A Short History of First Cornwalls Baptist
A Long History of Serving God and Others
One cannot understand the early history of First Cornwallis Baptist without understanding the story of the founding pastor, Rev. Edward Manning. Born in Ireland in 1766 Manning came to Nova Scotia shortly before the Great Nova Scotia Awakening which began in 1776 through the charismatic preaching of Henry Alline. Even though he was not converted until April of 1789, and through the ministry of John Payzant, for the rest of his life Manning never forgot the vivid image of Alline, with tears flowing, begging him to flee the wrath to come.
Manning joined the Cornwallis New Light Congregational Church located near Jawbone Corner. He soon felt the “call” to preach and was ordained as pastor of the church in October, 1795 when Payzant moved to Liverpool. The church was an uneasy alliance of “awakened” Congregationalists and Baptists. For the next few years Manning baptized adults and infants, by sprinkling or immersion, according to the wishes of those concerned, but by 1798 he was convinced of the Baptist position of believer’s baptism and was himself baptized by immersion by Rev. Thomas Chipman. Over time the difficulties of leading a church of both Baptists and Congregationalists became painfully obvious and in 1807 Manning, his wife, and seven followers left the Congregational church to form a separate Baptist church.
One man’s struggle with God soon became a vision share the Good News with all people starting in the valley and then literally around the globe. Within two years the little church grew to sixty-five members and then it doubled again by 1821. Between 1828 and 1878 the congregation planted five other churches: Berwick (1828), Billtown (1835), Pereaux (1861), Port Williams (1868), and Canning (1870). During this same time it was reported that about “twenty-five young men have gone out from this church to preach the Gospel.” Among those was Rev. Dr. Charles Tupper an early advocate for missions and higher education, and Rev. I. E. Bill a prominent pastor, educator, historian and author.
In 1870 Hannah Maria Norris visited First Cornwallis and established one of the first Women’s Missionary Societies. Among the missionaries coming out of the first century of the Cornwallis history were three of the famous serving seven sent to Burma in 1873 (Rufus & Mary Sanford and Flora Eaton) and Silas Tertius Rand who in 1849 was the first Baptist appointed to reach out to the first nations people of the Maritimes.
In the early the twentieth century church planting continued as First Cornwallis helped restart the congregation in Gibson Woods (1914) and began a new work in Centreville (1918). At the same time new pastors and missionaries continued to be nurtured and sent out. Include among these were several with the last name Eaton: Rev. Dr. Ross Eaton who served churches in eastern, central and western Canada; Rev. Dr. Frank Eaton who served churches in Nova Scotia for over forty four years; Dr. Perry Eaton, a medical missionary, Winifred Eaton, a teacher and educator and her sister Evelyn who served as a nurse. Combined these sisters gave over eighty years of service to India.
As the Church has now entered its third century of Christian witness, it continues to be a community devoted to serving God and others at home and abroad. In the past ten years First Cornwallis has been part of the training experience for ten ministry students, and not a year has passed without at least one mission team being sent out for short term service. These teams have included several youth trips within the Atlantic Provinces, along with family mission experiences within the Maritimes and to the inner city of Toronto.
In these past few years, the church has rediscovered the joy of sending people overseas through short term mission experiences. Lisa Lohnes traveled to India in 2010 where among other things, she visited the school in Tuni begun by Winifred Eaton ninety years earlier. In 2011 a team of seven youth and adults spent ten days serving in the Middle East. In 2012 four adults and youth spent March Break as part of a team working in downtown Toronto and in 2013 eight adults and youth spent two weeks in Bolivia serving with Canadian Baptist Ministries. At the same time the congregation continues to serve and give to the local community both in cooperation with other local churches, and through its own initiatives.