The little white church is in a clearing, bordered on one side by a farmer’s field and on the other the waters of Pownal Bay. The autumn rain and wind are buffered by a row of pine trees.
Inside Cherry Valley Christ Church, it’s warm and filled with the excited voices of the congregants.
It’s been 25 years since the church sealed its time capsule. Today they will open it up.
“Lots of things,” said Joëlle Bader, when asked what would be inside.
Joëlle and her siblings, Juliette, Henri and Laurent, “the tiny one,” are regulars in the little congregation. They’re a lot younger than the time capsule. Their grandfather, Rev. David Morrison, called it “the little church with the big heart” and served there until he died just last year. He is buried in the church’s graveyard.
Rev. Wayne Short’s Sunday reading was the parable of talents.
“A parable is a story. If you try to understand it literally, you’ re gonna be in trouble.”
He talked about the talents that keep a church going after 175 years. Commitment was the first one.
It certainly takes commitment to keep a church, even a small one like this, running since before Confederation.
Located off the Trans-Canada Highway, it’s a quiet spot now, but when the church was built in 1842, all the Island’s commerce was done at the water’s edge. A steam ship stopped nearby on its run between Charlottetown up to Hallidays Wharf in Belfast. Farm produce and people travelled more easily by boat than by wheels on P.E.I.
“Travel by water was often more convenient and easier than travel by road simply because in the beginning there were few roads. But even after roads were made, for much of the year they were impassable,” said Ed MacDonald, history professor at UPEI.
Land in and around Cherry Valley was some of what was granted to the United Empire Loyalists in the 1780s. The small, square Anglican church sits on land that was given to the Beers family. Major Joseph Beers served the British army during the American Revolutionary War in the 5th Battalion of the Kings Rangers.
The Beers, Hayden and Tweedy names are included in the early history of the church in historicplaces.ca and are still found on mailboxes in the area today.
When the time capsule was sealed in 1992, Canada was celebrating its 125th birthday. Now, in Canada’s 150th year, the little church’s big heart beats as strong as ever.