From Methodist Episcopal and Wesleyan Methodist to Central United

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Foreward

In the sincere belief that Central United would be celebrating its One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary in 1962, a Committee was appointed by the Official Board in 1961 to make plans for the celebration of this important milestone in the life of our congregation.

0ne of the first things the Committee decided was the necessity for the establishment of reasonable proof for the age of the church. A considerable amount of research failed to substantiate the year 1812 which had generally been accepted as the date of its founding. However, so much information concerning the early years of the church and some of the people connected with it down through the years was collected, much of it previously unknown or forgotten, and very little of it available in any assembled form, that these notes have been combined and expanded into a story which may be accepted as an authentic history.

In the light of this information, the Official Board of Central at its October meeting in 1961, adopted a recommendation of the Committee that the year 1821 (the year in which the acre of land was donated on which a small chapel was subsequently built) be recognized as the year in which the church was founded. It is reasonable to assume that there was some form of organization in existence prior to that year, or, at least that some informal meetings or services were held. Diligent search has failed, however, to uncover any reliable references which would authenticate as earlier date.

Acceptance of the year 1821 as its founding date makes this church, we believe, the second oldest of Methodist origin in Metropolitan Toronto. The first church of this denomination in “York” was erected on King Street just west of Yonge Street in 1818. Metropolitan United (formerly referred to as “The Cathedral of Methodism”) claims succession from this first chapel. However, two other former Methodist congregations, Thornhill United and Washington United (Scarborough) apparently began in 1803 and1805 respectively.

Some confusion has existed through past years as to our founding date. Calendars in our archives refer to the celebration of the 111th and 113th anniversaries n 1933 and 1935, which would make the birth date 1822, but the calendar for December 2nd, 1956, refers to the 144th anniversary, putting the date back to 1812. This date was put on the corner stone at the new entrance in 1957. Records indicate that Special Thanksgiving services were held on October 27th, 1912, to mark the 25th Anniversary of the third building which was erected in 1887. One might have expected that the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the congregation would have been recognized at the same time, if this fact were known. Incidentally, no record has been located of any recognition being given to the one Hundredth Birthday of the church at any time during the first quarter of this century.

The Early Years

One story built around the personal history of Mr. James Lever (one of our founders) sets 1812 as the year in which that ardent Methodist, an immigrant from Lancashire, England, commenced holding meetings and preaching services somewhat north of what was the northerly limit of the Town of Weston., This would be roughly in the vicinity of Weston Road and Wilson Avenue. However, in the obituary of James Lever in the September 1861 issue of “The Christian Guardian”, a Methodist publication of some years standing at that time, it was stated that Mr. Lever was born in England in 1769, was converted in 1815, and left England in 1817. He lived in Philadelphia for some few months and a son (Roger) was apparently born there in 1818. The Levers moved to “Upper Canada” that year ad settled in Champion’s “The Methodist Churches of Toronto “ (1899) and in Sanderson’s “First Century of Methodism in Canada” (1908), in connection with the building of the first chapel on King Street on the site now occupied by the head office building of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in Toronto.

Champion’s story sets the date of the opening service in this building as November 5th, 1818, at which time the preacher was the Reverend David Culp. He had been appointed to the Yonge Street Circuit in 1817 and was also the first regular minister to serve the new Weston church. The first congregation in York was apparently connected with the American Methodist Episcopal Church ad soon after the little chapel on King Street was opened a number of Wesleyan Methodists, including the Levers, left it to hold their own meetings in the Masonic Hall.

The Rev. Henry Pope, a Wesleyan Missionary from England, arrived in York in 1820 to minister to this little group but left again the same year. Some members of the Wesleyan Society as it was known, again including the Levers, returned to the King Street Chapel in that year.

The Guardian’s story states that Mr. Lever moved about five(?) miles from York in 1821 and “selected Weston as his place of worship but retained his office for a while as Superintendent of the Sabbath School in York”. James Lever, in his petition for land, dated July 24th, 1818, to the Government of Upper Canada (a photostatic copy of which we obtained from the Public Archives of Canada) makes reference to his immigration to Upper Canada in 1817. While not named as one of the original Trustees, we believe he was one of the active founders of the Weston Church. He served some 40 years as Sunday School Superintendent and did some lay preaching on the circuit. A son, John, became an ordained minister but there is no record of his having served the Weston Church.

An earlier history tells of James lever having settled near the mouth of the Humber River and preaching to men in the Canadian Militia during the war of 1812. The story further details his contacting a fellow Methodist, John Denison, who was farming on land obtained by grant on the Humber River near what later became the southerly limits of Weston. Here are some signs of confusion for John Denison was an Anglican, although the reference to this property appears accurate since there still exists a Denison Family cemetery and a small chapel at that location. However, there was a Dennis who had a connection with the young Methodist congregation in Weston and who held land in the vicinity of the point where the recently extended Eglinton Avenue reaches the Humber River. It was from an old house on this site that the corner stone of our second church building (1849) was retrieved in 1961.

The story then traces Lever’s move from the mouth of the river to a place about two miles north of Denison’s farm, which would put it in the vicinity of the present Weston Road and Wilson Avenue. Here he is reported to have built a log home and a log meeting house where services were held. This may have been so, but our more recent and fairly authenticated information rules out the possibility of such meetings being held as early as 1812.

We have in our possession an uncertified (Typewritten) copy of a “Memorial” bearing two dates: “20th March, 1821 and “11th June, 1821”, which appears to be a trust deed by which Elizabeth Davis and John Davis Porter granted to seven trustees an acre of land at the corner of what later became King and Main Streets (the latter having been changed to Weston Road as recently as 1960), “in trust that they shall erect a house for public worship for the use of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the Province of Upper Canada” . The trustees were Michael Miller, Thomas Hill, Caleb Peck, James Farr, Erastus Howard, Nathan Martin and Robert Farr.

Provision was made that as any one or more of these trustees died or ceased to be a member of the said church, the Minister or Preacher should call a meeting to elect one or more persons to fill the vacancy or vacancies in order to keep the number of 7 trustees forever. (The number of trustees of the present congregation is 12.)

Elizabeth Davis was the widow of Benjamin Davis and John Davis Porter appears to have been a ward or an employee of Benjamin at the time he executed his last will and testament dated October l5th, 1818. John Porter married Louisa Longstaff on April 21st, 1825, and one of their nine children, Mary Porter, born on October 29th, 1837, married Robert S. Brown on October 1st, 1856. Direct descendants of this union are among the present members of this congregation.

Copies of other deeds in our possession indicate that further lands were deeded to the Trustees of the Methodist Church in Weston; all by the name of John Davis Porter:

Jan. 6th, 1844  -  “Eleven Perches” for 12 pounds, 10 shillings.
Nov. 11th, 1852 – “One Rood four Perches”.  (Price not indicated)
Jan. lst, 1858 - Area not mentioned, for 40 pounds.

It is interesting to note that the transaction in 1844 was not registered at the time. Subsequently, in order to clear up the estate of John Davis Porter who “departed this life” on May 25th, 1874, the Trustees ad the widow, the surviving children and other interested parties, executed a Indenture dated Nov. 1st, 1876, releasing the property to the Trustees. This indenture was duly registered at 1 1.35 o’clock A.M. of the 3rd day of July, A.D. 1877.

Another deed dated October 14th, 1880, conveyed to the Trustees by Robert S. Brown and William Brown, a parcel of land on King Street between the “Burying Ground” and the Grand Trunk Railway (now part of the Canadian National Railways) but not immediately adjacent to either of these. 0n this site a Parsonage was built for the Methodist Ministers. This was offered for sale in July, 1922, but the church advertisement in “The Times and Guide” dated December 27th of that year still showed 35 King Street as the residence of the Minister. It was sold in August, 1929, for $4,000.00 and another house purchased at 31 Queen’s Drive for $9,000.00. The mortgage on the latter property was paid off in 1934. The King Street house was incorporated in an apartment building still in use and known as “The Gables” In 1967, through a mutually agreeable arrangement between the Official Board ad the Rev. R.E.Spencer, the Queen’s Dr. Manse (note the change of designation) was sold for $27,500.00, ad Mr. Spencer bought a home of his own on Leggett Ave. in Etobicoke. The funds from this sale have bee invested to provide a return which is applied to the living allowance for the minister in lieu of a manse, or for the future purchase of another manse.

In 1919, after the necessary legislation had been passed by the Provincial Legislature to permit such action, the remains of those buried in the “Methodist Cemetery” were removed and re-interred in Riverdale Cemetery in Etobicoke, west of the Humber River. Minutes of a meeting of the Official Board dated Nov. 11th, 1919, make reference to this work being competed and payment for same was authorized. The amount was not named. In this connection the following excerpt from a history of this church entitled “From Methodist to United” written by an unknown public school student in 1951 (?) commented on the removal of the “cemetery” to Riverside ad continued: “However I don’t believe all the bodies were removed, since when Little Bros. bought some of this land and dug up some of the earth, I saw a skull on top of one of the trucks. I think this was very disrespectful and also it could have been the truck driver’s ancestor.,”

Subsequently tennis courts were laid out on this site (now part of the parking lot) and records indicate that $75.00 was grated to the “Young People” on May 3rd, 1921, and a further $40.00 on June 22d of the sane year towards the cost of these courts. They were in active use until World War 11. Later the site was used as a parking lot in an unimproved condition. In 1955, under an agreement with the Trustee Board, the Town of Weston lowered this ground to street level in order to proceed with the widening of King Street. At the same time a line of beautiful maple trees between the sidewalk and the fence came down. It is not clear whether or not these trees were actually on church property but it was later lamented by one Trustee that the Board did not require the Town to replace them at the tine. However, even had this been done, it is probable that some of them at least would have had to be removed when the 1957 additions were made to the church building. These additions, consisting of a Christian Education Centre, Chapel, Vestry, Church Office and other accommodations, now occupy a portion of the former “Burying Ground”, but a large part still serves as a parking area.

In 1966, the Trustees made an arrangement with the neighbouring supermarket to combine the church parking lot with that of the market, resulting in a very large lot to serve the needs of both. To accomplish this it was necessary to demolish the caretaker’s house which stood in the extreme southeast corner of the church property. It had been transferred to that site from its original location south of the church and facing on Main Street (Weston Road) where it was built, probably prior to 1900. Under the terms of the agreement, Steinburgs, at considerable expense, levelled, paved and lighted the entire parking area, and pays the church a monthly rental. Where the little house stood on Main Street there were driving sheds between it and the church, long since removed. South of the house was the old “Central Hotel” (a temperance House?) demolished in 1966 along with a large garage to make way for the supermarket.

The First Two Churches

No detail is available concerning the first church building erected, we believe, in 1821, except that it was of log construction and faced on, but well back from what was then known as “Albion Road”, subsequently called in turn “Weston Plank Road”, “Main Street”, and now “Weston Road”. In keeping with the deed of 1821, this church was probably connected with the American Episcopal Church.

In 1849, a larger building was erected, also facing on but closer to Weston Road. This was red brick and seated 220 people, with accommodation for the Sunday School in the basement. The corner stone for this building bore the inscription “Wesleyan Chapel A.D. 1849”. This stone, missing for some years, came back into our possession in 1961. It had been removed when the building was demolished in 1887 to make way for the third church, and put into the wall of a house on the farm of the Dennis family, long associated with this congregation, and located on the banks of the Humber River near Eglinton Avenue. It was subsequently placed in the west wall of the narthex of the present building, along with the stone bearing the date 1887 which is over the stairway leading to the gallery.

We have a fairly detailed description of the second chapel as contained in a sketch of the life of William Watson, Superintendent of the Sunday School from 1861 to 1883. This was written by his son, the Rev. William G. Watson in 1940 “for the archives of Central United Church, Weston”. Dr. Watson, at the time of his writing, was Professor of Hebrew at Pine Hill Divinity Hall, Halifax, N.S. He states that both his father and his grandfather, Christopher Watson, were buried in the Methodist Cemetery here.

Speaking of this brick building, Dr. Watson comments: “I well remember the ‘Wesleyan Chapel’ which was in use when I was a boy. It was a plain rectangular building with a basement where the Sunday School was held. It faced on Main Street. A grey stone with the ‘Wesleyan Chapel A. D. 1849’ was set into the brick immediately above the door. Steps went up the wall from each side of the door and immediately underneath steps went down into the basement. The basement was partially beneath the ground and in wet weather water often lay upon the floor. The church was plainly furnished but was comfortable and usually well filled with worshippers . The pulpit was high up on the Eastern wall, and approached by steps. In front of the pulpit and beneath it was the Communion Table surrounded by a railing. At the back of the church (the West end) the Choir sat on a slightly raised platform. There was a door on the south side of the pulpit, opening out on the Cemetery, and on a summer day, when this door was open, it was a pleasant sight to look out upon the peaceful scene - the stones, the green grass, the trees and shrubs. Squire Tyrrell and his family used to sit in a side pew near this door.”

William Watson Sr. who was a school teacher and later Superintendent of Schools in York Township, lived for a number of years until his death in 1883 in Weston, in a house on Church Street at the end of what Dr. Watson says they used to call “Catholic Lane”. This was in all probability George Street and the house was very likely one of those demolished in 1961 to make way for the erection of a apartment building on the north side of Church Street opposite George Street. William Watson, in addition to being Sunday School Superintendent, was a Local Preacher and also conducted a Sunday morning Class Meeting in the basement of the old church for many years. He was an active member of the Good Templar’s Lodge which also met in the church basement. His home was always open to the young ministers of the circuit who preached at Weston but who lived in Woodbridge.

According to Dr. Tyrrell, our second church was built by his father, the ‘Squire’, referred to by Dr. Watson. In 1875, following a fire which burned the Grammar School on King Street, classes were held in the basement of this church. The newly appointed principal at that time was Mr. Geo. Wallace, B.A., formerly a teacher at Upper Canada College, and he lived with Mr. Wm. Tyrrell.,

Minutes of the Trustee Board meeting early in April, 1887. Include a motion that the last Sabbath Services in the old church be the 17th. of April when the speakers were the Rev. R. Large ad R.P.Bowles, B.A This was also reported ion the “Christian Guardian”. 0n the following evening an “Old Folks Concert” was held under the auspices of the Ladies Aid Society, which raised $90.00.

At the same meeting a committee was appointed to provide for places to hold Sabbath Services and class meetings, during the building of the new church. There appears to be no record of what accommodation was obtained.

Also at the April meeting – “Mr. Mallory appointed Architect for the new building erection”.

The Methodist Episcopal Church

A branch of this denomination, which came to Canada from England and not to be confused with the American Episcopal Church, was established in Weston about the mid 1830’s. We know nothing of its beginnings and can only assume that it may have been an offshoot of the Wesleyan Methodist Church here. A small frame building was erected on Church Street, and perhaps was the reason for so naming the street. Unfortunately, we have been unable to obtain any information pertaining to this congregation up until the time it joined with the older Methodist Church in 1884 when all branches of Methodism in Canada united. These included the Wesleyan Methodist, Methodist Episcopal, Primitive Methodist, New Connection and Free Methodist. Probably at that time the united congregation here became known as “Weston Methodist Church.”

Records of Missionary givings indicate some members of both churches prior to the union contributed to the annual collections of both groups, so that there appears to have been friendly relations between the two. Amicable relations must also have obtained between the M.E. Church and the “Weston Free Church” (Presbyterian). The Rev. J. N. MacDonald records in his “History of Westminister United Church, Weston”, one of the successor congregations to the Weston Presbyterian Church: “On October 4th, 1858, the Session agreed to ask for the use of Knox Church (Toronto) communion service, and that application be made to obtain the use of the ‘Episcopal Methodist Chapel’ for a Sabbath evening service in place of an afternoon service”. From this it would appear that the initial service of the Presbyterian folk were held in the M.E. building on Sunday afternoons until their church was erected just around the corner on Cross Street.

The report of the Committees on Church Property to the 3rd Session of the Toronto Conference of the newly formed Methodist Church in Canada, held in St. Paul’s Church, Brampton, from June 10th to 17th, 1886, contained a recommendation “That the Trustees of the church formerly situated in the village of Weston have permission to sell the same, proceeds to be applied toward the erection of a new church in the village of Weston.” The Trustees’ Financial Report (Weston Methodist Church) for 1886 includes the following single line entry, “Amount of Sale M.E. Church $445.50”. This, incidentally, appears to be the only reference which would confirm the fact of a merger between the two Methodist congregations in Weston, and this apparently took place in 1884. The M.E. Church building was purchased by the local Oddfellows Lodge on April 12th, 1866, and the following summer the single storey frame building was converted into a two storey brick building. This still stands on the original site on the north side of Church Street just east of Weston Road. The Oddfellows Hall became a meeting place of other fraternal organizations in Weston, including the Masonic Lodge which used the second storey until the erection of their new Temple on the west side of Weston Road just north of King Street in the 1920’s.

A small flush toilet, not provided in the original building, was added to this area sometime after the turn of the century. From this location also a short flight of steps provided an exit toward the cemetery and a long narrow stairway led up to the main floor. Here there was a doorway into the sanctuary and another exit on the east side of the building. An even narrower stairway continued up behind the choir loft permitting an orderly filing of the choristers to the seats at the opening of the service.

In 1911 some extensive alterations were made. An April 1961 issue of the"Weston Times & Guide" in a column relating events of interest fifty years previously, quotes from the April 27th , 1911 issue: "The Methodist Church was reopened on Sunday, April 23rd. The financial statement showed that the improvements to the church cost $4,000.00 . 0ne half of this amount was asked for and a very liberal response was given to the appeal. The Trustees expect to see the full amount asked for in hand by next Sunday evening ". The amount referred to no doubt included the cost of the new organ. Perhaps the outbreak of the first World War in 1914 and its continuance for four years contributed to the delay in completing clearance of the indebtedness, or possibly later deficits were experienced as minutes of the Official Board meeting in November, 1922, make reference to a debt of $2,850.00, and plans to wipe it out were discussed.

Late in the 1920's there was considerable agitation on the part of Sunday School workers ad others for improved and larger accommodation. During the pastorate of the Rev. E. Harold Toye (1929-1931) elaborate plans were prepared for a completely new church building to replace the 1887 structure. The proposed edifice was to face on Main Street and be of Gothic architecture. At this time overtures were made to Westminster United suggesting amalgamation. Sympathetic consideration was given to the proposal by our sister congregation then worshipping in a building on the west side of Main Street, below Lawrence Ave., which had been designed and erected as a Sunday School, but they decided against the proposed union. While there was considerable enthusiasm for the new church there also was some opposition. This may have contributed to the demise of the project but the main reason it was not proceeded with was undoubtedly the question of financing as the country was just entering what became the great depression of the 1930's. Failure to proceed with the proposed building may also have contributed to the shortened pastorate of Mr. Toye.

In 1937, under the leadership of the Rev. Harry Pawson, plans were laid for extensive alterations which were proceeded with and completed the following year. The architects were Bruce Brown &Bisley. The corner stone, now in the south wing, and third in our history, was laid in August, 1938, by Dr. J. B. Tyrrell (son of the previously mentioned Squire Tyrrell). Re-opening services were held November 27th, when the Rev. G. W. Barker, President of Toronto Conference, spoke at the morning service, ad the Very Rev. George Pidgeon, D.D. of Bloor St. United Church, in the evening. A concert was held the next night, featuring the Lyric Male Chorus of Toronto, assisted by local artists, and an address by W.J.Johnston of Eglinton United Church, and a musical program. Special services were continued for the next two Sundays, the speakers on December 4th being the Rev. J.E. Todd of St. Clair Ave., and the Rev. Simon Edwards of Parkdale; and the Rev. Harold Young of Avenue Road on December 11th. there was a Missionary rally on Wednesday, December 7th, with the Rev. Bruce gray as the speaker. Special music by the choir under the direction of Mr. Clare Henley and guest soloists was provided for all of the special services.

The Chairman of Building Committees was Mr. Charles A.Graham, and the Senior Member of the Trustee Board was Mr. Joseph Nason. At this time the front of the 1887 building was taken out, the auditorium floor completely removed and the pulpit platform ad choir loft dismantled. The author recalls at one stage of this renovation standing in the centre of a shell of four walls on bare ground below the level of the old basement floor gazing up at the ceiling which seemed to be at a very great height above.

A central entrance was provided with a short flight of steps leading into a small vestibule. A doorway from this hall led down a wide centre aisle into the beautiful chance as we now know it, with its side stalls for the choir, carved Communion Table, Reredos ad panelling. The pulpit was placed to the left of the chancel and the console of the 1911 organ on the right. A carved baptismal font stood in front of the organ screen. Electric chimes donated by Mr.A.J.Barker were added to the organ at this time and connected to amplifiers in the west tower. In 1950 a new 24 stop two manual Casavant organ was installed at a cost of $16,000.00 as a memorial to those members of the congregation who gave their lives during the Second World War.

The main part of the sanctuary seated about 380 people, in addition to 40 in the Choir and 60 in the gallery. The latter was reached by a stairway built into the northwest spire tower. There was another doorway at ground level from King Street leading into this stairway and also down to the new basement auditorium now greatly improved by the removal of the furnace. Lowering of the basement floor also added to its improvement. In additional to the main room here there was a small tellers counting room at the rear and four class rooms. Two of these opened into the auditorium, providing small extensions to it. At the south end there was a good size stage about three feet above floor level. Doorways on either side of the stage led up three or four steps into the new section of the Sunday School which contained washrooms, a small nursery (later to become the Church School office), a fairly commodious kitchen (compared to its predecessor), and two large assembly rooms. A large hall separated the latter from the kitchen which was immediately behind the stage, and from this hall a doorway opened directly on to Main Street at street level. Also from this hall stairs went up on both the east and west sides to another hallway on the second floor behind the chancel.

Here were provided a roomy vestry with a private washroom for the Minister, a fine Ladies Parlour, another meeting room, and a kitchenette available to both of the latter. From this upper hall doors led directly into the chancel and also into the sanctuary. Most of this south wing remains substantially the same today but when major extensions were made in 1957, changes in this wing included combining the stage and kitchen into a choir room; archways between the two large rooms on each floor; wash room facilities for small children; and the alteration of the vestry into a room suitable for small meetings. It was later used for some years as the Church Library. The boiler facilities for heating installed in 1938 in a separate room on the east side were adapted for the use of the enlarged premises in 1957 with a change from coal to oil. The mortgage for the 1938 extension was burned in 1946.

The 1938 accomodation which was considered adequate at the time provided too small for the congregation which increased during the years following World War II. Once again there was discussion as to what should be done. In the early 1950's during the pastorate of the Rev.Earl B.Eddy plans were submitted by the architects of the 1938 extension. These were received with but little enthusiasm and not accepted. Later, early in the ministry of the Rev. Ralph E. Spencer, more pretentious changes and additions were considered. Another architect (Mr. W.E. Barnett) was asked to prepare plans, which were accepted. These gave rise in 1957 to the enlarged sanctuary and the King Street extension connected thereto with foyer and narthex.

A General Building Committee was headed by Mr. Harold P. Horne, who succeeded the original appointee, Mr. Harry Armstrong, when the latter was transferred from Weston. The contractors were Bennett & Pratt. The sod turning at the close of the morning service on October 14th, 1956, was ably performed by Mr. Albert E. Scythes, one of the oldest members of the congregation. He held what could well be a unmatched record at that time of over 60 years of ushering (almost 50 in this church). Mr. Scythes served as senior usher for many years, then as greeter and assisted with the ushering and collection of the offerings until the time of his death in 1963.

On December 2nd. 1956, the corner stone at the new King Street entrance was laid jointly by Dr. Ernest E. Long, Secretary of General council of the United Church of Canada, and Mr. Frank L. Beecroft, a great grandson of Mr. James Lever. This ceremony was held between the two morning services which were at 10.00 ad 11.30 A.M. Two such services had been held each Sunday for a couple of years or so prior to the enlargement of the sanctuary. Construction proceeded during the winter, spring and summer months. The Christian Education Hall, later officially named The Church Hall, was available for worship services early in September 1957. Dedication of the enlarged sanctuary and chapel was held on September 29th, when the lesson was read by the Rev . F. L. Stymiest, President of the Toronto Conference, and the Sermon preached by the Right Rev. J.S. Thomson, Moderator of the United Church General Council. The Benediction was pronounced by the Rev. Garnet E. Lynd, Secretary of Toronto West Presbytery.

During the months when these changes and additions were being made the Congregation worshipped on Sunday mornings in the Fox Theatre, across Main Street and a little north of King Street. This accommodation had also been used during the 1938 reconstruction when it was known as the Weston Theatre. It was demolished to make way for the new Federal Building erected on the site in 1963.

During the week following the dedication service, a Congregational Dinner was held on Wednesday, 0ctober 2nd. In the Church Hall which was then dedicated by the Rev. R.E.Spencer. The General Chairman was Mr. J.R.H. Morgan, then President of the Men’s Club. Greetings were brought by the Rev. A. Borland of the Weston Ministerial Association, The Rev. W. Shaver, Chairman of Toronto West Presbytery, and Mayor Harry Clark of Weston. An address was given by Mrs. Jean Newman, a Controller of the City of Toronto. Three former ministers of Central attended: the Rev. E.H. Toye ad one of his sons; the Rev. H.E. Wellwood (since deceased), and the Rev. and Mrs. E.B. Eddy. (Dr. Eddy retired from a Windsor pastorate in 1969). The late Rev. Harry Pawson whose length of pastorate (11 years) has been exceeded only by Mr. Spencer’s 13 years, and who exchanged pulpits with Mr. Eddy at 0akville in 1947, was represented by his youngest son, David. A Youth and Family night was held on Friday, 0ctober 4th. Participation in World Communion on Sunday, 0ctober 6th. completed dedication week. 0n this occasion a large number of new members were received into our fellowship. The special speaker was the Rev.K.H. Cousland, Principal of Emmanuel College.

Methodist To United Church

Along with most if not all of the Methodist congregation in Canada the Weston Church entered the United Church on June l10th, 1925 . This new body was composed of the Methodists, Congregationalists and somewhat better than fifty percent of the Presbyterians throughout the country. They had decided for or against union by a majority vote of their individual congregations. There were at the time two Presbyterian Churches in Weston: one “Weston Presbyterian” on Cross Street, and the other “Westminster Presbyterian” on Main St. south. They shared a common history and heritage and when the time came to decide whether or not to join the union, the former retained allegiance to their old affiliation while the latter cast its lot with the new church. Some exchange of members took place as the result of the decisions reached, with Central United (the new name chosen by the former Methodists) gaining a few in the process.

Achievement of union was not an accomplishment of a few years, however, as it had been under study and consideration by the courts of the participating churches for a long time. 0ur local paper records that on Sunday evening, January 12th. 1912, the Rev.R.B. Strangways gave an “unbiased address” on church union . He preached on the subject again on the morning of February 11th. and on the following Sunday afternoon the Bible classes were withdrawn for a discussion of the matter. In a letter to the Editor in the February 16th issue of “The Times and Guide” a writer used a rather critical tone in commenting on the use of Sunday for such a meeting A week later the Editor said: “We think the time has not yet arrived for the consummation of a movement (organic union of the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational Churches) so momentous in its results”. A vote was taken by the Methodist congregation in April, 1921, resulting in 194 in favour or union and 43 against. The Weston Methodists entered the United Church in 1925 without a local vote and apparently little, if any, opposition to the change. It was felt at that time, probably in view of the likelihood of it not being the only United Church in Weston, that some more specific name should be adopted. “King Street” and “Central” were both considered and the latter chosen.

As this local history is being written negotiations between the United Church and the Anglican Church of Canada appear to be making progress toward some form of organic union. It is interesting to speculate as to what effect such a union might have on this congregation, and what role Central might be playing in a matter of only a few years time. With this, and the pressures of other changes, our 0fficial Board, under the dynamic leadership of the Rev. Paul B. Field, has been establishing our purpose and goals, and considering ways and means of fulfilling them.

There have always been happy relationships between Methodist-Central and our sister churches in Weston, perhaps more particularly with the other nonconformist congregations. At one time Central and Westminster held joint summer services while their ministers took well earned vacations, and the Presbyterians and the Baptists did likewise. In more recent years, however, the latter have continued to hold their own services throughout the summer months ad the Presbyterians have joined the two United Churches for these periods. For many years now, joint Good Friday services have bee held, usually in Central Church.

On many occasions some congregations have withdrawn their individual services to join one of the others in the celebration of anniversaries or special services to mark the dedication of new or enlarged places of worship. 0n Sunday, March 10th, 1912, the Methodists withdrew their morning service to join with the Presbyterians at the opening of their new Sunday School building at Main and Mill Streets. 0n the afternoon of the same day the Methodist Sunday School pupils assembled outside their own church to greet the young Presbyterians marching from Cross Street to their new place of Meeting. If a personal reference may be permitted, the author believes he was the youngest participant in this parade, and one of the very few who repeated the experience 41 years later by walking with another generation of boys and girls from Main and Mill Streets to William Street when Westminster opened its new edifice on Sunday, February 22nd. 1953.

The Ministry

From the year in which our church became a part of the Yonge Street Circuit served by the Rev. David Culp, the congregation as far as can be determined, has never been without the leadership of an officially appointed minister, although not always an ordained one. That is not to say that such a man preached every Sabbath day. In the beginning there were many small groups to be served scattered over quite an area and those early circuit riders had to spread themselves and their Sundays around to the best of their ability. 0n off Sundays the services would be conducted and the messages given by lay preachers, of whom James Lever was one in the Weston congregation, and another William Watson, both previously referred to.

In the agenda, the names of all of the pastors of the church are listed in chronological order under the various circuits. It is not known if any of them made their home in Weston prior to the establishment of the King St. Parsonage, but Dr. Watson recalls “my memory is full of the young ministers who lived at Woodbridge but who preached at Weston, and who so frequently stayed at our home”. We are particularly fortunate in having an almost complete photographic record of all our ministers from 1845 on. Unfortunately, we have been unable to ascertain even the names of those who served the M.E. Church while it was a separate and independent congregation.

Since 1912 when Weston became a one man circuit we have had a full time minister for this congregation. During the first quarter of the century pastors came ad went every four years according to the rotation plan of the Methodist Church. It is fortunate that we have the pictorial and other records of our pastors because a perusal of the minutes of meetings of the Official Board over a period of some years fails to locate, in most instances, any official mention of ministerial comings and goings, except as chairman of the meeting. Following union in 1925, their ministries at Weston Central have been of irregular duration, running from three to thirteen years.

Some of the early ministers to this congregation later became very well known for their public services apart from their spiritual ministry. Among these was the Rev. Egerton Ryerson (son of an Anglican), one of our earliest (1825) and whose brothers also served on our circuit. Ryerson later became the founder of the Christian Guardian and the father of the Ontario Public School System. The Rev. George Playter (1842) became a noted historian; and R.P.Bowles who was ordained after his ministry on the circuit, subsequently became Chancellor of Victoria University.

The congregation has contributed some of its members to the preaching of the Gospel; sons of the first two Sunday School Superintendents, James Lever ad William Watson, both became ministers of the Methodist Church though they apparently did not serve the Weston congregation. In November, 1925, the Official Board recommended that Percy I. Davidge be given his standing as a probationer, having travelled two years on a mission. He was later ordained by the United Church of Canada. During his college years he served for a short time as student pastor of Harding Ave. Mission, just east of Weston. This later became Trethewey United Church. Mr. Davidge passed away in 1969.

A few year later this congregation sponsored Arthur Carrington who passed away in 1933 just prior to his expected ordination. It fell to the lot of a man who later became a minister here (Mr. Spencer) to deliver the funeral sermon in this church. More recently Central Church supported Robert McPhee in his studies toward obtaining a theological degree and he was ordained by the United Church in 1964.

This church has had close personal interest in overseas missionary work through Miss Dorothy Pearson, daughter of Mr. A. W. Pearson one time Principal of Weston High School and an active member of the church with a keen interest in its missionary work. After two periods of furlough and recuperation from poor health, Miss Pearson is once again in India working for the Government in the field of education.

To comment on or make comparisons of any of the men who have guided the destinies of this congregation for the past half century would be unfair to those not specifically named, and might indeed only reflect personal views not shared by others who have been closely associated with our pastors during this period. References to particular individuals have therefore been limited to their association with some special event mentioned in this historical outline. It may be noted in passing and without attempting to make any point of its significance, that since Union and up until 1968, all of our ministers have come to us from Methodist tradition and training, with but one exception. That man occasionally challenged his listeners to attempt to decide on the basis of the doctrinal content of his sermons which denomination he belonged to before Union. Very few knew at the time that it was Congregationalist.

For some years we had the assistance of theological students from Emmanuel College during the winter months in Christian Education and midweek work. These men were later ordained and went on to serve on mission fields and in regular pastorates., The following list is believed to be complete: Ronald McPhee (1955); David Staples (55-57); J. Duffy (57-58); L. Heffelfinger (58-59); G. Craig (59-60). We also had the services of the Rev. J. W. Gordon as a pastoral assistant for a brief period, including the year 1953.

Here we would like to record the long and faithful service of the Rev. Enos W. Hart who came to this congregation as Pastoral Assistant, first to Mr. Spencer in 1961, and continuing with Mr. Field from 1968 to 1970. Both he and Mrs. Hart contributed greatly to the happy fellowship of this congregation. Mr. Hart was always a very welcome visitor at all homes, but more particularly so with the elderly, the sick and the shut-ins.

He also conducted worship services regularly for the patients at Weston Sanitarium, preached from our pulpit on many occasions and participated in Communion and other special services. He was particularly helpful during Mr. Spencer’s busy term as Chairman of Toronto West Presbytery (1963-64) and also during his illness early in 1968. A farewell reception was held for Mr. and Mrs. Hart on Sunday, May 24th, 1970.

We were honoured for some years in having in our congregation the late Rev. 0livia Lindsay, a retired missionary of the church in Japan, and at the time one of the few ordained women in the United Church. She was an Honourary Elder. Another beloved worshipper with us when his official duties permitted his spending the weekend in Weston was the late Rev. Dr. D.I. Forsyth, for many years Secretary of the United Church Board of Christian Education. He was also an Honourary Elder and after his passing in 1967, a memorial in the form of a beautiful bound copy of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible was placed in the Pulpit. At this point it might be mentioned that previous Pulpit Bibles (King James Version) were donated by Mrs. Andrew Kaake in 1887 to mark the opening of the new church in that year, and by Dr. and Mrs. E.F . Burton in 1938 on the re-opening of the church after alterations at that time.

Many other ministers, retired from active service, made their church home with us. Some names come to mind: the Revs. John Morgan, W. Rodwell, R.H. Rodgers, George Kitching, D. Williams, W.N. Chantler and A. Thomson. If there were others whose names escape us, we apologize to their families and friends.

In June, 1963, Central Church shared with its Minister, the Rev.R.E.Spencer, the honour of his election as Chairman of Toronto West Presbytery. The occasion was marked by the presentation of a new Emmanuel College Hood, the Session having heard through the grapevine that the one in service for over 25 years was in need of replacement. We have no record of a Central Minister having been elected to an administrative office such as head of Presbytery or Conference prior to that time. A year later Mr. Spencer was elected as Commissioner to General Council which met in St. John’s. Newfoundland, in September. In 1966,Dr. Godfrey Gale was chosen as a lay delegate to General Council which met that year in Waterloo, 0nt. In 1968, Mr. Clifford Mertens was elected as a delegate from Toronto Conference to General Council Meeting in Kingston, Ont. This Spring (1970) the Rev. Paul. B. Field was chosen to be a Commissioner to General Council to meet in Niagara Falls, 0nt. Concurrently with the meeting of the Synod of the Anglican Church. It is a signal honour for laymen to be named Commissioners to General Council, and it must be something of a record for one church of medium size such as Central to be officially represented at the Council four times in succession.

In spite of the fact that the majority of our pastors have come to us in middle age or later, there is no record of one having passed on to higher service while minister to this congregation. In 1938 we shared with our Westminster friends their grief in the passing of the Rev.G.Ernest Forbes who had been their minister for 14 years and a one-time Chairman of Toronto West Presbytery.

One of our long time active and fervent laymen, Mr. John Lennox, achieved the ripe old age of 103 before passing on in 1937. The Board had recognized his birthday the previous year with a sheaf of roses.

While there were undoubtedly many other occasions on which the congregation paid special tribute to its ministers, one more comes to mind. During the pastorate of the Rev. Harry Pawson , he and Mrs. Pawson celebrated their 25th. Wedding Anniversary, and a social gathering with an appropriate presentation marked the event.

The Official Board And Board of Trustees

Available records do not give much detail with respect to the composition of the bodies responsible for the spiritual and financial needs in the early years. 0ne supposes they conformed to Methodist tradition and practice through the years preceding Union. There was a “Quarterly 0fficial Board” whose minutes, kept regularly enough, were so brief as to convey little information of what was going on. For example, one can’t find any record in these minutes of adoption of the new name when the church entered Union and became “Central United”, although the minutes of a meeting held on September 21st, 1925, were headed “First Quarterly Board Meeting of the Central United Church”. 0n April 28th, 1926, the congregation selected 15 Elders and 15 Stewards to compose a “ Board” as laid down by the United Church. In February of 1928 the number of each group was increased to 21 for three year terms. In more recent years the membership of the Session has been increased in two stages to the present number of 52, ad the Committee of Stewards now numbers 35.

Members of the Session (Elders) and the Committee of Stewards, together with representatives of the U.C.W. and others, form the Official Board which meets regularly to dispose of such business as cannot properly be handled by either the Session or the Stewards alone. The Official Board also acts on behalf of the congregation in matters which may not be of sufficient importance to warrant calling a special meeting of the congregation. Annual meetings of all members and adherents of the church are held early in each year to receive and review reports of the previous year’s work of the various organizations and to elect new representatives to various bodies as may be necessary.

On January 15th., 1930, Dr. W. Howard Charlton was appointed Secretary of the Official Board to succeed his father, Dr.W.J. Charlton. In succession these two men served their church for over fifty years in the offices of Recording Steward while Methodist and Secretary of the Board after Union. The Chancel window was donated by the Charlton family in 1938 in memory of their father. Details of the composition of this window are given elsewhere.

Many others have of course given generously of time, treasure and talents but it is not possible to name them all, nor would it be fair to attempt to do so as obviously overlooked. There would appear to be very little chance of any group claiming a longer period of continuous service in the church than the Trustees, starting with the original seven named in the deed previously referred to. There are now 12 men on this Board, appointed for life as long as they retain membership in this congregation. While ladies have been elected as Elders and Stewards for some few years, none have been chosen to serve as Trustees to date. Most trustees are either Elders or Stewards, but not necessarily so.

Apart from their official duties on various boards and committees, and their participation in Sunday School, The Choir, and other activities, the men of the church have at different times formed other groups. These have operated as a Sunday study group or as a monthly social club, under such names as “The Brotherhood”, “The Men’s Club”, etc. but there has been no substantial continuity to them through the years.

As previously noted, there are now Lady Elders and Lady Stewards. The former have a “Parish” wherein they have the spiritual oversight of members assigned to their care, and to whom they regularly deliver CommunionTokens. History was made at the Easter communion service in 1969, when for the first tie at Central four Lady Elders assisted in the serving of the Bread and the Wine. They were Mrs. Edna Dean, Miss Eveline McCort, Mrs. Elsie Powell and Mrs. Dorothy Sutton.

This congregation has contributed its full share of members who have served the community as members of Council, Reeves and Mayors, York County Wardens, members of the local Board of education, Red Cross Society, Service Clubs and many other organizations. While complete records of those who have held public office in Weston are published elsewhere (in “The History of Weston: by Cruickshank-Nason, for example) the following notes are of interest to this congregation as the individuals referred to were affiliated with this church.

When Weston became a village, the first council meeting on January 16th. 1882, included Wm. Tyrrell, Reeve, and Jacob Bull and David Rowntree as Councillors. Weston became a Town in 1915, and its first Mayor was Dr.W.J.Charlton who served for five successive years. During the next 46 years until Weston became part of the Borough of York, the following gentlemen served for varying periods of one to three years as Mayor: G.A. Sainsbury, A.L. Coulter, W.J. Pollett, S.J. Totten, F.W. Mertens, K.L., Thompson and J.L. Holley.

Many active members of the congregation served the community in the field of education: Mr. A.L. Campbell, one time High School Principal and Public School Inspector; and Messrs. A. W. Pearson, E.,H.G. Worden and C.W. Christie, all occupied the post of Principal of Weston High School, later known as Weston Collegiate and Vocational Institute. The latter two named served for some years each as Secretary of the 0fficial Board of the Church. Mr. J.R.H. (Archie) Morgan who occupied many important educational posts prior to his recent retirement (and received an honourary degree of Doctor of Law from the University of Toronto) is currently Chairman of our Christian Education Committee.

The Sunday School and Youth Groups

Classes for the children have probably been held since the first church was erected and possibly prior thereto. Mr. James Lever served as Superintendent for about 40 years and was followed by Mr. William Watson for a period of a little better than 20 years. Succeeding superintendents do not appear to have held this important office for nearly such lengthy periods. We do not have a complete chronological list of all who have served but a large number of them are shown in the addends. Others who gave freely of their time and energy as teachers and officers down through a century and a half must run into a total of hundreds and we wish it were possible to give them individual recognition. Those who read this will no doubt recall many and give silent tribute to their faithfulness.

For some years starting at least early in the 1900’s the high light of the Sunday School year was an Anniversary Sunday held early in December followed by a supper for the scholars one evening during the following week. Weeks of preparation were spent on special music for the Sunday services, both morning and evening. 0n the evening concert at which individual children took part and almost every class contributed a drill, skit, tableau or musical offering of some kind. Prizes were handed out to those who had attended Sunday classes regularly or learned a significant number of Bible verses. 0f course, Santa Claus (often in the person of Mr. Albert Scythes) made a welcome visit and dispensed candy and fruit to all of the young ones.

For these Anniversary and concert programs a large wooden platform was erected extending the full width of the church auditorium and immediately in front of the choir seats. At the Sunday service all members of the School were seated in the choir loft or on this platform, and sometimes in addition, a small orchestra. At the Christmas party in 1911 a new electric lantern was tried out, (operated by Mr. Thos. Harrison) and found to be “first class”. It was put to use in the school the following January.

Sometime in the 1930’s Anniversary services gave way to White Gift services. These in more recent years have been marked by appropriate pageantry depicting the visit to the Christ Child in the Manger by the Shepherds and the Wise Men. For a while the Christmas concerts continued but for some years these have given way to parties for the small children and teenagers. The emphasis seems to have switched from a program performed by the children for the enjoyment of their parents ad friends to an entertainment for the scholars.

The Sunday School picnic has always been an important event in the yearly calendar. Dr. Watson, in the story of his father’s long association with this church, mentions the Sunday School picnic, usually held in “Holley’s Woods” near the Humber. Another author recalls many picnics held at Centre Island when special street cars and the ferry ride across Toronto Bay contributed not a little to the overall enjoyment of the day. 0f course, the traditional races and athletic events, not to mention the loaded lunch and supper tables, added their part. Other locations for the picnic have included Pelmo Park on “The Fifth” (now Jane Street), and High Park; and at least once, during World War 11, Cruikshank Park on the Humber, just south of Church Street. More recently, picnics have been held at one of the Toronto Islands and Boyd Conservation Park north of Woodbridge, with the emphasis having shifted to congregational participation, and held on Saturdays rather than midweek. Called by whatever name, they have always been attended largely by the scholars, their teachers and parents, and have provided happy memories of carefree days for all who have some few years to jump back over to recall the time of their youth.

Midweek Youth Groups

In addition to Sunday School, midweek activities of various kinds have been provided for groups of all age levels for varying periods of time. One of the oldest of these must have been the Mission Band which was in operation early in the century. Although non existent for some years, there was some renewed interest after the 1957 re-opening. It served both girls and boys, as did also a successor group, the “Messengers” . The present organization for this junior age, “The Explorers”, is for girls only.

Central has been particularly fortunate in having able and adequate leadership through many years for its C.G.I.T. groups. This work commenced In the late 1920’s with Ev McCort, Lois Thompson, Elsie Wilcox and Maud Yeo as some of the leaders. Although this teen-age girls organization has had its peaks and its valleys, they hold an enviable record among other churches in the area for size ad enthusiasm. The same cannot be said for boys work in spite of some dedicated leadership by a number of men. However, there have been over the years programs sponsored by Trail Ranger, Tuxis, Tyro ad Sigma C groups; ad ore recently Cubs and Scouts which appear to be flourishing. Here again, while one would like to pay tribute by naming the people who have given of themselves in unselfish leadership, incomplete records ad limitations of space do not permit.

The older Young People have had their Christian Endeavour ad Epworth League groups. These were succeeded In turn by the Young Peoples Society and the Young Peoples Union, but at the time of this writing there seems to be no active program for this age group. A Young Adult Group served the need of those somewhat older for some few years.

In this chapter reference should be made to the Church Tennis Club which flourished from 1921 until the late 30’s. During this period many honours in the Toronto Interchurch Tennis League were captured by our players. An attempt to re-activate this sport following the cessation of the 1939-1945 hostilities met with little success. Later, of course, the ground became part of the parking lot, ad still later the site of our new East Wing.

A more modern activity, and one which would have probably caused the turning over of some of the venerable Methodist bones had they continued to rest in their original graves, was the by-weekly dance held by “Club Central”., These dances were for teen-agers and took place on Saturday evenings during the Fall and Winter months. They were sponsored by the Christian Education Committee and operated by an enthusiastic group of our young people during the early 1960’s. Proceeds were invested in our present sound equipment, stage curtains, etc.

Some badminton has been played in the Church Hall, and another group which has made good use of this accommodation for some years is the “Co- Weds Club”. It has sponsored many interesting social activities including some square dancing.

Many outside organizations have enjoyed the use of various rooms and halls in our church building, including in many instances the catering facilities offered (at moderate cost) by our women’s groups. It is our hope ad plan to continue and enlarge our service to the community in these and other ways.