St. Mary’s going strong at 100

Venerable church survives a “near-death experience”

Rector’s warden Catherine Young and Father John Macquarrie look over 60-year-old men’s guild logs he found in boxes in the basement of St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church.

Rector’s warden Catherine Young and Father John Macquarrie look over 60-year-old men’s guild logs he found in boxes in the basement of St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church.

The leather-bound book is in remarkably good shape. But perhaps that’s because it’s been in a box for so long.

Father John Macquarrie of St. Mary the Virgin Church in Oak Bay found the men’s guild log while clearing out a church basement room.

“It goes through the Second World War. It says ‘Mr. Dexter cannot come anymore – he’s joined the army.’ Then in 1946 you can read, ‘Captain Dexter has come back and given us a talk.’”

Macquarrie and others have been tidying up the church building on Elgin Road in preparation for its 100th birthday, which is officially Tuesday, Oct. 4.

On the Sunday before, a service and a private catered luncheon for parishioners will be attended by Anglican Bishop James Cowan, as well as Lt.-Gov. Steven Point.

A public party is set for Saturday, Oct. 8, when the church will open the doors to its expansive property, which includes a nave, sanctuary, preschool and eight washrooms. It also houses the Canadian College of Performing Arts.

The open house will feature displays about the church’s history, including the original chalice donated for its opening, as well as a bouncy castle for the kids, and a corn roast and hot dogs for hungry visitors. Docents will give tours of the sanctuary, which contains 43 stained glass windows.

Having survived what Macquarrie calls a “near-death experience” last year – the Anglican diocese of B.C. had contemplated closing St. Philip Church on Eastdowne Road and merging it with St. Mary’s, under a different name – the church has been rejuvenated.

When Macquarrie took over as pastor two years ago attendance at Sunday services at St. Mary’s was sparse. Now about 80 people show up regularly through the year.

“A lot of our members caught on fire and started attending again,” he says. “In the summer we had over 70 attending. That’s unheard of for the summer.”

The key to St. Mary’s survival is to attract younger families, Macquarrie says.

To that end, a children’s choir is being formed. Twelve children aged seven to 14 have already signed up for the choir, to be led by Victoria Conservatory of Music maestra Marnie Setka-Mooney.

The choir was the idea of retired music professor and rector’s warden, Catherine Young. The children’s choir will complement the seasoned adult choir, which performs every Sunday.

With the performing arts college in place and classical concerts being held regularly at the church, the arts will be an integral part of St. Mary’s future, Macquarrie says. “We’re wrapping ourselves like a mantle around culture.”

The open house runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For more information, visit http://stmarysoakbay.bc.anglican.ca/ or call 250-598-2212.

vmoreau@oakbaynews.com