The Deacon Assembly has been in existence for a long time. It is one of the oldest assemblies in the Ottawa Valley. While my personal involvement with the saints at Deacon dates back approximately sixty years, based on information I have been given and stories I have heard from older men and women (who were in the meeting long before I was), I know for sure that this assembly is at least 92 years old. It is quite possible, however, that the real age of the Deacon Assembly is well over 100 years.
As far back as I know, the earliest saints at Deacon met to break bread in a schoolhouse which was directly across Highway 60 from L’Escale Lane. My dad used to tell me how one family drove from Killaloe to Deacon each Sunday with their horses in order to break bread. In 1912, that schoolhouse was sold, and another schoolhouse was built at the junction of Tramore Road and Old Bridge Road. Lightning caused this building to burn down in 1918, and a new schoolhouse was built on the same site, opening in 1919. The building that formed this new schoolhouse is still there to this day. It was in that little cement-block schoolhouse that we held our gospel meetings. The good, old-time gospel was preached in those days by faithful men of God. The schoolhouse would be filled with people – sometimes with many standing outside, listening by the windows – to hear the Word of God.
Assembly meetings were frequently held in a home on a farm up the Tramore Road, and preachers traveling from a distance would stay in their home with them as well. When the family retired from farming, they built a house further down Tramore Road, closer to Highway 60. As in their old home, the assembly gathered at their new home to break bread while the gospel meetings were usually held in the schoolhouse. On one occasion, three men were here holding meetings inside a large tent. The tent was pitched in a little field across from the home meeting place. Great gospel messages were delivered by these men, and many souls were saved as a result. A number of other preachers traveled to this area during these years as well, including a man from Toronto who was one of the best Bible teachers I have ever heard.
It was also during these years when Ross McConkey first came to Deacon. He spent a lot of time preaching here, not only in the schoolhouse, but also in many area homes. He also held open air meetings in Killaloe (at the old train station along Queen Street, adjacent to where the Post Office is now) and in Golden Lake (at the junction of Highway 60 and Kokomis Road where the gas station is now). As a result of these many gospel meetings, a great number of souls were saved.
In 1939, the brethren decided to build a Gospel Hall in Deacon where meetings could be held. A site was chosen across Old Bridge Road from the schoolhouse where meetings had been held in the past, and construction began. Much of the timber used in the construction was taken from the mountains at Deacon. Most of the work was carried out by local men who were coming to the assembly at the time. It must have been a struggle for those dear brethren because times were hard, and there was very little money. But God gave the victory, and the Gospel Hall was built. Many preachers delivered messages from within the walls of this hall.
Clark McClelland did a great work here at Deacon both in the preaching of the gospel and in the teaching of God’s word. In 1948, we had a full month of gospel meetings with our brother Clark, and at the end of the month there were fourteen people baptized, including two men who were 65 years of age at the time. At this time, our baptismal services were held along the banks of the Bonnechere River, where it enters into Golden Lake, close to where our current chapel is located. In these years, Highway 60 was located on the other side of the chapel from where it is now and all of the land in this area from the highway down to the river and the lakeshore was owned by a family who always offered their property to be used for these purposes. Not only were baptismal services held on this site, but we also used to hold Sunday School picnics here, with lots of fun and games for children and adults alike. There was always lots of good food provided as well. Crowds attending were usually quite large, as not only people from the chapel, but also from the local community, would come out to these events. For many years afterwards we held our baptismal services farther up the river at a farm off Tramore Road. More recently, our baptisms have been performed in Round Lake at a home there.
I remember a series of meetings that we were having back in the old hall with a speaker from England who traveled the world preaching the gospel. Fortunately for us, he stopped at Deacon while on some of his travels. Not only did he preach the gospel while here, but he also established our first Sunday School, and the children at Deacon have been taught about the Bible and our Lord in this manner ever since.
Through the years, many Christmas programs have been put on by the children in the Sunday School. Such presentations by the children have always been well attended, not only by people from the assembly, but by those from the surrounding community as well. Two other men from Lakefield, Ontario helped us out with the meetings at Deacon a great deal as well. These men would often drive down to Deacon, bringing with them good teaching and gospel messages. I remember one specific occasion when they didn’t drive – but rather flew – down to Deacon. One of their brothers’ had a pilot’s license and a small plane, and he flew them both down to be with us for that particular Sunday, landing the plane on Golden Lake, just a short walk from where the old Gospel Hall was located. This old Gospel Hall was heated by a large box stove which was located right in the middle of the building. However, as is the case with wood heating, when the weather outside was really cold and the place hadn’t been heated for several days, it would take a while to warm up. One of the neighbours used to take care of this problem for us by going over and lighting a fire in the stove some time before the meetings were to start. This way, by the time the rest of us got there and were gathered inside, the hall had warmed up considerably. We would all sit around that big box stove for our Bible studies and be well-fed from the Word of God.
At this time, none of the brethren who were in fellowship at Deacon would take on the role of leading a Bible study or gospel meeting from behind the pulpit. Thus, we relied heavily on men of God to come to us from other areas to deliver such messages. When these men were not available to come, Sunday gospel meetings and Bible classes were not held. (Of course, the breaking-of-bread meetings were faithfully held each Sunday morning.) Weekly prayer meetings were also held, but the ministry part of these meetings was in the form of an open Bible discussion, where different brethren would read a few Bible verses each, followed by a brief comment on what had just been read. I remember participating in many such open Bible discussions in our old Gospel Hall. Later, I was encouraged by some of the older brethren to take on a more active role, and to try speaking from behind the pulpit at these meetings. Although hesitant at first, I did try it, and based on the feedback I received from the elders afterwards, I must have done all right.
In the years that followed, I found myself speaking more and more at Deacon. As time has passed, other brethren have also joined me in this responsibility of proclaiming God’s Word. As a result, the ministry portion of our prayer meetings is no longer of an open discussion format, and our Sunday gospel meetings are held regularly, whether brethren from other areas have been booked to speak at these meetings or not. It was also during these years in the old hall that the sisters at Deacon began to meet on a regular basis for a time of prayer and fellowship together around God’s Word. These monthly meetings continued for almost 40 years before ending in 1990. In addition to being held in the old hall (and later in the new chapel), these meetings were sometimes also held in the sister’s homes. Apart from our regular meetings, there were also many special services held in that old hall. There were a number of weddings – the first of which was in June of 1944. Many funerals were also held there, and the first of these was in 1939.
As the years went by, greater numbers of people were coming out to the meetings. The assembly was growing, and the hall was becoming more and more crowded. At some services, there were over 100 people in attendance. I remember one of the preachers once asking the children to come up to the front of the hall and to sit on the floor around the pulpit in order to reave more seats for the adults.
In 1957, the brethren got together and decided that we needed a larger building to hold the crowds that were coming in. A business meeting was called, with Ross McConkey as chairman, and myself appointed as secretary/treasurer. We didn’t have very much money at that time, but everybody wanted a new chapel, so we decided that we would try to build it, and work at it together. A building lot was purchased from a neighbour for the price of $1.00 (to make the transaction legal). We hired a chief contractor and as he needed help, he would ask, and some of the brethren would go and work with him. I remember the first load of lumber that came in. The bill was for $500.00. We didn’t have enough money at that time to pay the bill – which was a great concern to me – and I went to the brethren and told them so. One dear old brother replied to me, “the Lord will provide,” and He surely did. By the time that the bill was due, enough money had indeed come in, and I was able to pay for the lumber. This is the way the Lord supplied for the building of our new chapel. When we were preparing to put the roof on, a man passing by in his car on the highway stopped in. He was the son of the couple who used to have the meetings in their farm home up the Tramore Road so many years before. He lived in Whitney at this point, and as such was not connected to the Deacon Assembly in any real way. But yet, as he was passing by and saw us out there working on our new chapel, he stopped to talk with us for a while and to see how things were going. Before he left, he gave us a cheque for enough money to cover the cost of the completion of the roof. By the fall of that year, we had pretty much completed the actual building process, so that from the outside of the building at least, it looked like a chapel. Inside, however, there was still work to be done. And one thing that had to be dealt with fairly soon (as the weather was starting to cool down) was the fact that we still had no source of heat for the building. An uncle of mine came along one Sunday afternoon as I was milking the cows at the farm. We were talking for a while, and he was asking how the construction was coming along with the new chapel. Then he asked if we had our furnace put in yet, and when I told him that we did not, he offered to pay half of the bill for a new furnace. This offer came as a great surprise, as he lived in Pembroke at that time, and had no real connection with our assembly. Once this offer was made known to the brethren, one of them said to go ahead and get the furnace, and he would pay for the other half. We hired another contractor from Killaloe to do some work for us on the building, including finishing the front of the chapel with primistone. After the work was complete, and I went to pay him, he would not take any money. He simply said, “No charge.” So that was the way our new chapel was built: by faith. When all of the work was complete, and all of the bills were paid, we had one cent left in our bank account. Through it all, I had the wonderful experience of seeing how our God could supply the need when we rested on Him; an experience I will never forget.
When we opened the new chapel, people continued to come out to hear the wonderful messages from God’s Word and now we had more room to accommodate them. Still, through the years, I have seen many occasions when practically all the seats have been filled, sometimes even to the point where we have brought chairs up from the basement to provide a few extra seats. We have also had many good conferences in our new chapel, where the Word of God has been given forth by men who are most capable of doing so. The attendance at these events has always been very good, with some folks traveling great distances to be with us. Everyone enjoys not only the messages presented, but also the good meals and times of fellowship that follow.
The first conference in our new chapel had Ross McConkey and Bill McRae as the speakers, and, as usual, it was very well attended. One of the things that I remember most about this particular conference was an excellent venison stew, enjoyed by everyone who was there! Bill McRae was a relatively young man at this time, and he went on to start a series of “young peoples” meetings at Deacon in the early 1960’s. These were times when some of the teenagers and young adults in the assembly would come together and take part in various types of outings and sports events as a group, enjoying their fellowship together as well as the Word of God. These meetings continued on at Deacon for many years, and although I was never a direct part of them, my daughter was, and I know that she seemed to enjoy them very much.
Throughout the years that I have been in this assembly, I have seen God’s hand of blessing in the preaching of the gospel. Many souls have been saved, baptized, and have come into fellowship. Along with the blessings, we have also had our share of tests and trials along the way. As problems arose, each was taken to the Lord in prayer, and answers were always given. In some cases, people were visited in their homes, to discuss matters personally with them and to encourage them. In other cases, different measures were used to correct the problems, but the answers were always given – through prayer and the study of God’s Word. God’s people in our assembly seem to want to function in this manner – according to His Word. I have mentioned the names of many different preachers who have, down through the years, brought us wonderful and moving messages from the Bible; full-time workers like Alex lrvine, Ross McConkey, Aubrey Dellandrea, and Jim Booker. However, other men, like Frank Guthrie, Fred Fiss, Ben Reece, and Jim Wright, have also played a great role in bringing messages to us from God’s Word. Unlike the former group, this latter group were not full-time workers – they had regular jobs that they went to each day – yet they too played an important role in our assembly down through the years. It is the preaching and teaching of the Word of God by the men from both of these groups that has made the Deacon Assembly what it is today. They have fed us with the bread of life, and not only enough to simply sustain us, but enough to enable us to grow.
I am now going to bring this history of the Deacon Assembly to a close. My earnest prayer is that God will continue to bless His testimony at Deacon, and keep each one of His dear brethren and sisters faithful to Him, until Jesus comes again.
Reg Briscoe, 2003