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United Church (Methodist) of Canada
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The United Church was inaugurated on June 10, 1925 in Toronto, Ontario, when the Methodist Church of Canada, the Congregational Union of Canada, and 70 per cent of the Presbyterian Church in Canada entered into an organic union. Joining as well was the small General Council of Union Churches, centred largely in Western Canada. It was the first union of churches in the world to cross historical denominational lines. Each of the uniting churches, however, had a long history in Canada prior to the 1925 union. Methodism in Canada, for example, is traced back to 1765 when Lawrence Coughlan, an Irish Methodist preacher, first came to Newfoundland. In Nova Scotia, beginning in the late 1770s, Methodists began migrating from England, an event which led to a revival of Methodist practice in this small territory. This influx of new religious ideology provided renewed energy to Methodist missionaries in their ministerial endeavours throughout British North America.
Along the north coastal areas of British Columbia, the Methodist mission found manifestation through several different portals: the provision of pastoral care via boat (such as the Thomas Crosby mission ships), regional medical services, and the provision of community ministry. In Port Simpson (now called Lax Kw’alaams) for example, Methodist medical mission work first began in 1889 under Dr. A.E. Boulton. By 1925 there were three Methodist Hospitals in the territory at Hazelton, Bella Bella and Port Simpson and in 1946 (post union) the United Church of Canada was asked to take over the administration of the Queen Charlotte City hospital.
Mission work throughout the territories was also fuelled, in part, by the existence of Hudson’s Bay Company posts. Not only did the existence of a post often lead to the organic development of an adjacent trading community to which to minister; with the inherent social problems resulting from the presence of, and commerce with, HBC Forts, the Church found opportunities to reach out to the surrounding population in an attempt to alleviate those social ills that resulted from common trading practices and bartered commodities. Fort Simpson was one such post - established as a fur trading post near the mouth of the Nass River in 1831 by the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) as part of its Columbia Department. In 1834 the fort was moved to the Tsimshian Peninsula, about halfway between the Nass and the Skeena rivers; the village that grew around the fort later became known as Port Simpson (now called Lax Kw’alaams). In 1874, at the request of Tsimshian matriarch Elizabeth Diex, and her son Chief Alfred Dudoward and daughter-in-law Kate Dudoward, the Rev. Thomas Crosby was sent to Port Simpson to establish its first Methodist mission. From this home base, Rev. Crosby supervised the establishment of ten missions throughout north coastal British Columbia; while his wife Emma founded the Crosby Girls' Home in Port Simpson in the 1880s. This “Home” became part of B.C.'s residential school system in 1893 and was finally closed in 1948.
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