The Church Society of the Diocese of Quebec is the oldest missionary society in the Canadian Church.
The formation of Church Societies was a first step toward self-government in the Anglican Church in British North America. Bishop John Inglis, the third bishop of Nova Scotia, pioneered this work in his Diocese in 1836 and 1837. George Jehoshaphat Mountain’s first real parish had been in Fredericton (at this date, still part of the Diocese of Nova Scotia), and he retained an abiding interest in developments in the Church in that Diocese. These Church Societies were modelled on the great Missionary Societies of England, such as the SPG (the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts), and the SPCK (the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge).
Church Societies provided the laity with the first recognised role in assisting the clergy in raising money for missions, for religious education, and for managing the Church’s temporal affairs. Previous to the existence of Church Societies, the SPG paid the salaries of the clergy (with the exception of a few paid directly by the Imperial Government). Everything else was in the hands of the bishops.
Church Society offered the laity in the Diocese of Quebec the first real opportunity to participate fully in the ministry and mission of the Diocese. The Society is governed by a Central Board, one half of whose members are lay people. In contrast to the Synod of the Diocese, where a motion must be passed by a majority of both laity and clergy, motions at Central Board meetings (and at the annual meeting) are passed by a simple majority of those present.
The decision to form a Church Society for the Diocese of Quebec was taken at a public meeting chaired by the third Lord Bishop of Quebec, the Rt. Rev. G. J. Mountain, held on the 7 th of July 1842. In 1844 a single Act of Parliament, Act 7 Victoria, incorporated the Church Societies of the Dioceses of Quebec and Toronto.
Like the SPG and the SPCK, the Church Society of the Diocese of Quebec encouraged the formation of District Associations, or branches of the Society. The Society’s Annual Reports published the names of all contributors and canvassers; it gave emphasis to building up parochial and cemetery endowments, encouraged bequests, and enumerated the grants made by the Society from its funds in aid of Church buildings and other projects deemed suitable according to its stated purposes.
The purpose of the Society, as stated in its constitution was, and continues to be Missionary Labour: augmenting the stipends of poor clergy, making provision for infirm clergy and their widows, supporting Christian Education, aiding candidates for Holy Orders, distributing Prayer Books and Bibles, and assisting in the erection and maintenance of Church buildings, and in the care of cemeteries and church properties.
Originally the Annual Reports of Church Society contained a brief sketch of the year’s work of every parish in the Diocese, written and submitted by the incumbent. This served as a bond to unite the widely scattered congregations throughout the Diocese. Today these reports furnish valuable historical testimony to the growth and witness of the Church in Québec.
In its earlier years, Church Society supported a number of travelling missionaries who were sent to minister to thinly populated portions of the Diocese. This included those self-sacrificing chaplains who served the needs of Protestant immigrants at the Quarantine Station on Grosse Ile. This last vocation was of incalculable assistance during the ‘Terrible Summer’ of 1847.
More recently, Church Society’s involvement in mission work has centred largely on assisting non-self-supporting parishes – and in supporting many innovative and co-operative Chaplaincies in schools, CEGEPS and universities, as well as Federal penitentiaries, and seaports from Sorel to Gaspé. As the Diocese of Quebec has changed, thereby responding to the changes in society, so have some of the projects and programs that the Church Society has supported. Recently, the Church Society has supported children attending camp, as well as chaplaincies to health institutions.
Church Society has been a partner in ministry, a supporter of mission work, and a trustee of funds given to aid the witness of the Diocese of Quebec. The Society has received gifts and bequests that continue to be used faithfully to maintain the various ministries of the Diocese. The Society continues its tradition of active engagement in the life of the Diocese by assisting where parishes are in need, supplementing where missions are in want, and proclaiming the Gospel to the people of God.
Church Society provides 90% of the mission funds and half all the Christian Education funds in the Diocese of Quebec. Church Society provides about a third of the funds to support the Bishop and the administration of the Diocese. The Society has assisted most parishes in the Diocese – by supporting the erection of Church buildings, through distributing Prayer Books and Bibles, or increasing stipends – and continues to assist every parish through the faithful stewardship of parochial and cemetery endowments entrusted to them.
Over the years the fine history of Church Society’s accomplishments has been somewhat overlooked, and the role of the Society in the continuing ministry of the Diocese of Quebec has become one of the better-kept secrets in the Diocese. Church Society seeks to continue its role of working faithfully as a partner in the witness of the Diocese of Quebec, and the Society invites your prayerful support of its ministry and for its growth.
As a separately incorporated company they have a different set of By-laws from those of the diocese.
Membership in the Society is by application to the Society and voted on at the annual meeting. The annual cost is $20.00 which entitles members to vote at the annual meeting, usually held in the month of April, and to a copy of the Annual report. Life membership may be obtained upon acceptance by the Society and payment of $200.00.
Application for membership and further information can be obtained by writing to The Secretary, Church Society, Church House, 31 rue des Jardins, Quebec, QC, G1R 4L6
Over the years Church Society has benefited from capital gifts and bequests. Gifts may be designated to support a specific ministry in the Diocese, or left undesignated. All gifts and bequests will be identified by name in the Annual Report of Church Society unless otherwise requested by the donor. If you wish to share in the witness of the Society by making a capital gift or bequest, please contact Marie-Sol Gaudreau, Secretary of the Society, at 418 692-3858 or write to Church House.