The drive from Halifax to Truro and beyond has a few landmarks to show you how far you’ve come and how far you still have to go.
There’s the Lone Tree in Shubenacadie, the Juggernaut in Stewiacke, and Glooscap reminds us of the terrain we ride over in Millbrook. I have another landmark that I always watch and I heard from other people that they do the same. A small white church on a hill has just passed exit 9.
It’s a place that can only be spotted from a car going 110, but I like glimpsing the church that looks worthy of a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. I often wondered who went there? I wondered when he got there? I wondered how people got there? After following the highway on Google Maps, I found the name – Heritage Baptist Church.
I contacted the church and asked if I could visit and they gladly agreed. I looked back on google maps and found that the church was not difficult to get to at all. If you take exit 9 and cross the roundabout onto Hwy 2, Church Alley is maybe a minute away.
I visited Heritage Baptist Church at the end of Sunday service and quickly realized that I was very dressed in my button-up flannel, black work pants and Blundstones. The ladies coming from the church wore beautiful long summer dresses. The men wore suits and ties so neat and clean that I wondered how there wasn’t even a crease from driving their cars. The pastor’s wife, Velma Milburn, met me at my car and I apologized for not dressing better. She quickly and warmly told me not to worry.
Velma led me to the entrance of the building where the parishioners were still socializing. It was so interesting to see the building that I passed through on leisurely early morning walks in Cape Breton, full of activity and life.
We then enter the sanctuary. It was perfect. The place beyond the highway trees had the most perfect handmade hardwood interior. The perfectly curved windows in the expected style of church windows. Velma informed me that her husband was in a meeting but gave a brief overview of the church. I didn’t mind him taking his time while I was processing everything. I noticed in the woodwork what appeared to be trinity symbols. I was curious how they found their way to a Baptist church.
Pastor Robert Milburn came from a door to the left of the pulpit with two of the church deacons. I again felt a little out of place with what I was wearing as he and his deacons were impeccably dressed. Like his wife, I was quickly and warmly told not to worry about it. Pastor Robert then told me the history of the church.
Pastor Robert began primary ministry in 2005. Heritage Baptist Church was first held in a private home, then moved to EH Horne School in Enfield. After that, a suggestion validated the name of the church.
On the advice of a neighbour, Rev. Robert visited St Thomas’ Anglican Church in McPhees Corner. St Thomas was built in 1845 and stood in the middle of a graveyard. It was largely abandoned and regularly vandalized. Pastor Robert thought it would be a shame to see it demolished but obviously it was of little use to his church in the middle of another church’s cemetery. What if he moved it?
In August 2006, he did. The Anglican Church sold the building to Heritage Baptist Church for $1. The move to Milford would be way more expensive than the selling price and way more complicated than the paperwork, but they were committed.
The church would move from the McPhees corner to the 11-acre property in Milford removing the steeple to avoid power lines and a local business allowing them to use their access roads for most of the journey.
Prior to the move, a window company had visited to describe the windows to be replaced. When the building moved, the window company thought it would be best to re-contour just in case something changed. He hadn’t moved at all. Moving the church required two cranes to lift the building, not to keep it from moving or sinking, but because it was so heavy and solidly built.
Another interesting thing discovered during the renovations was when Pastor Robert went to cut an interior window in the audio room. Exactly where he cut, he felt something fall. There was a small time capsule in the wall that contained a brief history of the church.
The old church and the current sanctuary itself have not changed much. The pews were replaced with pews from another church of similar size. A decorative bracket on the back wall of the old church moved forward to make way for baptism by complete submersion. There was a small repair made to the ceiling where the old fireplace ran and small imperfections are on the walls where the torches were held. They added a new entryway, an office area, a Sunday school area, a basement with a full kitchen, a gathering place, and two nurseries.
The church is home to approximately 80 regular parishioners who are either local or drive in from as far away as Halifax and Noel Shore. The congregation is growing and there are plans to expand the church further. Lumber costs delayed the final goal of expansion.
If you’re interested, you can visit the Heritage Baptist Church website at https://heritagebaptist.ca/ and a quick and respectful detour to see the church up close just off exit 9 surely wouldn’t bother you. not. It is truly a sweet church and I am very happy that it was saved and was able to live again. If I come back, I’ll be sure to dress a little better!