Margaret Ada Etter, originally from Aulac, New Brunswick, first travelled this part of Canada with “Miss Hazel’s Van,” setting up Sunday School by post and holding Vacation Bible Schools. She fell in love with Ontario and felt called to stay.
Thus, Margaret came to the Diocese of Keewatin in 1951 at the age of 30. I have been part of her life since then as a member of both her Junior Auxiliary and Girls’ Auxiliary groups, where we learned how to be young Christian ladies. We always called her “Miss Etta”. Later, as an 18-year-old, I travelled with Margaret in my dad’s car, conducting nine week-long Vacation Bible Schools in one summer. I taught Bible stories to the little children, and Margaret taught the older ones. One of my little ones, now a retired teacher at our church, can vividly remember our flannel graph stories. It was fun for us and obviously memorable for them.
Margaret considered Ontario her new home and had a special place in her heart for the people of the North. She loved to fly north in the diocesan plane to take services, start new groups, and meet the people who thought the world of her. This was part of the Aircraft Ministry, established in Bishop Hives’ time.
Also at this time, the diocesan newsletter, “The Keewatin,” came into being. Margaret worked diligently as editor, recruiting some of us to help label, bag, and mail it all over Canada. For years, this was her gift to the Diocese, and she loved the work.
As Bishop’s Messenger, a title used mainly in missionary Dioceses like Keewatin, she became Secretary to the Bishop and was still allowed to travel the Diocese, teaching and taking services. Her years at Wycliffe College, as well as the Anglican Women’s Training College, and her spiritual guide, Desmond Hunt, had prepared her for this. She appreciated her association with several bishops who passed through the synod office during her 40-year tenure behind the desk.
Margaret was determined to fix anything out of the ordinary, including her oil-burning car on the drive home from a Holy Spirit conference in Brandon. Approaching the turnoff to Steinbach, she said, “Let’s look at new cars”. Before long, we were headed home in a new car, having transferred everything from her old car by flashlight and questioning the colour of the car in the dark. That was Margaret: spontaneous, determined, and also a stickler for protocol. I am privileged to have been her friend!
We, as young people, were taught a prayer to say as we entered our pew, and to this day, it comes automatically to mind on entering any church. “Lord, I am in Thy Holy House. Help me to keep my thoughts on Thee, that I may hear Thee speaking in my heart.” At her final home, Pinecrest, she did her best to help others and never forgot her Lord. On the front of her of her coverless, dog-eared Bible, she’d printed, “Basic instructions before leaving earth”.
Margaret had been given the honorary title of Lay Canon and held a position that earned her the love and respect of all who knew her. She will be sadly missed but long remembered!