St. Andrew’s United Church is blessed not only with one of the friendliest congregations in the area, but one of the most beautiful buildings.
The church building, which was first constructed in 1841, is one of the oldest surviving heritage-quality buildings in the Chatham-Kent area. This means its architecture and interior features are reminiscent of days long past, with wrought iron and wooden pews, an elaborate pipe organ and beautiful woodwork. When one walks through the heavy wooden doors of the church you immediately experience a sense of history and a feeling of what it was like to worship over a century ago.
The church’s complete history is as follows:
1834 – A group of local Presbyterians decided to stop holding worship services in their homes in favour of forming and building an actual church. In order to do so, they organized into a responsible body to petition the Crown for a grant of land for a burial ground and church site. At this time the population of Chatham (then Upper Canada) was only at 300 people.
1837 – The first services were held in the public school on the site of the present Canada Post federal building in Chatham. On Sept. 18, 1837, a 10-acre tract of land was deeded to the established church of Scotland for a burial ground and church site at Wellington and William streets. The St. Andrew’s congregation is still using this site today making it the longest occupancy of a single location for any church in Chatham.
1841 – The province of Canada was created and during this year a frame church was built on the new site and served by non-resident ministers until 1851 when Rev. John Robb became the first inducted pastor.
1869 - The frame church was replaced (two years after Confederation) by the present church which is one of the oldest surviving heritage quality buildings in Chatham-Kent.
1880 – Local architect Thomas Rutley helped change the look of the church as it grew bigger, adding a balcony and a new corner entrance. At this time the early settlers in the burial ground were exhumed and interred in the maple leaf cemetery and lots from the original tract were sold.
1908 - The Sunday School hall was built to replace a smaller one.
1923 - The church’s present organ was built, complete with a three manual console by Casavant- Freres of Quebec to replace the 1902 Karn organ from Woodstock, Ont. This provided St. Andrew’s with the finest organ in Chatham-Kent. It was dedicated to those who served and died in World War One.
1925 – The church union created St. Andrew’s United Church.
1934 - St. Andrew’s celebrates its 100th anniversary.
1939-45 – The congregation had 250 men and women serve during the Second World War with 21 of them never to return.
1957 – A major expansion of church facilities included the Chapel, Parlor, Fellowship Hall, Christian Education and office spaces.
1970 - With church support the St. Andrew’s Residence (next door) was opened and continues to this day to have a close spiritual and social association with the church.
1984 - The 150th anniversary of St. Andrew’s is celebrated.
2009 - The 175th anniversary of St. Andrew’s is celebrated.
2014 - The 180th anniversary of St. Andrew’s is celebrated,
On Sunday October 29, 2006, Park Street United Church amalgamated with St. Andrew’s United Church after 164 years of ministry in Chatham.
Park Street United Church began in 1842 as the Wesleyan Methodist Church on King Street East. The present Park Street site was purchased in 1870 and the new structure completed in 1873. The name was changed to Park Street Methodist Church. The first meeting of London Conference was held at Park Street church in 1885.
The first pipe organ was installed in 1874 and later replaced in 1912. In 1906, four years after renovations, a cyclone blew the tall spire down. Repairs were completed in 1910.
On June 17, 1925, Park Street Methodist Church became Park Street United Church. Between 1927 and 1930 Dufferin Hall was completed to meet the growing needs of the Young People’s Organization and Wesley Hall was dedicated in 1930.
In 1971, the Rt. Rev. A. B. Moore, the Moderator of The United Church of Canada unveiled a plaque in celebration of the 100th anniversary. In 1977 the Gabriel Kney organ was installed. A lift was added in 1986. Wedgewood Place, a Non-Profit Housing Project for 50 family units was completed in 1993.
The ministry of Park Street church has been an important part of the community. It has a 60-year history of hosting the Kiwanis Music Festival. From 1905 to 1974 it was the site for nurse’s graduation ceremonies.
Music has always been an integral part of the Park Street heritage. During the first half of the1900’s, the choir presented choral concerts and traveled throughout Ontario. In the 1980’s and 1990’s the choir and Park Street Players presented several musicals. The City Band has had a long association with Park Street church.
In 1993 Stephen Ministry was introduced to Park Street. In 2004 the Parish Nurse program was introduced.
Park Street church has always had a strong sense of mission. Globally, members have maintained a generous support of the Mission and Service fund of The United Church of Canada. In 1998, Park Street was first in Mission and Service giving for the whole of Canada. Locally, the benevolent fund has helped many in Chatham.
A decision in February 2006 to seek amalgamation resulted in conversations with St. Andrew’s United Church and an agreement was reached by both congregations and Kent Presbytery in October. An offer to purchase the Park Street property was approved in August and finalized in January 2007.