HISTORY OF SERVICE TO OUR LORD
St. John the Divine is one of the oldest churches in mainland British Columbia. Its’ history began with the Gold Rush of 1850-52.
As a result of the discovery of gold in the region and the resulting influx of people, a Crown colony named British Columbia was established in 1858. “Old Fort Langley” was selected as its first capital and was renamed Derby.
There was concern by the church authorities in England over the spiritual welfare of the suddenly ‘booming’ population. This led to the appointing of the Rev. William Burton Crickmer as a missionary to the new colony. The Rev. Crickmer arrived in Derby in February, 1859.
The Royal Engineers set about building the parsonage and Church at Derby according to Rev. Crickmer’s plans. The Church was designed after St. John’s at Deptford, England, Mr. Crickmer’s first curacy. The Church, made of California Redwood, was completed and ready for its first service on Sunday, May 8, 1859. The name of the Parish was Derby and the Church’s name was St. John the Divine.
The boom at Derby was short-lived. The first entry in the Church Register was on July 17, 1859; the last entry was January 8, 1860. In the intervening time a new capital for British Columbia had been selected, New Westminster and the population of Derby declined. Mr. Crickmer was sent to Yale to minister there. Bishop George Hills petitioned Governor Douglas to have the church and the parsonage at moved from Derby to Yale.
The Governor replied that such a move, seventy miles against the fast flowing waters of the Fraser would be impossible. The church remained at Derby to be used for services by traveling missionaries or, on occasion, by the Presbyterians and Methodists on approval of the Bishop. The parsonage was occupied for a period of six months in 1876 by Thomas Haney and his wife while their house was being built across the river in Maple Ridge.
In 1881, with the coming of the C.P.R., the town site of Maple Ridge began to boom. The Rev. T.H. Gilbert, in charge of the Anglican Fraser River Mission, was instrumental in bringing the Church from Derby to Maple Ridge. A committee comprised of Magistrate John Laity, Wm. Hampton, Alex Stevenson, Sam Edge, G. Nelson, G. Howitson, W. MacKinney and Mr. Gault was formed to direct the work.
In the fall of 1882, Samuel Edge directed the group of men who dismantled the Church at Derby, floated it across the river on a raft of its own timbers and with rollers, bull teams and windlasses drew it up a 30/40 degree slope a distance of two hundred feet to its present location. The first service in Maple Ridge was held on Wednesday, December 20, 1882 with the Most Rev. Bishop Sillitoe celebrating and assisted by the Rev. T.H. Gilbert.
The Church has been served since then by many able people, too numerous to be mentioned here, but remembered with gratitude. To mention a few: the Ladies Guild of 1906 donated the oaken Altar, stone font and the present diamond-shaped window panes. The belfry was erected courtesy of Mr. Sam Edge. The brass Eagle Lectern was given in 1912 in memory of Sir John Watt Reid by his daughter. The front doors and heavy hand-made hinges were made by the Canadian Engineers at Chilliwack.
On May 8, 1949, St. John’s celebrated its 90th anniversary with a CBC National Network Broadcast of the special services held here by the Rev. Cecil Swanson of Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver. Later we were honoured with a visit by her Royal Highness, Princess Margaret and Lt. Gov. F. Ross in July, 1958.
St. John the Divine once again took up its wandering ways in April, 1983. Until then it had sat directly on the junction of Laity St. & River Rd. In April of 1983 the Canadian Forces School of Military Engineering, under the leadership of Captain Richard Isobelle, lifted it onto log rollers, rolled it approximately one hundred feet eas on River Rd. and then onto its present site.
We give special thanks to the Building Committee under the chairmanship of Neville Warwick and William Clappison and to all the men and women who worked so diligently in this relocation of the church. Once the Church was firmly replanted these volunteers also laboured diligently to build the present Lounge, Kitchen and washroom/Nursery complex.
The most recent renovation began in the fall of 1986 during the incumbency of the Rev. William Pike. This project was to complete the work begun in 1983 by building the current large Hall which would serve for social functions, Church School, community group use, and currently, a private daycare in the daytime.
Under the direction of Mr. Ron Rudd and then Mr. Keith Every, the Hall consumed two years of volunteer labour from the women and men of St. John’s. The Hall had its grand opening in the fall of 1988 and thus completed the most recent part of the moving, expansion and renovation of the oldest wooden Church in British Columbia.
As we view our past, the people of St. John the Divine are aware of the pioneer spirit of our ancestors. This spirit gave them courage to move forward, moving and adapting their church buildings and worship to the reality they experienced. We rely on this same spirit to energize us to be equally faithful to our God who will be with us in the midst of all future change.