New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

Early Glimpses of the Rusagonis Baptist Church

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Thomas Smith was likely around 80 years old when he became the first clerk of the newly formed Christian Church in Rusagonis. His time was short and this may explain why he was so anxious to record events. His writings remain the primary source of information about those days.

Thomas tells us that “the cause of religion was low” when George Garrity began preaching in Rusagonis in mid-1833. Garrity was a schoolmaster from Lincoln and had relatives in Rusagonis. By July 1, 1833 his preaching had developed into a revival and after several more weeks the people “consulted together and being the desire of the young Brethren and Sisters concluded by the strength of the Blessing of God to have a Christian Church organized.”

This posed a problem, however, since George Garrity was not ordained. He would be ordained in November of 1833 only three months after joining the Church, but events were unfolding much too rapidly to await that. So they called upon Elder William Pennington to join them from “down the main river” and help to form a church. On Sunday, September 22, 1833, Elder Pennington met with them and, after the meeting, fifteen candidates were baptized. The church was officially formed on Saturday, September 28th and grew rapidly during the remainder of that year.

In the very early days the church met regularly twice a week, on Saturdays and on Sundays. This was because the new church had a lot of business to conduct. Later, the Saturday ‘conference’ or business/prayer meeting became monthly as was the norm with other congregations.

Important dates in the history of the Rusagonis church include 1838 when the first church was built and when there was a falling-out with George Garrity; and 1857 when there were 67 baptisms; and 1877 when 22 members were released to form a church at Waasis; and 1890 when there was a problem caused by the sale of pews; and 1894, when there was a revival following a period of epidemic. The Christian churches changed their name to Free Christian Baptist in 1847.

The first church building was renovated several times before it was rebuilt in 1924 by S.L. Currie, the well known Fredericton Junction carpenter/builder. A new basement and a choir room and a furnace were added in 1960.

Church membership varied, but has always been sizable. From 21 members in 1833, the membership grew to 134 by 1870. There were 153 members by the centennial in 1933.

One of the most serious problems to arise involved a falling out with George Garrity, and there is not enough space to elaborate upon that here. Another less dramatic problem was in 1890 when it was decided to appoint a committee “to call on all who had bid on seats in the meeting house and find what sum it would take to release the pews and make it a free church.” Some members had refused to attend church over this dispute that was at odds with usual policy that all members should contribute “voluntarily without Rates and fines.” The committee was comprised of Rev. H.A. Bonnell, and Brother S.E. Nason. There are no further records of this dispute.


Written by johnwood1946

July 11, 2011 at 2:49 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

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