Located on the historic Norval Road (Guelph Street), St. John’s United Church can trace its history to the Methodist revival of the 1840s and is the only Church to come from the Episcopal Methodist tradition project.
The earliest Methodist saddlebag preachers to arrive in the area held services not in Georgetown but in the nearby settlement of Glen Williams, forming a congregation there in 1839. These Wesylian Methodists built a small wooden frame chapel in Glen Williams and served the area. Noted firebrand preacher Rev Edgerton Ryerson visited the site in 1841, preaching both in Glen Williams and in the new settlement of Georgetown; Methodists of all stripes came to hear the noted preacher speak. And some got the idea to form an Episcopal Methodist congregation in Georgetown. The congregation worshipped in homes or other community buildings before purchasing a lot on Norval Road (Guelph Street) in 1846, building a simple wooden frame chapel and establishing a burial ground in the churchyard. The congregation grew and soon found themselves outgrowing their simple wooden chapel. A building committee, which included Georgetown founder, George Kennedy, raised some 8,000$ for the construction of a new church. Construction began in 1879, with the first step being to remove and reinter the remains of those in the burial ground as the new Church was to be built in the former churchyard. The brick Gothic Revival structure would have better frontage to the road going past and allowed the wooden frame chapel to continue its service. The Church would be dedicated in a grand service on 25 November 1880. The frame chapel continued to serve as a Sunday School building until 1894 when the land was sold to the town, and the Chapel Street Public School was built on the site. The Church welcomed 120 members of Knox Presbyterian Church during the United Church of Canada formation in 1925. The Church’s first major renovation and expansion took place in 1944, with a refresh of the sanctuary. In 1949 a Church hall with better Sunday School rooms, kitchens and offices was completed, and the name St. John’s United Church was adopted. The first memorial stained glass windows were installed in 1952. Further improvements in 1969 enlarged the choir loft and installed an electric organ. The Glen Williams United Church agreed to join the congregation of St. John’s and operate as a single congregation with two buildings in 1971. When the Chapel Street School closed in 1977 and was demolished in 1979, the Church was able to purchase the property and install a car park. Extensive renovations took place in 1992 to the church hall, with a total gut and reconstruction adding a new kitchen, improved halls, offices and classrooms. A series of heritage plaques were also installed to outline the congregation’s history. In 2014 a complete renovation of the sanctuary removed the original pews, added a movable bench system, and an increased chancel allows for a flexible space within the historic sanctuary and the exploration of different forms of worship. Today the Church is home to both the St. John’s and the Glen Williams congregations, worshipping under a single roof since the sale of the Glen Williams building in 2022.
Photographing St. John’s was probably one of the most accessible churches to get the composition right the first time around. Located across a reasonably broad street and presenting a clean facade, I didn’t even have to fight the power lines. Getting a perspective shot was not possible, so I went with a flat plane. The uniform light made it easy to meter, and I went with my trusty 125mm lens to get the most out of the distance with some rise of my front standard to catch all aspects of the building.
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!