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Beyond the Morning Star cover

  • eBook Edition
    • 978-1-03-917694-2
    • epub, pdf files
  • Paperback Edition
    • 978-1-03-917692-8
    • 6.0 x 9.0 inches
    • Black & White interior
    • 204 pages
  • Hardcover Edition
    • 978-1-03-917693-5
    • 6.0 x 9.0 inches
    • Black & White interior
    • 204 pages
  • Keywords
    • Clergy biography,
    • Call to Ministry,
    • Achieve the impossible,
    • Dare to be Christian,
    • Presbyterian Church,
    • United Church of Canada,
    • 1925 Church Union

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Beyond the Morning Star
The Life of Reverend Russell McGillivray
by A. Russell McGillivray

My father often told me stories of my grandfather, Reverend (Rev.) Russell McGillivray, who died when I was three years old. The generation who heard Rev. McGillivray preach recalled the power of his voice and the simplicity of his messages. A testimony to the quality of his life was the people who were welcoming to our family because of our connection to the man who was their minister some 30 or 40 years earlier. As a family historian, I had many questions about Rev. McGillivray. He left school at 11 and worked full-time to support his widowed mother and six younger siblings. How was he later able to earn two university degrees and become a Presbyterian minister? In poor health as a teenager in Hamilton, Ontario, he was sent to British Columbia for a year to recover. There he received his calling to the ministry and started preaching. How, when and where did this remarkable transformation happen? As a minister during Church Union in 1925-26, Rev. McGillivray got caught up in the sometimes bitter division and legal wrangling that ensued. What was his part in this story? During World War II, he was the minister of one of the largest United churches in Canada. In 1947 a rift between him and the overseeing body (Presbytery) prompted him to resign, leaving my 21-year-old father disillusioned with the institutional church for the rest of his life. What were the issues? Above all, as a Christian, I wanted to know what my grandfather believed and preached. In my journey to a published book, providential events encouraged me to keep going. The most exciting was discovering Rev. McGillivray’s own account of the improbable year in B.C. that changed his life. His writing brings alive a long-gone era with candour, sensitivity, wit, and nostalgia. He was not successful in getting the stories published then, but I am grateful to be able to honour him by sharing them here.

“Thanks so much for sending this to me, Russ. I couldn’t put it down until I had finished it. Fascinating material. Please make sure that it is published.” —Dr. A. Donald Macleod, formerly Chair of the History Committee, Presbyterian Church in Canada and Research Professor of Church History, Tyndale Theological Seminary, Toronto.

A. Russell McGillivray photo

A. Russell “Russ” McGillivray has long been interested in family history. As a child, Russ felt a connection with his late grandfather, particularly as he struggled to understand his young faith. If only his grandfather had lived longer! The ordained ministry was always an option, but in the end, Russ decided he could best serve the church as a layperson. He pursued an aptitude for mathematics at Queen’s University in Kingston and the University of Waterloo. This led to a career in logistics. Besides family history, Russ’ hobbies include singing in church and community choirs and birding. He and his wife, Gail, live in Caledon, Ontario, where they are blessed with a three-acre property that includes a pond, woods, and wetlands.


A. Russell McGillivray

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