This year (2009) the Diocese of Qu'Appelle celebrates 125 years of ministry and witness to the Christian faith in southern Saskatchewan. To recognize this milestone in the life of the Church, the 125th Anniversary Committee at the request of the Bishop is preparing a series of historical vignettes. This is the first of the series.
On June 24, 1884, the Archbishop of Canterbury consecrated the Honourable and Reverend Canon Adelbert John Robert Anson as bishop of the newly-created Diocese of Assiniboia. A month later Bishop Anson, with a staff of eight priests, one deacon and six laymen accompanying him, arrived in Regina. While Anson's arrival brought needed leadership to the mission field, an Anglican presence had been in place for some time. Under the auspices of the Church Missionary Society, native catechists such as James Settee, Charles Pratt and Joseph Reader had been ministering to their people since the early 1860's, working from missions at Qu'Appelle Lakes and Touchwood Hills. With the coming of the railway, itinerant clergy from Brandon and Winnipeg had held services in hotels, railway stations and even tents along the CPR mainline from Moosomin to Moose Jaw. The newly-established Territorial capital of Regina had been organized into a parish in late 1882.
Bishop Anson organized the diocese into six mission districts, each with a centre and at least four outstations. That autumn he visited each of the districts, meeting the settlers and native elders. Convinced that the laity held the key to success in the mission field, he licensed several men as Lay Readers to assist the clergy. Later that year the Bishop conducted his first ordination to the priesthood.
Anson's first Synod was held at St. Paul, Regina, in September 1884. Much of the business conducted at this meeting of clergy and laity dealt with legal matters such as the Act of Incorporation and the Constitution and Canons under which the diocese would operate. The meeting, however, was not without controversy. The Bishop had let it be known that he was not happy with the diocese being named after the vast civil district of Assiniboia. In his opinion, the choice of names was not in accordance with ecclesiastical usage.
With the approval of the Metropolitan, Bishop Anson put forward three names – Assiniboia, Regina and Qu'Appelle – to Synod delegates asking them to stroke out the two names they thought undesirable. By the process of elimination, Qu'Appelle was favoured by 15 out of 18 delegates; Assiniboia receiving support from three Regina delegates. An editorial in the Regina newspaper lamented the change in name as it was “…not at all calculated to establish the broad catholic feeling of harmony which ought to prevail…” and charged “… it is abundantly clear that this whole matter has been brought about by His Lordship in furtherance of a contracted sentiment emanating from himself.” The vote won, the Bishop thereafter signed himself as ‘Adelbert Qu'Appelle' instead of ‘Adelbert Assiniboia.'