Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Profile: James Scobbie

St. Vincent EFC - formerly Valley Community Church, Green Store 
(circa 1960s)
A big part of growing up in my hometown area was your church.  My church began in St. Vincent, and eventually moved to Pembina. The church was literally at the end of the road from my house, due south, and across the side road from my grandparents' home.

Of the St. Vincent church, I have fragmented memories:  large hanging ceiling lights; the piano on one side of the platform and the organ on the other; a nursery room in the back of the sanctuary near the entrance; a basement kitchen and eating area with several curtained sections, used for both Sunday School and potluck dinners; high, exterior entry steps that were used as a dare to jump off of.  I remember other things - after everyone greeted the pastor on their way out, there was lots of visiting after the services between the adults.  I suspect that there wasn't always a chance to visit otherwise during the week, men and women being too busy working and taking care of families.  People took more time then to find out how you were doing, and what the latest news was.  Social events like church were the 'Facebook' of their time.  Often we kids got restless, wondering what on earth the adults could possibly be talking about that long, so we'd start playing games like hide 'n seek, or kick the can.  Games like this were particularly fun if it was an evening service and were played after dark.

Some of that changed when the church moved to Pembina in 1968 - but that's another story.  This story is about the first pastor I remember of my church:  James Scobbie.  I recently reconnected with Mrs. Scobbie, or Ena (short for Christina), and asked her if she would be so kind as to provide some memories of their time with us.  The other day, she wrote to share...
Here are a few memories of our seven years in St. Vincent (1963-1970)...
We arrived in St. Vincent July 25, 1963. It was the day after my 25th birthday and two days before Heather's fourth. It was an exciting move for us, leaving Canada and coming to live in the United States. This was Jim's first church. He was 25 when he accepted the call to go there in April 1963.
Besides our daughter Heather, we also had Sheila newly turned three and Andrew who was six weeks old.
In many ways it was like "going back in time" to live in a tiny village where we had to fill a tank with 1000 gallons of water at a time on a regular basis. Thankfully, we had normal running water in the house pumped in from the tank [cistern], but that seemed so strange to me. I had to learn, rather quickly, that my days of hot baths with unlimited water were over for seven years!
[George and Ida] Sylvester's Store was small but friendly and adequate, as was the tiny post office, although that was another strange custom, I thought, having to pick up our mail from Box 5 instead of having it plop through the brass letter box on my front door as it had in all my growing up years in Scotland! Our little church was right on the main street. I remember the population of St. Vincent was 177. A sleepy little town indeed!
Jim and I had grown up in the Highlands of Scotland and had emigrated to Winnipeg, [Manitoba] Canada. Jim came in 1957 and I came a year later to marry him. After several years at Providence College (as it its now known) Jim was asked to pastor the Evangelical Free Church in St. Vincent. Although he officially started in April it took four months of immigration process, and waiting for Andrew to be born, before we could enter the U.S. These moves brought many changes to our lives. God was at work!
The people we met in St. Vincent and the church members were amazingly good to us over the next seven years and taught us valuable life lessons. There were men and women there that pretty much adopted us into their families and treated our children like their grandchildren. They left warm and indelible memories with me of true kindness and love. It was there that I learned to make coffee, numerous "strange and tasty hot dishes" (a new way of making meals... for a Scot anyway!) how to bake all kinds of wonderful things etc. Jim always feels that the church at St. Vincent taught him how to be a pastor and gave him the opportunity to practice! For a young 25 year old he could not have been in a more encouraging place and it was the foundation time for him on which to build 40 years of ministry.
Trish, your Mom and Dad can be counted among our "encouragers". We enjoyed many meals and coffees with your folks and had Bible Studies in your home, before home Bible Studies even became popular! Your Mom was like a big sister to me and was always willing to spend time and share recipes, and friendship with me.
I have a few memories of [your grandmother] Mrs. Fitzpatrick also. As a midwife she delivered twins, one of whom is now a missionary supported by our church here in Steinbach1. The missionary and her family have worked for many years in Papua New Guinea. I was so amazed when I found out about that - small world indeed! Also when your grandmother had her leg amputated at the Hallock hospital, Jim and I used to go and visit her. On one of these visits she was in terrible pain but she refused to complain and just kept saying, "Think of the pain Jesus suffered for me." I will never ever forget that day. I have thought about it often through the years. Her faith was so real and personal and I saw first hand what God's grace was all about. I believe she left you a legacy of Faith.
Scobbie children with friends in
front of parsonage; guess who
that is in the back on right...?
Life rolled along well for us in St. Vincent. In 1966 Laura was born and things got busier than ever. Jim and I both enjoyed teaching at the church. I taught Sunday School and later helped with the kids club. and Jim worked with the youth, took them to youth conferences, etc. The church moved over to Pembina in 1968 I believe. That was an exciting time as it gave us the extra room we needed for our growing congregation. Everybody was involved in the building in one way or another. 
Then, there were the floods! The one in 1966 was very bad. We had to be out of our house for three weeks. The year following that the dike was built, only to be followed by another flood the year after that. We did not have to leave our home for the '68 flood but were marooned, St. Vincent becoming a little island! We all got wonderful "stuff" from the Government though, because were in a disaster area - unlimited peanut butter, raisins, etc. - exciting!
Many memories were made here
[Click to enlarge] 
I have wonderful memories of the school in St. Vincent where Heather and Sheila had the huge privilege of attending. I remember it being a happy, safe place for our children to go to school. Mrs. [Simone] Cameron was the cook there and she made the best cinnamon buns for the kids.
Now it is 48 years later, but my memories of leaving our little apartment in Winnipeg on that hot July day in 1963 and driving to St. Vincent to our very first house (complete with a piano that was being stored there) is as real and vivid today as it was then. It marked the beginning of 48 years of ministry for Jim. We are thankful to God for how he has led us over all these years. We are now grandparents to sixteen kids. Two of them are married and have added three great grandchildren to our family... 
1 - I think my grandmother would be pleased to know she had helped deliver someone who grew up to become a missionary...!
Jim and Ena today (taken near where they grew up in Scotland...)