On Sat., April 28 at 1:30 p.m. a book launch in story and song followed by a celebration tea will be held at Crescent Fort Rouge United Church, at Wardlaw Avenue and Nassau Street N. Admission is $10 per person.
Patricia Wotton, a retired minister with the United Church of Canada who served in Manitoba and Saskatchewan has written, With Love Lydia, the story of an extraordinary woman who became the first ordained female minister in Canada.
Born in Paris, France in 1894 where her father managed a clothing store, Lydia Gruchy lived to the age of 97. In Canada she became a scholar, a teacher, a pastoral worker and ordained minister, and a recruiter for the United Church of Canada. Above all Gruchy made a significant contribution to the pioneering families of Saskatchewan.
Her passion was her work on behalf of New Canadians with whom she could relate. She wasn’t much interested in ordination at the time, according to the book.
History buffs will be drawn to the story of Gruchy’s path to ordination as a United Church minister. Nellie McClung, the voice of women’s rights on the prairies, was among Lydia’s advocates.
"It’s a church story, but it’s a woman’s story. It’s a prairie story. It’s a social history. It’s all of those things kind of wrapped up in one," said author Wotton, who first heard about Gruchy in the late 1990s. At the time, Wotton was attending a meeting of the board of regents at St. Andrew’s Theological College, in Saskatoon, Gruchy’s alma mater.
She subsequently visited the college library and began researching Gruchy’s life story. This included trips to Toronto, Saskatchewan and British Columbia where church and university archives provided detailed information on Gruchy’s life.
Many vibrant memories of Lydia came from Wotton’s interviews with people in Saskatchewan who knew the hardworking and compassionate minister. In 2007, Wotton interviewed Alice Bittner and Rena Bien in Kelvington, Saskatchewan where Gruchy lived and ministered from 1932 to 1936.
"She would get on her horse and go door-to-door to rally help in whatever was needed, and soon they’d have no problem. …She looked for things that were wrong and she fixed it. She was always looking for ways to make the community better and to make life easier for others."
If you do not make it to this unique reading you can learn about Lydia Gruchy’s life on the Internet. Key in the address www.lydiagruchybio.ca.
Dianne Doney is a community correspondent for Fort Rouge. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.