Saturday, March 28, 2020

St. Andrews on the Red Anglican Church and Cemetery

St. Andrews on the Red Anglican Church and Cemetery

My first memories of this beautiful old church are from days many years ago, when I was just a young boy, bicycling out to Lockport, Manitoba with a few of my friends.  Whenever possible we would take to the back roads and avoid the busy traffic of the highways, and so as we cycled along River Road on our way north, the most prominent building we would see from many miles away was the the bell tower of St. Andrews on the Red.  And of course, being young boys looking for adventure, we would always stop along the way there and back and explore the cemetery, amazed at the old dates that we would find.  But this was also a time when things were not so fast paced and when people respected one another and their property, with graveyards and tombstones being right at the top of the list. 

St. Andrews on the Red Side and Back view

St. Andrews on the Red East Side and Back View

While exploring the old church cemetery, being young boys with imaginations that would run rampant at all times, we would tell stories and ensure that any folklore tales would be enshrined in our memories forever.  I remember one tale being told about how if we were to run backwards around the church 3 times without stopping, we would disappear, never to be found again.  No one dared to ask where we would end up and none of us had the nerve to put this tale to the test, so this would live in our imaginations forever.  While on a recent trip to St. Andrews on the Red, with a group of photographers, this memory came to life once again, and I chose wisely not to attempt this daring feat, simply because I am that much older and wiser now.  The fact that I likely would have broken something on my body within the first 10 feet of running backwards never once came to mind. 

Bell Tower

Bell Tower of St. Andrews on the Red Anglican Church

St. Andrews on the Red Bell Tower can be seen from a long way away and one is immediately attracted to this beautiful old stone church, which is close to 170 years old and still in use today.  I had the pleasure of being given a tour and quick history lesson on the church and then an opportunity to photograph both the inside and outside, now bringing to life this rich history through the photos that I share with you today.  St. Andrews original church was a wooden structure first build in 1831 (the outline of the old wooden church can be seen in the grass behind the current church), but soon it’s congregation outgrew the facilities and it was decided that a new church should be built, beginning in 1844 and completed in 1849.  The stone used to build the new church came from a quarry further north towards Lockport and due to their weight, were brought to the building site during the winter, when they could be hauled along the frozen Red River by sledge. 

Fossil Embedded in Stone at St. Andrews on the Red

Fossil Embedded in Stone in a War Memorial Arch at St. Andrews on the Red

St. Andrews on the Red is the oldest church in Western Canada still in use today.  It has undergone various restoration work over the years, with the largest one taking place in the late 1980s where the structure of this old church needed to be restored with cement support beams placed under the exterior walls to stabilize the building.  The cost upon completion in 1988 was close to a million dollars, and because this church was declared an Historic Site by the Manitoba and Canadian Governments, it was co-funded between the church members through fundraising and hard work, as well as both governments.  In my opinion this is money wisely spent, in order that a piece of our history remains intact and can be visited and viewed by the general public, with tours available by bookings.

Stone Wall from 1844

The Stone Wall Surrounding St. Andrews on the Red, also built of Stone

With my fellow photographers, I spent the better part of 2 hours exploring both the inside and the outside of this beautiful old church and were in awe of the workmanship that went into building it.  In a time when there was no electricity and everything was cut and measured by hand, including the stones for the church and the outside walls surrounding the property, I am amazed at how well this building has withstood the elements and the test of time, and after the major restoration, hope that it remains a part of our history and heritage for many more years to come.  

The Greeter

The Greeter

As you enter St. Andrew on the Red, you are drawn immediately to the beauty that has remained much the same for almost 170 years.  In the entry way, there is a wooden statue that stands beside the inner door, that I dubbed “The Greeter” and his no nonsense look lets you know that this is a house of worship and not a place to misbehave.  From the entrance there is also a set of stairs leading up to an upper balcony, but this section is roped off and not in use today.  Once into the church, we head into the back area, where in days past prior to modern heating being installed, services were held in the winter months in order to stay warm.

Welcome to St. Andrews on the Red Anglican Church

Welcome to St. Andrews on the Red Anglican Church

Walking through the metal arch covered in leaves, and looking towards the altar, this simple Gothic design brings me back once again in time, when as a young man I had been into the interior of the church a couple of different times.  But back then I looked at things differently, as I was not a photographer and didn’t take note of the unordinary or look to the artist inside of me when choosing a subject to photograph.  Other than the carpet, and a few new pews being installed, the interior of the the church remains virtually the same as when it was built in 1849.  The Gothic design is evident in the windows. The wooden beams for the frames had to be steamed two or three weeks to bend. The same geometric shape can be found on the pulpit, communion rails, lectern and by the choir stalls.The design of the ceiling, however, is in the shape of an inverted York Boat. Most of the men who worked on the church were familiar with the strength and durability of the York boats and knew the design would work well in the ceiling. The wood for the roof trusses, shingles, and floor boards came from the “Far Pines” or what is now Bird’s Hill.

Alter and Stained Glass Window

Altar and Stained Glass Window

Upon entering the church, one’s eyes fall on the beautiful stained glass window above the altar. This window is in memory of Archdeacon Cockran and was installed sometime between 1875 and 1884. It was brought from England to the Red River Settlement through the United States and from Fort Garry to St. Andrews by Red River cart. The window depicts Jesus calling Andrew and Peter to become “fishers” of men.  The rich colours in this stained glass masterpiece are amazing considering how old this is.  The detail is second to none and I was totally inspired by this work of art. 

Stained Glass Window

One of the Stained Glass Windows along the Sides of the Church

On both the east and west facing sides of the church there are a mixture of plain windows and stained glass windows, each of which are in memory of a past member of the congregation.  The colours are not as vivid as that of the alter window, but each one has a beauty to it that drew my eye immediately to it’s details and left me with feelings of reverence for this holy place.  I could come back to this place time and again and find something different to photograph, depending on my mood and how I am spiritually guided. 

170 Year Old Light Fixtures

170 Year Old Light Fixtures

For several years after St. Andrews on the Red was built, the church was lighted by four buckboard wheels. Holes were bored along the rim where each met the rim and buffalo tallow candles were inserted. The wheels were turned on their sides and elevated by means of a pulley system. Later, coal oil fixtures were installed and also used the same kind of pulley system. The church received electricity in 1949 and in 1967 the original coal lamps were restored and electrified.  These beautiful lamps were the second thing I was drawn to when entering the church and it is nice to see that they were able to change them from coal to electricity.

So for me this trip down memory lane, gave me some new insight into what started as a childhood journey and what I discovered was a beauty I had not seen before.  However, I have no plans on running backwards around the church now or in the future, so that is one folklore tale that will never see the light of day.  If you want to read a more in depth history of St. Andrews on the Red, check out their website.