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First Baptist Church – Since 1945

Senior Ministers:
Dr. A.C. Archibald 1942-1947
Rev. Daniel Young 1948-1959
Rev. Ralph J. Cummings 1959-1971
Rev. Malcolm Harlow 1971-1983
Rev. Mervin Saunders 1984

This historical review is the work of Jean C. Buchanan, Audrey Young, Shirley Parr, Tika Roberts, Lynda Kennedy and Elsie Lunn. Individual writers have been identified in the body of the work. The book has been compiled and edited by Elsie Lunn.

In the beginning there were eight. On the first day of spring, 1845, one hundred and fifty years ago, a group of eight persons entered into a covenant “to walk together as a Church of Christ”. This was the beginning of the York St. Baptist Church. In the years that followed, the Baptists of York St. multiplied and divided, growth being achieved by the frequent sending of members to form other congregations in town and continuing to maintain them as long as necessary. Thirty years after its own beginning, York. St. supported the founding of Adelaide St. Church, and, in 1881, then Egerton St. and the Pipe Line Mission, now known as Kensal Park Church. Beth Emmanuel Church was also supported “by gifts and guidance” from Talbot St. In 1925, nine of our number became charter members of Hope Baptist, and just after World War II, Sunrise congregation was formed. In March, 1954, Talbot St. Church moved to its present location and became First Baptist Church. Since that time there has been the formation of the Portuguese Baptist Church and the Westview Church.

Dr. Sherwood Fox wrote “A Century of Service, a History of the Talbot Street Baptist Church, London, Ontario 1845-1945”. This book was privately printed and sold for one dollar per copy. We will make no attempt to cover the ground so adequately already covered, nor to attempt to continue with his format, but rather t0 sketch some of the highlights in the life of our church during the fifty years since the book’s completion. First, however, we must go back to our beginnings in order to understand how we arrived here, in 1995.

An Historic Review of First Baptist Church – Jean C. Buchanan
What was the world like 150 years ago? Canada was a colony of England, and England was the heart of the British Empire upon which, it was agreed, the sun never set. Queen Victoria had been on the throne 8 years, and the Victorian Age was in full bloom with its industry and its inventions and its excitement. The Duke of Wellington was still alive, having survived The Battle of Waterloo by a whole generation. William Wordsworth and Alfred Tennyson were writing poems; Charles Dickens and the Bronte sisters were constructing novels. In Europe, Richard Wagner and Frederic Chopin were composing and performing music and encouraging nationalistic feelings and creating scandals. It was Dickens who wrote something about the best of times and the worst of times, and 1845 was like that, too. The Irish potato famine was at its peak, and the Scottish and English crofters were being forced off their land, often to find refuge here in the colonies. The worst fate for a person was to be an orphan or an illegitimate child; such a one might wander the streets during his short life as a mud lark or a chimney sweep or a pickpocket. Diseases such as cholera, smallpox, and diphtheria were common and frequent killers. If one escaped them, capital punishment awaited those guilty of a great variety of crimes with public hangings as regular outings for the whole family. Yes indeed, 1845 was a great year!

London, Canada West, had been incorporated as a town only 2 years before. Probably Londoners didn’t have a lot of time to worry about European nationalism or trade unions in Britain or what President Polk of the United Sates was doing about the annexation of Texas. Trees and mud and cold and fires and sheer survival took up most of their time. But Londoners did go to church.

There were 8 churches representing 5 different denominations. At the same time, Lobo had 3 Baptist churches all of different Baptist persuasions. Our church was organized on March 21, 1845 with the assistance of the American Baptist Home Missionary Society.

The members met in the Mechanics Institute on Dundas St. It was not until 1850 that the York St. Chapel was built. Membership increased to 200.

It is people who make history interesting, not statistics. The early church, if one can interpret correctly the minutes of church meetings, was greatly concerned with correct doctrines and the correct behaviour of their members. It appears that business meetings were held as often as two or three times a week and the membership roll must have been a very fluid one with admission and demission of members.

By 1863, the dollar had replaced the pound, talk of some sort of Confederation of Canada was in the air, the Americans were in the midst of a Civil War, and the York St. Church was having its own little war between Brother Wakling and Sister Buttery. A committee was formed and each of these members urged to remedy behaviour. On the following Sabbath a reconciliation was made before the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper.

In 1876, members were twice admonished to be more courteous to strangers. Young people weren’t behaving very well during service. In 1883, the Deacons were accused of not visiting the sick or attending funerals regularly. In 1925, the church had 873 members; the membership figures for the next few years reflect membership was 797 in the 90th anniversary year. In 1936, according to the Free Press, 72 new members joined the church and Rev. Ziemann had a noteworthy radio ministry. In the late 1930s, Mrs. Luta Calvert listened carefully to Dr. Inman’s sermonettes to the church and rewrote them as “Sermonettes In Rhyme”.

Plans for a new church had been discussed from time to time over the years, but an event in 1947 precipitated a move. Mr. J.K. McDermid gave the church a property at Richmond and Clarence Streets provided the people could raise $75,000 for the building fund. So it was that the Rev. Daniel Young, who had been involved in new church buildings both in Toronto and Edmonton, came to Talbot Church in February 1948. Work began in 1952 after the first sod was turned by Gordon McDermid. Ross Carroll was the youngest person in attendance that day. Putherbough Construction were the contractors and a model of the new church was presented on Christmas Sunday. At Dr. Fox’s suggestion, the new church was to be named “First”. He had the honour of laying the cornerstone in June 1953. The Salvation Army Band played for the occasion. Talbot St. building was sold to the Christian Reformed Church for $50,000. On March 21, 1954, the congregation said farewell to the Talbot St. Church; on March 28, 1954, services began in the present building. Three of the deacons at that time were Harley Mason, Jim Rivett and Wil Rice. The finished cost of the edifice was $475,000.

Here I wish to diverge a little by introducing a portion of Audrey Young’s diary written at the time. What follows is a direct quote:

“I take it that Dr. Archibald left Talbot St. in 1947 because an approach was made early in 1947 to the possibility of Dan leaving First Church, Edmonton to come to London. The Interim Minister was Rev. J. K. Holland of Toronto. The plans for a new church had been drawn up but were too ambitious for the church to attempt and I believe were scrapped and new plans later were drawn up by Mr. Bridgman as architect. There were many generous pledges made but Mr. J. K. McDermid had specified that the church must have $75,000 cash in the building fund before the property on the Richmond St. “V” was to be deeded to the church.

Mr. Young had had experience in church building as he was the minister of the Danforth Church in Toronto when the new church was built and in Edmonton when the North Edmonton Mission was built.
On Feb. 12/48 we came to London to meet the Pulpit Committee and had dinner at Mr. Mill’s home, Belva McKerlie’s father. (Dan stayed in London with Lida and Katharine Pratt before relocating the family; houses were very difficult to find after the war for a few years).

Feb. 3/50 Dan’s father died in Toronto and Dan asked that no flowers be sent as no one had even met him. But the deacons on the Sunday left baskets for a retiring offering in lieu of flowers. It amounted to about $100 and Dan decided that the church desperately needed new offering plates, and with that money and some of his own, he bought 8 beautiful offering plates and they and a new pulpit Bible were dedicated Aug. 1/50.

Oct. 24/52 Church meeting decided to go ahead with the new church as enough money was in cash and property deeded.

Nov. 16/52 Turning of First sod by Gordon McDermid. Bulldozers at work the next day. Putherbough given contract. After evening service, downstairs, “Reminiscences and Testimonies”:
Mr. McGill spoke on former ministers
Mrs. Fay spoke on women in the church
Mrs. Greenslade spoke on Lay leadership
Miss Alice Clark spoke on Sunday School and Young People’s Work
All very inspiring and wonderful. All sang “Blest Be The Tie That Binds”.

In the evening, BYPU, Alma Capes presided. The devotional was given by Elizabeth Foulkes, Pearl Blackwell, Alice Clark and Gerry McClure. Mr. Grigg, returned missionary from Burman, spoke, Howard Capes led the song service. Past Presidents, Vera Stewart, Jean Pearce and Muriel Ronson were recognized. A wonderful day for all of us.

March 26/54 Communion service in our new church (members invited by card) choir processed in new gowns.

March 28/54 Dedication and opening. Dr. Harold Cooke Phillips of Cleveland preaching. Putherbough Construction placed two huge baskets of white mums in the church….

I want to record the fact that Ed Wilkins personally underwrote the first loan on the church with Ontario Loan and Debenture (now Royal Trust) much to Mr. Young’s urging against it, having had experience with the Danforth Church along those lines. When we left to go to Peterborough in Nov. 59, the loan was down to around $11,000, well within sight, and the mortgage was burned early in Mr. Cummings’ ministry ……. I can’t say enough in praise of the women and men of our church the way they worked to get that first $75,000 and under handicaps galore.

When the church burned two years before, we were not ready to move. The men of the church redecorated the whole basement, working every night of the week for a month. Of course the sanctuary had to be done too, and the scaffolding cost $1,000 per day and it had to be done professionally but no better than our men did the basement …...

Dr. Johnston was Interim Minister until Mr. Ralph Cummings came about Easter 1960.

Re: Baptistry
It was Dan’s rule to go to the site before the workmen got there and also after hours, but only occasionally during working hours to talk to the building Sup’t. He and the workmen objected to Mr. McGill being around with his measuring stick and tape and climbing around. The men said, “That old man is going to fall because he climbs everywhere”. So Dan went after work this evening and found the baptistry had been poured with the stairs going straight up the middle. He talked it over the Bldg. Sup’t. and Mr. Wilkins and figured out a plan to have a panel of wood across the middle with a door at each end. Otherwise there would be a dripping spectacle after every baptism. At other churches the candidate came in from the left and went out by the right on the side. It would have cost a great deal to have ripped out the concrete. That is why the baptistry is like it is.
When I saw “Parlor” on the Ladies Parlour I said to Dan, “Don’t they know how to spell ‘parlour’”? But he said they were made in the U.S. and there was nothing we could do about it …...

I have heard many criticisms of Mr. McGill as church clerk and the way he insisted that things be done according to the constitution etc. but very few know that Mr. and Mrs. McGill gave their whole old age pension to the building of their church, and although Dan tried to get him to use it for a little bit of his own pleasure on a trip etc., they refused. The men working on the building used to condemn him for being a nuisance and always climbing round on ladders etc. They told Dan, “If that old man falls or is hurt in some way, it will not be our fault”. But you see, their life was the church. And maybe it was good for us to have a “gadfly” to keep us from becoming slipshod in our business meetings.”
Audrey Young

Youth Work
As the first century drew to its close in 1945, there were a number of organizations for children. There was a Junior Worshipers’ League, which developed into a Children’s Church under the leadership of Grace Williamson. There was a lively Mission Band – later to be taken over and run for twenty-five years, monthly, by Rhea Stewart. There was a Boy’s Brigade run by Tom Foulkes, a CGIT run by Vera Schott (Stewart) and an Explorers Group run by Ruby Shearer. Both the CGIT and Explorers groups enjoyed a long run, Hazel Rivett taking over CGIT, and a series of leaders, the Explorers. But the Boy’s Brigade gave way to the Trail Rangers which in turn gave way to the Cubs and Scouts, which we will deal with presently. All these groups, which were well attended, grew by leaps and bounds with the baby boom, and this was another reason for our needing better recreational facilities than a low-ceilinged basement with coal furnaces in two corners. How happy everyone concerned was to learn that we were to have a real authentic gymnasium with a good wooden floor, basketball hoops and a well-equipped stage at one end, and a beautiful big kitchen at the other!

The following section is authored by Shirley Parr.
The 65th cub pack was founded in 1954 with Mrs. Hilda Simmonds and Dr. Harley Mason the driving forces. Hilda Simmonds was our first Akela, with Harley Mason, Keith Batson and Shirley Parr as assistants. We chose the Dress Gordon plaid for our ties. Harley Mason went on to be our first Scout leader so we would have a scout troop for our cubs to fly up to. Cubs came to our pack from all over the city.

John Schram came in as an assistant and the Schrams kindly loaned us their summer cottage for our first weekend camp. This was an experience. The cubs were divided up into 2 rooms. During the night two cubs came in to Akela shouting “They’re coming through the walls”. We couldn’t imagine what or who, so we went in to see and sure enough they were coming through the walls. The Schrams were in the process of renovating, and some of the plywood wasn’t fastened too securely to the uprights and some cubs in the other room had managed to loosen one side of a board, squeeze through and raid the cubs in the room beside them. We tried to be serious but we did have some good laughs later. Another time someone put shaving cream instead of whipped cream on Keith Batson’s dessert.
When Hilda Simmonds gave up the leadership, she turned it over to another very qualified leader, Graham Parsons.

During both leaderships we had many wonderful times, bus trips, field trips, weekend camps, father and son banquets, church parades and parties. We participate din a composite weekend camp at Hermosa for several years, which included about 100 cubs from different Baptist packs in London and area. When Camp Sylvan was opened we began going there for a weekend camp to sleep in the covered wagons.
There were many invaluable assistants over the years that contributed much of their time and talents.

Our parents’ group was very active in helping us with banquets, camps, driving, fund raising and in many other ways.

There are 2 plaques on the wall in the gym that show the names of award-winning cubs. Each cub received their own personal shield to keep.
Our cub pack was active for about 25 years.
Shirley Parr, “Baloo”
Later the Scouts became “Sea Scouts” with Ken Carroll as their leader. And the boys spent many happy hours on Lake Fanshawe.

With the closing of both Talbot Street and St. Peter’s elementary schools we saw a great falling off of children from the neighbourhood. For some years we had some wonderful Vacation Bible Schools in cooperation with St. Paul’s and St. Peter’s, but this came to an end early in the 70s. Our neighbourhood was changing; instead of children there were seniors in high rises. If we were to reach out, these were the people to reach. In the spring of 1977, Edith Brunet organized a bus trip inviting any seniors who were interested to join at a nominal cost. In September the first meeting of what was to be called the Sunny Monday Club started. It has been in operation ever since with some of our own women and many from the neighbourhood attending weekly. At first, a few men came, but it soon became apparent that they preferred their shuffleboard and their own organization.
In the early 70s, Ruth McKenzie along with Don Holmes and Daniel Lundy organized the church library.

From a modest beginning it has grown to contain between 2000 and 2500 books, and now runs smoothly under the leadership of Nancy Alce. Since then Church Services have been taped each Sunday, except during the summer, and these, along with the recorders on which to play them are distributed to a number of our shut-ins. Special hearing devices for the use of those who need a little “boost” are available also, as well as an up-to-date sound system in the sanctuary.

The Sound System – Tika Roberts
After years of receiving complaints about the sound system in the church, numerous microphones, speakers, etc., were tried with varying success. Finally, in 1992, thanks to a generous bequest from the estate of Lila Baskette, a complete system, including a “Soundsphere” wireless hearing system, receivers and microphones was purchased at the end of 1992, and this seems to have solved most of the complaints.

In the autumn of 1978, Volume I, Issue I of the “first family forum” made its debut with editor Helen Figgures (now Mailer). This wonderful monthly newsletter has been produced ten times a year ever since. After several years as editor, Helen stepped down and the job was capably taken on by Diane Quartel and Nikki Attwell as co-editors. In 1994, at the end of June, they too resigned, but the little paper struggled along valiantly with Bev Glatt doing double duty as editor, compiler, typist, etc. recently, Helen Mailer has become the editor once again. This has been, and continues to be, a very efficient way of keeping the congregation up to date on the happenings within our church family and in the operation of church business.

Sometime in 1987 we were faced with the very real decision of whether to move our church family once again. We decided to stay put, and in the fall, joined “L.I.F.T.”, the London Innercity Faith Team as one of the founding members. From this has grown a cooperation with a number of downtown churches never before experienced.

With St. Paul’s, we actively participate in the Daily Bread program. With Dundas Centre United we collect clothing etc. for “The Good Sams” to be repaired, reworked and distributed. For Ark Aid we provide Sunday dinners a number of times a year. Currently much of the work centres on housing so desperately needed by ex-mental patients and others who are disadvantaged.
But, because we had decided to say at the Richmond V, it was apparent that an updating was needed.

The following, by Jean Buchanan, is the result of that need and the way it was met.
“A ribbon cutting ceremony and the dedication of an elevator and additional facilities open a new chapter in the history of First Baptist Church, London.
In 1954 when FBC was built, the new edifice was considered modern and more than adequate. Times change, buildings age, and people’s concerns are refocussed. So as to welcome and accommodate the physically disabled, the congregation has had built an elevator that makes accessible four levels in the church. Expanded washroom facilities, a modernized kitchen, and new parking areas also are part of the $325,000 reconstruction.

On the afternoon of 29 October 1989, the congregation met for the formal dedication. Joan Whitehead, moderator, welcomed the gathering, and ribbons were cut by Doreen Dinsdale and Ken Scoyne. Dr. Byron Fenwick brought greetings from BCOQ and Mary Lou Metras from London City Council. Architect Gail Lamb attended the service as did representatives from Tonda Construction and TCG Materials. The government of Ontario contributed $50,000 to the project; the remainder of the costs were borne by the congregation. Rev. M. Saunders led in a litany of dedication. The choir sang Faure’s Psalm 84, “How lovely are Thy dwellings”.

This event marks a reconsecration of the efforts and aspirations of the congregation of FBC.”

A word should be said about our stained-glass windows. When we moved from Talbot St., our one window came with us, the memorial to S.F. Wood. One little lamb at the top of the picture had to be left behind because of the shape of the available space, but otherwise it came intact to take pride of place on the north wall at the front of the chancel. Since then, every other spot has been filled, including two which are back-lit, so that now, thanks to the generosity of some members who chose this way to remember or honour loved ones, and to Edwards Glass which designed and installed, we have, according to good authority, one of the top collections of contemporary stained glass windows in the area. These beautiful illustrations of the life of Christ from the Annunciation to his enthronement are an inspiration to all who worship at First Baptist.

In 1994 it was realized that our chapel was not being used very much. By then it had two stained glass windows, “Christ in Gethsemane” and a “Last Supper” window along with brass candlesticks, a bench from the first church at York St., a lectern and chairs. The W.A. installed new lighting in memory of Evelyn Cornfoot, and the Riggs family installed an oak screen and grillwork inmemory of Mr. and Mrs. Earl Riggs. The chapel, now attractively set apart from the sanctuary, is an even better place for quiet prayer and reflection or very small weddings.

The Organ – Lynda Kennedy
The organ at First has quite an interesting history. The three manual pipe organ was originally built in 1920/21 by the very well-known organ builders, Casavant Frères, Limitée of St. Hyacinth, Quebec. This organ was known as the Maude Ferguson Memorial Organ having been purchased with a sizeable donation from the family of Maude Ferguson and an installation fund of $7,000 raised by the church. On Sunday, June 5, 1921 the organ was dedicated in the Talbot Street Church where the organ was then located. Mrs. Maude Ferguson had been an active promoter of music in the church and on her death the organ was deemed a fitting tribute. The organ was a welcome addition to the church and continued to enhance the worship service until a fire in the church on October 2, 1950 caused considerable damage. Salvageable parts of the organ were placed in storage until 1954 when the church moved to its present location. At that time the organ was reassembled and rebuilt. In 1969 the Principal Pipe Organ Co. of Woodstock was engaged to do a complete rebuilding of the organ. The “new” organ was dedicated on April 12, 1970. Since then the organ has functioned reasonably well and for the past few years has been serviced by Doddington and Doddington who work with Casavant organs. Of course, in time parts do wear out and while we have had only minor repairs in the past 25 years, we anticipate the need for another rebuilding of this historic organ in the near future.

Music Ministry – Lynda Kennedy
Choir Ministry – For as long as records have been kept on First Baptist Church, a choir has been an integral part of the worship service.

Many men and women have given of their time and talents by singing in the choir. What better way to show your faith in God but by singing praises to Him and for Him and always to the best of our abilities.

Bob and Lynda Kennedy have shared the role in leading the music ministry for the past twenty-five years. As well as weekly anthems, many major works have been performed including Mendelssohn’s “Elijah”, Handel’s “Messiah”, Rutter’s “Requiem”, Vaughan Williams “The First Nowell”, and Vivaldi’s “Gloria”, to name a few.

The standard and quality of music has always been high at First Baptist because of the strong commitment of our choir members who still continue to glorify God through their music.
Handbell Ministry – Handbells were purchased by Drew Davey in memory of Wilma Davey, and Ken Hayes in memory of Myrtle Hayes in the spring of 1988. A bell choir was formed in the fall of 1988 under the direction of Bonnie Neaves. She capably led this choir until the spring of 1993. In the fall of 1993, Bob and Lynda Kennedy reorganized the bell choir and formed two bell choirs – an adult bell choir and a youth bell choir. Both groups perform on a regular basis and have been a much-appreciated addition to the worship service.

Twenty-five years ago, our secretary was still using a manual typewriter. Today, if you visit the office you will find an up-to-date computer and copier and other equipment which graphically shows how much things have changed in the last quarter century. Our yearly budget in today’s dollar is about three-quarters of what the church cost to build just over forty years ago.
In 1989 our church government changed from Council to the Church Board with Commissions carrying out the work of the church, making recommendation to the Board for action. Following the lines of communication, business is transacted effectively with each member of the Board informed and part of the decision-making process.
Shepherding is a valuable link between members and our church. The membership is divided into groups of 12-15 families with a shepherd keeping in touch and caring for the flock.
Lay Visitation, the Ministry to Shut-Ins takes the church to members of the congregation unable to attend church.

Tele-friends Ministry is our most recent way of caring for persons who live alone and may be somewhat isolated from the community.

In 1937, Rev. P.P.W. Ziemann asked Margaret Scoyne, who was then our soloist, to go with him to Parkwood for a service. Margaret’s husband, Ken, went along to accompany her on the piano. Since then, for 58 years, a group from First has gone on a regular basis to Parkwood with Ken Scoyne, until this past year, the regular pianist. Currently, with Wil Rice in charge, and Alma Rice as pianist, a group conducts a Worship Service at Parkwood on the fourth Sunday afternoon of every month.

The Youth Work under Sheldon Dyck and his corps of volunteers continues to keep pace with changes in our society through specially tailored children’s, high school youth, college and university programs. Programming has consisted of socials, Bible studies, outreaches and serving projects. Some of these endeavors by our youth have included building a house with Habitat for Humanity in Tennessee and taking part in a week-long thrust of outreach with a national team in St. John, New Brunswick. Our youth have also been involved in local “Project Serve” and, through this and other projects, are meeting the needs of others. Students have been trained in leadership and have moved into important places of leadership in the overall youth ministries and Christian education of our church.

In recent years our leaders have become increasingly persuaded that we need to reach more effectively our downtown community. In September 1994, Mr. Mervyn J. Budd came to us as an outreach coordinator. Along with our youth minister, he has given leadership in the development of The First Connection, and early Sunday morning service which seeks to provide an alternative style of worship in a more casual setting.

Throughout our 150-year history our church has known a rich pulpit and pastoral ministry. Twenty-four men have served as senior ministers, four of them since our congregation moved from Talbot Street to our present location at 568 Richmond Street. The Rev. Dr. Daniel Young, who served as minister from 1948 to 1959, moved with our congregation to this location. The Rev. Dr. Ralph J. Cummings began his service as senior minister in March 1950 and served the church until 1971. He was followed by the Rev. Dr. Malcolm Harlow in 1972 and he served as minister until 1983. The Rev.

Mervin G. Saunders began his ministry with us as senior minister in the fall of 1984. The Rev. Cordell Lind served one year as youth minister from 1986-87. The Rev. Sheldon W. Dyck has served as youth minister since January 1988. Our ministers have sought to lead us in reverential services of worship and to preach the Word of God persuasively and in a contemporary idiom.

In 1992, after months of prayer and reflection, our congregation adopted a mission statement – “To Know and Reflect the God of Love”. We look forward to entering our next fifty years and the new millennium with faith, hope, and a strong love, and commitment to our Lord and our church as we strive “to know and reflect the God of love”.

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