My Years in Deerfield
by Rev. Ivan S. Nowlan
originally published in the Bicentennial Book
I am glad of the privilege to write a word regarding the years I have spent as Minister of the United Church of Deerfield. My term of service began Christmas Sunday of 1959, and ended July 31, 1965—a happy ending to a long life of Christian Ministry, having been ordained in 1912.
The Moderator of the United Church informed me in 1959 that there was a church membership of 140 persons; a Sunday School enrollment of 85, and a Young Peoples Fellowship of 12 members.
The present membership of the United Church is about 160, including at least 50 inactive non-resident members. The resident membership in July 1965 included 89 Congregationalists and 21 Baptists. The Sunday School enrollment for the year was about 85 and the Pilgrim Fellowship a membership of 23 with an average attendance at meetings of 14.
I received into the United Church during my 5 and a half years 36 members, 20 of them adults and 16 youth. Four of these adults and one youth have moved away and taken their mem- bership with them. Though I have had 44 funerals during my pastorate here, only 16 of them were members of the United Church. I have married 20 couples, 17 of them with one or both members being Deerfield people. And I have baptized 28 children and two adults.
My most satisfactory work has been with Young People. Starting with a fellowship of 15 in 1960, by 1962 that membership had reached 25 with the attendance at many meetings numbering 17 to 21. The enrollment continued at 25 during 1963 and 1964, only dropping to 23 in 1965. During the first three years, the fellowship was divided into three groups, Faith, Action and Fellowship—each unit taking its turn in conducting the meeting. The last three seasons the fellowship was so large that we made use of film-strips, followed by questions and discussion.
During the first years many of these young people attended the Youth Camps at Pembroke. Returning from the Pembroke camps, they came back enthusiastic for service in the church, and sharing in the program of the Pilgrim Fellowship. Fifteen of them united with the church, and for the past several years these young people have been actively serving the church, as members of the choir, as ushers, distributing the church bulletins, and ringing the church bell. We are very proud of the cooperation of our young people.
The Sunday School, in spite of limited facilities, has held its membership of 80 to 85 children during the five years. The church has been fortunate in those persons who were willing to serve on the Religious Education Committee, giving splendid support to the three or four persons who have served as Superintendents. The church is to be congratulated on its recent successful effort in securing a Parish House, and fitting it for Sunday School use.
An attractive feature of the United Church is its purpose to unite persons of different Protestant faith in one United Church. The By-laws of the church provide that "The membership of this United Church shall consist of:
a) The members of the Baptist Church of Deerfield.
b) The members of the Congregational Church of Deerfield, and
c) Members of other Christian Churches who give written
evidence, acceptable to the clerk of the church, and its minister, of such membership.
All members of this United Church shall have equal rights and duties."
It has been my joy to serve four United Churches during the past thirty-five years, and three of the four made this same provision for its membership. In two of them the membership included not only Baptists and Congregationalists, but several Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans and Episcopalians. Provision was made that should they move away, and wish to unite with a denominational church, their church letter would carry a statement of the Denomination from which they came into the United Church. To my mind, this type is the ideal church for country towns, especially in this time when people are constantly moving from one town to another. It is my sincere wish that this United Church may continue to serve in full measure the spiritual needs of this community.