The Church of the Ascension, now a vital and healthy congregation, had its humble beginnings in January 1954 as a mission outreach of the Church of the Epiphany in downtown Sudbury.
The ‘New Sudbury Mission’, as it was called, held its first service on January 24th 1954 at Charles McRae public school. There were 29 people in attendance and Frank Nock was the officiant and preacher. The offering was a mere $5.71. These services of evening and morning prayer continued and Cyril Varney, a well known Sudburian and lay reader frequently lead the 11am Matins service during the early years. By 1957 Rev. Harry Morrow was the incumbent. The Ascension started as a neighbourhood family church with generations of the same family filling the pews on Sunday mornings.
Services continued in Charles McRae Public School and also at Carl Nesbitt Public School and by the end of December 1957 the attendance was between – 60-90 on a Sunday morning. There were also communion services held in parishioners’ homes, a reminder to us of how the early church gathered for worship.
There was a strong desire in the congregation to build a church of their own and a piece of land was obtained in New Sudbury, near the corner of Barrydowne Rd and Lasalle Blvd. Members of the Church of the Ascension built the church themselves, and some of the men who are still around today remember going down to Sparks Street after work to do their part in the construction of the church. Even today, when there is a building project at the Ascension, it is the members of the church who offer their skills to build something new.
Ground breaking ceremony for the new church on Sparks Street was held on the Sunday closest to Ascension Day at 1pm on May 15th, 1958. There were 52 people in attendance. In the vestry book Rev. Harry Morrow remarked that it was an ‘impressive ceremony’. The following Sunday, May 18th children lead and conducted the service and acted as sides people. Our love of youth and their full inclusion as participants in the life of the congregation had an early beginning and continues today. In 2013 the Church of the Ascension started using the Godly Play program for teaching their children the stories of the faith. It is based on the Maria Montessori method of teaching and involves storytelling and ‘wondering’ about what has been heard.
The Cornerstone of the ‘Parish Hall’ was laid on Monday October 5th 1958 with +William (Bishop Wright) as the officiant and preacher. The first service in the new Church of the Ascension was held on Sunday November 9th, 1958. There were 158 people in attendance! The idea was that worship would be held in the hall for a time, and that eventually a larger sanctuary would be built where the parking lot is situated today. Unfortunately that dream of a huge church never materialized and over the years worship was held in the same ‘hall’ space which was also used during the week for all the social activities. Members remember having to move the church chairs for card games and lunches and then put them all back in place for Sunday morning worship.
In 2004 the members of the church decided to build a Fellowship Hall on the north west side of the building and this large bright space is now frequently used by members of the congregation for their meeting and potluck suppers, for Messy Church (church in an informal setting) and the annual kids summer camp. It is also used by community groups for AA and Al Anon meetings, as well as an exercise program for seniors that is run by the Sudbury and District Health Unit.
Right: Youth and children at the Annual Summer Bible Camp in August 2014 enjoyed having their faces painted as “Weird Animals”.
Since the 1950s the Church of the Ascension has gone through seasons of plenty and seasons of hardship, but members have continued to meet faithfully for worship and prayer, for fellowship and to further the work of God’s kingdom in our small corner of the world. The ‘family’ feeling to the Ascension still exists, but now our church family is made up of single men and women, couples, young families with children, working adults, and seniors. Parishioners come to the Ascension from all over Greater Sudbury including Onaping, Wahnapitae, Azilda, Skead and Garson. We believe that every member of our congregation has a role to play in its growth, health and vitality and each person is called to find ways to serve God in our church. We have a strong lay leadership at the Ascension and over the years we have been served by a number of clergy including the Ven. Lloyd Hoover, the Rev. Bill Ellam, the Rev. Michael Hankinson, the Rev. Guy Snell, and today’s rector, the Ven. Anne Germond.
Right: Church of the Ascension on Sparks Street
The Ascension is known for being a caring community and we still have a very active group of parishioners who make pastoral visits to those who are in nursing homes, or who are ‘shut in’, bereaved, or recovering from illnesses. One group of women attended the Thursday morning service at Falconbridge Extendicare for more than 50 years, ensuring that residents in the nursing home were able to get from their rooms to the hall where the services were held.
Outreach is an important part of our communal life at the Church of the Ascension. That includes outreach at the International, National and Local level. For years we supported ministry to those living with and dying from AIDS in South Africa, and we helped fund a local day program from orphaned children. We have given money to children in Canada’s north, and we are involved with some important outreach ministries in Sudbury. For years we have been supporting the Elgin Street Mission with gifts of money, monthly sandwiches and donations of clothing and personal supplies. Friday evenings during the winter months sees members of the Ascension serving dinner at the Church of the Epiphany as we support the Out of the Cold Dinner program for homeless and lonely people. Our women gather to make quilts out of discarded fabric every Tuesday during the winter months and these are given to shelters and churches in the Diocese of Moosonee. In the last three years we have also become involved in an outreach ministry to the students at Barrydowne College and we are delighted to be making a difference to today’s youth who are right in our back yard.
Above all, we acknowledge that Christ dwells at the very heart of the Ascension community, and for that great and wonderful gift, we give thanks to God.
The Ven. Anne Germond
Rector of the Church of the Ascension and Archdeacon of Sudbury/Manitoulin
- The ‘New Sudbury Mission’ held its first service on January 24th 1954. On the third Sunday after Epiphany at 1:45 in the afternoon. This was held at Charles McRae public school. There were 29 people in attendance and Frank Nock was the officiant and preacher. The offering was $5. 71. The following week, on January 31st the newly founded congregation held another Evensong service at 1:45pm in the afternoon but the following week, on February 7th, they held their first Holy Communion service at 8:30am.
- Cyril Varney frequently lead the 11am Matins service during the early years and by 1957 Rev. Harry Morrow was the incumbent.
- By the end of December 1957 the attendance was between – 60-90 on a Sunday morning. There were also communion services held in parishioners homes, a reminder us of how the early church gathered for worship. The Senior, Graham, Siefert, Bailey, Graham, Hammond, Parkes, Bryant, Griss, Isard, Spencer, Bull, and Hillen family all offered their homes for these home communion services.
- The first recorded Baptism took place on January 5th, 1958. Cheryl Lynn Faddis, Morley John Thornton and David James Kettle and Brian Michael Kettle were all welcomed into the newly formed community that day in a service of Morning Prayer. Allan William Jewell was Baptized on March 30th, 1958.
- Ground breaking ceremony for the new church on Sparks Street was held on the Sunday closest to Ascension day at 1pm on May 15th, 1958. There were 52 people in attendance. In the vestry book Rev. Harry Morrow remarked that it was an ‘impressive ceremony’. The following Sunday, May 18th children lead and conducted the service and acted as sidespeople. Our love of youth and their full inclusion as participants in the life of the congregation had an early beginning. Ernie Hywarren and Stephen Hiller took the lead. Over the years there are other records of youth services as well as the formation of a Junior Choir, a JA group and services of Baptism and Confirmation. On Rogation Sundays the children were given seeds, that Rev. Morrow had blessed, to plant at home. The summer outdoor service, still popular today, had an early beginning at the Ascension. On June 28th, 1958 103 people attended a service on the lawn of the church. This was followed by games. We all love the Christmas pageant at the Ascension. The first one was on December 28th, 1958 and it was said to be an ‘effective presentation’.
- The Cornerstone of the “Parish Hall’ was laid on Monday October 5th 1958 with +William (Bishop Wright) as the officiant and preacher. The first service in the new Church of the Ascension was held on Sunday November 9th, 1958. There were 158 people in attendance! Bishop Wright returned again on Palm Sunday 1959 to dedicate the church building, and the Sunday offering that day was $118.62.
- Rev. Harry Morrow conducted the first funeral service for Edward Robert Gilbank (3 months old) in September 1957. The early funeral services, before the construction of the new church, were held at the Church of the Epiphany on Larch Street.
- The first Confirmation service was held on January 14th 1958 with six candidates and two individuals received from the ‘Church of Rome.’ In 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963 there were 19, 18, 21, 21, 20 Confirmation candidates. Perhaps you recognise some of these names from the early classes – Cecil Bailey, Lloyd Blanchard, Carole Bills, Norval Skinner, Barbara Blanchard, Jean Munro, Bonnie James, Delbert Gates, Donald McLeod, Warren Ginson, Wayne Ginson, Brian Ginson.
- The Ascension is known for being a caring community and we still have a very active group of parishioners who make pastoral visits to those who are in nursing homes, or who are ‘shut in’, bereaved, or recovering from illnesses. The first group of lay people to be called and commission for this ministry were Nancy Bull and Paula Romaniuk on November 23rd 1958. There were 184 people present that day to witness their commissioning, and the following Sunday which Rev. Morrow records as being ‘very cold day’, there were only 140 in church!!
- The first Marriage solemnized at the Ascension was between Vernon John Monkman and Patricia Smith on June 20th, 1959.
- Other well known couples are: Daniel Turner and Nancy James. 26th March 1960 by Rev. Harry Morrow; Arthur Treitz and Doreen Netzke