continued church services at the hall dating back to her construction a year on from the land’s purchase from Sturgis Salmon Cushman in 1922.
Cushman, once a vice-president of the E.B. Eddy Company, made the land available to the community and directed that the hall carry his name and be used for non-denominational “church purposes only”. The past 100 years have seen marriages, funerals, baptisms and, through the summer months, Sunday services with the hall having become affectionately known as “the little white church in Norway Bay”.
To attend the church is to attend community. It is more than a building and this is likely at least part of why it has been on the provincial patrimony registry for religious heritage since 2003. While fellowship is a word bandied about broadly in various circles alluding to a commonality demonstrated by gathering together, Norway Bay and the Cushman Memorial Hall illustrated it brilliantly on this opening night.
Shortly after local community stalwart Wayne Craig rang the ferry bell, Don Reynolds, a resident of “The Bay”, took the pulpit and his opening call to join in singing the Lord’s Prayer was met with enthusiasm and volume, the open church doors extending the congregation to include all within earshot.
As is tradition for these summer services, there was modest allocation of time for sermon and ample time for hymns and music. Reynolds offered three such hymns of his choosing, complete with background information designed to craft context for the origins of the chosen hymns and suggested that their message is as applicable today as it always was. Laird Graham dazzled on piano with his voice rising up as lead for Amazing Grace, What a Friend We Have in Jesus and It Is No Secret. He was accompanied by every single voice in the hall and the resulting energy was infectious.
The service segued into a full round of songs thanks to perennial season opening act Thursday Morning with core members Dane Bailey, Tom Healy and Henry Horner augmenting their own talent with that of Dale Arsenault. Starting with a patriotic nod and O Canada, they moved through a variety of musical numbers chosen not only to please but to also afford space within which the voices gathered could muster. It was positively delightful.
Of particular note during this portion of the service, the first public performance of a piece of music written by Healy specifically for this 100th anniversary celebration rang out and the hall pulsed with Healy’s high-pitched mandolin leading the way.
Once the service had ended, all were invited outside for a moment of community and vibrantly coloured cupcakes with crisp lemonade, seemingly chosen to pair well with the bright and glittering time just spent in the hall.
If there is to be understanding of faith within the context of a modern world where the community of religion has ebbed, one has to believe that the fellowship of Norway Bay and the little white church is the right path forward. See you next Sunday at 7:30 p.m. and remember to bring your voice.

Tom Healy presents Cushman Memorial Hall trustees Nancy York and Don Reynolds with a framed version of the song he penned for the 100th anniversary service.


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