Presbyterianism for the people (1883)

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McNamara, Clerk of the Assembly, and Dr. Banks Nelson gave brief addresses. On June 19, the cornerstone was laid as the newspaper again reports: "Rev. MacGillivary, D. The event was of more than ordinary interest since this is the first Presbyterian church to be erected by a minority group since union.

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During the service the Rev. Wallace, Rector of St. James Anglican Church read the passage of scripture, and the Rev. John McNair, D.


The building progressed rapidly, and on October 27th, the new church was officially opened. The building committee comprised Archibald MacDonald, W.

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Reid, W. Duncan, Allan Aitken, W. Gilmour and O. However the occasion was saddened by the illness of Archibald MacDonald, whose death came shortly after the completion of the building. In all the organizations in the church joined together to donate the communion table in his memory.

Worthy of note in these beginning years was the support from clergy and laymen alike for the new congregation.

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The various ceremonies were officiated and conducted by prominent churchmen, both from London and afar, and not only from Presbyterian churches. The establishment of a new Presbyterian Church in South London was obviously important to a large segment of the community.

It was significant to anyone with Presbyterian leanings, especially since it was reputed to be the first new congregation of continuing Presbyterians to be established after It is also worth noting that events at Elmwood at first and for several years after were reported extensively in the London Free Press.

Likely other church news was covered as well. This contrasts with the present and more recent past when only the most spectacular events within the largest congregations or denominations get any attention. For example when the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada met in London a few years ago with delegates from across Canada the Free Press coverage by any standard was minimal.

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Elmwood began as a strong congregation with a relatively large membership and plenty of talented, dedicated and hard-working individuals within its midst. It continued to grow and develop during the next 25 years in spite of the challenges of such catastrophic events as the 's depression and the world war. Membership in numbers during the first 25 years at Elmwood can best be described as relatively stable with fairly wide fluctuations at times. Records show that there were members in November This number had doubled by and by the roll showed In spite of removing from the membership roll in the roll stood at December 31, , and at December 31, It should be noted that during this period and until the 's the roll was a somewhat fluid entity.

There were occasional reviews when the roll was "purged" of non-active members who were placed on a subsidiary list, sometimes known as the adherents list. This prevailed until a formal Annual Review process was introduced in Membership numbers are only a part of the story. How a congregation comes together to worship, to serve and to foster fellowship and witness to the faith is the essence of its being. The new congregation at Elmwood Avenue was in every respect a fully formed church within a very short time.

Additional elders were chosen almost immediately to form a Kirk Session. Likewise, a Board of Managers was elected to begin work on matters pertaining to property and financing. Worship services were held twice on Sunday from March, , as was Sunday School on Sunday afternoons. Bible Study groups and mid-week services were also going on, but not continuously.

This practice prevailed throughout the first period, with the exception that in Sunday School was held after morning service at p. It usually met on Monday evenings. The ladies of the congregation lost no time in forming a chapter of the W. The Gilmour Evening Auxiliary, W. The Women's Association was also formed in The W. The new congregation was fortunate in the leadership within its numbers, a most necessary element in the structure. Whether the quality of leadership and willingness to work "for the church" was exceptional at Elmwood is impossible to determine, but there is no doubt that it was outstanding and an important contributing factor to the strength of the congregation.

Throughout the 's and 's church attendance and participation was high from all quarters of society; so likely most congregations had strong support. Elmwood benefited greatly from the dedication and talents of many men and women as it has throughout its 75 year history. A significant piece of the story of Elmwood is the acquisition, furnishing and maintenance of the property at Elmwood. During the first period, and indeed, throughout the 75 year history of Elmwood Avenue Church, an enormous amount of time, work and money has been spent on maintaining, enlarging and refurbishing the church home and the church building.

From to , apart from the original purchase and erection of the church, furnishing and equipment was the main concern. From folding chairs in , to the first organ in , a custom-made Communion Table in and a Baptismal Font a few years later, the property was adequately equipped for worship and the other activities which took place.

Included on the second floor of the house were the living quarters for the minister and his family. The first manse was bought in at McKenzie Avenue. A feature of the property which gave much pleasure to the congregation and the surrounding neighbourhood was the garden at the rear of the property. A lifelong resident of South London who lived behind the church on Duchess Street as a child, has pleasant memories of play times and picnics in the park-like setting.

Present members of the congregation also may remember the stately trees and beautiful flower beds. The garden was well-tended over the years until in the 's it had to be given up for space for the new Christian Education wing and a parking lot. Thus the garden parties, baseball games, and fireworks on the 24th of May could no longer be held at Elmwood.

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Financing of the church in the beginning, and as it evolved, during the first 25 years, is another story of faith, dedication and hard work. The commitment of the core of men and women who established the congregation to Presbyterianism and their determination to keep their brand of the Christian church alive in South London was demonstrated by the risks they took.

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Although details are lacking, some, as has already been mentioned, mortgaged their own property to raise capital for the building. Others gave substantially from modest incomes for ongoing operating expenses. Planning and surveys were conducted, and meetings of interested people were held.

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With a strong contingent from the membership of the First Presbyterian Church forming the largest nucleus, the Westminster Church congregation was organized in The staffs of the First Presbyterian Church have contributed to its mission throughout the years. Many dedicated Associate Ministers, D. Officers and committees who have given unselfishly of their time and talents have supported them.

The congregation has been benevolent minded in sharing its wealth, monetarily and leadership wise, with needs and people far beyond its geographic and cultural surroundings. Such causes have included: child care and outreach within the community, support of denominational institutions and programs in this nation and around the world, mission trips by members to points of service wherever there is need, and a continuing expansion in the current day to respond to areas of hurt and concern.

Vital outreach continues as the congregation will be increasing its support of outreach through the mission programs of the Presbyterian Church U. The traditions set in motion by those with the first visions for ministry here continues. All rights reserved. Search form Search. Home Welcome New Here?

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