Cropped Lois drawing with United market

Original Drawing by Lois Bearden

North Mountain United Tapestry Cultural & Heritage Society is a multi-faceted community project.

In 2013 community concerns regarding the future of a historic church building  (1860) in Harbourville, Nova Scotia, inspired a small group of volunteers to create and present a proposal to the United Church of Canada.

The proposal was simple. The group would form a heritage and cultural society which would maintain the church building and offer it to the community as a welcoming meeting place. In return the United Church of Canada would allow the building to be identified as the home of the North Mountain United Tapestry.

The proposal was accepted and “United Tapestry” was born.

The society celebrates and promotes local culture, commerce and environmental stewardship within the surrounding North Mountain communities.

Through adaptive reuse, the historic church has once again become a vibrant community meeting place envisioned within the original proposal . The four United Church of Canada services (including the beloved community led Christmas Eve service)  which are held each year are now part of an inclusive schedule of events which include a farmers’ market, a concert series, environmental, health and craft workshops, plus artisan’s galleries.

United Tapestry supports a community that honours its heritage and culture and strives for economic self-reliance and social responsibility. 

Harbourville United Church’s Little Miracle     By Kendra Mackay Newkirk     

The little white United Church, on the cliff of The Bay of Fundy in the small hamlet of Harbourville has entered an exciting new era.

Built in 1860, the church has once again become a vibrant center of activity for surrounding communities.

The North Mountain United Tapestry has become a reality. It was a great relief to go into the bank in the nearby town of Berwick, N.S., to sign the final papers releasing the church and its few assets, to higher powers, over a year ago.

I love the little church and the memories of the people, who gave it life.

Over one hundred and fifty years ago, many people got together to build a no-nonsense, Methodist church. The church was not a physically impressive building. Its beauty was in its simplicity.

Unlike so many other churches who joined others to become part of the United Church of Canada, in 1925, this church did not change its Methodist interior, but change has come.

In time, the beautiful brass chandelier was converted from gas to electricity, the straight-backed pews were painted and repainted, furniture was recovered and a bright red carpet was laid over some areas of the painted wood floor.

There is no phone and for much of its history, no address.

There is no plumbing. In times of great desperation, it was necessary to resort to a dilapidating outhouse, out behind.

Winter mice sometimes made their homes in among the large bibles and old, worn hymnaries.

On Christmas Eve, a welcome transformation took place each year. The simple church became magnificent. Candles, red ribbons, holly, evergreen boughs, wall hangings, a crèche convinced me real Christmas still exists.

The church not only filled with light, but with local music and the joy of the season.

The house was full as in years gone by. Many a foot that had not crossed a church entrance except on Christmas, for decades, came into the church.

Many individuals of many ages, differing backgrounds and vocations and varying faiths came together celebrating Christmas.

The building and those inside glowed.

The United Church Women and theirs friends, who made up the Ladies Sewing Circle, through generations, kept the church alive, as the congregation dwindled.

The local cottagers swelled the ranks in the summer.

We “younger” women were happy to follow their lead, but when we became older, there was no one to lead. The relentless laws of attrition took their toll as church no longer plays as central part in many younger lives.

In winter the church workers dwindled from a few to two. Two is not a flock. A little task here, a little task there, some phoning here and there, some necessary practical decisions, some inevitable congregational decisions, requests to attend meetings, issues concerning insurance, finance, foundations, roof, services, ordinary upkeep inside and out, charge matters, became too much.

We were not the people to make the big decisions and became overwhelmed by the time and energy required for the little ones. The church needed a wider community.

How wonderful it was that others, with fresh new ideas and the skills and enthusiasm to accomplish much came forward, when we finally, determinably stepped back.

The little white church on the cliff has a new life with new enthusiastic, capable, leaders of all ages as it moves into the future.

The church will remain into the future, whole and even holy.

The building and its activity is now part of the local summer experience and its warmth goes out into the community in the cold, dark winter.

The tiny hamlet of Harbourville still has a house of worship and the old building has brought new life into the community.

A debt of gratitude is owed the members of the other churches in the Cornwallis Charge, particularly Berwick United Church, whose generosity of spirit, time and openness to new ideas is essential in bringing a new vision into reality.

They allow the creative people of the North Mountain to create.

The North Mountain United Tapestry Cultural and Heritage Society has celebrated and joyfully promoted local culture, commerce and community life this past year and is now eagerly looking forward the sixth year.

The church has a new metal roof, is wheelchair accessible with a small thoughtfully-crafted ramp, and when the steeple was being repaired by two local men, a beautiful sun was incorporated into the work.

The community has begun refreshing the land around the church and the outside of the building. Excitingly, a very practical, ecologically efficient composting toilet has been built.

Inside, changes have taken place as well, to facilitate the building’s multi-purpose uses.

A section of the old straight-backed pews remain that would be familiar to the earliest congregants.

The interior has changed significantly yet remains the same.

On Saturday morning, local farmers gather to sell their fresh produce, crafts people offer their high-quality work, and entertainers sometimes perform.

Harbourville history is finding a home  and the church has become a gathering spot for the people of the North Mountain and who are cheerfully joined by many from the Valley.

A little miracle has taken place at Harbourville United Church.

In 2019, United Tapestry plans a season of activity between June 1st and Thanksgiving weekend which encompasses a multi-faceted agenda. The primary anchor is our weekly market held on Saturday mornings hosting local farmers, artisans and entrepreneurs.

Inside the church, a permanent coffee kiosk offers North Mountain Fine Coffee, roasted here in our own community and delicious offerings of  locally baked treats.

 A regular knitting group has been established which welcomes novices……

Our historic building also houses a  heritage corner.  Interpretive panels  which chronicle the history of the Harbourville United Church and the Harbourville Sewing Circle flank the walls.

The original Honour Roll with the names of our community members who sacrificed their lives in war time has been re-framed and hung. A delightful tea cup cabinet fashioned from re purposed material holds cups and saucers. Many of these china pieces are family sponsored and memorial cards are placed lovingly on the shelves. Original minute books, pictures and other memorabilia of  the “Harbourville Sewing Circle” may also be viewed.

Through their many talents, the “ Habourville Sewing Circle”, comprised of a small group of dedicated community women, provided much of the financial support needed to maintain the church building over the years . It is Tapestry’s intention to honour the ingenuity and memory of these remarkable women who represent many of the area’s founding families.

By Kendra Mackay Newkirk