|This history was typed Aug. 23, 2007, by Summerlea's secretary, Susan Ippersiel, from a booklet that belonged to former Grace member Lucy Richards and was passed on to Summerlea through Lucy's niece, Lynn Closs.|
GRACE UNITED CHURCH
LACHINE METHODIST CHURCH
1867 - 1967
Ministers who served Lachine Methodist Church
Ministers Who Served Grace United Church
A Message from the Minister
These pages recount one hundred years of growth and Christian witness in this congregation first under the name, Lachine Methodist Church, and after church union in 1925, as Grace United Church. It is a long and honourable history. Others have laboured here and we have entered into their labours.
Today, caught in the tides of change though we are, Grace United Church continues to witness to the imperishable truths of God's grace and love. And since witness also includes service, we are endeavouring to reach out to others to bring help and hope to them.
We have inherited a tradition rich in the things of God. May God help us to carry it proudly and to work together for the fulfillment of his purpose among us.
Methodist services in Lachine were first held in a school house on Lower Lachine Road near the old windmill about 1863. Services were conducted by ministers or laymen who came out from Montreal.
It was in 1867, the year of Confederation, when Lachine was a country village surrounded by farms, with miles of open country between it and Montreal and long before motor cars were even thought of, that a small group of people pioneered the erection of the first Methodist Church in Lachine. Outstanding amongst them, and a leader in the church venture of 1867, was Mr. James Smith, who was supported in this undertaking by two young ministers of Montreal who fathered the young cause in Lachine from the turning of the first sod until 1871. These two ministers were the Rev. William I. Shaw who became the principal of the Wesleyan Theological College in Montreal and the Rev. William Briggs who became the Book Steward of the Publishing House in Toronto.
The next year, 1868, saw the building of the new church to be known as Lachine Methodist Church. The church stood at the corner of St. Joseph Street and 11th Avenue and was served for several years by ministers who came out from Montreal. During this time it had the status of a mission. But in 1875 the two appointments of Lachine and Cote St. Paul were organized under a Quarterly Official Board and a regular minister, the Rev. Nathan Austin, was put in charge. During these early years the minister lived in Montreal and came out to Lachine by horse and buggy.
One of the early undertakings of the Quarterly Official Board was the endeavour to hold worship services for the labourers who, in 1867, were working on the Lachine canal. The venture, however, proved unsuccessful as the minister was unable to make satisfactory arrangements for the services.
The summer of 1879 was one of financial depression. Unemployment increased and the remuneration paid to the minister was sometimes in the form of hay or oats for his horse. Nevertheless, in August of this year the congregation rallied themselves and decided to adopt the "Scriptural rule of weekly contributions" rather than the system of quarterly collections which had been used up to this time.
In February, 1882 it was decided "that a Ladies Aid Society be formed immediately for the purpose of making collections during the summer and that a peach or other festival be held at the proper season both to aid in furnishing the parsonage and in helping to defray the minister's extra expenses incurred in consequence of having to purchase a horse and outfit for the same to enable him to perform more advantageously the duties of this mission."
The continued growth of the mission is reflected in several resolutions passed by the Quarterly Official Board during the succeeding years. In April, 1885, a resolution was prepared to be presented to the next District Meeting asking for a pastor to be stationed in Lachine in the following year. In May of 1886 the first Sunday School was opened with 43 pupils on the roll. By May of 1888 although the members on the Church Roll were only 27, the Sunday School had increased to 50. Then came a decisive step. In the meeting of the Official Board held in August 1889, it was resolved "that this Quarterly Board ask for no aid from the Missionary Society this year but that we request the Financial District Meeting to continue our relation as a mission for one year with the hope that next year we shall be able to ask for an independent relation."
Discipline in the church at this time is shown by the following extract from the Minutes of the Quarterly Board. (Names of two women and five men are listed) and it is stated that these members "being addicted to drink were to be offered the alternative by Mr. Harris (the minister) of taking the pledge or losing their membership."
By February of 1892 the mission had reached a stage where it was considered "whether it might be advisable to build a Parsonage and thus avoid the necessity of house rent." However, the minister continued to live in a rented house on 18th Avenue for the next eight years. In 1900 the present lot on 11th Avenue was purchased and the following year the Parsonage was built.
During these years the membership continued to increase. In May, 1899, there were only 44 members on the church roll. By 1903 this had risen to 91 members and in 1906 church membership stood at 122 while membership in the Sunday School including teachers and officers totalled 142. The increase in membership resulted in two major decisions: (1) it was decided to adopt individual communion glass for the administration of the Sacrament, (2) plans for a new church building were examined and unanimously approved by a joint meeting of the Quarterly and Trustee Boards held in the church on November 13, 1906. In the same year Mr. Charles Dickens was elected Envelope Steward.
In September, 1907, the corner stone of the new church (present edifice) was laid. At this time the Rev. Alfred Pates was minister of the congregation. First service in the new building was held on the third Sunday, in May, 1908.
Many developments took place during the ensuing years which limitation of space forbids us to include here. In 1914 the entrance under the tower to the Church Hall was provided by the Epworth League. In August of 1915 a new slate roof was put on the church at a cost of $480.00. The following year was the beginning of union services with St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church during July and August. In February, 1921, it was found necessary to move the Junior, Intermediate and Senior Departments of the Sunday School upstairs leaving the Primary downstairs. In November of the same year a vote of equal rights of women to become probationers and ministers resulted in 4 "yes", and 7 "no", and 1 blank. In May, 1922, the following appointments were endorsed: Superintendent of Sunday School, Mr. E. Buck, Assistant Superintendent, Mr. McElheran; President of the Epworth League, Mr. T.P. Hall; President of the W.M.S., Mrs. H.E. Warren; President of the Junior Ladies Aid, Mrs. C. LeDain.
In March, 1925, discussions were held regarding the plans for church union. Suggestions for renaming the church included St. George, Grace, Epworth, Wesley, and Trinity. On June 10, 1925, The United Church of Canada came into being, but it was not until the following year that the name Grace United Church was finally decided upon and made official.
A pipe organ was installed in the church in August, 1929. And in October 1930, the memorial tablet commemorating those who served in World War I was unveiled. During the Great Depression of the 30's Grace United Church took its part with the other churches of Lachine in providing the Church Hall on Wednesdays and Thursdays for the use of unemployed men. In June 1935, the church was rewired and new lights provided in the sanctuary.
Then came World War II and in December, 1942, Sunday evening sing songs were undertaken for RCAF personnel from Manning Depot. At the same time it was decided that church members would take service men home for Sunday dinner as much as possible.
In May, 1946, the mortgage on the church building was burned at a service attended by a large congregation. At this time many families were moving into the west end of Lachine and large housing projects were underway. The use of John Grant High School (36th Avenue) was suggested for Sunday School purposes to extend our work in the west end. However, the School Board could not accede to this request for policy reasons and the plan had to be abandoned.
In the year 1949 the church kitchen was moved to the south-east corner of the basement and modernized. The present Hammond organ was installed in the church in 1952. Numerous memorials have been given to the church over the years which have added considerably to the beauty and usefulness of the furnishings and building.
In October, 1953, the present oil furnace was installed after discussion of the merits of several systems including steam, coal and oil. After an initial period of adjustment, the furnace has given reasonably good service.
During these years there was a marked decline in the attendance at the evening service. Like so many other churches, Grace United Church was feeling the effects of television and the automobile. At the Congregational Meeting held in January, 1955, it was decided to discontinue the evening services.
The present Conference Room was constructed in 1957 and has been well used almost every week since. Indeed, so useful has it become that one wonders how the church did without it for so long.
In 1962 Grace United Church participated with other churches on the Lakeshore in periodic church broadcasts over station CFOX. For a time these broadcasts provided a means for the church to communicate with sick and shut-ins and some of the unchurched. Later, however, the Radio Station decided to curtail these broadcasts in favour of programmes more appealing to the secular mind of our time.
During these years of the early 60's the Christian Education programme of the church included in addition to the Sunday School (1) Mission Band for small children during the hour of the church service; (2) Explorers (a mid- week group for girls 8 to 11 years of age); (3) C.G.I.T. for girls 12 to 17; (4) Hi-C, a mixed group for teenagers; (5) A Young People's Union for those 18 to 25 years of age. A Tyro group for boys 8 to 11 years of age was added in the fall of 1963. As time passed, some of the older groups were forced to discontinue due to the fact that the members outgrew the programme. But at the time of writing most of the younger groups are still operating.
Due to a continued westward movement of the English speaking population, a committee was formed in 1963 to study the feasibility of relocating the church farther west in Lachine. After much study and discussion it was decided at a special congregational meeting held in January, 1964, "that we stay where we are for the time being as it does not seem feasible to move under existing circumstances." Here, then, we remain with the prayer that God will continue to guide those who minister and those who serve through Grace United Church.
Ed. note: In 1971, Grace United closed and some members of the congregation joined Summerlea United Church. Some of the Grace furnishings and stained glass windows are now installed in the upstairs room, which was named Grace Chapel. The Grace church building (at the corner of boul St. Joseph and 11th Avenue) was used by the Sikh community until 2005, when it was sold and demolished to make way for condominiums (not yet built as of August, 2007.)