Grafton Covenanter Church

Grafton Covenanter Church
Built In 1842-43

The Sommerville family plot is on the left of the church
and the main cemetery is on the right (east.)

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October 4th, 1899

Death of Rev. R. Stewart:

Rev. Robert Stewart, of Farmington, Annapolis Co., died on Friday last. Mr. Stewart was a native of Ireland. In 1854, then just ordained to the work of the ministry, he came to Nova Scotia as assistant to the late Rev. Wm. Sommerville. He shortly after became pastor of the Wilmot branch of the congregation under Mr. Sommerville's charge and has since resided in Wilmot. Many years ago he was compelled to withdraw from the active work of the ministry and has now at a ripe old age been gathered to his fathers.

Mr. Stewart was well known in this county where he frequently preached and lectured. Many friends will hear of this death with deep regret.

The funeral took place on Monday and was largely attended. Rev. Mr. McFall officiated.

Berwick Register, August 21, 1935

Centennial of Historic Covenanter Church At Grafton

Impressive Service Conducted by Rev. Robert Park, D. D., Who Gave an Interesting Historical Sketch of the Church and Its Founders.

The little Covenanter Church at Grafton was well filled Sabbath afternoon with survivors of old Covenanter families and friends when a service was held to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the founding of this congregation.

Rev. Robert Park, D. D., professor at Geneva College, Beaver Falls, Pa., who has had charge of this congregation for the summer months for several years, conducted the service, and Rev. David Price brought greetings from the Berwick United Baptist Church. Other pastors who had been invited to take part in the service were unable to attend.

Dr. Park gave a short historical sketch which disclosed some interesting facts. This Cornwallis Congregation of the reformed Presbyterian Church of North America which received its name from the Township of Cornwallis, was organized in May, 1835, two years after the organization of the congregation of Horton or Grand Pre. Cornwallis has the unique distinction of having had only two pastors in the past century, whose pastorates extended over a period of ninety-three years. The first pastor, Dr. William Sommerville, had been pastor at Grand Pre for two years when he was called to become the pastor at Cornwallis also. From that time until his death in 1878 Dr. Sommerville preached in this church. Rev. W. J. Sproul was then given a unanimous call but he declined. In 1880, the second pastor, Dr. Thomas McFall was called and in 1881 was ordained and installed pastor. He continued pastor until his death in 1929. Both these ministers began and ended their ministry in this field of labor. Both were born in Ireland. Dr. Sommerville completed his education at Glasgow University, Glasgow, Scotland, and Dr. McFall at Westminster, and Geneva College, of West Pennsylvania. Dr. Sommerville received his theological training in the Seminary of Paisley, Scotland, and Dr. McFall in the Reformed Presbyterian Seminary of Allegheny, now Pittsburgh, Pa. This congregation, Dr. Park pointed out, has had the fruit of the training of the schools of Ireland, Scotland and the United States. These two men, he affirmed, of fine minds and great hearts, had a mighty influence for good – Dr. Sommerville, aggressive and evangelical; Dr. McFall, steadfast and kind. The speaker quoted a tribute paid to Dr. Sommerville at the time of his death: "The chief excellence of his character and work as a missionary and pastor lay in his fervent love to Christ and his earnest desire to gather souls, not to swell a party, but as jewels for the Master’s crown." Dr. McFall, the speaker stated, ministered not only to those of his own faith but to those of any, or no faith, a ministry of love, and was held in the very highest esteem by all.

By questioning, Dr. Park learned that three of the congregation present were baptized by Dr. Sommerville and fourteen by dr. McFall, and one present was received in the church by the former, and nineteen by the latter pastor.

From the earliest records that he could locate, Dr. Park learned that in 1858 the session was composed of Solomon Woodworth, George Parker, John White and Hugh Newcombe. In 1802, Gordon A. Calkin was elected and in 1809 Edward Holmes Morton and Samuel White. The last session was composed of James Hird, Thomas Lawson, John Newcombe, Elihu Morton, Andrew Morton and Nelson Morton. Of these, three survive, Elihu Morton being an elder in an American congregation, and Nelson Morton and Andrew Morton composing the present session.

Rev. David Price, an aged Baptist minister, who had known both Dr. Sommerville and Dr. McFall, brought greetings from the Berwick Baptist Church and paid a tribute to the fine Christian character of these men and the high standard of their work in the community. He said some things are indestructible. These men have passed on to their reward, but the truth they preached is indestructible and they live in the lives of men and women whom they brought to Christ. In his closing prayer, Dr. Price returned thanks for men like Dr. Sommerville and Dr. McFall who preached the truth in love.

Dr. Park preached a strong sermon on the Resurrection, from the text, "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto the gospel which I preached unto you." We must accept the indisputable fact of the resurrection of Christ, he stated. If there be no resurrection then, (I) we have an empty gospel; (2) we are false witness of God; (3) our gospel has no power to save from sin; (4) we are eternally lost. If Christ was not raised from the dead, then lives like those of Dr. Sommerville and Dr. McFall are valueless, he said.

Two granddaughters of the late Dr. Sommerville were present at the service; Mrs. A. S. Banks, Waterville and Mrs. Perry Borden, Berwick. Representatives from other Covenanter families for miles around were also present despite the very intense and unusual heat and the service was greatly enjoyed.

Berwick Register Wednesday, August 2, 1933

Centennial Service At Grand Pre

A very interesting service was held Sabbath afternoon in the old Covenanter church at Grand Pre, now owned by the United Church, to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the coming to this church of Rev. William Sommerville.

Prof. Robert Park, of Geneva College, conducted the service which was largely attended by representatives of the old Covenanter families from far and near. He expressed much regret that Dr. A. C. Borden, who was greatly interested in having the service, was unable to be present and take part.

Among those present were two who had attended Mr. Sommerville’s school which he conducted in Somerset, five who had been baptised by him, and two of his grandchildren, Mrs. A. S. Bank and Mrs. P. D. Borden.

Prof. Park read a brief summary of Mr. Sommerville’s life and work, with extracts from his diary. He was born in Aughnavalog, parish of Drum, Ballyroney, County Down, Ireland, July 1st, 1800. He was educated at the University of Glasgow, and after taking his theology in Scotland under Dr. Andrew Symington, was licensed to preach in 1826. In 1831 he was sent out as a missionary to New Brunswick, and in 1833, in response to urgent calls, he came to Horton. In 1835 he was called to the township of Cornwallis for part of his time, and from that date until his death in 1878, he was pastor of the Covenanter congregations of Horton and Cornwallis, living in Horton until 1845, in Woodside until 1856 and in Somerset from that time until his death in 1878.

He was buried in the churchyard of the Cornwallis congregation. His wide influence and large circle of friends was revealed by the fact that the funeral procession was more than a mile long, and that all classes and denominations freely testified their affectionate regard and high esteem for the deceased.

Professor Park related how at one time, when Mr. Sommerville was approached for a brief autobiography, he wrote: “William Sommerville – Born, July 1, 1800. Died -. A sinner saved by grace.” This, he stated, was entirely characteristic of his humility. Speaking from the text, “But we see Jesus – Crowned, “Prof. Park thought it fitting to glorify William Sommerville’s Christ rather than give an extensive eulogy of Mr. Sommerville, as he felt sure the one in whose honor they had met would voice that sentiment.

Berwick Register,

August 22, 1946 (page 5).

(From Church Announcements column)

Covenanter Church, Grafton – (Pastor, Dr. Robert Park.) Sunday, August 25: 11 a.m. Communion and Baptismal Service: Sermon by Dr. John Coleman, of Geneva College, Beaver Falls, Pa.

Berwick Register,

August 29, 1946 (page 1).

Summer Pastorate To End Sunday

GRAFTON, Aug. 26. – The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was celebrated by the Covenanter congregation on Sabbath morning when the pastor, Dr. Robert Park, of Geneva College, Beaver Falls, Pa., had as his assistant, Dr. John Coleman, who is also on the teaching staff of Geneva College.

Dr. Park, during the last seventeen years, and since the death of Rev. Thomas McFall, has been spending his annual vacation at Harbourville, and conducting service each Sabbath for the congregation here. Yesterday morning, Dr. Coleman administered the ordinance of Baptism to John Hayes, infant son of Dr. and Mrs. Park.

Through Dr. Park’s efforts the meeting house at Mill Stream has recently been renovated, inside and out, and the appearance of the century-old building much improved.

Next Sabbath, September 1, Dr. Park will close his pastorate for this season, and the service will be held, at three o’clock in the afternoon when a large congregation is expected to be present. It is widely known that the congregation and pastor cordially welcome all visitors, and the simplicity of the church service and the idyllic environment in which it is held still attracts many visitors.

The Register

Thursday, June 19, 1947 (Page 1)

Old Covenanter church Opens In Summer Pastorate

Dr. Robert Park Begins Nineteenth Summer Of His Preaching At Grafton, Urging Congregation To Invite Friends And Neighbours.

GRAFTON, June 16 – Beginning his nineteenth summer pastorate of the century-old Covenanter Church, here, yesterday (Sunday), Rev. Dr. John Park, Professor of Religious History at Geneva College, Beaver Falls, Pa., reminded his congregation that the gospel he had preached for eighteen years was the same gospel that the Apostle Paul preached to the Corinthian Christians – Regeneration, Christ and Scriptures.

Dr. Park said:

"Our gospel is a gospel of regeneration," said Dr. Park. "It has many teachings and imposes many duties and opens up many privileges and promises and fulfils many blessings, but at the core it calls for, and accomplishes a great experience in the human heart. We may obtain many blessings from this gospel, personal and social; but if we do not have regeneration of heart we are not Christian.

"The great message of Jesus, spoken to one of the finest characters of those who conversed with Him was, ‘Ye must be born

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again. Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God’. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, among whom he had preached for several years, ‘You hath He quickened (regenerated) who were dead in trespasses and in sins.’

"The whole purpose of my ministry among you is that you make certain that you have been born again, that you are a new man in Christ Jesus. I have seen through the power of the gospel a woman of sin changed into a noble woman of purity and chastity. I have seen the drunkard redeemed and the craving for the taste of liquor blotted out. I have seen the blasphemer transformed into a man of reverent tongue, and have seen the selfish heart made unselfish and the proud humble. You might add a hundred to the church rolls of this community and not much change be felt, but add fifty fathers and fifty mothers of truly regenerated lives, and tremendous transformations would be wrought in homes, in business and in all social activities.

"The second word round which my gospel revolves is ‘Christ’. Paul wrote to these Corinthians, ‘I am determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.’ You can delete the name of Confucius from Confucianism and not change that religion. You can delete the name of Mohammed from Mohammedanism, and not change that religion, but you cannot delete the name of Jesus from Christianity and still have the Christian faith. When one ceases to preach Christ, one ceases to preach the gospel.

"Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’, ‘I am the Light of the world’, ‘I am the bread of life’. Leave Jesus out, and you have no way, no light, no bread. I shall continue to preach to you Jesus Christ, through faith in Whom, you have regeneration and salvation, ‘For there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved’.

"The third word round which my gospel centres is, ‘Scripture’. The gospel that Jesus preached was expounding of scripture. From the first day of preaching in His own home town of Nazareth, until He walked with those two on his resurrection day, He opened the scriptures. At Nazareth, ‘This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears’. Again, ‘Search the scriptures….and they are they which testify of me’. And ‘Beginning at Moses and all the prophets He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself’. When Paul preached Christ crucified and risen, he said it was all in the scripture. ‘For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received; how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures’.

"For these eighteen summers, I have expounded the scriptures. I have not once preached from any other book but the Word of God. Some of you have hardly missed a Sabbath during these years. How often would you have come if I had tried to expound Shakespeare, or Milton, or any other great human writer?

"Friends, I shall continue to expound the scriptures, and through the scriptures present o you Jesus Christ Who came that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly; that you might be born again. Invite your unbelieving friends and neighbors to these services, that they too, may find that newness of life that comes only through believing on Jesus our Saviour".


Berwick, Nova Scotia

Thursday, August 22, 1957

Covenanter Church Last Of Its Kind In The Maritimes

Dr. Robert Park is nearing the end of his summer pastorate of Grafton Covenanter Church, having only one more service before leaving for his home in Beaver Falls, Pa. This is the 28th summer Dr. Park has been serving this congregation, the last remaining Covenanter congregation in the Maritimes.

Built in 1833, this small church has had only two pastors beside the summer pastors of the last years. Rev. William Somerville was pastor for forty-seven years and was followed by Rev. Thomas McFall, DD, who served for forty-nine years. Since the death of Dr. McFall, several Covenanter ministers have come from U.S.A. for the summer, until in 1930, Dr. Park came, built his summer cottage at Harbourville, and since that time has served this church as summer pastor. He and Mrs. Park and the boys, John and Eric, have become a real part of the life of Harbourville and this district and their coming each year is looked forward to with much interest.

One communion service is held each summer in this church in the manner and custom of the Covenanter Church of Scotland. This was held last Sabbath with fifteen members taking communion. The older members have gradually passed away and now there are only sixteen members remaining.

In his sermon preceding communion, Dr. Park spoke on, "The Resurrection of Jesus, the Sign of His Divine Sonship", which he based n Christ’s words to the Pharisees when they asked for a sign and He said, "No sign shall be given to it but the sign of the prophet Jonas". This sign, Dr. Park said, was a unique sign, Jonah having been in the fish for three days and then lived – a sign to the Ninevites. It was also a convincing sign as many of the Ninevites repented of their sins and it was a condemning sign to the unbelievers. The story of Jonah, Dr. Park affirmed, was an historical event.

Then, speaking of the resurrection of Jesus after three days, he said that in the Lord’s Supper, a dead Christ is not being celebrated, but a living and loving Saviour.

Dr. Park was connected with Geneva Falls College in Beaver Falls, Pa., for many years, first as a Professor of Church History, and later as Dean of the College and retired only last year.

(there is a small error in the second paragraph ... the church was built in 1842-43 ... PV)

The Register,

August 5, 1971, page 1

To Hold Service At Covenanter Church

The doors of the Covenanter Church in Grafton will be open for the first time in ten years when a service of worship will be held on Sunday, August 8, at 3 o’clock. Many will remember Dr. Robert Park, who was summer pastor at that church for 34 years, and who gave his last sermon there in August 1961.

On this occasion the minister will be Rev. Renwick Wright, D. D., of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, formerly of Ireland. Also taking part in the service will be Dr. Norman Carson and Rev. Willard McMillan, both of Geneva College faculty.