When I was serving my ‘seminary’ placement in a tiny village called Morgan, Kentucky, we went to the grocery store in the next town, and the clerk noticed our ‘accent’. She asked ‘Where are you all from?’ We told her that we were from Canada, and I was the new minister at the Morgan Christian Church. Her reply was instant. “How’d you all wind up here?” Good question!
Now, we find ourselves in Hamilton, and the same question applies.
It started with the story of my great grandfather, who had a farm in Wainfleet, and owned a horse, that stepped on something sharp, and was in danger of dying. It was the family’s best horse. So the vet sent my great grandfather and my grandfather on a trip—to Hamilton—to get medicine for the horse. The horse lived, and the trip was never forgotten. My grandfather talked about it often—Hamilton was an amazing place where they had trains running down the streets—and medicine that could save horses.
When I was a boy, my grandmother got cancer—a terrible, hopeless thing in those days. But the doctors sent her to the Hamilton General Hospital, and she lived many years beyond that diagnosis with new plastic tubes inside her. I remember many visits to the General, with its shining hallways and big wards and the nurses in white. I made my grandmother a flower made of Kleenex to cheer her up and she kept it until only the wire was left.
When I was a young man, my father got his hand caught in the corn picker—all but severed his right hand from his arm. But they sent him to Hamilton—Hamilton has the best doctors for that sort of thing because of the steel mills. They put his hand back on—it was amazing—lots more trips to visit him at the General and at Chedoke. I would stop off to visit my brother, who was working at Dofasco and had an apartment on Beach Boulevard.
For a while, after I became the minister at the Winger Church of Christ, I attended Seminary at McMaster Divinity College part time, till the offer of a scholarship took me to Lexington Kentucky full time. I was married a year or so before leaving for Kentucky, and my wife, Shirley, had done her nurses training on Walnut Street in Hamilton. She knew Hamilton’s streets and roads well—though she couldn’t believe all the houses that had sprouted along Rymal Road. Nicholas, our first son, was born before we left for Seminary, in Welland.
Seminary was completed and we returned to Canada and joined the United Church. Our second son was born in Huntsville, and there was some trouble, and they said he would need surgery and they sent us to McMaster Medical Centre—it was a wonderful place, they even let a nervous father wait while the nervous mother put the mask for the anesthetic on that little boy. What should have been traumatic and frightening became a time of prayer and healing. After our settlement charge in South River, we served a short time in Canfield, and I got to enjoy being part of Erie Presbytery in Hamilton conference.
Then the call came to go west, and we answered the call and served in St. Paul and Ashmont, Alberta. The winters were a bit harsher than people who had grown up along the Niagara Escarpment were used to. We returned to Ontario when the call came to Warkworth, then to Otterville. Good places all, but when our youngest son made the history quiz team from his school, and missed the question about the Niagara Escarpment we realized that there was a heritage in Hamilton for them that we did not want them to miss. Last Sunday afternoon we walked the Bruce trail at the top of the Kenilworth access.
There were interviews and letters, and then the call came from Laidlaw, and we called Escarpment Realty, and they found us a house at the bottom of the mountain (also known as the escarpment), not far from the church on Ottawa Street, and so we have come.
Hamilton has been, for generations in our family, a place of healing and help and grace. I see no greater privilege and anticipate no greater joy than to make Hamilton our home where our boys can learn and grow, where my wife and I can live and love, where I can be part of a church that brings healing and grace to the people of the city of Hamilton, who have been grace and healing to me, to my family, and to my ancestors.
That’s how I wound up in Hamilton. Thank you for the opportunity to be here.
This and a rendering of your new minister by my son, during a sermon one Sunday…