Hundreds of people descended on the little Sunshine Coast community of Pender Harbour during a weekend in August to celebrate the centennial of the Columbia Coast Mission.

Pender Harbour had been a centre of activity through the presence of the mission boats, hospitals and churches until 1969 when the final hospital, St. Mary's, was sold and the work moved to Sechelt.

After several former mission boats gathered on Friday evening, an evening of story telling took place in the former chapel of the hospital. Actress Caitlin Hicks related stories she had gathered from pioneers still living on the Coast.

These were stories of hardship, loneliness and redemption - for decades the mission boats and their crews played a major part in the lives of these souls.

Fred Jay, Chairman of the Mission to Seafarers Board, recalled that as a child at Rock Bay he was baptized on a mission boat and learned the `facts of life' from missionary Canon Alan Greene.

Archdeacon Ronald Harrison at Pender Harbour blesses the former Columbia Coast Mission boat Northern Cross at a reunion of boats and the people who worked for the mission over the years, or were served by its work which began 100 years ago. (Sue Hanby photo)

One of the nurses, Ms. Rathbun, returned, as did many who had been born on the mission boats or in the mission hospitals. Marian and Ian Slater from St. Anselm's, Vancouver, recalled that Marian's late father had been the medical doctor at St. Mary's Hospital from 1937 to 1941.

The Ven. Ronald Harrison, executive archdeacon of the diocese and national vice-president of the naval officers association of Canada, blessed the boats Sunday morning. Following a night of heavyrain, the sun shone as he blessed the old boats and a new Coast Guard vessel.

The Archdeacon spoke of the work of the mission past and how it continues to a lesser degree at Kingcome Inlet north of Powell River and elsewhere.

It was a joyful weekend, the combined efforts of members of the mission board, which included representatives of the dioceses of British Columbia (Vancouver Island) and New Westminster (Lower Mainland and Sunshine Coast).

Many boats sported the new Columbia Coast Mission centennial pennant. Designed especially for the occasion they are still available through the Rev. Shirley Stockdill (604-684-6306 ext. 227 or email: stockdills @vancouver. The $25 cost goes to support the ongoing work of the mission society.

The original St. Mary's Hospital at Pender Harbour opened in 1930.