As the writer for the Religion in Victoria section for the A City Goes to War, part of my research was visiting Victoria area churches and seeing if they had any private collections or artifacts in their churches. The area is blessed with a large number of heritage churches, whether with the original congregations still occupying it, or with new organizations within.
I had to build a large database of contacts for Victoria churches, and sadly I couldn’t contact them all due to the scope of the project, but finding out just how many religious organizations in Victoria (and then later finding out how many used to exist) was quite an interesting experience.
Some of the churches were able to help me. The original Wilkinson Methodist Church building has recently been taken over by a Pentecostal church and when I sent out an email someone in their office got back to me with archival photos from the Saanich Archives and stories of the church’s history. Many thanks to them!
While almost all historical documents from the Anglican churches in Victoria have been moved to the Diocesan Archives (as have most documents from the former Methodist churches – moved to the United archives in Vancouver), some churches have some special artifacts of historical importance. Perhaps the most interesting to me were the battle flags of the 88th Victoria Fusiliers hanging in the chapel at St. Mary the Virgin in Oak Bay. That unit’s chaplain, George H. Andrews, had been the rector at St. Mary’s for five years before going overseas in 1916. A few years after the end of the war (and Andrews’ return), the 88th returned to Victoria to gift their flags to the church. Andrews passed away from cancer in 1926, but the flags remain handing in the church and will remain there until they fall to pieces (an old British military/church tradition).