HISTORY OF THE OXFORD AND LITTLE RIVER BAPTIST CHURCHES
To write of one of these two churches without the other is virtually impossible. For 125 years the two churches have been intertwined as part of a pastoral field. The depths of cooperation are rare amongst pastoral fields. Oxford still holds the ‘mother' church in high regard. Little River still loves the 'daughter' church. One page cannot do justice to the totality of the history of the two churches. The following is merely some of the highlights. Apologies in advance are offered if something was left out.
The Little River Baptist Church was formed in 1847. A period of revival swept through from Pugwash to Leicester in 1854 causing the church to be strengthened. In 1860, William Dobson, after serving as a deacon in the church for a time, was ordained as an evangelist. Though much of his ministry was in P.E.I., the same excitement for evangelism flourished here. By 1890, membership in Little River Baptist Church peaked at 109.
A small body of baptized believers was found as early as 1870 in Oxford. In 1876, Oxford was formally constituted and accepted into membership into the Eastern Baptist Association. While early services were held in the old Methodist Church, now on Ellis Street, before long, during E. C. Corey's ministry, a church building was constructed down on Lower Main Street where the Nazarene church presently meets.
During the year 1896, the Baptists were finding their meeting house inadequate to accommodate the needs of the congregation, as the membership was growing rapidly. The present church building was constructed in 1898. This was heated with a wood furnace and lighted by an acetylene system which was converted to electricity in 1919. The church was dedicated on January 1, 1899 with much pomp and ceremony. In 1956, the church bell was installed in the church belfry. During the following year, a modern kitchen was built as part of an extension.
Two early lay leaders should be mentioned. In 1904 Deacon A. H. Henderson passed away at the early age of 43. He was a clever architect and carpenter as well as one of the main promoters of the new building. During his brief years he served as deacon, trustee, clerk, and Sunday School teacher. In 1928, Deacon T. M. Johnson, who was one of the foremost leaders, passed away. He had been Sunday School Superintendent for thirty years. A portrait of each man hangs in the church vestry.
Music has always been an important part of both congregations. Mrs. Alda Webb, after studying at the New England Conservatory of Music, returned to her home area and served for 50 years as organist in either the Oxford and Little River Baptist Churches. Her giftedness has been passed on to another generation. During Cynthia Hickman's tenure as organist in Oxford, the choir won a couple of awards, including the 1972 Sackville Music Festival, where it won first class honours. The Hickman family has been responsible for the donation of three organs in the Oxford church (1943, 1968, and 2000). In recent years, Deacon Dave McClelland, guitarist and vocalist, has made some wonderful recordings.
The stained glass window which adorns the choir loft in Oxford (see the rear cover of this directory) was dedicated during the Rev. John Porter's ministry. It was in memory of Mr. and Mrs. J. S. Hickman, and was presented by their son, Renforth and wife, Rhoma. It was unveiled by a grandson, Donald Hickman.
Other notable individuals in the history of the field include the late Alberta Patton, of the Little River congregation, who served many years as a missionary in India. The late Rev. Dr. Thomas McDormand, came to the field in 1929 as pastor. Although he didn't stay many years, it was long enough for him to get married to Irene Webb, who grew up across the street from the parsonage. McDormand went on to become a well‑known Baptist hymn writer, pastor, author, and educator. He served as Editor of the Canadian Baptist magazine, General Secretary of the Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec (1948‑1955), General Secretary of the Baptist Federation of Canada (19551959), Executive Vice‑President of Acadia University (1959‑1961), President of Eastern Baptist Seminary (1961‑1967), and General Secretary of the United Baptist Convention of the Atlantic Provinces (1967‑1970). From 1970 to 1975, he served as Vice‑President or the Baptist World Alliance. The Rev. Dr. Eugene Thompson grew up in Oxford. After serving in the pastorate, Dr. Thompson went on to serve as an Area Minister in Manitoba, southern Nova Scotia (the old Area H), and for twelve years served as Executive Minister of the United Baptist Convention of the Atlantic Provinces from 1984‑1996. Besides being a gifted preacher and Christian educator he has also been gifted in hymn‑writing.
Memories fade concerning the effectiveness of the various ministers over the years. But in recent years, the Rev. John Porter (19551967), the Rev. Dewis Rector (1979‑1982), and the Rev. Blair Holden (1987‑1997) have had distinguished ministries.
History was made again in 1999 when Oxford approved its first church constitution and named its first three women deacons. They were Mary Wood, Rita Mitchell, and Barbara Doncaster.
What the new millennium holds we cannot say. But we know that the Lord, who has been faithful for 125 years in Oxford's case and 154 years in Little River's case, will continue to be faithful.