The trip lasted 3 days, but it left a mark on our very spirits that will follow us the rest of our days. Vancouver Island is an amazing and very special place on earth, with no end to the discoveries that can be made. The tallest mountains, the most beautiful oceans, beaches that go on forever and forests that are so thick there are many spots hidden that have never witnessed a human visitor before. The island itself is much larger than most think, with hundreds upon hundreds of kilometers of landscape to enjoy as you travel the main highways and roadways that ribbon across the vast expanse. At the northern tip of the island is a place frozen in time, a place that we had been looking forward to visiting for many years. In the fall of 2015 we were lucky enough to finally have a chance to make the trip, and in doing so we find ourselves to be forever changed. Today’s post features Christ Church Anglican Church, a tiny parish in Alert Bay on Cormoront Island that forms an integral part of the area’s history.
It was early fall and the weather on Vancouver Island had been lovely all summer, yet as we arrived at the northern end of the island to our anchor spot that would serve as our hub for the rest of the whirlwind trip, the rain fell and a slight chill lingered in the air. It was really wonderful to see how even over such a relatively short distance between the southern and the northern ends of the island, the weather was tangibly different. Our first day in the area found us exploring the wonderful community of Port McNeill, in intense anticipation of what lay before us. If you are just joining us on our big adventure here on our blog, please feel free to check out our previous two posts on Port McNeill “Port McNeill – Day One” and “Exploring Port McNeill“, and to see a sneak peek as to what the community of Alert Bay has in store for us please visit “Alert Bay – A Visit Of A Lifetime“.
We awoke early on our second day, anxious to get to the ferry terminal for the short trip from Port McNeill to Alert Bay on Cormoront Island. The rains were refreshing after a long, hot summer, and they added a certain personality to the whole area that really speaks to a life led on the west coast in a dense rainforest.
For those who follow us regularly, you already know of our deep love for our heritage architecture, and our reverence to visit and photograph our local churches. Christ Church Anglican Church in Alert Bay is well beyond any typical place you’d visit. The character of the parish makes it place that stands alone in terms of amazement. We were given free access to the entire church, and were allowed to explore it with our cameras with no time limits. This allowed us to become fully immersed in the experience, and in doing so we came away with a fresh perspective on life and on west coast existence.
Alert Bay itself is a place with deep-rooted history that goes back thousands of years in native culture, and is one of the first areas settled during colonization in the 1800’s, making it a hub of sorts. Even with this all being true, life on Cormoront Island runs at its own distinct cadence, beckoning you to slow your pace and to take in all it has to offer.
Christ Church Anglican Church was built and established in 1878 by the Reverend Alfred James Hall, making it the first such church in the area to serve a growing community. Signs of this wonderful history and time are evident everywhere inside the church, providing us countless photography subjects. Each picture we captured was much more than a simple image, it was a moment in time frozen forever.
The people we met on our trip were all absolutely wonderful, with a strong and evident pride in both the community and in the bonds that have been created by all from living in a very remote area together for so many years. Everyone seemed to know everyone, and even while standing on the main road taking in the sights you could see folks everywhere cheerily waving at each other in greetings of the new day. It was truly heartwarming.
Almost everywhere we looked, we found connections back to a time nearly 140 years ago, a time that would have been incredibly difficult to live in. No modern conveniences existed at these times, everything was created by hand and done without machinery. This, undoubtedly, would create connections with the people and the land that are indelible and lasting.
Who were the people who made all this? What were their lives like, how did they earn a living in such a remote community? What was it like in the heart of brutal winters, cut off from other communities by-and-large as storms swirled ferociously through the region? These were just some of the questions that haunted us as we spent time inside this lovely church, trying to take in every single iota of experience that was making itself evident. In many ways, it felt as if the church itself was trying to tell us something, tell us stories of times past, of loss and sorrow, of incredible joy and happiness. The human experience isn’t always based on a single thread, it’s always a garment woven into a rich and storied tapestry formed of many fibers.
As with all our visits, eventually they must come to an end. We stood inside the church, desperately trying to find any vestiges of things left undiscovered, realizing that due to the remote location and the difficulties found in traveling here we wouldn’t be back any time soon. As we said earlier, the entire experience left us changed with a deeper understanding and appreciation for life at the northern end of Vancouver Island in remote communities. It also left us with a yearning to see and feel more, an unbridled desire to return, and to return as often as we can.
This incredible and amazing journey would not have been possible without the support and kindness of The Anglican Diocese of British Columbia. We will always be indebted and forever grateful to all those who helped make this a reality for us.
We have much more to share from our incredible adventure, including some surprises, so please stay tuned as we continue to publish feature stories and photographs from our 3 day tour of a lifetime.
As always, we love to hear from all our visitors, so please feel free to leave us any comments you may have below. If you’d like to see all 52 high quality photographs from the collection, please visit our online gallery “Christ Church – Alert Bay“.