'Come to the Church in the Wildwood'
Just east of Glovertown, Newfoundland, Canada, and nineteen kilometers off the Trans. Canada Highway there is a small, quiet, and quaint community called 'Terra Nova'. The latest Statistics Canada Census shows that the permanent population is twenty-eight year round residents. This census of course grows with the influx of cabin owners from time to time. However it is no longer the bustling community it was during the times of a thriving logging operation. In those early days there were stables for the work horses used in the logging industry, a train station serving the Newfoundland Railway and its' famous 'Newfie Bullet' trains on their narrow gauge tracks, a school, a small hotel, and of course houses built for the workers who lived there all year.
The community of Terra Nova began in 1910 with just two men who worked there for the railway. Hundreds of loggers worked in the woods back of Terra Nova, and the population slowly increased over the years as their families moved closer to the loggers. In 1924 the first school was built by William Holloway. This school was replaced in 1939 with a school/chapel combination. So the people now had a place of worship.
When logging operations amalgamated in 1950, the population grew to two hundred, so yet another school was built and the former school of 1939 was converted into a church. All logging operations ceased in 1962, the population of Terra Nova gradually declined as the years went on, leaving it now with the population of twenty-eight people. However the church still remains a pivotal part of the community.
And what a church 'Holy Trinity' is! I knew Terra Nova was beautiful. It is so close to the National Park, teaming with wildlife, surrounded by wild roses, plants, and trees, and of course the wild berry bushes native to Newfoundland. We would visit friends there when we came home on vacations, and I always noticed the quaint little white church that was situated near our friend's summer home. The scene always reminded me of a painting I had seen years ago, a picture of quiet beauty and peace. However, I never inquired nor did I ever hear anything unusual about this special church.
That is until a few years ago when I was asked a simple question regarding Holy Trinity Church.
I was asked "Do you know that Holy Trinity Church has two altars?"
No, I did not know that, but it intrigued me greatly. I had to see this!!
Early the next day my friend and I walked into the church and it was like stepping back in time. It was a surreal experience. I was more captivated than ever as I scanned the sanctuary of the church.
Sure enough, it has two altars! One end is the United Church altar, and to the right of that is a pot bellied wood stove. At the other end of the church is the Anglican altar, where the Font , made of white marble, is used to hold the water for the Christening of babies, as is the tradition in the Anglican church. All babies are Christened and welcomed into the fellowship of the congregation.
Not a thing was out of place and not a bit of dust to be seen. Obviously the special church is well cared for and very much loved.
"So how do they arrange seating for the different church services?" I asked.
Then I was shown the most amazing thing. At least to me it was. The pews have backs that can tilt backwards and forwards. If the Anglican church service is taking place the pew backs slant back and people are facing that altar. When the United church service is taking place the pew backs are tilted the other way, and the congregation is facing the other altar. All of the pews have those tilting features. I was genuinely intrigued, so intrigued in fact, that I had to try it for myself. Sure enough, that's the way it is. You can comfortably sit in the church facing the altar of your choice.
It is a unique arrangement, and it works to the satisfaction of everyone. They have their own church, shared with another denomination, but with their altars at different ends. It is distinctly unique in every way. It captivated me then, and it captivates me now.
The small church, in a small village, with a small population obviously is in a village with a big heart. The church serves everyone, and is an accepted marvelous way to do things, and practice Christian sharing.
It causes me to question why, in so many other small communities, there are two, if not three big churches? Those communities struggle to keep their churches going and work hard to manage funds to do so.
The solution lies in a unique arrangement in a community named Terra Nova. People are sharing their lives, their ups and downs, and sharing a church as well. It proves that it is possible to do. It is possible to have a simple place of worship for everyone, a place everyone can share fellowship, and worship in peace.
As I walked away from the building, I could not help remember the words often said and also sung in churches, "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me."
The Holy Trinity Church of Terra Nova, a tiny village in Newfoundland, is a shining example of peace and sharing. That little church is leading the way to peace on earth beginning with its' 'Alternating Altars'.