The Millstream Pastoral Charge in New Brunswick may be small in size — less than 40 active families in a four-point charge — but its generosity towards others is major league. Its members already support various outreach services in the neighbouring town of Sussex, including a clothing depot, sponsoring a foster child in Africa, donations to the Red Cross for disaster relief, and a transition house for abused women. But with Canada’s 150th birthday falling this year, the pastoral charge’s Outreach Committee decided to embark on two new projects.

The first would see members put together 150 blessing bags, containing items such as a bottle of water, soap, facial tissue, toiletries, plus a hat, mitts, or a scarf. These will be given to Romero House Soup Kitchen in Saint John. The bags will be handed out to the homeless during the street patrols that Romero House staff carry out to help those in need in the winter.

A hand-drawn poster depicting the four churches making up Millstream Pastoral Charge.
The four churches in the Millstream Pastoral Charge (plus Mount Hebron United, which is no longer active) are united by the slogan: “In Christian faith working together hand in hand.”
Courtesy of Millstream Pastoral Charge

The second way to celebrate the country’s sesquicentennial was suggested by Barb Darrah, a member of their Outreach Committee. She suggested that the pastoral charge send $150 to one organization in every province and territory.

“We wanted to do something for those in need,” she said. To determine how to disperse this funding, she personally called United Church congregations in each province and territory, asking them to recommend groups that needed funding and to give her phone numbers of each group so she could contact them to get their address.

“We wanted to find worthy organizations that could benefit from our support,” she said.

The list of recipients across the country is impressive and diverse. They are:

  • Hope Haven, a shelter for abused women and children in Labrador City, Newfoundland
  • Southern Kings and Queens Food Bank, in Montague, Prince Edward Island
  • K.V. Domestic Violence Outreach Inc., which offers support and counselling to women and children in New Brunswick
  • Truro Homeless Outreach Society, for homeless men and women in Truro, Nova Scotia,
  • The “Simply Supper” outreach ministry run by the Richmond/Melbourne United Church in Quebec
  • Elisha House in Welland, Ontario, which works with young pregnant women with no place to go
  • Genesis House, in Winkler, Manitoba, which assists abused women and children
  • Camp Christopher, on Christopher Lake, Saskatchewan, which provides “camperships” to needy children so that they can go to camp
  • A Safe Place in Sherwood Park, Alberta, which offers outreach services to abused women and children
  • A program that cooks and delivers hot lunches to seniors and those in need, offered by Northwood United Church in Surrey, B.C.
  • The Iqaluit Food Bank in Nunavut, which feeds more than 80 people a day, many of which are children.
  • A soup kitchen at Sacred Heart Cathedral in the Yukon, where teens from an area United church help their Catholic peers prepare meals for those in need
  •  Food Rescue (Yellowknife), in Yellowknife, North West Territories

“We know that $150 is not that much, but you would be surprised how grateful people are,” said Darrah. “One minister told me that was really inspired by this program, and that she would talk about it in an upcoming service. We are just four little churches, but we really try to do a lot with our outreach.”

Darrah is also proud that the Canadian Foodgrains Regional Volunteer Coordinator for New Brunswick is a member of the pastoral charge. “We are so proud to have Brian McCullum as a member of Woodland United Church,” she said.

The four congregations in the Millstream Pastoral charge include:

Wesley United, Berwick. Possibly the earliest congregation in the Millstream area, as records date back to 1845, and earlier in the 1800s, missionaries were active here. The first church building, built after 1830, was replaced and dedicated in 1860.

Carsonville-Head-of-Millstream United, Carsonville. This is the oldest church building in the area, built in 1855. The pump organ, purchased in 1891, is still in use.

Woodland United, Pearsonville. A former Presbyterian church, it became part of the Millstream charge in 1955. It boasts a 19th-century pump organ and a well-kept graveyard.

Lower Millstream United, Lower Millstream. Also part of the former Presbyterian charge, this congregation joined in the year of union in 1925. A cathedral ceiling and wood finished walls provide beautiful acoustics for the upright piano.

The pastoral charge’s website notes that: “Our strength might not be our numbers, but in how willing we are to pull together, undertaking some daunting projects… volunteers put their hearts and souls into each endeavour to lovingly maintain our churches and communities. There is certainly no shortage of determination or perseverance.”

—Paul Russell is Communications Coordinator with the Office of the Moderator and General Secretary.