In 1969, I hitchhiked to Toronto from Digby, NS. I had heard the call of the global youth movement. The siren call was irresistible to me. I smashed my piggy bank and, taking all my silver dollars, bought a ticket to St. John, NB, to cross the Bay of Fundy on the Princess of Acadia.
Upon arrival in St. John, I phoned my Mom to tell her what I was doing. God bless her!
I was 16 years year old. My trip had its genesis in a tripartite desire: 1) to hit the road — My cousin Allan and I had earlier snuck into the U.S. at night on a railway bridge over the St. Croix River at Calais, Maine and St. Stephen, NB. We slept in a field that night. The next day we were apprehended by W. A. Fogg of the Maine border patrol when he pulled the bus over. He sent us home. It was a different world back then. 2) to join with others for whom Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Herman Hesse, Aldous Huxley were voices beyond our ken; 3) to respond to an Invitation.
My destination in Toronto was the Rectory of St. Thomas’, Huron St. Toronto. Not because it was an Anglican site, it just turned out that Mary and the Rev. Edgar Bull were the only people in Toronto I knew. Edgar and Mary were in Sandy Cove, NS at the time but their boys, Hank and Arthur, were home. That was good enough for me. It remains for another day to tell that particular aspect of this story. Suffice it say — for me, their house, with Rochdale College in full flight next door, with Woodstock happening soon, was the hippie capital of the world.
The Invitation: a year earlier I had been playing with friends on the grounds of Trinity Anglican Church in Digby. I had in fact never been baptized and had never been in a church. I think my being there had something to do with the rector’s daughter. While sitting on the lawn I was approached by a man who, after a few minutes of polite conversation, invited me, if ever in Ontario, to visit his ‘community.’ It seemed intriguing — ‘community’? Who lives in ‘community’? Hippies?
After a few days on Huron St. I hit the road for Bracebridge, ON. The OPP very politely took me off the 401 where I was hitchhiking and put me on a picturesque back road. I eventually made it to the ‘community.’ I remember it only as very pleasant, with wooden buildings and an outdoor statue of Christ which cried in the rain. There were no particularly memorable conversations. All was quiet.
Thirteen years later, as I stood on the doorstep as the summer Anglican student for The Church of the Nativity in Sandy Cove, NS., Fr. Ritchie McMurray asked me: ‘Did you visit the Cowley Fathers (SSJE) in Bracebridge in 1969?’ Quite surprised I replied: ‘Yes, I did…and how did you know that!?” Fr. Ritchie said that he had happened to visit Bracebridge a day or two after my weekend stay. The Prior, David Hemming was a friend. Knowing that Ritchie knew the Digby area, David asked him if he knew the Woolaver family in Digby and the young son, Max. After hearing ‘yes’ from Ritchie, Fr. Hemming said: ‘That young lad is going to be a priest.”
Given all that has to come pass, I wonder just how far can we trace the roots of our desire?
Max Woolaver is Rector of St. Andrew’s Grimsby, and Archdeacon of Lincoln. He is gifted at making us see beyond the immediate, often by helping us laugh at ourselves.