God's Little Ships:
A History of the Columbia Coast Mission.
Michael L. Hadley.
Madeira Park, B.C.: Harbour Publishing, 1995. 308pp, cloth, $28.95.
ISBN: 1-55017-133-X. CIP.
Columbia Coast Mission-History.
Anglican Church of Canada-Missions-British Columbia.
Missions, Medical-British Columbia-History.
Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by John D. Crawford.
As with other missionary groups, the Mission's early involvement with the
Native peoples of the British Columbia coast shows little inclination
towards the concept of dialogue. In fact, the Mission's ministry was
strongly marked by a paternalistic approach which was itself cast in the
mould of British imperialism.
This history of the Columbia Coast Mission of the Anglican Church covers
a period that began early in the twentieth century and continued until
the early 1980s, when the Mission's operations ceased. It is a story of
people who sought to provide both spiritual and medical services to
coastal communities of south-western British Columbia. God's Little
Ships is also the story of an institution that saw its purpose
gradually eroded by modern advances in medicine, transportation, and
The Mission owed its conception and birth to the Reverend John
Antle, who was its guiding force for over thirty years. His successor,
Reverend Alan Greene, retired in 1959, when the great days of the Mission
were drawing to a close. Many others play smaller roles in this
history and come to life in its pages. There is much detail about the
ships and hospitals of the Mission, and the picture that emerges is one
of a keen sense of discipline and orderliness overcoming the limitations
of the environment in which the Mission operated.
This sense of almost military organization is emphasized by several
illustrations showing the Mission's officers in uniform, and is evident
in their authoritarian, paternalistic attitude towards the Native
peoples, whose ceremonies -- such as the Potlatch -- they condemned.
Professor Hadley's sources are drawn from church archives, newspaper
and magazine articles, and a wide range of other materials. Many
anecdotes come verbatim from the sources and reveal much of the character
of their period and of the individuals who wrote them. Many of the
Mission's officers lived a spartan life, and there is also a clear sense
of the isolation and vulnerability of many people living in the small
coastal communities, particularly in the early years when modern forms
of communication were absent. God's Little Ships implicitly
lauds not only the Mission's work in supplying spiritual and
medical support, but also in providing social intercourse and the sight of
fresh faces to lonely people.
The content of God's Little Ships is largely
chronological, with some diversions into specialized channels. The index
is very useful, as are the notes on sources. Professor Hadley has been
selective in his inclusion of anecdotes, but there is an excellent
bibliography that provides a guide for readers who seek additional
detail. God's Little Ships is a fine tribute to the people
and institutions of an organization that played its part in the history
of British Columbia.
Highly recommended for libraries emphasizing B.C. history.
John Crawford is a retired teacher/librarian living in Victoria, BC.
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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association.
Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice
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