Established in 1818, Islington United Church celebrates more than 200 years of history.
The church that came to be known as Islington United Church was established about 1818 as a Methodist society in what was then the settlement of Mimico on the Dundas highway adjacent to Mimico Creek. For several years the local Methodists met in their homes. Early settlers had frequent contact with the Indigenous people of this territory. In the early 19th century, Mary Johnston recalled being visited often by Mississaugas coming down the creek valley from the north where they had been fishing, hunting and trapping. Today, the congregation strives to restore right relations with Indigenous people.
The Methodist Society in the settlement (originally called Mimico from the Indigenous word meaning “sweet water”) became one of 30 preaching points in the Methodist Toronto Circuit. Thomas Demorest and Rowley Heyland were the first “circuit riders” or “saddlebag preachers” to serve the congregation. The two pastors would make the circuit of preaching places every three to four months covering 300 miles in nine townships. In 1832, when a school was built in Mimico on the west side of the Burying Ground the Methodists began meeting there.
By 1843, the congregation had outgrown the school and decided to build a church on the east side of the Burying Ground on land donated by Amasa Wilcox. It was a simple frame structure of roughcast stucco seating about 200 people. Each family had their own pew which they paid for on a quarterly basis.
One hundred years later, Charles Moore remembered this church of his childhood: “It was the real centre of the social as well as the religious life of the community…My early life would be barren indeed if it weren’t for the dear old church and all it did for me.”
In 1885, the congregation called its first minister, Reverend William John Barkwell. With his leadership a larger church was built as the small rural hamlet of Islington grew. This was a tremendous act of faith for a congregation of 34 families.
The new church became known as the “Red Brick Church” and was erected on the south side of Dundas Street just east of Cordova Avenue for a cost of $8,175. Two years later, the minister’s residence was built next door.
A Sunday school had been organized around 1874 under the leadership of the Reverend Andrew Cunningham. Islington has offered programs for children and youth ever since.
In 1925, the Methodist Church of Canada joined with the Presbyterian Church in Canada and the Congregational Church to form The United Church of Canada. Islington Methodist Church became Islington United Church. Vibrant programs flourished.
Founded in 1904, Islington’s Women’s Missionary Society (WMS) learned about and supported mission needs in Canada and around the world. During the Great Depression, the WMS gathered and shipped bales of clothing and household supplies to communities in western Canada. The congregation continues to respond to the needs of others.
After World War II the population of Islington Village increased rapidly and a larger church was needed. Construction started in 1947 under the guidance of the Reverend Stewart B. East. The sanctuary of our church was completed in 1949 and cost about $300,000. In 1955, a wing adjacent to the sanctuary was added to accommodate a chapel, space for social gatherings, classrooms for children and offices as the needs of the congregation grew.
With church membership swelling, especially the number the youth born in the post-war baby boom, Islington added a new Youth Centre which eventually became known as Stewart East Hall. This greatly expanded the church to include a gymnasium, classrooms and meeting rooms to meet the needs of our larger congregation. At that time over 1,000 children attended Sunday school each week. Today, Islington United welcomes a variety of community groups – child drop-in, sports, fitness, 12-step and other programs – to the space.
1993 was a busy time for Islington as we began to modernize our governance and introduce small group ministries under the guidance of our new Senior Minister, Reverend Mark Aitchison. As a result, the number of groups, and especially our outreach programs, increased dramatically during the 1990s at Islington.
Now an Affirming congregation Islington United Church is thriving with the dynamic leadership of the Reverend Maya Landell and over 50 groups active in the life of our church, our local community and our mission fields. Today, these include a decades-old refugee sponsorship program, a food bank and emergency pantry, and more.
Our music program of choirs and instrumentalists engages musicians and listeners alike. Concerts, community meals, study, meditation and other groups meet the needs of the congregation and the community at large. We invite you to come and get involved in our more than 200 years of Christian ministry in the Village of Islington.