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Celebrate 160 years at Eddystone Baptist Church on Sept. 10

Cecilia Nasmith

By Cecilia Nasmith, Northumberland Today

From left, Eddystone Baptist Church members Arthur Broomfield, Rosemary Broomfield, Rev. Bill Thompson, Phyllis Richardson, Hiddo Niezen and Shirley Johnson are just a small part of the congregation that will offer a warm welcome to all who want to help the church celebrate its 160th anniversary Sept. 10.

From left, Eddystone Baptist Church members Arthur Broomfield, Rosemary Broomfield, Rev. Bill Thompson, Phyllis Richardson, Hiddo Niezen and Shirley Johnson are just a small part of the congregation that will offer a warm welcome to all who want to help the church celebrate its 160th anniversary Sept. 10.

Sixteen decades serving the community has made the modest white-frame Eddystone Baptist Church a beloved part of many lives.

On Sept. 10, members and supporters, families and friends will gather at the church to celebrate its 160 years of service.

A small subset of the membership — Rev. Bill Thompson, Phyllis Richardson, Hiddo Niezen, Shirley Johnson, and Arthur and Rosemary Broomfield — recently gathered to discuss the church’s history and role in the community.

It is believed to have begun as a Christian Church in 1826, with services in an old log school. The building they now meet in was constructed by William Chapman of Centreton and, when finished, was known as Haldimand Church (at a time when Eddystone was known as Bradley Hollow).

It remained a Christian congregation until 1914, when it was reorganized as a Baptist Church (transferring all the church property to properly constituted authority within the Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec).

The church and the parsonage across the street (now a privately owned home) were wired in 1940. A few years later, the church’s mortgage was paid off and the honour of burning it given to its oldest member, Miss Mary Bray.

The church acquired running water in 1985 and, eventually, indoor bathrooms.

The big addition in 2001 added a pastor’s study and a kitchen that was destined to be quite busy.

Another big push came about two years ago, with new sanctuary, new roof, new windows and a new baptismal font (Johnson pointed out that a recent Sunday saw three adult baptisms).

The kitchen continues to be a going concern, where Richardson and Rosemary Broomfield prepare many meals in the course of a year, from Christmas dinners and Easter Sunrise Service pancake breakfasts to their big annual strawberry suppers and the periodic Community Diners meals they cater for Community Care.

The cemetery shows the inter-relatedness of many of the local families, and is also the resting place for the parents of vintage Hollywood actor Burgess Meredith. Pointing out the back window, Richardson estimates that particular monument is about halfway between the window and the back fence.

There’s always a great sermon here, she said. And in any month with five Sundays, they congregate in Cobourg at Streamway Villa on the fifth one for a service that has more of an emphasis on the music.

The discussion also touched on how much the church means to all its members.

“It’s almost like a family here — the nicest bunch of people,” Johnson said.

“We have business meetings, with a lunch at the same time, and nobody argues. Everybody helps everybody in this church.”

Johnson helps by teaching Bible study, and she finds the church feels like its own little family.

This is where Richardson was married in 1954, and where she still plays piano and organ for the services.

“I would rather be here than any place else,” she declared.

“I find peace in here.”

Arthur Broomfield has played many roles at the church, including teaching Sunday school, deacon, treasurer for 34 years and, long ago, being the volunteer who showed up early to stoke up the wood stove to heat the church for Sunday service.

His wife Rosemary started attending services at Eddystone in 1964. It’s where they met, and where they were married in 1965.

“It means the world to us,” she said.

Niezen, the church soloist and a member for 13 years, said the church has provided love, care and friendship from day one.

Thompson originally showed up for two weeks, which turned into 11 years that he describes as fulfilling.

“It’s probably more fulfilling than anything I did in the 50 years before,” he said.

Johnson said they are hoping the anniversary can be something of a homecoming as well, where former members and pastors can return and enjoy this special service in a beloved setting.

The big 11 a.m. anniversary service on Sept. 10 will feature an Uxbridge act called the Reflections — a male trio whom Thompson calls the Reflections Plus One in honour of their wonderful piano player.

Guest speaker will be Daryl Stogryn of Youth For Christ, who began his Youth For Christ days in Cobourg, and lunch will be served afterwards.

cnasmith@postmedia.com