History – Port Perry United Church

Port Perry United Church

In 1858, Rev. John Wesley Savage started preaching at services in Port Perry, which was among the points in the Wesleyan Methodist mission centred in Prince Albert. Largely as the result of the completion of the Port Whitby and Port Perry Railroad, the population of Port Perry grew, such that it was incorporated as a town in 1871. The mission, then under the ministry of Rev. Samuel Coad Philp, decided at its August 1872 quarterly meeting to erect a church in Port Perry. A church was built on the northeast corner of John and Casimir Streets, subsequently sold to the Roman Catholic Church, and long since demolished.

The Methodist Episcopal Church, another branch of Methodism, had been active in Port Perry since around 1850. Rev. George Jones–in whose memory the stained glass window at the southeast corner of the sanctuary was placed–was the pioneer preacher. Their first church, situated at the rear of what is now Port Perry High School, was built in 1856 during the pastorate of Rev. C. Taylor. (Later, the building was used for shop work at the high school.) A larger church was built in 1873, on the corner of Queen and Caleb Streets.

The two Methodist congregations continued to worship separately until the union that formed the Methodist Church of Canada brought together the Methodist Episcopal, Primitive Methodist, Wesleyan Methodist, and Bible Christian Churches, in 1884.Since neither of the churches was large enough, it was decided that a new larger building should be erected to accommodate the 165 members of the combined congregation.

The magnitude of this decision and the courage of the members can better be understood when one considers that two disastrous fires had wiped out the business section of Port Perry, on November 26, 1883, and July 3, 1884.

Preparations to erect a building accommodating as many as 800 began in 1884, and the lot at the southeast corner of Queen and Lila (now Simcoe) Streets was purchased from N. F. Patterson in November of that year, at a cost of $400. Smith and Gemmell of Toronto were the architects, and the builders were John Powers of Port Perry and Thomas Deverell of Whitby.

The cornerstone was laid by Aaron Ross, a leading member of the congregation, on June 29, 1885. The exterior of the church was red brick with Ohio cut stone dressing.

Two beautiful stained glass windows were donated: the large round window over the main entrance by Mrs. Aaron Ross; and the window at the southeast corner of the sanctuary by the Jones family in memory of Rev. George Jones.

The new church opened on Sunday, January 17, 1886, and was formally dedicated on Friday, January 22, 1886. The original pulpit sits at the southeast corner of the sanctuary by the door to the lounge.

The total cost of the building, including the pipe organ, was less than $14,000, still an enormous sum at a time when labour costs were only a dollar a day. Subscriptions and donations on hand even before completion of the work totalled $6,300, and a further $2,600 was contributed at the opening services alone. The Ladies Aid Society paid the cost of the organ. Despite hard economic conditions, the mortgage was retired on January 21, 1894, less than ten years later.

On June 10, 1925, The United Church of Canada was formed by the union of the Congregational Churches of Canada, the Methodist Church of Canada, and the Presbyterian Church in Canada. And Port Perry Methodist Church became Port Perry United Church. In anticipation of that event, over a hundred concurring members and adherents of St. John’s Presbyterian Church, including their minister at the time and six elders, united with their Methodist neighbours on Sunday, February 1, 1925.

The Port Perry and Prince Albert United Church congregations formed a pastoral charge on July 1, 1926.

Because of increasing enrolment and activities in the Sunday school, the need for more room and better facilities became apparent. In 1963 the congregation decided to build an addition. Plans for a new Christian education wing were approved on July 18, 1965, but those plans were subsequently revised on March 20, 1966, to omit the proposed swimming pool! The tendering process was under way by January 1967; Sam Griffen, a long-time member of the church, was awarded the contract. The new wing was dedicated on October 27, 1968. The total cost of the Christian education wing and other renovations was $103,487, of which nearly half was on hand at the time, and the remaining balance was once again retired within ten years.

The Reesor memorial window in the centre of the east wall of the sanctuary was dedicated by the Reesor family in memory of Fred and Irene Reesor, on Sunday, April 23, 1978. And the Forder memorial window, in the centre of the west wall, was dedicated in the late 1980s, in memory of Howard Forder.

In 1979, a committee was instructed to investigate requirements for a new organ, the redesign of the chancel, and the redecoration of the sanctuary, in preparation for the congregation’s centennial in 1986. On March 22, 1981, the decision was made to purchase and install the current organ, a two-manual, 22-stop, 23-rank instrument manufactured by the Keates Organ Company, of London, Ontario, at a cost of $93,720. Chancel redesign and refurbishing were expected to cost a further $15,000. The new organ and chancel furnishings were dedicated on October 3, 1982.

On July 1, 2023, Port Perry United Church amalgamated with Prince Albert United Church. The beautiful Martyn window, with Jesus inviting all “To Come Unto Me” was relocated from the Prince Albert building to the narthex of the Port Perry window in the fall of 2023.