Celebrating 200 Years

Islington In The News

Etobicoke Guardian
Thursday, March 29, 2018


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.