Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Have you ever wondered what evidence of life you will leave behind when you die? “The Rector of Grimsby” the book, is exactly that; evidence of a man's life based on written records, primarily the diaries of Reverend Francis James Lundy D.C.L. which can be found at the Archives of Ontario Toronto MS 3 on microfilm.

The diaries were clearly written for the author alone, expressing events of his life, his family and his very personal views. Because of this, some of the events written about posed many more questions than answers for a curious reader, so I began the search of any and all remaining records to fill out this biography and have produced as complete life story as possible. I hope you enjoy the read as much as I have researching and writing it.

THE RECTOR OF GRIMSBY” is a compelling biography about the Reverend Francis James Lundy D.C.L. and his family living in the Niagara Region Canada West, New York and Newburgh on the Hudson between 1847 and 1868. The sources are archived documents, contemporary newspaper articles and correspondences. Quoted excerpts give the reader a first hand account of the subject's personal history, every day life, language and very personal views concerning life and death issues. Narrative is used to weave the first hand accounts into a comprehensive story within an historical context. The text therefore brings immediacy to the circumstances and characters. The reader is transported into the every day world of Victorian family life in a rural setting, a very great contrast to today.

In short “The Rector of Grimsby” is a story about a man of deep commitment to his earthly roles in life as a father, a husband, a missionary and an educator. A voice that resounds a life filled with love and caring and brimmed with energy and a strong Christian faith to fulfill a chosen mission; that of taking part to establish the Church of England in the British colonies of Canada West, to help educate the people and help them lead better lives. It may not be fashionable today to read or write about the clergy, but one must remember that religion and the growth and diversity of churches played an important role in Victorian life.

"The Rector of Grimsby” the 164-page biography, begins in 1847 after the death of Frank’s beloved wife Henrietta. Unable to continue both his life’s mission and care of six children, Frank Lundy reluctantly put his children in the care of extended family members in Quebec and England. His own words make the loss and separation real. Returning alone to Canada from England, Frank threw himself into his missionary work at Niagara, Queenston and Eight Mile Creek (now McNabb). He believed God had a plan for him and is inspired to make his dream to build two churches come true.

With the premature death of Rev. Grout at Grimsby, Reverend Lundy is offered the position of Rector. Perhaps God had finally smiled on him. Just then the Church withdrew financial support by half and expected the congregations to make it up. This was not a welcome change, however the parishioners of Grimbsy want Rev. Lundy to come and promise something less than the required half and a rectory house. Unsure as to whether he could make a living Reverend Lundy accepted, the promised house at least would allow Frank to re-unite his family. But alas, all was not as portrayed and soon more difficulties arose. At the Rector’s first annual vestry meeting in 1850, he encountered the first major obstacle, J. Adolphus Nelles who desired to be churchwarden, however he was not qualified and therefore rejected. Out of spite Mr. Nelles objected to the Rector’s practices, somewhat more fashionable than his predecessor’s and spread rumors that wrongly associated the Rector with a controversial change within the Church, namely The Oxford Movement. This was a most powerful weapon he could have chosen and it helped spread prejudice against the Rector and his Church. The Movement designed to attract people to the church when its adherents were declining in fact had the opposite effect. It gave a handle to those who took issue with the Church of England, Government and the clergy for years to come. As a result Reverend Lundy was subjected to the most unjust abuse publicly and privately. We see first hand the power of the unadulterated propaganda and outright lies newspapers used in that time.

The Rector of Grimsby” relates further struggles. The promised rectory house did not materialize and the Rector is unable to re-unite his family. Relief is sought in permission to reside in England; Bishop Strachan obliges, but later demands his return. On the Rector’s return in 1852 Frank found the brothers Peter and Adolphus Nelles still working against him and the promises of 1849 not kept. He has remarried and is still unable to reunite his family, but will persevere and prays for his family’s survival. His struggle resumed and like many clergymen of the time suffered, however most suffered in silence. The Rector of Grimsby however courageously stood against the standard response and over the years used the law to attempt to receive what was lawfully his, but alas was ultimately unsuccessful. Sadly, the use of the law only added fuel to the fire and the Rector’s enemies and abuse increased. He was undoubtedly more enterprising than most and attempted many and varied means to scratch out a living and educate his children somewhat successfully. In addition to his church work, he farmed the glebe, took his garden to market, wrote church and scripture related articles for newspapers, wrote documents for his lawyer friends, founded a third school and two more parishes, tutored students, and served as landlord.

In spite of great efforts Reverend Lundy still faced difficulties but miraculously built the much-desired increase in his congregations. However a fiscal depression, increased taxes, difficulties collecting rents, attempted garnishees, hard labour, a debilitating disease and a somewhat inconsistently sympathetic Bishop Strachan, hindered his path. He found solace in his church work and courageously persevered. At every changing circumstance and difficulty the Rector’s decisions resulted in consequences often unforeseen. Life was very uncertain. Sometimes help came from friends and family, while at other times, friends such as John A. Macdonald Prime Minister, demonstrated only callousness. With little to give, Frank nevertheless came to the aid of other suffering clergymen, an orphan and his brother in law William Tench, in particular. But God still had more trials for Frank. William Tench, to whom Frank gave years of support, in his ultimate act of selfishness, set out to ruin him. Along with the works of the disgruntled Rev. Stimson who wished to have the Rector’s parish, poor health and the deaths of two daughters and a son, Frank was ruined and resigned his Church and Rectory. He then moved to New York and later Newburgh where God truly smiled on him with a growing and devout congregation and where he died as he wished, “in harness”. At every twist and turn, the story conveys the circumstances and decisions that were faced and the reader shares in both the joys and dilemmas.

The Rector of Grimsby” also relates amusing stories of characters and circumstances no fiction could invent, as well as less amusing tales such as the precariousness of the law and an unscrupulous Sheriff who conducted an illegal raid on the Rector’s library. Several events such as a Mason’s welcome to the Prince of Wales, friendships with members of the Princes Own Rifle Brigade and first hand accounts that debunk Grimsby’s folklore, add to the historical context. The biography illustrates the history and demonstrates the fierce confidence and motivation the Victorians possessed. It is both heart wrenching and heartwarming, but is dominated by the love of a father, husband, and dedicated priest. The courage and resourcefulness demonstrated in the face of change, ignorance and fear is truly inspirational.

Included are photographs of the Lundy family, their friends and St Andrew’s Church Grimsby in addition to several maps. It makes the thoughtful reader ask; what records will my life leave and what will others understand or misunderstand from them?