Halifax: Hub of Church activity

When the Church was first organized in Halifax in 1843, it was the commitment and sacrifice of the early members that built a strong foundation for gospel growth in this green and lush Atlantic province.

Now 150 years later, Halifax and its twin city, Dartmouth, stand as the hub of Church activity in the Maritimes in Canada, which includes Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.The first stake in the Maritimes, the Dartmouth Nova Scotia Stake, was organized in 1985. The Canada Halifax Mission is headquartered in Dartmouth, and many other Church agencies (such as the Church Educational System) are also centered in the area.

The majority of Church members in Nova Scotia also live in the Halifax/

Dartmouth area, reported Stephen A. Maxwell, president of the Dartmouth stake. Approximately 2,300 members live in the stake, and more than half (1,344) live in one of four units located in the area - the Halifax, Dartmouth, Cole Harbour and Sackville wards. There are six wards and five branches in the stake, which covers the southern half of Nova Scotia.

A look back on Church growth in the area shows that the foundation established by those first members has been strengthened by modern-day pioneers who have remained faithful to building up the gospel today, Pres. Maxwell noted.

"We have some very good members of the Church, some who are longtime members, who are still working hard to build up the Church," he remarked. "But it is also amazing to see our newly baptized members becoming bishops, too, and progressing in the Church.

"The saints here are faithful members and sacrifice a lot. Many give up a lot to travel to the temple, which is often a financial sacrifice. Our stake is really a temple-attending stake, in spite of the distance. It's about a 24-hour drive for many members, but they are faithful in their temple attendance."

About 45 percent of stake members are endowed, he noted. The stake is in the Toronto Temple District. When a new temple was announced for Hartford, Conn., stake members were ecstatic, he reflected.

"It will cut travel time in half, which means a one-day trip. That is exciting. We can't wait!"

Many times there are also great distances involved in traveling to Church or stake meetings, Pres. Maxwell added. The Dartmouth Stake extends from Dartmouth to Yarmouth, about 250 miles.

"That is like going from Rexburg [IdahoT to Salt Lake City," he explained. "Some of our stake leaders travel that distance for meetings, including high councilors who travel that three times a month or more. There is a lot of sacrifice in that regard. The saints are more than willing to sacrifice their time, and certainly their money in traveling."

The Dartmouth Stake is unique in the Maritimes for its number of major universities, Pres. Maxwell added. There are approximately six within the boundaries of the stake, including Dalhousie University (one of the biggest universities on the east coast of Canada).

"Because of this, we have a large percentage of single adults," he said. "Our single adult program is very important to us. We appreciate the [Church Educational SystemT fireside concept announced recently by the First Presidency. That satellite program is put to very good use here."

Aubrey Fielden, a longtime member of the Church in Halifax who serves as first counselor in the Canada Halifax Mission presidency, recalled his days as a new member of the Church. He and his wife, Thelma, were baptized April 12, 1953.

"A year later I received the Melchizedek Priesthood and was called to serve as first counselor in the Halifax Branch presidency. I have been busy in the Church ever since. It has been the same for Sister Fielden.

"We have found an inexpressible joy being able to work with and serve so many wonderful people. Being members of the Church has been the closest thing that we could find to the Garden of Eden.

"Without the Church we never would have had the picture we have today. We never dreamed that life could be so meaningful."

Brother Fielden served as branch president in 1957 (he was one of only four Melchizedek Priesthood holders in the area at the time) and then as Maritime District president in 1963.

Brother Fielden has also served as counselor to four mission presidents. As an early member of the Church in the area, he often spent weekends traveling to distant meetings. Because the district was part of the New England Mission, monthly leadership meetings were held in places such as Cambridge, Mass.; Amherst, Mass.; Colby, Maine; and Sharon, Vt.

"It was not unusual for one to travel between 20,000 and 30,000 miles a year in district leadership meetings with so many widely scattered branches and regular meetings at mission headquarters," he noted.

But "rich blessings came out of traveling to and from the distant leadership meetings," he continued. "Much of the time spent traveling was not unlike attending a spiritual Sunday School class. Many gospel topics were discussed and explored with frequent outpourings of the Spirit."

He added: "It's been very exciting to see our people go from small Sunday Schools held in rented meetinghouses where we had to clear away ash trays, to new chapels in every unit in the Maritimes. It's been wonderful to see the growth and the strength of the people who have been faithful. The Church is well-accepted here now with very few reservations because of the good character of Church members."

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