By Confederation in 1867, industrialization, urbanization and a marked growth in population had transformed Ontario and Quebec from a frontier culture into what one historian calls a relatively “mature society.” “Railways now ran where stage-coaches had bumped along rutted roads. A network of telegraph lines spanning the continent had just been connected with Europe by submarine cable, and daily newspapers relayed its messages to the public without delay.” (John Webster Grant, A Profusion of Spires)

Canadian Baptist Archive Photo

The growth of the church in Canada throughout that same century was phenomenal. For instance, the number of those in Ontario with no religious affiliation dropped from 16.7% in 1842, to 4.5% in 1851, and by the end of the century dropped to 0.7%. Churches were full, new buildings were being built, immigrants were being assimilated into the life of the church, home missions were expanding, and the dream of a “Christian Canada” looked like it had arrived.

At this time, many Baptists in central Canada felt the need to better coordinate their efforts if they were to continue to reach the new Dominion. After a period of deliberation and prayer, separate Baptist groups united in 1888 to form The Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec (BCOQ), later known as the Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec (CBOQ). This new convention spanned over 2000 kilometers from east to west, and sought to provide a body that would facilitate the ministry and mission work of its approximately 370 churches. Fast forward 125 years, and CBOQ still comprises around the same number of churches even as our culture has undergone seismic shifts. But then as now, Baptists knew they were better working together in pursuit of God’s purposes than working apart.

Article by: Gord Heath, Associate Professor of Christian History, McMaster Divinity College

Keep the memory of our early days alive

The Canadian Baptist Archives has an extensive microfilm collection of early Baptist material, but has no way to access these foundational documents. A digital microfilm reader will open access to these resources, while reducing wear on frail print copies. If any individual or church would like to contribute towards a microfilm scanner (the estimated cost is $15,000), please contact Gord Heath at gheath@nullmcmaster.ca or 905-525-9140.

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