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Century of worship to be celebrated at St. John's Anglican Church, Otterville

By Jennifer Vandermeer, Norwich Gazette/IngersollTimes

 St. John's Anglican Church, Otterville, lay reader Jill Richardson stands near the stained glass window that formerly adorned Holy Trinity Anglican in Norwich. When the Norwich church was destroyed in a 1998 tornado, the window was reclaimed without a crack and installed in Otterville, where the two congregations joined together. A celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Otterville church will be held Sunday, Sept. 18.

St. John's Anglican Church, Otterville, lay reader Jill Richardson stands near the stained glass window that formerly adorned Holy Trinity Anglican in Norwich. When the Norwich church was destroyed in a 1998 tornado, the window was reclaimed without a crack and installed in Otterville, where the two congregations joined together. A celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Otterville church will be held Sunday, Sept. 18.

OTTERVILLE - 

For 100 years, St. John's Anglican Church has stood tall at 23 Dover St., in Otterville.

With its grand Gothic-style architecture and black ash interior, the building was created as a place for the community to worship the Lord, and given to the community by Henry Bullock of Chicago as a memorial to local residents Edward and Catherine Bullock.

It was businessman Edward Bullock who built the first St. John's Church in 1850 on what is now Church Street, where the cemetery is located. That first white, frame church was built by local volunteers and served the congregation until it began to need much repair. Edward Bullock purchased the lots for the new church on Dover Street in 1908 and construction was completed in 1916.

The 100th anniversary of the current St. John's church will be celebrated with a special community event Sunday, Sept. 18 at 2 p.m. All are welcome to attend the celebration service with the Rt. Rev. Linda C. Nicholls, Coadjutor Bishop of the Huron Diocese. Bishop Nicholls is the first female bishop in the diocese.

Jill Richardson, the lay reader at St. John's, said it is a significant event to have the first female bishop preside over the special service.

“It's a great accomplishment, especially in the Anglican Church in Canada, to be here 100 years,” said Richardson, adding other Anglican churches have closed due to low attendance.

The Sept. 18 service will be a full Eucharistic service, and will include special music by the Gentlemen of Harmony from Delhi.

The celebration will also include organ music played by Dianne Clark on the Casavant Freres organ. This integral part of the church building is also marking 100 years.

Richardson said though the congregation has been supporting St. John's for 166 years, those years have not been without the struggle of reduced numbers in the congregation.

“We don't have the number we used to,” she said.

About 30 people attend the regular Sunday services, though the sanctuary was almost full with 100 who attended for the retirement service for Rev. Jim Carr at the end of July.

“We have a very open church,” said Richardson. “Anyone who comes usually comes back.”

The congregation almost doubled in 1998 when members of Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Norwich joined the Otterville parish, rather than rebuild their church that was destroyed in the tornado that struck Norwich that year.

The only stained glass window in the Norwich church survived the tornado without a scratch, and now hangs over the entrance to the Otterville church.

Among the other notable items inside St. John's are two hand-crafted ceramic poppies that were purchased by St. John's for the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation at the Tower of London in England in 2014. The poppies were donated to the display in memory of local fallen soldiers, and when the installation was removed, they were packed carefully and shipped back to St. John's. Now they are mounted on the back wall of the church in special boxes.

Until a new priest is named to St. John's, it's Richardson who will lead the Sunday morning prayers. Once a month, a priest will visit to provide the Eucharist, which is a significant change, said Richardson, “because we used to have Eucharist every Sunday.”

Richardson was called to become a lay reader in the Anglican Church in 1997. It's strange, she said, because at the time, she was struggling with some dyslexia.

“But I persevered, and the congregation persevered with me,” she said.