Just East of Glovertown, Newfoundland, Canada, and nineteen kilometers off the Trans. Canada Highway there is a quiet, quaint community called ‘Terra Nova’. The latest Statistics Canada Census shows the permanent population to be twenty-eight residents. This census grows temporarily from time to time with the influx of cabin owners, and vacationers.
Terra Novas’ origin began in 1910 with just two men who worked there for the railway. Hundreds of loggers worked in the woods back of Terra Nova, and the population slowly increased over the years as the families moved closer to the loggers. In 1924 the first school was built, and in 1939 this school was replaced with a school/chapel combination. The community then had a place of worship.
When logging operations amalgamated in 1950, the population grew to two hundred. Then a larger school was required, and was built. The former school of 1939 was converted into a church. This church is still used today.
All logging operations ceased in 1962,and the population of Terra Nova gradually declined, leaving it now with the census of twenty-eight. However, the church still remains a pivotal part of the community.
But what a church ‘Holy Trinity’ is! I knew Terra Nova was beautiful. It is close to the National Park, teaming with wildlife, surrounded by wild roses, plants, and trees, and of course the berry bushes native to Newfoundland. We visited friends there when we came home on vacations, and I always noticed the quaint little white church that was situated near our friend’s summer home. This ‘summer home’ is in fact the home she lived in for years when her father worked with the logging company. She finds it an island of serenity in a busy world.
That is until a few years ago when I was asked a simple question regarding ‘Holy Trinity Church’.
"Do you know that Holy Trinity Church has two altars?", my friend Winnie asked during one of our visits. Obviously my friend knew of my quest for discovering stories of the Newfoundland of years ago, and of learning the history of our province.
No, I did not know about a church with two altars, but it intrigued me greatly. The next day we walked into the remarkable little white church, and it was like stepping back in time. I was more captivated than ever as I glanced over the Sanctuary.
Sure enough, it has two altars! At the left end is the United Church altar, and to the right of that is the Baptismal Font. At the other end of the church is the Anglican altar. The Font is used by both denominations for Baptisms, or Christenings as we sometimes call the Ceremony.
"So how do they arrange seating for the different church services?" I asked.
Then I was shown the most amazing thing. At least to me it was. The pews have backs that can tilt backwards and forwards. If the Anglican church service is taking place the pew backs slant back and people are facing that altar. When the United church service is taking place the pew backs are tilted the other way, and the congregation is facing the other altar. I was fascinated with this beautiful chapel, a chapel where you can comfortably sit facing the altar of your choice.
It is a unique arrangement, and works to the satisfaction of everyone. People have their own church, with their own altar, under the same roof with another church which has it’s own altar at the opposite end. Services for the visiting clergy are arranged to avoid conflicting schedules.
It is distinctly unique in every way. It captivated me then, and it captivates me now. The small church, serving a small population, obviously is in a village with a big heart. The church serves everyone, and it is an accepted remarkable way to practice Christian sharing.
The solution lies in a unique arrangement in tiny Terra Nova. People share their lives, and share a church as well. It demonstrates that it is possible to have a simple place of worship for everyone, a place where people can share fellowship and worship in a peaceful way.
As I walked away, I remembered the words often said and also sung in churches, "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me."
The Holy Trinity Church of Terra Nova, a tiny village in Newfoundland, is a shining example of peace and sharing. The little church is leading the way to peace on earth beginning with it’s ‘Alternating Altars’.