Who is “the Unknown Baptist Minister”?

By Taylor Murray

Recently, Gordon L. Heath, Dallas Friesen, and I wrote Baptists in Canada: Their History and Polity,1 which we dedicated to “the Unknown Baptist Minister.” The inspiration for this dedication came from a bronze sculpture that adorns the wall of McMaster Divinity College on the stairway leading to the chapel.

Installed in 1963, shortly after the construction of the building itself, it was the vision of Edward Carey Fox and Dora Alexandria Fox (née McKay). From their perspective, it served two purposes. First, it was to honour “the host of almost forgotten ministers who by selfless devotion and godly labor brought the churches of the Canadian Baptist fellowship into existence during the formative years of Canadian history.” And second, it was to encourage new pastors in the ministry “lest the current generation of young ministers distort the true image of the ministry by identifying it more with the pastorate of large and influential churches.”2

They commissioned Adlai Hardin, a well-known sculptor from Connecticut, to create the piece. The finished product contained representations of eight aspects of life for an early-Baptist minister in Canada: ordination, family life, visitation, administering ordinances, teaching, preaching, studying, and prayer.3

Beside the sculpture hung the words of the Apostle Paul: “Unknown, yet well known; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, yet possessing all things” (2 Cor 6:9–10, KJV). As a pamphlet prepared by McMaster Divinity College records: “Either because of the wording of this text or because of an inevitable association with familiar memorials to unknown soldiers, the sculpture soon came to be known throughout the Divinity College, even before its unveiling, as The Unknown Baptist Minister.”4

While we hope that academics and prominent church leaders will engage with Baptists in Canada, we also hope it will be a resource for all Baptist pastors across the country. It is not only for those who serve large congregations, it is also for those who feel their work is inconsequential or who may not see the fruits of their labour in this lifetime. It is to those “unknown” Baptist pastors across the country that we dedicate Baptists in Canada.

* * *

Taylor Murray is Creative Producer of Distributed Learning at Tyndale University and a doctoral candidate at McMaster Divinity College. He holds an MA in Christian History from Acadia Divinity College, Acadia University. He is a Member at Large with the Canadian Baptist Historical Society.

Endnotes

1. Gordon L. Heath, Dallas Friesen, and Taylor Murray, Baptists in Canada: Their History and Polity. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2020. The book is available at wipfandstock.com.
2. “The Unknown Baptist Minister,” a pamphlet prepared by McMaster Divinity College, Hamilton, ON, n.d.
3. “The Unknown Baptist Minister.”
4. “The Unknown Baptist Minister.”

**The views of this Blog represent those of the author, and not necessarily the CBHS.**

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