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Reverend Addie Aylestock
Mabel Adeline “Addie” Aylestock was born on September 8, 1909, in the village of Glen Allan, Ontario, located about 40 minutes northwest of Kitchener. She was descended from black immigrant farmers who, in the 19th Century, settled what was known as the ‘Queen’s Bush’- a wilderness area stretching from Waterloo County (the vicinity of Kitchener) to the westerly Lake Huron- and was imbued with the pioneering spirit of her forefathers.
Addie Aylestock was the eldest of eight children. As her parents were of little means, she left home at a young age and travelled to Toronto. There, she found employment as a housemaid- an occupation which earned her a salary of $15 per month.
Although the black farmers of the Queen’s Bush had, for decades, rubbed shoulders with the Mennonite settlers who named the Conestogo River- the waterway around which much of the Queen’s Bush Settlement revolved- Addie and her family were staunch members of the British Methodist Episcopal Church, a Canadian offshoot of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (the first independent Protestant denomination founded by African-Americans). Addie, being especially devout, resolved to become a missionary and work in Liberia, on the west coast of Africa. In order to qualify for service overseas, she studied at the Toronto Bible College and became a deaconess in 1944.
Man proposes, but God disposes, and Addie found herself compelled to lay aside her desire for foreign missionary work in order to minister to fellow black Canadians. She began to preach in Africville- a suburb of Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Portia White, another famous black Canadian, taught black schoolchildren in the 1930s. The British Methodist Episcopal Church later transferred Addie to Montreal, then to Toronto, and finally to Owen Sound, located about an hour west of Collingwood.
By the early 1950s, Addie Aylestock had assumed so many responsibilities that she was now doing as much work as regular British Methodist Episcopal ministers. The church decided to amend their regulations and allow for the ordination of women, and thus, in 1951, Addie Aylestock became the first female minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the first black female minister in Canada.
Reverend Addie Aylestock went on to head British Methodist Episcopal churches in Fort Erie, Guelph, Niagara Falls, North Buxton, and St. Catharines, Ontario, as well as in Montreal, Quebec, and Halifax, Nova Scotia. From 1958-1982, she served as the general secretary of the British Methodist Episcopal Conference.
Rev. Addie Aylestock passed away in 1998, at the age of 88.