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Company of the Cross – What Is It and Why did it come to be?

Recruiting Pamphet

In 1956, as a result of a frustration with the way society was moving toward more secular attitudes, Ted Byfield and Frank Wiens began a Sunday school program for boys who sang in the choir at St. John’s Cathedral church in Winnipeg. The Sunday school program did not work – irregular attendance, amateurs teaching a subject that would tax professionals, teachers constantly changing, facilities bad – but beneath all this was what they felt was the true reason for the failure – children were not being taught to think. The habit of reasoning from premise to conclusion had played little part in their education. Also, the new generation lacked some old instincts; to Christians, life is a pilgrimage, an adventure, a voyage into distant lands with great dangers, arduous difficulties and indescribable rewards. But their students had been somehow trained to believe that the good life consisted of social security, physical comfort and physio-psychological thrill.

Part-time School 1961

What was required to remedy this was a new kind of school, a residential school, a school that in the present environment would appear as a very strange place. Boys would not so much attend it, as live it. They must begin with the feeling of belonging to it, and they must end with the feeling that it belongs to them.

It must restore the traditional values – the value of truth, the value of work, the value of individual freedom, the value of laughter and the value of sacrifice. To do this it must not only have rules and back them up. It must also have a sense of proportion too. It must teach men to think – not the canned, pre-digested “answers that get the marks”, but the genuine premise-to-conclusion reasoning that secures conviction and nerves decision.

They believed that to accomplish this they must resume the task of teaching history, the students must once more know the rigours and the poetry of life outdoors, and they must begin the long journey towards knowing God. All these things they must take with them when they leave the school.

St. John's Cathedral Choir

They began a part-time school and eventually moved to a full time residential school (1962). All this required money – using the model of church run schools they quickly realized that while in church schools the priests and nuns were paid only living costs, these men had families, so this set up would not work. Or would it? The five original staff members agreed that perhaps it could work – why couldn’t married and single people, laymen and clergy, form a partnership, something like a religious order, provide homes for families and pay one another only essential living expenses and an income of $1 a day for spending money? Thus was formed the “Dynevor Society” – later re-named the Company of the Cross.

The Company was originally formed to address a financial problem, how could the group run a Christian school, teach boys the values they saw missing in society and share in a life together in community? The Company of the Cross addressed these problems.


  1. Rob Stark Rob Stark

    Is see a note here indicating a book on the history of St. John’s was done. If this is the case, how might I get a copy, thanks. Rob, SJCBS #1222

    • Bob Payne Bob Payne

      Deep waters written by james raffen.

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