Peterbrough Examiner
Friday, February 6, 2009

Small church's history explored

...outsiders and change may be perceived as a threat but are really opportunities to learn and grow.

After moving to Peterborough 11 years ago, Adele Finney became intrigued by the history of a little church in nearby Millbrook.

There was the fact that the rector who built St. Thomas' Anglican Church in 1854 and his son together served at the church's helm for 75 years -something she calls highly unusual.

Then there was the fact that a new rector and his wife had moved to the church in 1971 after serving as missionaries in India.

Fire broke out at the church a few weeks after their arrival, she explains, and destroyed the bell tower. There was controversy about how to rebuild.

Finney spoke with several older parishioners, learning about eccentric women who used to be part of the congregation. One was the first female telephone repairwoman in Canada and the other, despite being a lifelong member of the congregation, had always felt like an outsider.

An idea was born. The 59-year-old writer wanted to write a play based on the history of the church and developing the idea that outsiders and change may be perceived as a threat but are really opportunities to learn and grow.

The end result is Finney's first full-length play, "You Don't Know The Half Of It," set to premiere at Market Hall on Feb. 18.

The two-hour play follows the two eccentric women through the inevitable changes of the church, she explains.

"All the characters go through a crisis trying to figure out if you have to wait for everybody to be ready before you change," Finney explains in an interview at St. John's Anglican Church, where her husband, Gordon Finney, is arch deacon. Gordon also acts in the play.

The play, presented by the YDK Project and Public Energy, confronts issues of faith, love, and transformation with depth and humour.

Finney explains she began writing plays in the 1980s when she and her husband lived in Malaysia. Gordon taught at a seminary there, she says, while she worked with some public theatres.

After moving to Peterborough and deciding to write "You Don't Know the Half Of It," Finney submitted the idea in 2002 to Millbrook's 4th Line Theatre playwright development program.

Part of the 4th Line mandate is to gain oral history by people in the community, leading her to speak to older parishioners of St. Thomas to learn more about the church.

The play is set during 1971, one of the most tumultuous times for the church. Rural life was changing, church attendance was low and the church couldn't afford oil for heating, she says.

Then the new rector arrived. Then, the fire.

Some are resistant to the new rector's idea to get running water back before building a new steeple, she says. Finney says she's hesitant to give too much of the plot away before the show opens, but hints that characters go through transformations on their journey through change.

"The play's about holding doors open for each other so we can move from one place of the heart to another," she says.

Finney is anxious for the play to open. "It's been a long time in the works," she says. "I am very excited."

NOTES: Significant funding for this play was received from The Sacred Arts Trust of the Anglican Foundation and the Ontario Arts Council.... Both local and Toronto-based actors star in the show.

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