Retired Anglican Archbishop of Toronto Terrence Finlay models Bishop Charles Henry Brent’s Cope, given to him in 1920 by the people of France for his service with the American Expeditionary Forces during the last year of the First World War. The elaborate liturgical garment has been restored by the Needleworkers Guild of Toronto. Photo by Michael Swan.

Exhibition honours chaplains’ service during conflict

By 
  • November 4, 2014

TORONTO - For the first time in Canadian history, the men and women who ventured into war unarmed, carrying a holy book, ready to listen to and serve soldiers in distress are being remembered with a museum exhibition.

The museum of Toronto’s St. James Anglican Cathedral is mounting “Called to Serve,” an exhibition that looks at armed forces chaplains of all faiths through Canadian history. Not even the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa has ever dedicated an exhibition to the padres who have been a part of every Canadian expedition since the Boer War, said Nancy Mallett, chair of St. James Cathedral Archives and Museum.

Rather than St. James’ more modest museum space, this major exhibition will be mounted in the main sanctuary of the 1853 gothic revival church on the corner of King and Church Streets in downtown Toronto.

The ecumenical and interfaith character of Canada’s wartime chaplains extends much further back than the photographs of Canadian chaplains meeting with village imams in Afghanistan. After the First World War the Catholic people of France presented Anglican Bishop Charles Henry Brent with a cope — now restored by the Anglican Needleworkers’ Guild of Toronto.

The exhibition extends as far back as 1759 and the Battle of Quebec on the Plains of Abraham. But the program is also up-to-date with poppies constructed by children on display in the memorial chapel of the Royal Grenadiers just off the cathedral entrance.

A highlight of the Nov. 6 to 16 exhibition will be a full orchestra and choir mounting of composer Andrew Ager’s “The Unknown Soldier.” The Nov. 14, 7:30 p.m. performance will include a multimedia slide show in the cathedral. 

Information about the exhibit and $25 concert tickets are available at stjamescathedral.on.ca.

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