Houses of Holy | St. John’s United Church (1832)

While Methodism remained in the rural areas of Upper Canada, supported by circuit riders, urban congregations sprung up also. St. John’s, located outside Downtown Oakville is among these early Methodist congregations that sprung up in the early years of Oakville.

Houses of Holy - St. John's United Church (1832)
Graflex Crown Graphic – Fuji Fujinon-W 1:5.6/125 – Adox CHS 100 II @ ASA-100 – Adox Atomal 49 (Stock) 5:45 @ 20C

One of the first settlers to the new village of Oakville, Justus Williams, a strong supporter of Methodism, desired to bring a Methodist congregation into downtown Oakville. The other congregations were located further north, so Williams invited various saddlebag preachers to hold worship services in his own home starting in 1832. He soon added the congregation to the newly created Nelson circuit and secured the use of a log schoolhouse to hold services. Seeing the service’s popularity, Williams funded the purchase of a lot and construction of a frame church at Thomas and Lakeshore. The first services were held in October 1840; the congregation only lasted a few months in their chapel, unable to support the building financially. So the congregation sold the building to Anglicans. The congregation returned to the school house, then, in 1842, the newly completed Temperance Hall. By the mid-century, the congregation had the numbers and the financial backing to construct a new chapel. The congregation purchased a new lot at Randall and Dunn, completing a wooden frame chapel in 1851. The dedication service on 18 January 1852 was well attended, with many wanting to hear noted Methodist preacher Rev Edgerton Ryerson. A balcony increased the seating space in 1857, but it became clear a larger building would soon be needed. The congregation called Rev Thomas Howard had recently led the Sheridan Methodist Church to build their new brick church. A committee formed in 1869 decided that they would build their new sanctuary next to the existing wooden chapel rather than find a new property. Over the next several years, the congregation launched a fundraising campaign, and construction of a brick church began in 1877 in the Gothic Revival style. The new sanctuary was dedicated on 13 January 1878. And the congregation managed to secure enough funds to pay the remaining cost of building the Church. In 1915 the Church undertook a renovation project that expanded the sanctuary’s seating along with electric lights and added a gymnasium and Sunday school wing to the Church. The Sunday School Wing would see an expansion in 1923 and was named Lusk Hall. The congregation took the name St. John’s United Church upon forming the United Church of Canada in 1925. The Church renovated the sanctuary again in 1937 to add more seating and cut down to a single centre aisle. But the post-war boom saw the congregation increased in number beyond what they could adapt. Several members would go off and form new congregations throughout Oakville. Lusk Hall received a significant renovation which resulted in the demolition of the gymnasium to make room for an expansion of the chancel and the addition of a new entrance narthex to squeeze in a few more rows of pews. A Carillon system and memorial gardens were dedicated in 1986. Today St. John’s remains an active and community-oriented congregation in downtown Oakville.

St. John’s was the easiest to photograph of all the downtown Oakville churches. While still difficult, I had at least a bit more room to move back, so I wasn’t wholly cramped, but I also had to deal with traffic and parked cars. Therefore the composition puts the Church at the far edge of the frame with little more than the facade. I had to put on the 125mm lens again and crank up the front standard. While not my favourite, it certainly was the best of all the possible angles and positions.

If you wish to worship with this congregation, they will be happy to welcome you! Please check out the congregational website for details on attending services worship either in-person on online streaming!

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