By Nelda Goodwin
St. John the Baptist Anglican Church started when Riverview was called Riverview Heights, a small but fast-growing young community. It then extended from Pine Glen Road to Blythwood Avenue, and from the Coverdale Road to Grenville Avenue, a far cry from the Town of Riverview of today with 16,000 people on the town books.
The Anglicans of the community had felt a growing need for their spiritual life and so services were held at first (July 30, 1950) in the Riverview School. Other denominations also held their meetings in the same school, at different times each Sunday. St. John's had a parish register of 25 people.
As the Anglican population of Riverview grew, and had no church building, it was discovered that the village of Waterside had a small church, but scarcely any membership to support it, so the decision was reached to move the building from Waterside to Riverview, with James West as the general contractor. The original building had been designed and built by the Rev. Donald Colwell in 1938, in Waterside.
The roof was removed, and the remaining body of the church cut into eight pieces and trucked up river to its new foundation at the corner of Bradford and Montgomery Avenues, on land donated by Riverview entrepreneur Byron Dobson. A new roof was applied and the first services held March 23, 1952, dedication ceremonies being performed on May 4 of the same year.
The first church register entry was July 30, 1950, reaching back into school auditorium days. Some of the clergy since then were: the Rev. D.M. Brown; George Akerley, student in charge; the Rev. A. Connolly; Mr. Slattery; the Rev. J.J. Alexander; A. Brock Humphreys; J. Burden; D. Hall; R.B. Stockall; David Gray; and the Rev. John Mitchell. Edward Hamer was the first clerk of the vestry.
The Rev. John Bruce came to the parish on May 1, 1952. He was educated at Leeds University, England and took theological training in Barton, Yorkshire. During World War II he served in the British Army in Italy, Egypt and Palestine. A native of Durham, England, he was made Deacon in the Cathedral in Fredericton. The Bruces had two children, Jennifer Lynne and John.
Mr. Bruce and his family left to return to England in April 1958 and Mr. Reg Stockall was named to the charge, pending the arrival of a new Rector. Organists during this period were Mrs. Jean Steeves and Mr. Flo Hoyt. The original choir, dating back to 1953 were Mrs. R. Clifton, Mrs. W.A. West, Miss Marjorie Price, Miss Mabel Price, Mrs. W. Linton, Mrs. Grace Murray, Mrs. R. Dobson, Mrs. M. Crossman, Miss Phyllis Godwin, Mrs. W. Price, Mr. K. Ostler, Mr. W. Renouf, Mr. E. Bent and Mrs. C.A. U'Ren.
Mrs. Kay Dickerson became organist in March 1959, until June 1961 in which time a junior choir was started whose original members were Cheryl Taylor, Mary West, Marilyn Ostler, Brian Debow, Terry Gilbert, Valerie McLaughlin,Beth West, Lwrence Moore, Carol Christie, Kenneth Ostler, Sharon Svard, Gerald Webb, Nancy Hoyt, Dianne Ostler, Karen Shanks, Roxie Cooper, Peggy Pearce, Douglas Goodwin, John Newton and David Dickerson.
Mrs. Nelda Goodwin was named Choir Mother and Mrs. Dickerson Choir Director. Mrs. Goodwin was involved with the choir for twenty years.
In 1958 the church was paid for, and on June 24 the burning of the mortgage was celebrated with the following clergy in attendance; the Rev. Gordon Smith of St. James and St. Phillips in Moncton; the rev. J.J. Alexander of St. George's, Moncton; Mr. Reg. Stockall, student minister of St. John the Baptist, plus the senior Warden Mr. C.H. Webber.
In early 1959 the chancel was extended some 20 feet and two vestries were added. Total painting took place and the floor was tiled. New altar drapes in the four seasonal colours were donated by the Church Guild, the sewing being done by Mrs. Jean Shanks and Mrs. Nelda Goodwin.
A new pulpit was built and the basement turned into a hall for Sunday School, and a kitchen and washrooms were added.
A new (Hammond) organ was dedicated in April 1959 and new pews supplied for the choir and nave.
The Rev. Wm. Draper as the next minister. He was made a deacon in England in 1951 and was ordained to the priesthood by the Bishop of Algoma. Mr. Draper, like Mr. Bruce, was educated in Durham and also at the Brotherhood of St. Paul. From 1940 to 1946 he served with the Battalion of the Dorsetshire Regiment, seeing service in France, Holland, Belgium and Germany, in World War II. He had been rector of the parishes of White River and Nipigon, Ontario before coming to the Diocese of Fredericton in 1954. He was assistant Priest in both Saint John and Moncton and then became rector of Gordon and Lorne in 1957. He came to Coverdale in 1958, staying until 1967. He and his wife Joyce have three children, John, Ann and Christopher. At the time of his moving from Riverview he was Rural Dean of the Deanery of Shediac.
Re-dedication of the renovated building was presided over by the Right Rev. A.H. O'Neil, Bishop of Fredericton. The Sacrament of Confirmation was administered to 18 children and adults, at which time the Rev. J.J. Alexander and the Rev. Wm. Draper assisted in the service.
A property on Bradford Road was purchased as the possible site of a future church building.
Mrs. Kay Dickerson was organist until 1961 when she moved back to Hamilton, Ontario. Margaret Halls served from September 1961 to 1962 when she and her family moved to Beaconsfield, Quebec. Mrs. Jean Steeves took over again in September 1962.
The Rev. Dr. Sheppard was rector from September 3, 1967 to December 25, 1968. He was followed by the Rev. Keith Wedgewood who came to St. John's in January 1968. He had attended Cathedral School, Salisbury and King's School, Worchester, England, receiving his theological training at Wycliffe Hall Theological College, being ordained in the diocese of Worchester, England, in 1943. He was on the staff of Salisbury Cathedral School in England before coming to Canada. He and his wife Joyce have three children, Andrew, Michael and Clare.