Part of a Larger Community
St. Michael's Parish is a part of the Deanery of Thunder Bay-North Shore which includes parishes in the city and along the north shore of Lake Superior. It is a part of the Diocese of Algoma, with the bishop living in Sault Ste Marie. The Diocese of Algoma is one of the 30 dioceses of the Anglican Church of Canada which is a part of the Worldwide Anglican Church of some 77 million people.
St Michael's strives to be a warm, friendly and welcoming parish, providing support to those who need it, and in listening to peoples needs and concerns responding with a variety of events and gatherings, both fun and educational. St Michael's provides a spacious and comforting place to worship and people are given opportunities to be involved, to see, and use their God given gifts. St. Michael's is a parish that values its past as we intentionally move forward together. We are reminded of that as we celebrate more than 100 years of ministry and service which began as a mission out of a local residence.
I hope the following pages will give you an insight into the Parish, but better still why not come along and see for yourself? "Lord, take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire with the desire to do your holy will, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
The History of St. Michael's Church
In the 1860s, the land where St. Michael’s now stands was owned by Frances Brown and was used as a small cemetery. The property was up the hill from a small settlement on the Lake Superior waterfront that was called the Station, later renamed Prince Arthur’s Landing by General Garnet Wolseley when he arrived in 1870. Wolseley came to lead the Red River Expedition from Lake Superior to Fort Garry, in order to establish Canadian sovereignty in Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. The trek was difficult, with many casualties among his troops. As a result, a number of Wolseley’s men were buried in Frances Brown’s cemetery on the hill.
A few years later, Bishop Frederick Fauquier, the Anglican bishop of Algoma, bought the land for use as a cemetery by the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Prince Arthur’s Landing. He formally consecrated it as a cemetery in July 1875. However, by the late summer of 1887, the Rev. C. J. Machin of St. John’s stopped all burials in the cemetery, realizing that there could be other uses for the property. By 1900 a few Anglican families living at the top of the hill began gathering in homes for services and Sunday School, and the group of twelve families became known as the Outstation.
The Outstation group met on December 2, 1906 to plan the construction of a new church and decided that the new parish would be called St. Michael and All Angels. A Mission Hall, affiliated with St. John’s, was built in 1907 on the lower northwest corner of the cemetery property. The first service was held on June 16, 1907 with Rev. C. W. Hedley presiding and 25 people present. The building was heated with a box stove, with kitchen chairs as seats. The first Altar Guild was formed on October 29, 1908.
On May 12, 1917, the Finance and Advisory Committee of St. John’s Church passed a resolution (with the Archbishop and Chancellor present) consenting to the division of St. John’s parish. St. Michael’s was set apart as a Mission, separate from three others in the parish but still under the mother church of St. John’s.
A Ladies’ Guild was formed in 1912 and a Women’s Auxiliary in 1921. The Women’s Auxiliary was renamed Anglican Church Women in 1949. A Girls’ Guild was started in 1922 and reorganized into the Girls’ Auxiliary in 1925. The younger girls split off into the Junior Auxiliary in 1947. The Boy Scouts were established at St. Michael’s on October 10, 1922 and re-established as the 11th Port Arthur troop on January 23, 1950. This troop continued to December 13, 2006. The first Choir (for men only) was formed in 1924. A Ladies Choir was added in 1946.
In 1927 St. Michael’s proposed to improve the church building, and in order to get a mortgage for this purpose, it was necessary for St. John’s to give up its interest in the former cemetery property. A Quit Claim deed, dated October 31, 1927 was executed by the Incumbent and Wardens of St. John’s Church, to the Synod of Algoma, to officially separate St. Michael’s from St. John’s parish. In 1928 St. Michael’s became a self-supporting Mission. However, in the rocky economy of the day, St. Michael’s did not go ahead with the planned improvements or the mortgage. The depression hit the new parish hard, and the property reverted to the City of Port Arthur when the taxes on the land fell into arrears. The portion of the land on which the church sat was redeemed with a Quit Claim Deed on May 4, 1936.
In 1937-38 the roof of the church was repaired; the east end was expanded with an addition and the exterior covered with insulbrick siding. The first pews were purchased, and a curtain hung between the addition and the altar, separating the altar from the Sunday School.
In 1947, Rev. Alvin Thomson was appointed the first fulltime Incumbent at St. Michael’s. In June 1949, the building was raised, and a basement was built under it. The basement took six months to finish. In 1950, the congregation of St. Michael’s paid $900.00 to the City of Port Arthur to redeem the rest of the property, including the old cemetery property. On August 3, 1950, the City conveyed the land once again to the Synod of Algoma. The whole of the original cemetery property (excepting a 12-foot strip lost through the widening of Windemere Ave.) was now the property of the Church.
St. Michael's circa 1950
The Rev. Ken Rutter was appointed Incumbent in 1952. A Little Helpers group for babies and preschoolers was formed in 1955 and met monthly. In 1957, at the height of the baby boom, there were 114 young members. In 1957 Rev. John Jordan succeeded Rev. Rutter.
At the Vestry Meeting in 1958 approval was given to construct a new church building at the corner of Red River Road and Rockwood Avenue. A modern style of architecture was chosen, using laminated wooden beams, exposed brick interior and light-coloured furnishings. The project came together quickly, with the foundation stone laid by Archdeacon Hinchcliff on December 4, 1958. The first service in the new building was Trinity Sunday, May 24, 1959, and the new St. Michael and All Angels Church was officially dedicated by Archbishop William Wright on June 8, 1959.
Archdeacon Mark Conliffe was appointed Incumbent in 1968 and served for 33 years. A parish visitation in October that year determined that there were 344 registered Anglicans on the parish roll. The first seven stained glass windows were installed in the west wall of St. Michael’s in 1979. In August 1992 four more stained glass windows were installed.
West Wall Windows
Construction of a large addition on the west side of the building began in June 1989. Modern rooms for meetings and classes were added, and the kitchen was updated and expanded. The seating capacity of the nave of the church was increased to 350 with non-fixed seating in the new area, to accommodate a variety of needs.
Addition under construction - 1989
A Men’s Fellowship Group was started in 1991, meeting for breakfast on the last Saturday of the month. A Tuesday Morning Home Study Group was formed in 1993 and continues to meet biweekly for study and discussion. In October 1994 work started on St. Michael’s Memorial Garden and the first scattering of ashes took place in November of that year.
Rev. Peter Smyth served as Incumbent from February 2002 to June 2011. He brought an Irish flair to our church, introduced liturgy from around the world, and implemented a paid youth worker position. After almost ten years, Rev. Smyth was succeeded by Rev. Lynn Fisher as Interim Incumbent, and then Father Chris Harper as the Incumbent. Rev. Harper was the first Indigenous minister in our Diocese. He joined our church from a parish in Saskatchewan. During his ministry from September 2012 to June 2016, we enjoyed new ways to worship, and endeavored to connect with Indigenous people from some of the remote northern communities, hosting events such as the annual Gospel Jamboree.
In October of 2016, Rev. Gordon Holroyd became a three-quarter time Interim Incumbent. During this time, the Parish completed a discernment process, ultimately confirming the wish to stay an independent, full-time parish. The Rev. Charlene Scriver came to St. Michael’s from West Thunder Bay in 2018 to become the new Incumbent. Her calm, positive approach helped to resolve some lingering frustrations and concerns, and she brought a fresh, infectious energy that has helped us continue, even through our grief following her sudden passing.
In November of 2019, we were blessed to have the Rev. Nancy Ringham serve as the Interim Incumbent, coming out of a brief retirement to guide us through a time of transition. She came full circle, having started her ordained ministry serving as a Deacon at St. Michael’s in 2004/05. She helped to complete several projects that Rev. Charlene had begun, provided pastoral care, and led us spiritually each week, despite the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. On October 1, 2020, Reverend Enid Pow joined us from the Diocese of Rupert's Land to undertake her duties as our most recent incumbent.
We celebrated 100 years as St. Michael and All Angels Church in June 2007. Some families in the parish can still trace their loyalty to St. Michael’s to the time of the twelve families who initiated the idea of building The Little Mission, while the majority are relative newcomers, each individual adding to the ongoing vitality of our parish. Collectively, we look forward to the challenges of the years ahead.