Ministers

Church ministers were heavily involved in the lives of COs. It was through the church that most COs came to believe that war was wrong. It was ministers who helped the COs as they prepared to face the judges. The ministers, especially those from the Mennonite church, were also the ones who negotiated with the Canadian government to organize the alternative service work program. It was only natural that the ministers would try to support the COs by visiting them where they worked, whether in camps, mines, or hospitals. Many of them wrote letters to the COs.  Rev. J. Lavall Smith of the United Church of Canada is one example.  Here is a partial list of visiting ministers.

John A. Toews, for example, spent the spring and summer of 1943 visiting the twenty work camps in BC, a circuit of 1300 km. [ASP, 188]

With this type of dedication, John C. Klassen was confident that “Spiritually we were certainly not neglected.”

“There was always a preacher from somewhere in our midst, who conducted devotional services, or was otherwise helpful in time of need. While our camp boss was considered tough and hard-boiled, I believe there was not a preacher that did not get along with him. Some did win more favouratism than others of course, but most of them had a sense of humour and Ed Brooks [the camp boss] liked that.” [ASM, 23-29]

Wilson Hunsberger felt that the church made a good decision to have ministers involved with the COs.

John C. Klassen continues.

“Our spiritual welfare during those four months had not been overlooked. It was prearranged with the authorities that we would have a minister at our disposal at all times. By a well organized program the congregations took turns sending a representative minister for a period of time. We had daily devotions and often morning and evening services. It must have been quite a sacrifice for them to leave home and family to stay with us and provide us with moral support for a stipulated period of time. It also served to keep us on the straight and narrow, so often needed by 21 year olds. Different preachers with different personalities served us and as I look back and reflect on the past, everyone of them was appreciated. I believe every one of them was a friend of Ed Brooks too. A sense of humor helped, and although some had difficulties with the English language, that too was not an insurmountable obstacle.” [ASM, 27]

Learn more about the ministers by reading some of their letters and documents.