|Air Photo Study|
ONE HUNDRED YEARS
In 1977 the church celebrated one hundred years of service. The centennial
committee, headed by Arthur Humphries (son of the Henry Humphries who
had been a key member of the church from its first days), organized six
months of celebrations during which, once a month, former rectors preached
at Ascension. (Unfortunately, Richard Crossley died that January and Edwin
Allsopp was too ill to preach.) The celebrations culminated in the week-long
"Ascensiontide" festivities from May 15th to the 22nd with a
special service on the 19th, Ascension Day.
There was a new reredos behind the high altar and the memorial plaque
in the narthex of the church. There were commemorative pens and silver
spoons and a booklet was published that included a message from Bishop
Robinson, Charles Winter's brief history of the church and Ted Gunderson's
memoir. There was plenty of newspaper coverage of the events.
Bruce Olsen, took the service, Bishop Robinson preached the sermon, the
"gentlemen and boys of St. Matthews choir" sang a choral Eucharist
and the anthem Thy Church, O God (after which they, their choirmaster
and Alan Crabtree, the Ascension organist, were supplied supper by the
Hitman caterers in the Wesley United Church hall - turkey a-la-king plus
tea and coffee). The dinner for the congregation and guests, afterwards,
on "a first-come-first-serve basis," cost $5.00 a person.
Bruce Olsen was at Ascension for five more years. He left abruptly in
1982 (for reasons unknown Olsen had his license to preach in the Anglican
church revoked but he continued a charismatic ministry under another rubric)
With him went all but twelve of his congregation.
For several months after he left, there were fill-in priests trying to
give heart to the tiny, bewildered congregation. Finally three of Ascension's
stalwart parishioners, Lydia Allison, Richard Goodwin and Maisie Stevenson,
went to Bishop Robinson to insist that he find them a full-time priest.
What kind of a priest do you want?" the bishop asked, but, as one
of the delegates said later, "he already had a man in mind".
That man was Arthur Brewer, a chaplain at the hospital in Smith's Falls.
Mr. Brewer was everything Mr. Olsen was not. He was punctilious, traditional
(away went the BAS, back came the BCP) and considered by some to be completely
humourless. Others were devoted to him. While he was apparently not inclined
to the high church, he was very particular about his priestly robes and
he liked to be addressed as Father Brewer. He was not married; his mother
lived with him, kept house for him and had definite ideas about how things
should be done (She told the rector's warden when she came not to let
her son choose the hymns.) He was a first- rate administrator, and, although,
like many priests in the 1980s, he wasn't keen to pay the diocese its
apportionment (the assessment for nine months was over $30,00.00), he
did pay the $10,000.00 owing that Mr. Olsen had refused to pay.
Most of the parishioners who had left Ascension during its charismatic
days came back. Among them were Arthur and Jean Humphries who had been
and were again strong supporters of the church. (Arthur became the lay
reader, Jean returned to the Altar Guild and to sing in the choir). John
and Priscilla Copeland returned to continue their work with the Beavers
(who met regularly in the church hall), Cubs and Boy Scouts (in 1980 Priscilla
was honoured by Scouts Canada for " distinguished service to Scouting"
and again in 1991 for "especially distinguished service").
Bill and Betty Service had never left. Lydia Allison, who had never left,
spent the next twenty years as the rector's warden. Maisie Stevenson and
her daughter Karla, neither of whom had left, continued to serve, Maisie
as head of the Altar Guild. (Those who remember Mrs. Stevenson say of
her that she worked devotedly and always "for the glory of God.")
As a mark of the times, it was in these years that women's given names
began to appear in accounts of vestry and parish council meetings - Judith
Tyrell, Jean Humphries, Gertie Mackett, Maisie Stevenson, Karla Stevenson,
Priscilla Copeland, Muriel Hogan - all had their contributions faithfully
recorded under their own given names. (Until this time women in the church
were always referred to as Mrs. followed by their husbands' names.)
By the mid-1980s, the old rectory was badly in need of repair and it
was standing on what was now a large and valuable piece of property. The
parish agreed to sell the property for $190,000 to Charlesfort Developments.
They were to build town-house condominiums on the land and sell the church
one of them for its rectory. Barry J. Hobin was one of six award-winning
architects in 1985 for his design for the seven town houses and Ascension's
The church, too, was to be improved. At the January 1989 Vestry meeting,
the parish decided to have a chair lift for those who were no longer able
to come to church because of physical disabilities. Money was raised by
renting the hall to a ballet school and a day care, renting parking space
and renting the church, every other Sunday to the Romanian Orthodox Church.
The lift was bought that same year from a company called Portamatic Inc.
and built at the back of the church.
Then, at four o'clock on Saturday morning, August 29th of that same year,
Arthur Brewer woke up to the shrieking of sirens and the clanging of fire-
engine bells in front of the rectory. The church was on fire. Mr. Brewer
was recovering from the heart attack he had suffered three weeks earlier
and didn't dare rush to the scene. He phoned one of the wardens and Archdeacon
Allen Box who was filling in for him as priest.
By the time Mr. Box arrived, firemen were already shooting water into
the church office, the basement and the kitchen. The fire was all but
out. It had started in the office and actual fire damage was confined
to the office, the basement and the kitchen. The chair lift was undamaged,
the fire doors saved the church itself, but the organ was ruined by the
smoke, and so were the prayer books and hymnals. The altar hangings and
communion vessels all had to be sent out to be cleaned. Office equipment
(including the computer; Mr. Brewer was very up to date) was entirely
destroyed. In all there was $490,000 damage. Police investigation discovered
that someone had forced the office window open and deliberately set the
fire but no one ever discovered who - or why.
The church hall, the office and the kitchen were completely renovated.
The stage where the children had always performed their pageants disappeared,
the ramp was constructed, the kitchen was enlarged and the small rooms
behind the hall were reorganized.