sort of buildings do we construct in the early 21st century? It seems
we build rather large homes - if we can afford them. As for public buildings,
shopping malls and hockey rinks predominate. It hasn't always been so.
Peter's Church was constructed in 1837 and opened for worship around Christmas
time in 1838. St. Peter's, uniquely, has been in use for the worship of God the
Holy Trinity ever since. It is the oldest church building, of any denomination,
in the Fredericton area which has been in continual use since its opening over
160 years ago. You might say that when we state that we are "open for business"
we really mean it.
But this raises the question of "what business"? Homes are now built for
the sole enjoyment of one nuclear family, malls are built for the sole
calculation of generating income and hockey rinks are dedicated to one
sport for those who are so interested and who can afford the associated
costs. St. Peter's was built for the public worship of Almighty God. Open
to all, built at great cost for the time and at considerable sacrifice, St.
Peter's witnesses to an age of different priorities. In the midst of
subsistence farming, at a time of economic hardship and just after the
first Loyalist generation had passed away, St. Peter's was constructed. The
local population, including a significant contingent of the Black
community, worked and erected St Peter's Church.
In contrast to present structures devoted to leisure, money or sport, St.
Peter's was built for one purpose only - the worship of Almighty God according
to the liturgy of the Anglican Church, the Book of Common Prayer. The
building was not multipurpose and certainly not utilitarian by any stretch of
the imagination. It was used once a week for roughly two hours. That was all.
Yet our predecessors in the Faith in this place understood public Common Prayer
as so important that they erected this place of worship in the wilderness of
Colonial New Brunswick solely for the praise, adoration and supplication of
their God. As such, St. Peter's physical presence in our midst stands as a mighty
testament to the priorities of our ancestors. It serves as a challenge to our
time. Do we share their priorities? Do we understand and agree with the
importance they attached to public worship? Do we contemplate our Creator and
His Son's love and seek His Spirit in this place as they did? Do we reflect on
the place of Faith in public spaces and debates that St. Peter's early
construction and presence implies? Do we understand the privilege and share the
pleasures of entering into the heritage of their labours. May we think on these
matters and avail ourselves of the opportunity they have provided to enter, rest