The Community at Grenville Christian College was not originally connected with the Community of Jesus; rather, it was part of the Berean Fellowship. This Dallas-based evangelical group sought to preach the Gospel to “the very last man”. In order to achieve this goal, three forms of endeavor were undertaken:
- Missionaries were sent to Europe and Africa.
- Schools were established to inculcate their particular understanding of the Faith in young people and, thereby, provide a continuous supply of missionaries.
- A Christian Television station was established in Dallas, in the expectation that this might expand into a network proclaiming Christ across North America.
Evidently, the man who had been the mastermind behind the establishment of this fellowship fell into immoral ways. The resulting scandal, combined with a number of financial problems, caused the collapse of this organization.
There are three married couples, who found each other at this time:
- The Rev’d Charles Farnsworth, and his wife Betty, were part of the Berean Fellowship in Dallas. Although Charles was raised in an Episcopal family in Atlanta, Georgia, his true religious formation took place in the southern Pentecostal tradition. He was ordained as a Pentecostal Minister.
- The Rev’d George Snure, and his wife Jan, were originally from a small conservative Protestant Church in the Hamilton area of Ontario. He was ordained in that Church. I do not recall the name of that denomination.
- The Rev’d Alistair Haig, and his wife Mary, were also from Ontario. He was an ordained Minister of the United Church of Canada. He and Mary had been running (rather unsuccessfully) a girls’ school at Stony Brook on Long Island in New York State.
The Berean School in Canada was neither financially nor legally a member of the Berean Fellowship; but simply recognized as being associated with it. When this Fellowship broke up in Dallas, all that was necessary was to drop the name “Berean” and adopt the Township name of “Grenville”. A number of the missionaries, who had been stranded abroad, then found their way to the Grenville Christian College.
(The property had been purchased in 1969 for $650,000. Formerly, it was “St Mary’s College”—a Roman Catholic Institution run by and for the Redemptorist Order.)
The people involved in maintaining the school, both in its Berean and Grenville stages, sought to live in community. The three couples mentioned above were “The Pastors” of that community.
Initially, the distinguishing element of their life was their strong involvement in the Charismatic Movement. When God graces any person, or group of people, with an extraordinary manifestation of His love, whether it is in the form of mystical or charismatic experiences, there is the tendency to spiritual pride. This is what happened at Grenville, both individually and corporately. Life within the Community became factious and seems to have been marked with considerable lack of Christian charity. This was relieved only by the long and loud charismatic sessions in the Chapel. Evidently, there was quite a turnover in staff during this period.
Realizing that their life in community was not as it should be, and recognizing that the Community of Jesus at Orleans on Cape Cod was much more stable than their own, the Pastors sought direction from “Mothers” Cay and Judy.
In 1973, at the invitation of the Pastors, “Mothers” Cay and Judy visited the Grenville Christian College. Initially, they suggested that two things should be done: the Eucharist should be celebrated on a regular and frequent basis and a prayer vigil should be established. This was done.
The Six Pastors were then invited to spend time at the Community of Jesus. It should be carefully noted that “The Pastors” were not just the three ordained men: Al Haig, George Snure, and Charles Farnsworth. Their wives (Mary, Jan, and Betty respectively) were also “Pastors”. Although these women had quite different personalities, each one of them was a woman of strength. All decisions of “The Pastors”, in the running of the Community at Grenville, had to be unanimous. My observation is that, amongst the couples, the Haigs were the dominant one. Amongst the six “Pastors”, the strongest person was Mary Haig.
After spending a number of months as “live-ins” at the Community of Jesus, i.e. subject to all the discipline of that Community without actually being a member of it, the six pastors became full members of that Community, by vowing to accept “Mothers” Cay and Judy as their spiritual directors. Henceforth, no major decision regarding the Community at Grenville would be made without consultation.
The members of the Grenville Community were divided into two groups of about 50 each, which separately spent time as “live-ins” at the Community of Jesus. Initially, they were not permitted to become members—only the Pastors had that privilege. Later, this was allowed.
Thus, through this contact with the Community of Jesus and the adoption of its teaching and discipline of “Light sessions”, “correction”, and confession, the quality of community life at Grenville began to develop in a positive manner.
In order to celebrate the Eucharist, as they had experienced it at Cape Cod, the Pastors approached Canon John Garrett, the Rector of St Peter’s Church in Brockville for copies of “The Book of Common Prayer”. With these books, Anglican services became the norm in the Grenville College Chapel, even though there was no Anglican priest!
Al Haig and Charles Farnsworth also made themselves known to the elderly Priest at Maitland, Fr Harrison Flint. After expressing to him their interest in becoming Anglican, he directed them to the local Bishop, Henry Hill, Bishop of Ontario.
In the Summer of 1976, arrangements were made for the Grenville Community to be received into the Anglican Church through the Sacrament of Confirmation. Instruction was given over the 3 month period of June to August at four different levels:
- The 6 Pastors
- The “Life Corps,” consisting of about 25 university aged students
- A second group of about 25 adults, who were high school graduates
- A group of 15 teenagers
In the early Fall of 1976, every member of the Grenville Community became an Anglican. Bishop Hill confirmed them in the little Church of St James, in Maitland.
It should be clearly noted that Bishop Hill had been given a full description of the teachings of Cay Andersen and Judy Sorensen, which were being implemented at Grenville. He chose to ignore the warning that was given to him. He was not prepared to listen to any criticism of the Grenville Community.
For the academic year 1976–1977, a succession of Anglican priests visited the College to celebrate the Anglican Eucharist for the Community and for the resident students. Meanwhile, Al Haig and Charles Farnsworth were joined by Don Spencer-Lee to receive instruction for Ordination in the Anglican Church. During that academic year, they were instructed in Anglican Theology, History, and Pastoralia.
Their situation, of course, was unique. Bishop, therefore, approached Archbishop Garnsworthy of Toronto for permission to proceed. The Archbishop (and, I think, with two other Ontario Bishops) made a visitation to Grenville. Their decision was that once this program of studies was completed, Bishop Hill might ordain them. Whereas, Mr Spencer-Lee would be appointed to a Parish, as was the norm, the two Grenville men would be ordained to function within their own Community.
On the 11th June 1977 at St Peter’s Church in Brockville, Bishop Hill ordained these three men to the Diaconate. Arrangements were then put in place for their ordination to the Priesthood. There was to be another man ordained with them.
Bishop Hill decided that the pre-ordination retreat should take place at the Community of Jesus!!! He sent Canon John Garrett to act as Chaplain to the Ordinands. It is not known whether he ever made a report back to the Bishop regarding all that he saw and heard. Certainly, the two non-Grenville Ordinands were very upset.
The Ordination to the Priesthood took place on the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, at St George’s Cathedral in Kingston, on 29th September 1977. Bishop Cuthbert Bardsley, the retired Bishop of Coventry in England, assisted Bishop Hill. The Chaplain of the Community of Jesus, Fr Arthur Lane, was asked by the Bishop to preach.
Thus, the Grenville Community, which ran the Grenville Christian School, has been a part of the Berean Fellowship of Dallas, the Community of Jesus on Cape Cod, and the Anglican Church of Canada.
Some further notes:
- George and Jan Snure left the Community. At least one of their three sons was at the Community of Jesus. They were not allowed to have contact with him.
- Al and Mary Haig left the Community. They were divorced. Mary moved to the Community of Jesus, and eventually married John French. Al retired in the Diocese of Toronto and . He passed away in 2009.
- The Grenville Christian College has been closed.
- Grenville Christian College closed its doors at the end of the summer of 2007. On 29th September 2007, they held a Closing Celebration—which also marked the 30th anniversary of the Ordination of Al Haig and Charles Farnsworth in the Anglican Church of Canada.
- Shortly thereafter, it was named as a defendant in a class action lawsuit in Canada, along with the Anglican Church of Canada and the Community of Jesus. The legal teams have prepared and filed, but an actual trial has not yet begun.
- Not surprisingly, the Community distanced itself from GCC. Nice.