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The Covenanter Church, Grand Pré, Nova Scotia
by Elizabeth Adamson

The Covenanter Church in Grand Pre celebrated its 195th anniversary in July of this year. It is a provincial heritage property and has also been designated a National Historic Site.

Exterior ViewThe Covenantor Church became the property of the United Church of Canada in 1995 and is now linked with Saint Andrew's United Church in Wolfville and as such is part of the Wolfville Pastoral Charge. In 1998, an ad hoc committee of Saint Andrew's was established to explore and develop a long range plan for the Covenanter Church. The committee was charged with exploring the ongoing needs of the church: the continuation of worship, the maintenance of the building and the search for sources of grants that would help with maintenance. The two most pressing issues are the roof and the heating system.

Interior View The stoves that are presently in the church cannot be used because of potential safety and insurance issues. Research is being carried out by one member of the ad hoc committee on a plan to convert these stoves to electric heat with the assistance of the Lunenburg Foundry. The insurance company has been consulted and if this form of heating meets with CSA approval, an application can be made to the insurance company.

 

Interior ViewThe new form of heating would force heat down the existing long iron pipes, thus maintaining the appearance of the church. If approved, this form of heating will be of great interest to restoration architects and engineers as they endeavour to restore historic buildings in a sensitive manner. Also, if approved, it will be the first of this type of heating system in Canada.

For those of us interested in heritage, we hope that the ad hoc committee of Saint Andrew's United Church will be successful in its endeavours to maintain this historic landmark as a house of worship.

The Covenanter Church at Grand Pre is the oldest existing Presbyterian church in Nova Scotia. The church derives its name from those Presbyterians known as "Covenanters" who adhered strictly to doctrinal standards and a strict interpretation of the covenant with the Sovereign.

Interior ViewThe story of the Old Covenanter Church began with Governor Lawrence's Proclamation of 1759, which set in motion the tide of migration towards Nova Scotia. This proclamation guaranteed full liberty of conscience to Protestant settlers in the province. So it was that a large contingent of Planters set sail aboard 22 transports to settle in the land of the Acadians.

(Editor- The first congregation was recruited by the Reverend Andrew Murdoch from Ulster, the first Presbyterian minister to settle in the province, who gathered together a small group of New England "Planters", many of them Congregationalists, where they built a small log church The old church was demolished in 1795 and, under the leadership of Rev. George Gilmore, a graduate of the University of Edinburgh, a new church on plain meeting house lines was begun in 1804.)

Interior View Until the tower was added at the south end, the building had no distinguishing features to identify it as a church. In outward appearance, it could quite easily be taken for a plain, and nicely proportioned, 18th century Georgian house. However, when the tower, belfry and steeple were added in 1818, a transformation occurred. The Covenanter Church became the beautiful country "kirk on the hill", that we know today; it is a reminder of the Congregationalist Church in Nova Scotia, and one of our most cherished landmarks."

Interior ViewThe three tier pulpit : In keeping with the traditional liturgical emphasis that Protestants placed on the spoken word, the three-tiered pulpit became the centrepiece of the New England meeting house; the pulpit, of course, is the dominant feature that greets the eye as one enters Old Covenanter's through the front door. The lowest level consists of a desk with seats and wide shelves for the necessary books ... The second tier was the "lectern platform"...from which the Scripture would be read. Finally, the third tier... was the pulpit or preaching stand".

The Griffin, Volume 27 #3, September 2002