Canon Sims & Lillian Barrett Memorial Fund

Canon Sims preached and assisted in area churches until he was 90, living by his motto, Go Forward. The fund was established by his daughter, Lillian Barrett. The income is to be applied in the discretion of the directors.

 Canon H.A. Sims by Lillian Barrett:

 As I write this, my mind goes back to a stormy day in February, 1974, the day of Papa's funeral. The blizzard, the bitter wind, the drifting snow, the bad roads - they seemed symbolic of his adventurous life, in which he had so often faced just such hardships with high courage and great cheerfulness, always living up to the motto chosen in his boyhood: Go Forward. This motto had been exemplified throughout his active ministry in his chosen diocese, Algoma; now he was going forward into the greatest adventure of all.

During his lifetime I had taken him for granted, he was Papa: wise, kind, humourous, devoted to God and His chruch. It is only since his death that I have begun to realize the impact his life made on me personally, simply by showing that Christianity is a workable way of life. I find that his influence is bearing more and more fruit in my own life today. Some young men were influenced to take Holy Orders.

Harry Alfred Sims was born of February 8th, 1881, at Portsmouth, England. His father was chief Carpenter and Sailmaker with the Royal Navy, in charge of the coaling station on Ascension Island, where Harry and his three brothers spent their early years. At thirteen he returned to England to complete his education, and at sizxeen began his seven year apprenticeship as a moulder in brass and iron, in Portsea. As a new apprentice he was given the most menial tasks; one of these, whish he used to describe with many chuckles, was following behind the horses on the streets of Portsea, raking up one of the necessary ingredients for making moulds. The other ingredient was sand.

During this period his interest in the Church became evident. He began the Band of Hope work and Sunday School teaching in 1899. He and his brothers developed and active interest in sports, Harry becoming a reputable goal-keeper on a football team.

In 1903 he commenced Church Army training and was soon put in charge of Hereford Diocesan Mission, travelling around the shire with his van, Hereford II; the farmers provided horses from village to village. In 1904 he was transferred to headquarters in London and entered the Training Home. He used to tell of preaching from a soap box in Hyde Park and being heckled by his 'congregation'. In that same year he was commissioned as Captain, and was licenced as a lay reader by the Bishop of Hereford.

A turning point in his life came in 1907 when he married Annie Herridge at All Saints' Church, Portsmouth. During their courtship it was their Sunday treat to have a picnic lunch of tinned salmon and peaches on the grounds of Arundel Castle. Annie was his joy and inspiration, a continuing influence in his life and his work. After being transferred to the Headquarters Pioneer Staff in charge of missions, they worked together in the London slums.

An urge to emigrate to Canada resulted in their accepting Bishop Thorneloe's invitation to serve on the Manitoulin. Although Mother's doctor advised against it, because rheumatic fever had weakened her heart, they sailed for Canada June 17th, 1908. Arriving at Little Current on Manitoulin Island, they travelled to Silverwater by horse and buggy; I am sure they often had to remind themselves of Papa's motto, Go Forward, as they faced a completely new life in a strange world.

As catechist and lay reader, Papa soon won the affection and respect of the community as he ministered to an ever-increasing Anglican congregation.

Among the joys of Silverwater was the birth of their first daughter, my sister Grace. Certainly there were hardships - wood to cut, feed to be provided for the horse, neccessities to be obtained for the home. The stipend was often paid in kind, while the trusty "22" provided rabbit and partridge for stew. Travelling a round trip of fourty miles and more in one day by horse and buggy or cutter was no mean feat. The young lay reader loved to tell how they learned to harness "Tom Sims" from pictures in Eaton's catalogue. A useful publication in those days.

The Ojibways of the Island loved and revered Papa. They invited him, my mother, and Grace to a ceremony in the Council House at Shishegwaning, where Chief Niganawina bestowed upon them their Indian names. Papa's was Kechegahnalquad, "Curly Cloud", the sign of the coming wind, a reminder of the wind of the Holy Spirit. Mother's was Meskokwahdoqua, meaning "Red Cloud", the sign of fine weather coming; Grace's, Wahsageghegoqua, meant "Brightest Day".

Papa's love for Algoma has now deeply rooted, This was due largely to the encouragement and influence of Bishop Thorneloe, who ordained him deacon at St. Luke's Pro-Cathedral of June 11th, 1911., and priest a year later. In 1913 he left the Manitoulin to take charge of the mission of St. John the Evangelist, New Liskeard. It was at this time that I was born and my Indian name give me Ahbetageghagoqua, "Lady of Mid-Day".

In 1915 our family moved to the parish of St. James', Cobalt. Encouraged by the Bishop to remain in the home mission field during the war years, Papa turned his energies to the life of the community, both spiritual and physical. A great organizer, he was sent on the special relief remembers the great interest of all the Cobalt children in seeing the boxes and boxes of clothing stacked on the station platform. Papa was to help distribute these to the children of Matheson. Papa's enthusiam for Scouting developed during this time, and remained with him all his life; he saw it as an integral part of his devotion to God. He organized the first Boy Scout troop in New Liskeard and in Cobalt; he became the first in Ontario to receive the Gilwell Badge, a recognition for service in Scouting. He became the first Scout Commissioner in Temiskaming in 1918. Fifty years later, addressing a group of scouts at Camp Ashwene he said, "I became a Scout and Scout-master way back in 1914. I had to admit myself because there were no other scouts to do it for me."

As Honourary Secretary to the Cobalt Branch of the Patriotic Fund, Papa provided community leadership in organizing aid to the wives of soldiers, to war widows and their children. Under his watchful eye wheelbarrow brigaes hauled black muck from the bush to spread on Cobalt's rocky gardens to grow food to aid the war effort.

He used to tell a tale of the visit of the Prince of Wales to Cobalt in 1920. As Scout Commissioner, he accompanied the Prince as he inspected the Scouts; then, since the Cadet Officer was absent, he accompanied the Prince as he inspected the Cadets. This meant two introductions. Then he hastened through the back ways to the school grounds where, as school trustee, he conducted the singing of the school children for the Prince's entertainment. This meant a third introduction, whereupon the Prince smiled and whispered, "We are getting to know each other."

In 1921 Papa was inducted Rector of St. Paul's, Fort William. He himself had little to say about his ministry there, but one of this parishioners wrote, "We never leave St. Paul's Church without feeling we have gained some help, and being cheered and encouraged by the bright service." He and Mother once again organized Scout and Guide troops. During his years there he invented the game of Disking, and indoor sport similar to curling. I remember his saying, "always played games with members of my congregations and their friends, beacuse I believe it is by playing games together that we can best learn how to live together in the serious business of life." Always a sportsman, he admitted he had once ducked choir practice to attend a special hockey game between Fort William and Port Arthur, in which my sister Grace was playing.

In May, 1927 Papa conducted his first service at St. John's, North Bay. The next ten years were to be most rewarding as he continued his many Diocesan activities, his Parochial work and his community service. In 1937 when he and Bishop Rocksborough Smith were returning from a Confirmation service in Sturgeon Falls, he made the headlines of the Toronto Daily Star. To quote from the Toronto Star:

"RECTOR DOFFS COAT, WIELDS FLASHLIGHT TO WARN OF DANGER STOLEN MOTOR TRUCK UPSET ON TRACK THREATENED SERIOUS MISHAP, BISHOP GAVE AID."

"Removing his coat to make his white shirt and collar visible in the glare of the headlights and frantically waving a small flashlight, The Rev. H.A. Sims .... averted what might have been a serious train wreck on the CNR level crossing last night. Train No. 2 loaded with passengers was due in twenty minutes. Mr. Sims stated he did not have time to feel nervous, and left the Rt. Rev. Socksorough Smith to direct traffic and watch his car at the crossing."

In the commendation he reveived was the following quote: "Standing there in the darkness of a late springtime night, with the glare of the locomotive headlights upon you, one finds the expression of your life's work, which seeks to save from danger your fellow man, and, so to do, penetrates the darkness of poverty, of sickness and of death."

Soon after this experience, Papa and Mother left for the mission of St. Peter's, Kirkland Lake, which at that time was in the Diocese of Algoma. When they took up residence, Papa dubbed the rectory "Casa Loma". One of the first jobs he did was to transform the bush behind it into a beautiful garden.

By January, 1938 St. Peter's ceased to be a mission and became a parish. All organizations were flourishing; increasing congregations made it necessary to double the length of the nave of the church. In this same year the Recot's stipend was set at $1,800. A sizeable income, out of which he must heat the poorly insulated rectory and pay other expenses. No complaints; it was the accepted thing! He broadcasted regularly on CJKL, always beginning his Devotions with, "This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." He himself truly lived by those words.

One of the thirty members of the A.Y. P.A. at this time recalls a funny incident the night the United Church Young People were invited to St. Peter's for a social evening. At lunch time salt was somehow substitued for sugar. The Rector, who was served first, tasted his coffee, gave it a queer look but said nothing, not wanting to deprive the others of this tasting coffee. Someone was finally impolite enough to mention it; a good laugh was pinpointed for years to come.

In 1941 Papa was installed as a Canon of the Pro-Cathedral by Bishop Kingston.

By now Mother's health had seriously deteriorated and she was having to give up her church activities. By 1944 she was bedridden; early Sunday morning, March 5th, she died in hospital. Her nurse who kept vigil through the long night was a Guide Captin, Mrs. Ina Grice. Papa took his regular 8:30 a.m. Communion Service that morning, as it was always understood nothing would stand in the way of his church duties. It was a source of comfort to him. He was not to realized until later how deeply her death had affected him.

In September, 1943 at the General Synod in Toronto Papa took the initiative which resulted in the actual revision of the Prayer Book of the Anglican Church in Canada. He moved the necessary resolution which was seconded by his dear friend, Canon Palmer. It was passed unanimously by both houses. Papa was subsequently appointer to the Prayer Book Revision Committee. The revised book was finally approved in August, 1962. From very early years he was interested in the M.S.C.C. and in Social Service work, and served happily on both those committees as well.

Kirkland Lake now became part of Moosonee Diocese, but Papa opted to stay in Algoma. Therefor, in 1947, he became rector of St. John's, Chapleau. He spent three short years there, during which time he organized Scouting, experienced his third major fire in Northern Ontario, encouraged the enlarging of the church basement and the complete redecorating of the building. Many years later, at his 90th birthday party in New Liskeard, one of his former parishioners among the delegation from Chapleau, said: "He left an evergreen memory in this land of evergreens."

His stipend had now been raised to $2100, plus telephone, post box rental and stationery; he was still responsible for heating the rectory himself. He was happy in Chapleau, but Mother's death was beginning to tell, and on the advice of his doctor he retired in 1950, to make his home with me and my husband, Bill, just south of New Liskeard, on Sharpe's Bay. Here, thirty years before, he had organized the first Boy Scout camp in the district.

Over the next twenty-three years his spirits lifted as he took an active part in the Ministerial Association, gardening, boating, photography, and driving his little Volkswagon around the northern part of Algoma. He not only assisted his own Anglican congregations, but helped in other denominations. When the pulpit of the Presbyterian Church fell vacant, Papa filled it for nine months. When criticized for preaching in the church of another denomination, his reply was: "If I found myself called to preach to the heathen, I would be commended for doing so; why was fault found with me for preching to Presbyterians?" Incidentally, one of the Presbyterians serving on the committee for calling a new minister was reported as having said, "Wouldn't it be nice if we could keep Canon Sims."

He still lived by his motto Go Forward. While filling in during a vacancy at Englehart and Charlton, he drive the 26 miles to Englehart one December Sunday in a blinding blizzard that kept most of the traffic off the highway. He took his service there, but had to turn back on the Charlton road; the other ministers, both of them younger men with better cars, hadn't even started out. The next Sunday he made profuse apologies at St. Faith's, Charlton for having let them down, obviously feeling quite ashamed for not having made it. This at past 80 years! Then, when nearing 90, he took part in a walkathon, making seven miles on the highway.

He was an avid fan of the New Liskeard hockey team, and of the Toronto Maple Leafs. At his 90th birthday party he was given a colour television set which to watch the Leaf games, and was presented also with two tickets for a game in Toronto. Off he flew, with my husband Bill, staying at the Royal York, attending the game in the evening and church next morning. A highlight of this weekend was a chance to chat with Foster Hewitt and King Clancy. What a happy birthday!

He drove his VW Beetle till he became ill in September, 1973. He died peacefully in hospital after a short illness, on February 20th, 1974.

Papa had been termed an old-fashioned Churchman with an evangelical zeal, combined with a devotion and a loyalty to the faith of the Church. He never looked backward, and his ministry was a source of inspiration and courage to all. He took infinite pains with the preparation of every service, the choice of every hymn and prayer, and the composing of his sermons. One of his favourite hymns was "Dare to be a Daniel", and he knew indeed what it meant to 'stand alone'. He had a deep interest in church music; he loved hymns with joyful tunes. For his own funeral he requested "Jeusu Lives", number 606, because "to me the Easter faith is the truly Christian Faith."

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