St. Matthew’s Church, Peninsula
Compiled by Debbie Phillips
Photo 1 shows St. Matthew’s Church, Peninsula, taken in June, 2001, 117 years after its consecration. For other photos follow the link at the left.
St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in Peninsula was built by the descendants of the first families to settle in Peninsula—families such as Ascah, Annett, Miller, Mullin, Coffin, Baker, etc. Mr. and Mrs. William Ascah who lived further back from the road gave the land for a church in 1865. The first record we have of the church’s beginning is at a meeting in November, 1872 at which plans about size, framing, etc. were made. A north view of the church is shown in Photo 2.
Records show that the church was first used in 1876, one of the first services being the marriage of George Ascah and Helen Miller. It was consecrated on July 15, 1884 by Bishop W. Williams, as, by then, the nave or main part was finished and free of debt. The chancel was built on the east end in 1892 and the present porch, belfry, and spire were erected about 1901. The bell was acquired in 1898 and at first was set up on a stand on the ground until the belfry was completed.
A Little History
- An organ was purchased in 1880.
- In the summer of 1889, Bishop Williams consecrated the cemetery already in use for many years.
- In 1892 the Mission of Peninsula and Little Gaspé was created. The first resident minister was Reverend H.A. Brooke. An excerpt from the diary of John Neil Ascah reads, “The new Bishop A. Hastie Dunn came on Admiral last night and his son and ArchDeacon Roe. They ordained Rev. Mr. Brooke in Basin Church and came over here and confirmed. There were 28 confirmed here. There were a lot of old men among them.”
- The first meeting of the St. Matthew’s Ladies’ Guild was held on April 19, 1893. Between 1894-1895 a parsonage was built in Peninsula with the support of Little Gaspé parishioners.
- Photo 3 shows the church as it was from about 1900 to about 1930 or later, a sand colour with white trimmings.
- During World War I (1914-1918), Red Cross “Guilds” instead of regular Guilds were held, the ladies making 1229 articles and raising $422.26 to aid the war effort.
- On July 13, 1928 an addition to the cemetery was consecrated by Bishop L.W. Williams.
- World War II (1939-1945): Food parcels sent to 4 needy clergy and their families in Britain after the war.
- In 1956, the old Peninsula School was bought and made into a parish hall. Photo 4 shows a picture of the hall after renovations in 1983. Photo 5 shows a photo of the parsonage, horse shed and church in about 1955.
- 1961 saw the departure of Rev. R.A. Carson, the last resident minister.
- The Forillon National Park was established in 1971 and this had an impact on the Mission of Little Gaspé and Peninsula:
- Expropriation of St. Matthew’s cemetery and woodlot and properties of several parishioners
- Expropriation of St. Peter’s Church and cemetery in Little Gaspé and properties of almost all parishioners
- Some people from Little Gaspé became members of St. Matthew’s, Peninsula
- St. Peter’s Church became an ecumenical chapel in the Park.
- In 1971, the mission of Murdochville and Peninsula was created.
- During the years of 1974-75, the parsonage was sold and the site became a new cemetery and parking space for the Church. The upstairs of the hall was made into an apartment for clergy. The new cemetery was consecrated by Bishop Timothy Matthews in 1975.
- In 1977, many of the parishioners of St. Matthew’s Church moved away to other parts of Canada.
- On January 1, 1981, Peninsula became part of the Parish of Wakeham and York.
- On July 15, 1984, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the consecration of St. Matthew’s Church, Peninsula. Photo 6 shows a visual of this event.
- On January 1, 1992, the creation of the Greater Parish of Gaspé was officially announced by Bishop Bruce Stavert. All churches from Cape Cove to Peninsula were included.
- A special meeting was held on April 26, 1993 to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Ladies’ Guild.
Inside the Church
Photos 7 and 8 show a visual of the inside of St. Matthew’s Church, Peninsula. Almost all the woodwork in St. Matthew’s Church, both exterior and interior, is made of local lumber cut by the parishioners and prepared and finished by local carpenters over the years. There are numerous memorial plaques on the walls and many of the other furnishings were given in memory of former parishioners. There are two memorial windows, the Good Samaritan Window and the Good Shepard Window, given in memory of former parishioners as well. The other windows were installed 1908 and all are protected by double windows.
The Greater Parish of Gaspé is still functioning with regular services in each church, including St. Matthew’s, and occasional parish-wide services.
There is one incumbent, the Rev. Ellen Rutherford, assisted by Deacon Lorna Baird and several lay readers. In addition, the care of our sick and elderly, whether they are in one of the healthcare institutions or in their own homes, is shared by a chaplain, the Rev. Frances Aird. She began this new ministry to all English-speaking people in the area in February, 2007, thus introducing a new and important step in the long progress of our churches through many decades.