In the early days of Newfoundland and Labrador, especially in the rural parts of the province, the spiritual life of residents was perhaps the most vital part of one’s being. As we look at our forefathers who have gone on before us, we know that there were two things they were committed to, perhaps above all else: hard work and church.
Personally, I’ve heard stories of men walking for days just so they could make a church service on time, and then leaving right afterwards to walk back the same way again, just to get to work on time as well.
It wasn’t long then, of course, before churches started popping up everywhere. Every community had one, because they needed this convenience of not being far from the church should the need arise to attend. Not only on Sundays, but think of the role the church played in communities then, and even now. Weddings, funerals, baby dedications, community fellowship, etc.
There was no question that having to walk six hours to get married just wasn’t called for, since roads and infrastructure were so scarse as it was.
Fast forward now a few years, and suddenly the roads come into the picture. Then walking is abandoned for much better ways of travel – like cars. Suddenly, what took hours, now only takes a couple of minutes. Much changed in a not too long amount of time. However, it seems that there was one thing, that didn’t change as much as you might think.
Through some research this past week, I discovered that here in the Emerald Zone we have roughly 60 or more churches – many of them stemming back to the days of those same forefathers. Now, of course, that number ranges all denominations, all creeds, all towns, and all people.
Another number that might be of interest is that there are only 42 communities in the region, which means a fair number of those towns also have more than one church. But that’s a whole different topic that we won’t get into.
Take into consideration now, though, the fact that in the last census, we found out there are roughly 13,000 people in the region. Do the math, and you get a little over 200 people per church – which isn’t large by any means these days.
Keep in mind, though, that not everyone is as spiritual as the next person, which is your own prerogative, so there’s a margin of error there that tells us the average size of a church in this area is even less.
You ask yourself, ‘what’s he trying to say?’
I point out the fact that as a people, we look to Government to be responsible, and for lack of a better word, ‘smart’ with the money we give them to run the province. One of the ways our Government has suggested they do this, is for communities to work together for something we call ‘regionalization.’
That’s where two towns, five minutes apart, share a fire department, or an ambulance service.
It’s a proven method in the fact that if I have $100 dollars, rather than split it in two and give $50 bucks to two fire departments so they can buy half of a pair of boots, I can give it to a regional fire department and they can get both boots. Many towns have adopted that concept and bought into the regionalization idea, because of all the benefits it brings.
Now – lets take that same principle and apply it to the task at hand. With populations on the decline, and only so much money to go around, is there really any need of keep 60 buildings up and running all year around, just so we can say that this community has a church?
‘So you want us to regionalize our worship?’ you ask?
Well – quite frankly … yes. For two reasons: number one, it would show those around us and outside of us that we can be responsible with the money we’ve been given, just like we expect the Government to do. And number two? Well, isn’t it obvious? It would show unity amongst everyone involved.
Quite frankly, I think that’s what it’s all about.
— Rudy Norman