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CHURCH OF THE ASCENSION
In 1916, Bishop Roper appointed Robert Jefferson to take over from Mark
Malbert. Mr. Jefferson came to Holy Trinity from Franktown and Montague
and was inducted on December 24th of that year. The bishop described him
as a "young, energetic Irishman" and Wilfred Bradley (in his
book The Life and Times of John Charles Roper) called him, "a canny,
warmhearted Ulsterman," with, "the mind of a Scot and the heart
of an Irishman". His coming, after the dithering of an aging, querulous
Frederick Squires, was welcomed with enthusiasm. He conducted three Sunday
services: 8:00 a.m. communion, 11:00 a.m. morning prayer and 7:00 p.m.
evening prayer with church school, young men's and young women's Bible
classes in the afternoon. He led a weekly Bible Study on Wednesday evenings.
Baptisms were held on the first Sunday of the month and by appointment.
Robert Jefferson had a lot of innovative ideas, and he brought about
what one admirer called "remarkable growth" in the parish. Clubs
and organizations proliferated under his guidance. While he continually
despaired of the choir (in the 1920s he was still complaining about the
fact that Ascension was the "only church in the city" without
a choirmaster), Sunday school flourished, the Babies Branch of the Women's
Auxiliary regularly had between twenty and thirty members (at a yearly
fee of seventy-five cents). There was again a branch of The Brotherhood
of St. Andrew and the members of the Men's Club played billiards and carpet
ball in tournaments with men's clubs from other churches. Mr. Jefferson,
because he wanted his parishioners to feel like a family, promoted frequent
picnics and, because he was a great proponent of outdoor sports, saw to
it that there was a church tennis club. After the move to the new church,
he oversaw the building of a tennis court next to the church.
Despite the continuing worry about the war and the flu epidemic, there
was a feeling of buoyancy at Holy Trinity. The congregation had been steadily
growing, the financial situation had improved and the parish decided it
needed a bigger church. A building committee was struck, plans were underway
and Captain Andrew Acres, the parish treasurer, began organizing campaigns
to raise money. Campaigners canvassed the parishioners and all their friends
and relations. The Men's Club had dinners, the choir and the Dramatic
Society put on plays, the Ladies' Guild had suppers, bazaars and rummage
sales. For several years, that guild operated a booth at the Exhibition
where they sold cakes, bread, jams, pickles and crafts.
The war was over in November of 1918. The church was open for prayers
of thanksgiving on that day. The armistice was signed on November 11th
at 11:00 o'clock - and that day, Armistice Day, (now called Remembrance
Day) was declared a national holiday for all the years to come. The Winter
family gave the church the pulpit in thanks for the safe return of their
son and daughter. The Guy family contributed to the purchase of the prayer
desks in thanks for their son's safe return; the Boscall family contributed
to the prayer desks in memory of a husband and father who were killed.
By the following summer, the Holy Trinity congregation had amassed enough
money to buy "three lots south of the Ottawa East bridge" (at
a cost of $4,000). Amid the relief and the prayers of thankfulness, Archdeacon
Arthur Mackay turned the first sod for the new church in June of 1919.
(Mr. Mackay had been Holy Trinity's priest back when it had been under
the care of St. John's.)
Then, on Saturday, the 27th of September, the bishop, the rector, the
wardens, visiting clergy and the congregation formed behind a "colourful"
banner anchored between two "ornate staves" and solemnly processed
to the new site. Bishop Roper gave a speech in what Ted Gunderson described
as his "pure, deep baritone voice" and laid the cornerstone
for the new church. Mr. Gunderson never forgot it (one reason being that
it was his 21st birthday).
According to Charles Winter (by then Colonel Winter) who wrote the church's
1944 commemorative pamphlet, the old church was "advantageously disposed
of by sale". (There are records and letters to say that attempts
were made to sell it in 1925, but there doesn't seem to be a record of
an actual sale until 1977 when it was sold to the Portugese Community
Association which still owns it.)
The new church, to be called The Church of the Ascension, was dedicated
on the feast of the Annunciation, Maundy Thursday, March 25, 1920. The
name change was at Bishop Roper's recommendation. The diocese of Ottawa
already had Trinity Church on Bank Street in Ottawa South, which was older
than Holy Trinity (by a year), and he wanted to avoid confusion. The total
cost of the new church, according to Colonel Winter, was $23,000. Insurance
for it was so hard to get that quite a few members of the Advisory Board
(later the parish council) took out one- thousand-dollar life-insurance
policies, naming the church as beneficiary.
The church bell (the old train-engine bell) was moved from the old to
the new building, as were the organ, the lectern, the pews, other minor
furnishings and the memorial windows. While much of the church's interior
was still rough, Mr. Jefferson and his congregation began at once to worship
In 1923, the parish council decided to buy the two lots next to the church
for a rectory and a new parish hall and, for the time being, took out
a three-year lease on 223 Echo Drive (at the corner of Hawthorne and Echo),
the rector's then residence. In the meanwhile, work on the existing parish
hall and the church interior was being completed. The Men's Club, under
the direction of their president G. C. Armstrong, did the actual work
themselves and paid for the materials with the proceeds from a play they
were putting on. The hall and the sanctuary floor were both finished by
In Ascension's first year, the parish started a monthly magazine called
The Church of the Ascension Parish Magazine, founded by the Young People's
Association and published by the Men's Club. It was an ambitious project,
professionally printed and paid for with ads and subscriptions at one
dollar a year. It contained a regular rector's letter, plus reports of
organization meetings and synopses of vestry meetings.
Not long afterwards, Henry Humphries, active Men's Club member, started
a scout troop (the 29th Troop), which was active all through the 1920s.
It lapsed in the early '30s, was re-activated later in the decade, but
it didn't really flourish again until the 1970s and '80s.