Methodism arrived in Newfoundland in the form of Reverend Lawrence Coughlan, an Evangelical Anglican who came to Harbour Grace in 1766. With its small meeting structure, passionate revivalism and belief in personal salvation, the mission spoke strongly to impoverished fishermen and their families, who lived, essentially, in indentured servitude to the fish merchants. The sobriety and sense of community that accompanied conversion brought a new found pride to its adherents, much to the chagrin of the merchants who eyed any sort of self organization by the fishermen with suspicion. Regular meeting attendance, refraining from drinking, cards or dancing was required and many of the ruling class found themselves under censure by the Reverend for non-compliance.
Coughlan was instrumental in the construction of a Methodist Church in Blackhead, Conception Bay in 1769, the first of its kind anywhere in Newfoundland or Canada. He returned to England in 1793, driven out after he refused to sanction a prominent merchant as a godfather on moral grounds. Still, the teaching continued to spread slowly, eventually developing a substantial presence in Conception Bay, Bonavista and St. John's. The first Methodist Church in Ochre Pit Cove was raised 1811, with another built in the 1880’s.
In 1925 the Methodists in Canada joined with the Congregationalists and most of the Presbyterians to form the United Church of Canada. Newfoundland, although not a part of Canada at the time, joined them as well. Our building in Ochre Pit Cove was built in 1938. Over the years, the United Church veered away from the austere precepts of its evangelical predecessors, and has become known for its progressive and inclusive philosophy. I think they'd be okay with the odd game of cards, a glass good cheer and a bit of dancing - well, maybe a lot of dancing - that might happen at Ochre House today.
Photos: Robert Halfyard