On May 20, 1951, a small group of believers sat around a table with a simple loaf and a cup for the first time in a small portable hall on Country Road, Corner Brook, Newfoundland. They were moving in obedience to the Word of God, as they were taught by the Holy Spirit through faithful men sent from God. However, this little group didn’t just happen. Faithful servants of the Lord who had recognized the call of God to this Island in the Atlantic responded with holy zeal.
The era of the assembly work in Newfoundland as we know it today began through the exercise of Mr. Herbert W. Harris, who left a fruitful field with Albert W. Joyce in Prince Edward Island in 1943. It was the answer to many prayers from earlier days when brethren W. N. Brennen and Isaac McMullen, from 1919 until 1928, made trips during the summer from Nova Scotia to the Island. They spent much of their summers and falls on the East Coast, but in 1921, pitched a tent in Corner Brook. The city was alive with new workers who had come to help the Bowaters Pulp and Paper Mill get set for paper-making operations. On many free evenings, the men filled the tent. In the magazine, Our Record, it is mentioned that 300 were inside, and as many outside, listening to the gospel. It was the hope of these brethren that men would be reached and saved, and then carry the message to other parts of the Island. Records remain of these ventures and the prayers of saints at the Pugwash Junction conferences for God to raise up men to carry the gospel to this needy area. Other brethren responded to brother Harris’ invitation to help in this work, among whom were Douglas Howard, Frank Pearcey, Albert Ramsay, Donald Moffatt, Stanley Simms, Ernie Dellandrea, Wallace Cudmore, and Harris’ own brother, Russell Harris.
It was in 1950 that Mr. Harris came to the Newfoundland west coast and began meetings in Corner Brook in a portable building on Country Road. During one of Mr. Harris’s visits to Toronto, he impressed upon young men the need to get out with the gospel, and pressed upon Bert Joyce and George Heidman to join him for a summer in this smaller city of Corner Brook. In 1950, these two brethren joined Mr. Harris, along with Donald Moffatt who was living in St. John’s at the time, and Andrew Aiken who had come earlier from Sydney, Nova Scotia. The two brethren from Ontario arrived on the Sunday afternoon at 5pm to begin advertised meetings that night. Five brethren spoke that first night with Mr. Harris closing. Brother Moffatt and Aiken left shortly after, and meetings continued. God was pleased to work, and a few souls professed faith in Christ.
It was decided that a more permanent building was needed, since the land on which the portable had been placed was not available. Land was obtained from Bowaters Mill, below Broadway, at the end of Valley Road. This area is now part of the Valley Mall, but it was used for a number of years by the gospel hall. A foundation was built in the Fall of 1950, and the portable hall, with reinforcements, was placed on top and became the Corner Brook Gospel Hall. In November, Bert Joyce returned to Toronto and Kenora. George Heidman later went to other parts of the Maritimes.
During the absence of Bert Joyce in the late Fall of 1950, the gospel hall on Valley Road was opened by Herb Harris and Mr. Wallace Cudmore. Upon Bert’s return in May of 1951, the first baptism was carried out in the hall, where a tank was suspended at floor level and covered by a hinged floor. Strange things can happen, and one brother who did not apparently understand the procedure, but who wanted to go first, suddenly jumped into the tank causing surprise and a great splash. Mr. Joyce caught him before he went under, and after quieting him, continued with the normal routine.
On May 20, 1951 the assembly in Corner Brook was formed, and a small group sat down to remember the Lord, according to His Word, for the first time. In August of 1951, Mr. Harris and Mr. Joyce held tent meetings in an area of Corner Brook called Humber Heights where there was an encouraging response with some young folk trusting Christ. In the fall and winter to follow, Mr. Harris was with Mr. Pearcey in California, leaving Mr. Joyce to preach and teach young believers. Later in the Spring of 1952, Ernie Dellandrea came to help, at which time Bert Joyce returned to Toronto to wed his bride. In August of 1952, tent meetings were held in the vicinity of the present gospel hall on Country Road. Mr. George Campbell, saved in 1950 in Vancouver, came to help with tent meetings held by Herb Harris and Bert Joyce in Lark Harbour, with blessing in salvation.
In 1971, a tent was erected on a purchased piece of property at the corner of Lind’s and Country Road. Following these meetings, the construction of the new hall began on this same property. Shortly thereafter, the assembly met in this new location, where it has continued to this day. The saints held their first conference in 1973.
As with every testimony for God, the enemy is not far. Over the years, the assembly in Corner Brook has experienced its difficulties. In a day of ever increasing compromise and departure, we look to the Lord for grace to maintain assembly testimony, based on the Biblical precepts, principles, and the pattern found clearly in His Word. “God is faithful, by Whom ye are called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1Cor 1:9, KJV).