STUKELY CHURCH: OLDEST CONGREGATION IN CANADA
by Esther F. Ramharacksingh Knott
Rodney Owen and his father-in-law, Mr. Bourdeau, knew that Jesus wanted them to share the gospel with others. But where should they preach? There was so many places in Canada that needed to hear the Adventist message. Their questioning led them first to West Bolton. In September 1875 Owen and Bourdeau pitched a tent and invited the people to come. From those that came twelve persons accepted the Message at that time. The following year they repeated their lectures in South Stukely and seven heads of families embraced the Sabbath. That same summer beginning on July 1, they started a third series in a large and commodious tent near the park in Waterloo. These meetings were well publicized int eh local newspaper, and as far as we know it was the first time SDA preaching received any newspaper publicity in Canada.
The following statement, taken from the Waterloo Advertizer on August 4, gives evidence that the early converts were noticed by their neighbors: "There is a community of Adventists in Stukely and Bolton. They observe Saturday as a day of rest and Sunday the women folks buckle into the washing and churning, and the men folks shoulder their scythes and march to the hayfields as usual."
One week later in a letter to the editor, a reader named Kneeland asked where this community of Adventists lived. He asserted that he only knew, of "one who had avowed the Advent faith, and he would rather shoulder a leg of mutton than a scythe and particularly if the temperature was in the 90's."
On August 18 a reply appeared to Kneeland's letter. It stated that Mr. Kneeland was wrong about the number of Adventists because there were as many there as there were souls saved in Noah's ark. It was true, the writer observed, that if one were driving through Stukely on a Sunday he might get a distorted view as to the number of Adventists because many who professed to keep Sunday were out in the hayfields too.
According to the Stukely church minutes, the meetings in Waterloo continued a year. The next summer (1877) the Bourdeau-Owen team pitched their tent in Fulford, about five miles south of Waterloo. Their presence made the local ministers very anxious. A minister who had attended one of their meetings observed as he left, "You can find anything in the Bible." "No," replied our preachers, "The first day Sabbath is not there." The local minister had nothing more to say.
On September 30, 1877 the Stukely church was organized. Bourdeau and Owen were able to see the fruit of their work and know that surely God had been leading them. Stukely is the oldest congregation in Canada today and is located in South Stukely, about an hour from Montreal, in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.
Story adapted from J. Ernest Monteith Papers