St. John's in the Wilderness Anglican Church, New Germany


The first service at New Germany was held by Rev. J. C. Cochran in 1828, in the barn of Mr. John Feindel.  On his visits he often slept on a moose-skin placed on the floor.  He frequently officiated in Mr. Woodworth’s kitchen with light from a candle and a fire. 

The first building for Divine Worship was erected in 1844.  It was consecrated by Bishop Inglis, and called “Church of St. John in the Wilderness”.  A rectory commenced in 1892 has been built on a site given by Mr. Paulus Varner, near Varner’s Bridge.  It was first occupied by Rev. E. D. P. Parry, until he died in 1895 on a visit to his old home in Wales. 

Resident clergymen have been Revs. Phillip Brown, T.R.Gwillym, Parry and Samuel J. Andrews, who came to New Germany from Newfoundland in 1895.

From Bridgewater Bulletin 2004

 NEW GERMANY - For 160 years, St. John-in-the-Wilderness Anglican Church has remained an unchanged structure in New Germany.

 On July 25, the church is holding a special service at 2 p.m. to not only recognize the survival of the building's structural integrity, but also its parishioners. The first Anglican service was held in July 1829 in the barn of John Feindel making this year the 175th anniversary of their congregation. The modern service will be an extra special commemoration of those early parishioners.

 Current day minister Rev. Tom Henderson says the first service was conducted by Rev. James Cuppaidge Cochran, rector of the famous St. John's church in Lunenburg.

 Rev. Cochran wrote that when he first visited New Germany in 1829, "I found but seven or eight families to whom I preached and baptized their children in a barn. … The settlement is in the heart of the wilderness … where the poverty-stricken inhabitants gain but a bare subsistence."

 Steadily the congregation grew. Twelve after the first service, Rev. Cochran's congregation had grown to about 50 families. It was that year that construction began on New Germany's church.

 Two years later in 1844, Rev. Cochran wrote in his annual report, "We have been enabled to raise and externally finish a little Temple of the Lord in one of our solitary place - at New Germany. Among the ancient trees which God's right hand hath planted, and man has never disturbed, may now be seen our House of Prayer."


St. John-in-the-Wilderness Anglican Church has not changed structurally in 160 years. Paula Levy photo

 The same year, the church was consecrated as a chapel within the Parish of Lunenburg. Named after its mother church, "in the wilderness" was added not only to distinguish it from the Lunenburg church, but also because New Germany was literally in the wilderness.

 Now, St. John's in New Germany is part of a family of churches including St. Andrew's Church of West Northfield; St. Paul's Church, Union Square; Transfiguration, of Newburne; St. Mark's, Walden; and Christ Church, Caledonia.

 Although its modern family is new, parishioners are reminded of their heritage. Artifacts from the church's humble beginnings still exist. The first prayer book ever used at St. John's along with early baptism records sit encased at the back of the church. A photo on the wall of George Andrew Woodworth and his wife, Mary, reveal one of the church's original parishioners.

 "Structurally, it [the church] hasn't changed," says Rev. Henderson.

 It is possible that the only physical change to the church was the removal of the four pinnacles of the tower around the 1900s. They were replaced by the present steeple.

 Rev. Henderson says everyone is invited to attend the special service with its 1800s flavour. People are also invited to wear period costumes to witness the historic event. The Right Reverend Sue Moxley, Bishop Suffragan, from the diocese of Nova Scotia, will be officiating and the Lt.-Gov. Myra Freeman is expected to attend.

 The quaint church, although no longer in the wilderness, sits on the LaHave River in the heart of New Germany along Highway 10.

By Paula Levy

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