A Social Purpose is Found: The Regional Growth of the Pentecostals in Western and Central Newfoundland

From the second half of the nineteenth century on, industrialization entered Newfoundland belatedly, and it did so in the resource-rich regions of western and central Newfoundland, partly as a result of the habitual optimism of the Victorian and Edwardian age to solve all societal problems by industrial development, partly as a decided effort among Newfoundland intellectuals, scientists, and politicians to diversify the economy. Noteworthy are the erection of pulp and paper mills in Grand Falls and Corner Brook as well as the copper, lead, and zinc mines in Buchans and the Hydro Electric station at Deer Lake. The mining and mill towns with their promise of regular pay and job security drew many Newfoundlanders from their outports and extended families into a boom-town atmosphere. It is in this setting that the Pentecostals finally found their social purpose in Newfoundland. They became a stabilizing force for many families and a substitute family for many young people attracted to the region by economic promise, in a society undergoing rapid social change. The first Pentecostal church on Newfoundland's West Coast was erected in 1925 in Corner Brook and quickly followed by others in Deer Lake, Grand Falls Station (Windsor), Bishop's Falls, Botwood, and Buchans, all industrial towns in western or central Newfoundland. The mission in Corner Brook had been the private undertaking of two businessmen and converts from Methodism. Charles L. March and Herbert Eddy, together with their families and a skilled carpenter, undertook entirely on their own, and first without the encouragement of a still reticent Alice Belle Garrigus in St. John's, their missionary efforts in the west. The church building, appropriately called "The Arche," was a multi-purpose building, which combined a fellowship hall with a furniture store and living quarters, and became the home for many an uprooted millhand from the outports. And the converted in one community quickly became the preachers in another. It is this lay leadership and unencumbered mobility that gave Pentecostals an advantage over the traditional churches in the new towns. The western and central foothold thus gained in the late 20s and 30s in due time solidified and spread and still holds in today's Newfoundland, where the Pentecostal churches now have become -- to use Richard Niebuhr's terminology -- thoroughly "denominationalized." It is primarily in central and western Newfoundland that also the most conspicuous cultural presence of Newfoundland Pentecostals can be found, their separate but publicly-funded educational system.

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