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When he came to Ascension, Gary Hauch said he hoped "to help build a community of people who would make a difference in the world," who would, as serious Christians, "work to break down the prejudice against people of different races, colours, and cultures, would understand themselves to be environmental stewards, and would explore the social implications of the gospels."
Ascension has been actively involved with refugees and new Canadians
since 1991. In the early '90s this included sending funds to a refugee
camp in Tanzania where an Ascension associate was working, and supporting
communities from El Salvador and Guatemala. More recently Gary encouraged
the parish to sponsor refugees "from countries at war or where repressive
regimes threaten lives". Since then, Ascension has sponsored refugee
families from Burundi and, in conjunction with Trinity and All Saints,
Sandy Hill, refugee families from Sudan.
In the spring of 1993, Wes Maultsaid, Judy Cray, and six people from
two other churches in the diocese (St. George's and All Saints, Westboro)
went to Guatemala for two weeks. Judy said, "We went there to learn
about the Mayan people, their culture and what it was like living under
an oppressive regime". Each person paid his/her own way but had support
with prayer and some financial assistance from their home churches. On
their return, those who had made the trip reported to their home churches
and, as well, spoke to interested people elsewhere.
Later, that same year, Ascension sponsored parishioner Colin Rowatt to
travel in Mexico and Guatemala on "Project Accompaniment". From
September until the following April, Colin was among those who accompanied
a group of Guatemalan refugees home from the refugee camp in Mexico where
they had been living for some years under the protection of the UN Commission
on Human Rights.
In 1999, Tricia Wind and Dwein Hodgson left for Tanzania to work with
the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee on community projects and
justice education, an organization dedicated to improving conditions in
parts of the world where there is considerable poverty and injustice or
where disaster has struck. "We worked with farmers to increase their
incomes and with widows to help them keep their lands and possessions
after their husbands died," Tricia reported. Dwein and Tricia returned
in October, 2002 to settle back into life in Ottawa in time for Tricia
to give birth to their first child.
In October 2003, Bill Baldwin, Ascension parishioner and retired priest,
went for two weeks to Palestine and Jerusalem with a contingent from Christian
churches as part of a multi-national, inter-denominational Christian Peacemaker's
Ascension has long been involved with the Ottawa East neighbourhood of
churches but, in our time, Haig McCarrell set up weekly "Coffee and
Conversation" evenings to welcome and interact with refugees and
new Canadians. Those evenings still happen every Wednesday evening, now
at 88 Main Street. (The neighbourhood community-kitchen group that meets
twice a month in our church kitchen to share cooking is an offshoot of
Like Robert Jefferson and Arthur Caulfield before him, Gary Hauch wanted
this parish to be a family. Together with Haig McCarrell, Dwein Hodgson,
Mishka Lysack and others, he explored having house groups at Ascension.
House groups would be made up of a small number of people with particular
aims and interests.
The house group idea wasn't new but it hadn't been tried at Ascension
so, at first, it was a short-term project, The Epiphany Project, so named
because the first house-group meetings were to take place in the week
following the 1996 Epiphany Night celebration at the church. The celebration
that year included a performance of Julian, a one-woman play about Julian
of Norwich, performed in the church sanctuary by Kathleen McLaughlin,
an Ottawa Roman Catholic nun. It was followed by a potluck supper in the
The house-group idea caught on. Some of the original groups are still
meeting, some have fallen by the wayside, and others have started up.
The Alpha Groups are still going, the once-a-month Monday Night Epiphany
Group still gathers to talk, to sing, to share experiences, the music
group still meets. In 1997 Gerry Green started a men's club to meet once
a week for breakfast and, afterwards, take care of church maintenance.
A Bible study group was formed in 2000 and, in 2004, a mothers' and babies
group has begun to meet on Thursday mornings for mutual support, conversation
These retreats have become important to the life of the parish. Not only
do they encourage the sense of family that is so important to us, serious
decisions have been made on retreat. During a retreat "discernment
process" in 1996 members of the parish prayed and discussed what
outreach Ascension should focus on. To everyone's surprise, the response,
loud and clear, was children. As a result we changed our liturgy to make
children more a part of it, and have made every effort to welcome children
to our church. There is now a children's story at the beginning of every
service. Linda Hauch, with the help of Anneke Jansen van Doorn, headed
the effort to enlarge the Sunday school and re-shape the curriculum with
the special House-of-the Good-Shepherd program for the nursery-school
age. And Ascension is now is a church full of children ranging in age
from a few weeks to adolescence.
A new newsletter ("An Occasional Newsletter from the Church of the
Ascension") was started in December of 1990.It fell by the wayside
but was started up again in 2002 by Annie MacTavish. Gary has invited
artists in the parish to make use of the hall for book launches or art
exhibits - Alison Gresick launched her first book of short stories, Brick
and Mortar at the church in 2000.
In the mid-nineties Gary encouraged the young adults in the parish to
organize a series of coffee-house evenings to celebrate causes like social
justice, peace and care for the environment (in 2001, Ascension, with
All Saints, Westboro And St. John's, Elgin Street, won the first Green
Church Award) or simply as get-togethers for the deanery young people.
For these evenings the hall was transformed into a colourfully decorated
1960's style coffee house with coffee, tea, or soda pop to drink plus
all manner of home-made baked goods. A stage was set up from which people
read poetry, performed on musical instruments or sang. (The idea has taken
hold once more and the first of a new coffee-house series was held on
January 18, 2003.)
These evenings only stopped when the parish energy shifted to raising
money for an elevator. The chair lift, which everyone in the congregation
had hoped would be so wonderful, had turned out to be unworkable. A wheel-chair-bound
person had to get out of his/her chair and navigate a couple of steps
in order to get in or out of the lift and, sometimes, the lift would tip.
In the end only the kids used it (and it beeped loudly and constantly
while they did). Maintenance fees still had to be paid even though the
lift wasn't being used and the parish council decided to abandon it.
A family is not a family when some of its members can't get into the
house so plans were soon being discussed for an elevator. This project
turned out to be monumentally expensive. The first architectural drawings,
alone, cost $5,000. A committee, made up of Shirley and Reg Callard, Gerry
Green and Alf Perinbam explored all possibilities. Their explorations
yielded the information that the elevator would cost more than the parish
could possibly afford. The parish council discussed asking for money from
the Trillium foundation but that money comes from the provincial lottery
and vestry voted not to take it.
That's when the miracle happened. Marian Rollinson, a long-time Ascension
parishioner died and left the church over $140,000. At first the parish
council thought the bequest would buy us the elevator but when it was
discovered that only the interest could be spent, the members of council
decided to go ahead and spend parish funds. The church would get its elevator.
Work started. The old coal cellar-cum-junk-room (always called "the
glory hole") below the stairs leading into the church disappeared,
a wall was moved, the side entrance to the church was closed, a new downstairs
door with the ramp and the small courtyard appeared in front, the elevator
was built and, at last, people who couldn't manage the stairs could get
to church. The elevator was up and running by Easter, 1999. For those
who could manage the stairs, the old, worn wooden ones gave way to new,
more reliable cement ones.
If the parishioners who marched in procession from the old Holy Trinity
to lay the cornerstone for their new Church of the Ascension back in September
of 1919 could be around today, they would see many other differences in
their church. The choir stalls are gone and the sanctuary/worship space
has now more room and four communion stations. In the mid nineties, after
much discussion and some experimenting with worship space, vestry decided
to have the Eucharist celebrated closer to the congregation than the high
altar. So a small temporary altar was set up near the chancel steps.
The glass windows at the back of the church have gone. There is a more
open feeling to the whole church and there are no military flags. The
large baptismal font stands, as it always has, in the narthex, but baptisms
are now celebrated in the chancel and the font is a small, hand-made font
that Bill and Betty Service gave to the church when the old Anglican Church
in Sherbrooke Corners (part of the parish of St. Paul's, Westport) was
dismantled. (The Sherbrooke Corners' church was Betty Service's childhood
church and was where the Service children were baptized.)
No one in Gary Hauch's church has ever thought of calling him Father
or even Mr. Hauch (first names for priest and parishioner alike in this
21st century). There is no choir, except at Easter and Christmas. Instead,
we have an organist, Beatrix Finta, and the music group, that sings and
plays various instruments (including bongo drums). There is no traditional
altar guild; volunteers do the work the altar guild once did. And, there
is no licensed lay reader. When Arthur Humphries died in 1998, he left
the position of lay reader open. Now a group of parishioners share in
the reading of the lessons, the psalm, the gospel and the prayers of the
We gather often, as a church family, for potluck lunches and suppers
and, every year, as well as the traditional pancake supper in the hall
on Shrove Tuesday, Ascension has a Seder supper on Maundy Thursday to
remind us of our Old- Testament roots and of the Passover supper Jesus
shared with his disciples.
In the spring of 1990, the year he came to Ascension, Gary wrote in the
newsletter that the parish of Ascension is "a remarkably diverse
community that is serious about living its faith in the world... a grateful
response to God's gift in Christ." His words surely express what
so many of Ascension's priests and congregations have felt over all these
May we continue to be so blessed.
CHURCH OF THE ASCENSION
LIST OF BISHOPS IN THE DIOCESE OF OTTAWA
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS AND THANKS TO: