The Chief Apostle recently visited the congregation of Halifax, Nova Scotia, in Canada to mark the congregation’s fiftieth anniversary. Denise Wright is one of the people who attended the very first divine services there. In an interview, the daughter of the man who established the congregation, remembers the beginnings.
You were six years old when your congregation was established, and your parents played a pivotal role in this.
I was born in Kitchener, Ontario, but my parents moved to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, in 1972. My father, Dennis Clarke, had taken a job with a company here in Nova Scotia and, with the approval of the District Apostle at the time, began to establish a congregation. The congregation here is called Halifax after the administrative district, but is actually located in Dartmouth. The first divine service took place on 11 June 1973.
How did you experience the early days of the congregation?
I can remember having divine services in our home. The kitchen served as a sacristy and we sat in the living room for the service. As more people came for the services, we moved the “church” into our basement. After church on Wednesday nights we usually had coffee and cake with anyone who was there.
My paternal grandparents also moved to Nova Scotia to help build the congregation. They arrived about a year after my parents did. My grandfather became a Priest and taught us children in Sunday School once we were old enough.
How did things continue with the congregation?
As the congregation grew, we started to have divine services in a room in a hotel, then we rented a slightly larger room in the local library. My father and the District Elder were looking for a suitable place that we could call our own. Eventually, a bungalow was found and purchased, and some modifications were made to convert the interior into a church. At that time, we were already 35 members.
In 1991, further renovation work was done on the building to accommodate the growing membership and make the building look more like a church. Our church seated sixty worshippers.
Is the congregation still in the same building?
No. In 2008, another New Apostolic congregation was established in the neighbouring city of Halifax. In 2015, the two were amalgamated under the name New Apostolic Congregation Halifax. In the course of this, an established church building was purchased from another denomination here in Dartmouth. The divine service with the Chief Apostle also took place here.
Back to the old days. How did they mould you? What do you remember in particular?
I have two younger siblings: a sister and a brother. When we were growing up, there were often guests at our home for Sunday dinner. My parents often invited church members or guests to eat with us after service. We made many friends over the years.
My parents’ lives revolved around the church, and I witnessed that God always provided what we needed. My mother would sometimes quietly tell us to let the dinner guests serve themselves first as she was not sure if what she had prepared would be enough for everyone at the table. However, there was always enough for everyone, and there were even some leftovers.
My parents made many sacrifices, including leaving friends and family which came with the move to eastern Canada. But they were also blessed.
You have your own family.
Yes, my husband, Richard, and I have been married for 25 years. We have four children aged between 17 and 23. And they all still live at home with us.
Your own family is also active in the congregation.
My husband and I have always been involved in the church. Before he was ordained as a Priest, we were youth leaders for several years. When we started to have children, life became busier but we still found ways to promote fellowship in the congregation. One of the activities that our children and the other Sunday School children always enjoyed was a pizza and movie night which we hosted at the church once a month.
Our congregation here is not large, so I have taken on multiple roles over the years: from flower arranging, teaching Sunday School and Religious Instruction, to singing in the choir. Currently I play the piano and organ for our divine services. Our children have all taken music lessons and have played piano, flute, or cello on occasion at church.
Where does your fascination for your faith come from and your inspiration to participate?
It is not just my parents’ example that inspires me, even though it mattered a lot. I find that if you are grateful for what the Almighty has given, you find ways to actively contribute to His work because you are happy to have been blessed and want to show this joy by serving God however you can.
It may not always be easy. I have also been in situations that made me sad and left me at a loss, and I did not even know how to express myself in prayer. But I have experienced that when you ask God for help, He hears.