Crosstalk Ministries has a long series of roots that can be directly traced to the early 1950s. Canon Cecil Royle, a Montrealer ordained in 1936, once wrote of the ’50s in these words: ‘Although the churches were full, (they) were strangely dry; Bible study groups barely existed, and retreats and prayer meetings were seemingly non-existent.’
In 1955, Ross Prendergast and his wife Lorraine came to Montreal as a Church Army Captain and Chaplain of the Andrew’s Home. Ross found fellowship with a few like-minded Christians including Stuart Martin, assisting at the Cathedral and Cecil Royle, then rector of Vaudreuil in Hudson. A Bible Study group came into existence meeting on Tuesday evenings, initially in the old Bible Society Building and later in the Prendergast’s home.
At about this time Ross had a phone call from the Rev. Ron Ward about a young man who had recently been converted in Brantford, Ontario, and had moved to Montreal. His name was Alan Cameron. This was how he came to join the Bible Study group.
The next development was the beginning of Saturday night Koinonia meetings. This gathering for fellowship, teaching and evangelism often met in a church where there was a sympathetic Wycliffe College, Toronto, graduate, or where at least there was a tradition of support for Wycliffe. These churches included St. James the Apostle, St. Paul’s Lachine, St. Stephen’s Westmount, and the Cathedral – where Dean Dowker was supportive of the Koinonia group. Some churches allowed the group to use their building; others refused.
In 1957, Wilmur Davidson was ordained Deacon and went to serve at Brome and later in Waterloo. He brought in a group of teenagers to one memorable Koinonia meeting at St. Stephen’s Westmount chaired by Ross where Henry Blazé was the speaker.
Another important development in ministry was the use of the 24th of May and Thanksgiving weekends for three-day Koinonia-type camps. At these gatherings the Gospel was proclaimed, there was time for individual prayer and counseling and conversions took place. The camp often used the facilities at Lake Willowby south of the border. The speakers, who were often from Ontario, included Tom Harpur, Tom Gracie, Tom Robinson, Tony Tyndale, Gerald Gregson and Tony Capon.
As the work grew there were those who began to criticize and oppose. The day came when Archdeacon Barry Valentine called Ross and others before him to answer ‘charges’ that were being brought against the group. The charges were thrown out and the work continued.
By the late ’50s, those involved in this growing work, besides those mentioned previously, included: Peter Asbil; John Barton; Bunny Bateman; Gwen Bloom; David Bloom; John Buck; Alan Cameron; Lalage Charlesworth; Marcia Holt; John Dowker Ted and Sylvia Farrant; Bob and Margot Greenway; John Montague; Anne Paget; Irene Rigold; Geraldine Riley; Lilian Smythe; Valerie Spooner; Monica Stanton; Cynthia Stevenson (later Tony Capon’s secretary in Toronto); and Greydon Wollerton. Several of these people later returned to Britain. David Ward, converted through attending Ross and Lorraine’s weekly Bible study and studying towards ordination at Diocesan College, joined the group in 1963 or 1964.
Quite a number of the original Koinonia group were young people who had been met off Cunard Liners by Ross in his capacity as Anglican Port Chaplain.
By the early sixties a number of the Koinonia group were studying theology. Dr. Kirby, then professor of New Testament, attacked their Biblical stand in the classroom, but on at least one occasion he himself walked out of the class in frustration, if not anger, at the group’s provocative questioning of his theological liberalism. Controversy and opposition continued but Archbishop Dixon and Archdeacon Morris were among those who continued to encourage and support the group. One of the prayers of the Koinonia group and especially the theological students at this time was for a bishop, a college principal and a downtown church firmly committed to God’s Word and prayer. The election of Bishop Hollis and the new beginning at St. Stephen’s Westmount in 1975, and the appointment of Canon Capon in 1978 to the Diocesan College were seen as definite answers to this prayer.
Ross Prendergast left Montreal for St. George’s Hamilton in 1966, but the seed had been sown in Montreal that would go on producing a harvest for years to come.
The sixties saw the ordination of such men as Alan Cameron and Ross Prendergast (1962) and Peter Asbil and Peter Mason (1967), who were to be used so strongly in the years to come. John Newton, Peter Mason and others during their student years were involved in the Quebec Lodge summer camps run by the Diocese of Quebec, whose camp committee was chaired by Tom Robinson, then of Trinity, in the Quebec City suburb of Ste. Foy.
During this time of new growth, the presence of Tony Tyndale in Montreal as Director of Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship in Quebec, and an Anglican, was having a significant influence in the lives of many young people. Many of the Presidents of the McGill Christian Fellowship during the sixties and into the seventies went on into the Anglican ordained ministry or other areas of full time Christian leadership. Among them were: Peter Mason; David Ward; Ramez Atallah; Brett Cane; John Newton; Arthur Sheffield; and Grant Lemarquand. During this time, those studying theology received increasingly strong support through their connections with Inter Varsity and through some parish clergy who were able to help them stand firm in a commitment to a Biblically based faith.