A month or so after we arrived in Fredericton, Bill was scanning the horizon with his binoculars. He came rushing into the apartment. “You’ve got to see this.” Our apartment was perhaps two miles from downtown, partway up the hill. What appeared in the binoculars was a steeple topped by a carved wood hand, the index finger pointing skywards.
We learned that the head of Bill’s department attended this church, and he suggested it was the church for me because it had been Methodist before the Methodists, Congregational, and Presbyterians had joined forces to become the United Church of Canada. Churches famously split apart rather than join together; uniting seemed to me to be a good thing for them to have done.
I did join that church, Wilmot United, and except for a few years when I flirted with the Unitarians, I have been a member ever since. Strange to say, although I still feel a little like an outsider, I am now one of the longest-attending members.
I had never been a part of such an impressive church, large enough to hold 1200 people, with a balcony, and handsome wood interior. The blue and maroon decoration had been suggested by Alex Colville before he became a famous artist. It was discovered just a few years ago that a particularly beautiful stained glass window came from the William Morris/Burne-Jones studio.
The congregations of the Methodist churches I attended always sang lustily, joyfully. For the first 30 years I was a member of Wilmot, the singing was insipid, and I missed the familiar hymns of the Methodists. I have a lousy nasal voice, sing in a male register always off-key, and so I am not a candidate for the choir. But I do love to sing. When I was a child in our little church there was a man who had a loud voice, sang slightly off-key but with great gusto. He was eccentric in other ways as well. Sometimes when I am singing, I remind myself of this man, George “Bozo” Reid.