Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Notes from the road - St. Matthew's Presbyterian Church, Grand Falls-Windsor

I'm in Grand Falls today, helping sort out some oral history collections with the Grand Falls-Windsor Historical Society (more on that in a future post).

Before I left St. John's, Margaret Scott with St. Matthew's Presbyterian Church heard that I was going to be visiting Grand Falls, and tracked me down. They have a collection of historical documents they want to do something with, so I met with them today, and had a brief chat about their materials and the possibility of doing some digitization work, and potentially some oral history recording around the life and history of the church and congregation.

Today, there are about twenty active members of the congregation, which holds a service once a month. The church is one of the oldest buildings in Grand Falls, and was the first municipally designated heritage building for the town, officially recognized as such on October 11, 2005. It is the only Presbyterian church in Newfoundland outside of St. John's.

St. Matthew's Presbyterian Church is listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places, which notes that the building was constructed in 1910, and is the last remaining original church structure in Grand Falls. It is a fine example of a small, country-style church in an urban setting. It has some Gothic Revival style elements, such as multi-paned, Gothic arched windows, as used in similar small churches in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is currently undergoing some repair work.

The building has undergone a number of changes over the years.  The interior of the church was redone in the 1950s, and has been largely untouched since.

The church has a number of interesting archival items documenting the construction and changes to the church over the years, including a copy of the original construction blueprints and photos of the building at various stages, including the one below showing the church before renovations.

Other photos in the collection document church suppers, youth events, women's groups, and special events such as the dinner below, held between 1-2 April 1951.

I am looking forward to seeing more of the St. Matthew's archival material, and wish them success with their preservation efforts!

- Dale Jarvis

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Convent Life -- The Witless Bay Folklore Fieldschool

Right now the new graduate students to MUN's Department of Folklore are nearing the end of their second week of the Witless Bay Field School.  This intensive round-the-clock research methods program is three weeks long and is taking place all around Witless Bay on the Southern Shore. The students are staying together in the local convent--a historic building with many rooms, two large staircases, a confession booth, and a chapel, which is serving as their classroom. It's also a building that is no stranger to communal living, so it's essentially perfect housing for the field school participants.

Over the past week, I visited the students a few times to check on their progress and provide a workshop on some of the data entry they will be doing when they are at the archiving stage of their work. Based on my time with them, I must say that I'm envious of the incredible experience they are having. I took a few photographs that I will share below, but they don't really convey the story of their lives in the convent. Lucky for us, the MA students are blogging about what they are learning and who they are meeting, so please follow them here:


MA student Terra Barrett in her sleeping quarters.

Religious artifacts that come with the territory.

MA student Andrea McGuire as she explores the church next to the convent.

Dr. Pocius with some students as we check out the top floor of the Priest's house (currently for sale in Witless Bay!)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Abandoned Sacred - Unmaking and remaking sacred places

Guest post by Dr. Barry Stephenson

Places of worship have life histories: they are conceived, grow and develop, pass through transformations, perhaps even die. My work examines sacred sites that have, for one reason or another, been abandoned by their users. Abandonment does not necessarily bring down the curtain on a place’s religious significance or use. There is a rich history of religious buildings being “converted” from use by one tradition for use by another. Alternatively, religious architecture, built for liturgical purposes, may be “converted” into seemingly secular sites; for example, a church becomes a theatre or a condominium complex. The language of conversion applied to sacred architecture uses a metaphor to evoke the sense of heightened emotion, import, and transformation associated with a religious experience and maps this transformative process on to a material site or natural landscape.

The phrase “abandoned sacred” then refers to processes of unmaking and remaking that take place at sacred buildings and locales. And even when this process moves in the direction from sacred to secular, there may be residues of the sacred, or a mixing of cultural domains, or a change in how the sacred is understood. The premise is that studying sacred sites during moments of crisis and change offers valuable insight into the dynamic relationships between religion and culture.


My work, using a combination of ethnographic, visual, and historical methods, examines this dynamic of abandonment-conversion at a number of sacred sites. Typically, research on sacred places has focused on the symbolic meanings of religious architecture; my work, in contrast, emphasizes moments of change in the use and meanings of sacred places. I’m interested in the eventful nature of architecture, the ways in which spaces are used, especially their connection to ritual and performance. My aim is to build relationships with partners and organizations in Newfoundland and elsewhere that have an interest in the question of church closure and transformation, in order to identify case sites for ethnographically informed study and research. As much of my research is in the area of ritual studies, I am particularly interested in the role and functioning of deconsecration rites, which have received very little study.

For more information, contact:

Dr. Barry Stephenson
Dept. of Religious Studies
Memorial University
Ph: 709-864-8113

Photos: top - Hebron from the cupola of the Moravian Church; 
middle - stone foundations of one of the Moravian buildings, OKaK; 
bottom - the former Double Island Church, Uviluktok, Labrador. 
All photos summer 1995, by Dale Gilbert Jarvis.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What is in your pancake? Explore the history and folklore behind Pancake Day

What is Pancake Day? Where does it come from? What do you put in a pancake for Shrove Tuesday?

Listen in to find out!

As part of his Archival Moments series, Larry Dohey, then with the Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John’s, wrote:

Mardi Gras literally means "Fat Tuesday" in French. The day is also known as Shrove Tuesday (from "to shrive," or hear confessions) or Pancake Tuesday. The custom of making pancakes comes from the need to use up fat, eggs and dairy before the fasting and abstinence of Lent begins.
On Shrove Tuesday, Catholics were encouraged to confess their sins so that they were forgiven before the season of Lent began. To shrive someone, in old-fashioned English (he shrives, he shrove, he has shriven or he shrives), is to hear his acknowledgement of his sins, to assure him of God's forgiveness, and to give him appropriate spiritual advice. The term survives today in ordinary usage in the expression "short shrift". To give someone short shrift is to pay very little attention to his excuses or problems. The longer expression is, "to give him short shrift and a long rope," which formerly meant to hang a criminal with a minimum of delay. 
Lent is a time of abstinence, of giving things up. So Shrove Tuesday is the last chance to indulge yourself, and to use up the foods that aren't allowed in Lent. Pancakes are eaten on this day because they contain fat, butter and eggs which were forbidden during Lent.
Pancakes were a simple way to use these foods, and one that could entertain the family. Objects with symbolic value are cooked in the pancakes, and those who eat them, especially children, take part discovering what their future will be as part of the meal.
The person who receives each item interprets the gift according to the tradition: a coin means the person finding it will be rich; the thimble finder will be a seamstress or tailor, a pencil stub means he/she will be a teacher; a holy medal means they will join a religious order; a nail that they will be (or marry) a carpenter, and so on.