Celebrating 200 Years

Islington Heritage Minutes

Islington Heritage Minutes

This year 2018, Islington United Church celebrates 200 years
of worshipping and servingGod in this community.
Each week, we publish a little bit about this congregation’s history.

 
January 7, 2018
With Crown Treaty 13 (the Toronto Purchase) the Mississaugas, the Indigenous people of this region, surrendered land to the British Crown in 1787 and 1805. The area that we know as Islington was part of a “clergy reserve” of the Church of England (Anglican) made up of 100-acre lots some of which were leased to several people known to be Methodists by 1816 to 1820. In the 19th century, it was the practice of Methodists to join together to form “societies” to practise their faith. We date our beginning as a congregation to one of these societies, probably formed about 1818.

January 14, 2018
The early Methodists in this area met for worship in their homes. Among these earliest families were George and Mary Johnston, Amasa and Desdemona Wilcox, and Thomas and Margaret Montgomery. Early settlers had frequent contact with the Indigenous people of this territory. From the early 1700s, this was the traditional territory of the Mississaugas who were Anishinaabe Ojibwe people. Mary Johnston recalled being visited often by Mississaugas coming down the Mimico Creek valley from the north where they’d been fishing, hunting and trapping. Mary would give them milk to drink, which they considered a great treat, and they would always leave something behind for Mary in return, usually a piece of game or a skin. [ref. Denise Harris, Etobicoke Historical Officer]

January 21, 2018
Founded circa 1818, by 1823 there were enough worshippers for this community to be included as the “Mimico Charge,” one of 30 preaching points in the Toronto Circuit of the Methodist Episcopal Church based at Adelaide Street Methodist Church (now Metropolitan United Church). Two circuit pastors travelling on horseback (“saddlebag preachers”) would “make the circuit” of all the preaching places over the course of three or four months. The Toronto Circuit covered 300 miles in nine townships. In 1823, the two pastors of the Toronto Circuit were Thomas Demorest and Rowley Heyland.
 
February 4, 2018
Beginning in 1832, Methodist church services were held in the log school built just west of the Islington Burying Ground until the first purpose-built church was erected in 1843. This was a simple frame structure covered in rough-cast stucco and it seated 200 people.
 
The congregation became known as the Wilcox Methodist Chapel, perhaps because it was built on land donated by Amasa Wilcox on the east side of the cemetery on the north side of Dundas Street. Wilcox also donated the land for the non-denominational cemetery, now known as the Islington Burying Ground. Remnants of the early church structure can be seen if you look closely at the Fox and Fiddle pub that now occupies the site. Worshippers in this first church building would have continued to be served by travelling preachers of the Toronto Circuit.

February 11, 2018
The church at Mimico (Islington) became known as the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel and, around 1848, it became part of the Cooksville Circuit of Toronto Conference of the Methodist Church of Canada covering a distance of only 15 miles. An early pastor of the Cooksville Circuit was the Reverend Jonathan Scott (1851 – 1853), formerly the editor of the Christian Guardian founded in 1829 by Egerton Ryerson which was a forerunner of today’s United Church Observer. The minister of the Cooksville Circuit would preach at the Mimico (Islington) church in the morning, then move on to the church at Lambton (near Dundas Street and Prince Edward Drive) for an afternoon service, then lead a service in his home church in the evening.
 
February 18, 2018
Today we introduce Noisy Sunday – inviting you to collect small change during Lent for the ministry of this congregation. A missionary report of 1849 provides the first record of the givings to mission by our early congregation. (Prior to 1849 the givings of all churches in the circuit were merged.) The report lists 42 donors in the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel at Mimico (Islington) who gave a total of £14, 9s, 6½d (about $2,400 today).
 
February 25, 2018
The Methodist chapel at Mimico (Islington) was served by many pastors over the years. It was customary for a pastor to serve the circuit for usually one year, at most three years. By the late 1840s, the Cooksville Circuit was served by a superintendent and a junior pastor. One pastor, the Reverend James Woodsworth married Miss Esther Josephine Shaver of the congregation. After serving at Islington, both were long associated with missionary work in western Canada and were based in Brandon, Manitoba. Their oldest son, James Shaver Woodworth was born on Applewood Farm here in Etobicoke. He went on to become an ordained Methodist minister and later the first leader of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, the CCF Party, which has subsequently become the New Democratic Party.
 
March 4, 2018
Throughout the mid-1800s, the community of Mimico (Islington) continued to grow with farming supported by the various businesses that a thriving community needed. By 1846, the population of the village was 150: there were two churches (Methodist and Anglican), a sawmill on Mimico Creek, a general store, a doctor, two taverns, a blacksmith, a butcher, a baker, a tailor, a shoemaker, two wheelwrights, and two carpenters.

When Etobicoke became an independent township with its own elected counciI in 1850, the township municipal offices and related services were located in Mimico (Islington). While it was never incorporated as a village or town, the community had the status and perks that came with being the centre of Etobicoke Township’s government.

 
March 11, 2018
The church was an important part of life in the growing community of Islington in the mid- to late-1800s. In the first church building built in 1843, it was normal practice for each family to have its own pew, paid for on a quarterly basis. In a letter from California dated April 20, 1943, Charles Moore described the importance of the church in his early life: “My memory of the old Church dates back more than seventy years, and many of my happiest recollections of my childhood cluster about it. It was the real centre of the social as well as the religious life of the community, and it had a splendid influence upon quite a large group of people. My early life would be barren indeed if it weren’t for the dear old church and all it did for me.” [Source: Sanctuary: Islington United Church – 150 Years of Faith]

March 18, 2018
Founded in 1818, the congregation of Islington United Church is worshipping now in its third building. After the dedication of the sanctuary in 1949, stained glass windows (“God’s PowerPoint”) were installed over the following few years.The three windows in the south transept depict leaders and their stories from the Old Testament – Moses Striking the Rock (Exodus 17:1–7), Joshua Named as Moses’ Successor (Deuteronomy 31:1–8), and David and His Three Mighty Men (2 Samuel 23:13–17).  In the south aisle, three windows portray three of the first Apostles – Paul, John, and Stephen. 

Windows in the north aisle illustrate three leaders of the Protestant Reformation – Martin Luther, foremost champion of the Reformation, John Knox, the Protestant reformer of Scotland, and John Wesley, the founder of Methodism in England. Two windows in the north transept’s family centre depict images and stories representing the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and charity: Jesus and the Centurion (Luke 7:1–10) signifying faith and hope; Dorcas (Acts 9:36 – 42) representing charity or love.

The chancel window, Road to Emmaus, is a post-Resurrection image, not an image of the Last Supper. It portrays the moment of recognition as Jesus reveals himself to two disciples he has accompanied from Jerusalem to Emmaus after his Crucifixion and Resurrection: “he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:13–35).

Take some time to look around the sanctuary at all these beautiful images with all their biblical symbolism.


Palm Sunday, March 25, 2018
Today, we return our Lenten coin offering in support of our children. The congregation has a long history of children’s and youth ministry.  Its first Sunday school was organized under the leadership of the Reverend Andrew Cunningham who served the congregation from 1873 to 1874. The first superintendent of the Sunday school, J.C. Ferrier, served for 25 years. 

Jump ahead 80 years.With the post-World War II “baby boom” the Sunday school at Islington grew to huge numbers (reported at over 1,000 children). The primary grade classes met in Islington Public School on Cordova Avenue because there was insufficient space in the church, by then located at 25 Burnhamthorpe Road.

Easter Sunday April 1, 2018
By 1885, the congregation had grown large enough to leave the Cooksville Circuit and call its own minister, the Reverend W.J. Barkwell. The congregation also felt they needed a larger church building. There’s a rumour that the young people were travelling to a newer church in Weston and so a new, bigger “modern” church in Islington was a bid to keep them at home.
 
In February 1887, a new red brick church with bell tower (pictured to the left in a Village of Islington mural) was dedicated on the south side of Dundas Street, east of Cordova Avenue. The original rough-cast stucco church beside the Burying Ground was sold to the township for $700. (Mural: The Way We Were 1900, used with permission of Islington BIA.)


April 8, 2018
By 1889, the congregation had also built a red brick manse, a residence for the next minister, the Reverend Richard Pinch Bowles. He later became a professor at Victoria University at the University of Toronto and served as its chancellor from 1913 to 1930.
 
Mr. Bowles officiated at the marriage of Annie Sarah Bowles and Edwin Arthur Pearson, another Methodist minister. They became the parents of Lester Bowles Pearson, Canada’s 14th Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner.

April 15, 2018
More about the Islington Manse – The church building is gone but the manse (minister’s home) built in 1889 still stands now with a storefront on its exterior; it is home today to First Nail Salon and Victor & Roberto’s Hair Design.
 
On its east exterior wall there is a “tongue-in-cheek” mural depicting a visit to inspect the manse by the ladies of the Islington Methodist Manse Committee. The artist, John Kuna, depicted the Reverend Richard Bowles entertaining the chair of the committee while his wife prepared refreshments for the inspecting ladies.



April 22, 2018
The new “red brick church” built in 1887 was known as Islington Methodist Church and was served by a series of ministers over the years. Typically, a minister would stay for only one to three years before being transferred to a different congregation. Islington was served by a long line of ordained male ministers because, of course, no women were ordained in this denomination until 1936 when Lydia Cruchy was ordained in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
 
The first female pastor at Islington United Church was Audrey McKim, a deacon who joined Islington’s staff in 1953 as Director of Christian Education. Islington United’s first female ordained minister was the Reverend Linda Wheler, Minister of Pastoral Visitation (later Minister of Pastoral Care), who was called to Islington in the mid–1990s.


April 29, 2018
Home of Vibrant Ministry – Islington Methodist Church, the forerunner of Islington United Church, was very active in Methodist ministry.  It formed an Epworth League in 1890 and the group met weekly until at least the 1920s.  The Epworth League was a Methodist young adult association for people 18 to 35 founded in Cleveland, Ohio.  At its conception, the purpose of the League was the promotion of intelligent and vital piety among the young people of the Church.  Its motto was “to encourage and cultivate Christ-centered character in young adults around the world through community building, missions, and spiritual growth.”

May 6, 2018
Home of Vibrant Ministry – There were many active organizations in Islington Methodist Church in the late 1800s and early 20th century.  The Woman’s Missionary Society (WMS) was formed at Islington in 1904 with 22 members and five men who were honourary members.  With its focus on study and witness, the WMS learned about and provided support to mission needs across Canada and elsewhere in the world.  At Islington, the WMS gathered and shipped bales of clothing and household supplies from time to time to mission fields across Canada, particularly western Canada.

May 13, 2018
Home of Vibrant Ministry – After the Second World War, the role of women in Canada was changing and the need for a different kind of organization for women in the church spurred the formation of the United Church Women (UCW). Established in 1962, it combined two long-standing women’s organizations: the Woman’s Association (WA) and the Woman’s Missionary Society (WMS). The WA focused on fundraising and practical service and the WMS concentrated on witness and study. The UCW adopted all of these in
both traditional and new ways. 

The UCW is a separate part of our church life with its own organization, budget, and governance. At its height, Islington’s UCW had 15 units meeting monthly during the day or evening for study, service, learning, or community action depending on the goals of each group.

Over the years, the UCW planned bazaars, rummage sales, dinners, luncheons, and other events for fellowship and fundraising. Its members provided coffee and biscuits after worship services in the Reception Room for decades. The UCW took responsibility for equipping vital services for the congregation, including the kitchens. Its most recent project was the new floor and re-decoration of the Reception Room.

The UCW has also supported United Church and community groups: supporting Mission & Service, the Fred Victor and Massey Centres, helping the Red Cross with Blood Donor Clinics and Meals on Wheels, and more. The UCW has played an important role in the life of this congregation and community and the Outreach-Jubilee Unit continues to play a role today.


May 20, 2018
Home of Vibrant Ministry – Islington Players was established in 1974 under the direction of Patricia Francombe, a member of the congregation, and was a vibrant, active dramatic group for 20 years.
 
The group was originally called Workshop 50 to complement the 150th anniversary of the building of Islington United Church’s (IUC) first church building (in 1843) but later changed its name to the Islington Players. 
 
The group brought together talented members of the congregation including electricians, carpenters, audio-engineers, seamstresses, and, of course, actors.  The first production was “Our Town” and was loved by the audience.  The group went on to perform chancel plays, the Easter Vigil, murder mystery dinners, and a “Cabaret Night.”  And, performances were not limited to IUC;  the group performed at Montgomery’s Inn, Humber Valley United Church, and the Burlington Board of Education.
 
Islington United Church has always been blessed with talented, dedicated and enthusiastic people who share their talents freely and welcome others into our ministry.


May 27, 2018
Home of Vibrant Ministry – The Mabelle Food Program was established in 2006 under the leadership of Julie Smith, working with the Daily Bread Food Bank, Kingsway Baptist Church, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, and a team from Islington United Church (IUC).  Growing out of IUC’s annual Christmas Hamper Program, the goal was to begin to meet the needs of our disadvantaged neighbours whose year-round food requirements were being poorly served.
 
The food program is located in the gymnasium at 49 Mabelle Avenue and is open for business every other Wednesday, year-round. Each client family meets Daily Bread Food Bank income and other criteria. Initially serving about 12 households, this bi-weekly program now supports over 90 families.
 
Food is provided by the Daily Bread Food Bank and supplemented with food provided through the generous food and financial donations of IUC’s members and friends and the community: local schools, condo residents, companies, and others. A local bakery donates bread weekly and it is frozen at the church for the short-term until required.
 
A hospitality table provides cheese sandwiches, veggies, fruit, sweets, and beverages to clients and their neighbours throughout the year. In the colder months hot soup is added to the menu. Knitted hats, scarves and mittens are offered before and after Christmas – the gifts of IUC and community knitters.
 
The large enthusiastic team of volunteers are grateful to serve in this way and in 2017 they were recognized with The Order of Islington.


June 3, 2018
Home of Welcoming Ministry – Islington United Church has always been a “welcoming” church but today we add a new page to that history by becoming an Affirming congregation. Over the past year or more, the congregation has been preparing to become part of the United Church of Canada’s Affirm United program. To be Affirming is to be on a journey seeking greater justice and compassion, to be more loving. The congregation made that commitment overwhelmingly on April 8, 2018. Today we celebrate that decision.
 
This marks what will be a continuing commitment to follow Jesus’ last and greatest commandment, “Love one another as I have loved you.”  God calls us to be inclusive, making for a richer, kinder, and gentler world. Being an Affirming congregation is one more way we will demonstrate Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.


June 10, 2018
Ninety-three years ago today, on June 10, 1925 Islington Methodist Church became Islington United Church when The United Church of Canada was formed by the congregations of the Methodist Church, Canada, the Congregational Union of Ontario and Quebec, about two-thirds of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, and the Association of Local Union Churches. The union was marked by a worship service in the Mutual Street Arena in Toronto.
 
From early days, music has been an important part of worship at Islington United.  Records indicate that the first choir was formed in the mid-1860s and the first director, James Johnston served for 50 years and then was succeeded by his son!  But the introduction of organ accompaniment took some time.  In the early days of Methodism there was resistance to using musical instruments. Singing was led by a precentor, a man who could read music, who would set the pitch with a tuning fork and lead the singing. When Islington’s Sunday school was formed in the 1870s, an organ was purchased for it. The organ stood at the front of the church but was covered with a cloth during the preaching service. 

How times have changed! Today we worship with singing and organ accompaniment.  Islington United’s current pipe organ was built and installed by Schoenstein and Company of San Francisco in 1994. “All the pipes are hidden behind swell shades in a chamber overlooking the chancel. This two-manual organ has 25 independent stops, for a total of 1,905 pipes, ranging in size from 16 feet to smaller than a person’s little finger. The organ, with its huge dynamic and sonic range, has the resources to provide majesty, atmosphere, and beauty for the services of worship in the church.” [Sources:  Sanctuary: Islington United Church – 150 Years of Faith and Islington United Church: A Brief History & Self-Guided Tour]

 
June 17, 2018- Indigenous Day of Prayer
Before 1818: Northern Turtle Island (these lands that we know as Canada) that Europeans thought they had “discovered” 500 years ago was actually home to Indigenous peoples for over 12,000 years before the first European contact. Current archeological evidence indicates that the area we now know as Toronto was inhabited by Indigenous peoples at least 12,000 years ago. Nomadic hunters moved into this area as the glaciers retreated and they tracked caribou and mammoths and other game. Archeological sites and construction excavations have revealed artifacts and skeletal remains along Davenport Road, on Weston Road, near the former stockyards on St. Clair Avenue, and other locations. Closer to our church home, artifacts have been found along the Humber River, Mimico Creek (adjacent to the church), and the Etobicoke Creek.

The first humans to stand on the banks of Mimico Creek lived a nomadic lifestyle of hunting, fishing, and foraging. Then about 1,300 years ago corn was introduced here from further south, followed by beans, squash, sunflowers, and tobacco. First Nations people started to practise horticulture, i.e., growing food on a small scale for local consumption. This sustainable method ensured long-term soil fertility while they continued to hunt, fish and forage in traditional ways. 


A succession of First Nations in southern Ontario practised horticulture:  the Wendat-Hurons and P├ętuns until the 1640s; then the Senecas of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Five Nations Confederacy who moved here from New York state. This alliance established a series of settlements at important locations along trade routes connecting Lake Ontario with resources further north. A key Seneca settlement was Teiaiagon (now Baby Point) on the east shore of the Humber River. Early French missionaries, explorers, and traders developed important social and trade relationships with the Seneca who were well known for planting the “three sisters” of corn, beans and squash. 

The introduction of horticulture 1,300 years ago led to significant changes in the Indigenous society. Horticulture required established communities which strengthened family ties. It also led to a major change in the kinship system of the people in this area:  families began to trace their descent through the mother not the father. This change influenced the entire social structure.

As villages grew, social and political organization developed. Over time strong networks of clans developed and confederacies of related clans and nations with their dependence on negotiation and diplomacy emerged. Sophisticated economic and legal structures evolved.  Rituals such as feasting, spiritual practices, and burial rites gained greater importance. Local archeological sites have unearthed artifacts made of copper from northern Ontario and articles created from shells only found around the Gulf of Mexico indicating a very far-reaching trade network. The first European explorers and traders of the 1600s encountered a well-developed society.

Burial sites unearthed at early settlements in the last decade have revealed artifacts etched with significant Aboriginal religious symbols, pots and bowls, jewelry and furs – all objects buried with the bodies to accompany them to the next world. Municipal and provincial laws now protect these sites that are so significant to our Indigenous sisters and brothers and that are beginning to be recognized as an important part of the history of all of us who live on this land.

In the early 1700s, the Haudenosaunee settlements in what we know as southern Ontario ended as these people moved into the Ohio area. The land was soon taken up by Anishinaabe Ojibwe people from the Mississagi River area on the north shore of Lake Huron. These Algonkian-speaking people came to be known to Europeans as the Mississaugas. They continued their mobile lifestyle of fishing, hunting and gathering, but also became maize horticulturists. One of their first settlements was near the former Seneca community at Teiaiagon on the Humber River. “These newcomers … told the Iroquois in the winter of 1699-1700 that they intended to ‘plant a tree of peace and open a path for all people.’”1 Among their goals the Mississaugas hoped to form an alliance with the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) to share hunting territories as well as to link with British trading posts in what is now upper New York.

Early relationships with Europeans were seen to be on a nation-to-nation basis by the Mississaugas and other First Nations. This view underpinned The Royal Proclamation of 1763. “In the Royal Proclamation, ownership over North America is issued to King George [III].  However, the Royal Proclamation explicitly states that
Aboriginal title has existed and continues to exist, and that all land would be considered Aboriginal land until ceded by treaty. The Proclamation forbade settlers from claiming land from the Aboriginal occupants, unless it had been first bought by the Crown and then sold to the settlers. The Royal Proclamation further sets out that only the Crown can buy land from First Nations.”2  This fundamental issue of Indigenous title to unceded lands has been confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Mississaugas hoped to establish peaceful trading links with Europeans. But after 1763, when European “control” of North America transferred from France to Britain, settlement by the British became a higher priority. Despite The Royal Proclamation, relations between the British and the Mississaugas were fraught with trouble largely because of exploitation by both traders and British officials. However, during the American Revolution many First Nations’ warriors, including the Mississaugas, shored up the loyalist cause. The influx of Loyalist settlement after the war encouraged the British Crown to purchase this area from the Mississaugas. For their part, the Mississaugas may have been willing to share the land because settlement had already destroyed game and fishing sources. They also hoped to maintain their friendship with the British, trusting that their interests would be respected in the changing landscape. 

The Toronto Purchase was signed on September 23, 1787, giving the Mississaugas £1,700 in cash and goods. However, the boundaries were ill-defined and were not confirmed till 1805 (Crown Treaty 13). Dispute continued until a settlement was finally reached with the Government of Canada in 2010. During the intervening period, European settlement ignored agreements and continued to push the Mississaugas to the Credit River and then beyond. Today, the Mississaugas of the New Credit retain a small territory adjacent to the Six Nations territory south of Brantford, Ontario and hold a trust for their future generations from the 2010 settlement.

With Crown Treaty 13 the Mississaugas surrendered a huge tract of land to the British Crown. Within this tract, the area that we know as Islington was part of a “clergy reserve” of the Church of England (Anglican) made up of 100-acre lots. Some of these were leased to people known to be Methodists between 1816 and 1820. 

In the 19th century, it was the custom of Methodists to join together to form “societies” to practise their faith. We date our beginning as a congregation to one of these societies, which records indicate was formed circa 1818.
 
Sources: 1. Toronto: A Short Illustrated History of Its First 12,000 Years. Ronald F. Williamson, ed. 2008.
2. UBC website: indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca Denise Harris, Historical Officer, Etobicoke Historical Society

 

Islington In The News

Celebrating 200 Years

Etobicoke Guardian
Thursday, March 29, 2018



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