Nova Scotia— New Scotland. It’s almost an island off the east coast of Canada. It’s where various immigrants came, escaping harsh conditions in Scotland and elsewhere, only to discover that Nova Scotia was not exactly the Bahamas. For a good many of these immigrants Nova Scotia was terra incognita– an unknown land, and that’s still true today for many Americans. The sign I took a picture of above in Wolfville where Acadia University is (where one finds Acadia Divinity College, Craig Evans stomping grounds for the last decade or so) aptly sums up what we know about the place as Americans. It is where the Acadians (from Normandy) and the Scots tried to make a new home. Some of the Acadians didn’t last very long there, and moved all the way to New Orleans— from which we get the word Cajun. I was very much looking forward to seeing Nova Scotia for the first time, and visiting with the Evans, but as it turns out Craig had to go film in Israel, so I visited with his better half, Ginny, whilst teaching a week long intensive on John at Acadia in early June. It turns out that the province is very beautiful in June, very much like northern New England in terms of the flora and fauna, and rocks and hills, and small roads, pockmarked with patches due to the harsh winters creating potholes. In this post, I’ll speak about the Scottish covenanters, who built a bonny church, still standing and being used, which was first completed in 1811. Here’s the church itself…
The covenanters were plain people, by which I mean that much like the Puritans they believed in living simply, dressing simply, and doing church simply. Nothing ornate or elaborate, nothing garish or flamboyant, as we shall see. Here is the story of this particular church near Grand Pre Nova Scotia.
The church was finished at the end of the tenure of its first real pastor, in 1811. Here’s the fence in front of the church, with white stones meant to prevent people from walking on the fence, or, perhaps loitering. No loitering allowed, as sloth was one of the seven deadly sins.
The church is well-preserved, so let’s go inside and have a look. On first blush it looks like many New England Congregational Churches with a high pulpit, a surrounding upstairs gallery, and family boxes with doors, to help keep out the cold and of course everything in bright white.
Here’s the pulpit Bible, probably originally a Geneva Bible, which the Scots with a Calvinistic bent favored…
There is an old organ in the church, but in the main the service would have involved singing in plain song, and perhaps portions of the Psalter as well. And of course the usual long sermon. There would be little liturgy to speak of except perhaps the call and response of the Psalter. There would have been several Scriptural readings in addition to the singing, the offering, the praying, and the sermon.
If you listen closely, you can hear the saints whispering to one another. “Do you really think it was worth it, coming all this way to the new world then?”
“Are you daft? Of course it was worth it. At least we could worship as we felt led by God without interference.”
“Except of course from the Acadians!”
“Ah yes, the Acadians who built all those levees and then left, heading South.”
“They didn’t leave, we ran them off!”
“Shush! You’ll disturb the dead.”
“We’ll at least its not as cold here in this grave as it was sitting in that church on a winter’s day.”
“Is your brain cracked? The ground freezes around us all winter long.”
“I reckon, but I don’t feel it in me bones anymore. RIP.”