During the 1860’s and the 1870’s, the ladies became famous for hosting “tea- meetings” or “soirees”. Ads were often placed in the local newspaper, inviting the general public to join church members for good conversation and various programmes comprised of readings and music by the choir. Everyone was invited to indulge in a great variety of homemade delicacies–all for a nominal fee.
Then, in the 1880’s, the church entered a very critical period. Consolidation of various Methodist bodies started to occur and financial difficulties added quarrels and dissension among the people. So – in an effort to unite the people and strengthen the church, a group of devoted church women took charge and the Ladies’ Aid Society was born.
Mabel Dunham reports, and I quote, “These women had spirit and originality. They tried not only to develop a friendly comradeship among the members of the church, but to raise money…..as they were able, by ingenious methods.”
They regularly sponsored clergy-led lectures. Their ordinary tea meetings became sweet socials, pink socials, and strawberry socials - all variety of socials were held.
They also hosted many sewing circles for women. In fact, the one tangible memento of this early Queen Street Methodist Church, which Trinity now displays with much pride in the north access stairwell, is the Red and White Signature Quilt. It too was crafted by the Ladies’ Aid about 1893 as a fundraiser. Funds from this quilt were probably donated towards the purchase of new carpet and seat covers for the church, furnishings for the manse on Ahrens Street, and eventually a twentieth century Thanksgiving fund to clear the $6000.00 mortgage on the church property.
The Ladies’ Aid Society definitely became a major fund raising group for the church at this time!
You know, there is one more story about the Ladies’ Aid and their very first president, a Mrs. J.A. Whiting, which needs to be told.
Mrs. Whiting was apparently a widow when she accepted the position as President of the Ladies’ Aid Society. It should also be noted that her late husband, Dr. James A. Whiting, had served as a very prominent Trustee Board member in the church during the early years on Queen Street.
Around this same time, it seems that a brighter day was dawning within the church. A Rev. J.W. German was called to be the new pastor. Rev. German was described as a widower, who was both kindly and perhaps a little eccentric. He was, certainly a man who would endear himself to the congregation during the three years of his pastorate and then throughout the many years which followed, as their superannuated minister.
Well, Mrs. Whiting’s story unfolds when, one evening, this dynamic Ladies’ Aid President, invited a group of friends to her home for what they thought was some sort of social gathering. However, Mrs. Whiting surprised everyone present by asking them to witness her marriage to Rev. German and Mrs. Whiting became Mrs. J.W. German, the pastor’s wife!
She was described as “a most wonderful helpmate for the Pastor”. “The pews began to fill again; a better spirit was manifested; and Father German’s prayers became much different!”
Sure looks like the old saying holds true: ‘Behind every successful man there stands a good woman!’ - Or should I say a good Ladies’ Aid President?