St. Paul’s United Church in Richmond

May 12th, 2017 | By | Category: This Is Your Church

By Rev. Carla Van Delen

Each week in our worship bulletin you will find these words: “All are welcome here. Regardless of your past, your present or your future, if you are seeking community and desiring to learn and walk the Way of Jesus, you are welcome here. Let us journey together.”

St. Paul’s United Church in Richmond Ontario has a long history of offering safe harbor for those that seek healing and support in the midst of the storms of life. This faith community is known for dreaming big and trusting where the Spirit is calling them to be and do in their community. Over our history, there are some that might have argued that we have gone out on a limb for what we believe in. But, we would argue that following the Gospel message of compassion and radical hospitality has always required those that are willing to risk themselves for something greater.

The roots of this community of faith stretch all the way back to 1820 with its first preacher of the Good News, the Rev. Ezra Healey. Healey was a saddleback preacher, a minister who rode a horse and sometimes trekked cross country with mud to his knees when no road was in existence. Our first minister risked life and limb as he preached in the homes of the faithful stretching from modern day Merrickville to Hull.

The Richmond Circuit was formed in 1827. Early Methodists held their services in their homes but, in 1846, a small chapel was built and later the church became Wesleyan Methodist. In 1877, the members of Wesleyan Methodist decided to build a beautiful larger church for what was considered a small fortune in its time –   $3,000 –  where the present Masonic Hall on McBean Street now stands.

In 1900, when the Wesleyan Methodist church was destroyed by fire, the McElroy family  sold the congregation the lot on which the current church building stands at 3452 McBean, for $350 dollars. The corner stone for our current church was laid on July 26, 1901 and can be seen today above our elevator when you enter the church building.

Our Methodist ancestors trusted in the dream of a unified Christian church when they and a number of other denominations came together in 1925 to become the United Church of Canada. At the time, the Richmond Methodist Church, with a membership of 103, became St. Paul’s United Church.

Over the years, our building has been expanded and renovated to suit the needs of our   growing church family. In 1965, the 200-member strong church decided that more space was needed so additions were added. Eight years later, on May 6, 1973, a mortgage burning ceremony took place.

In 1983, this congregation took the leap and bought their share of the manse from their sister point of Stittsville United and then embarked on a journey by becoming a  single point charge in 1991.

Some very determined and energetic people went out on a limb when, in 2002, someone suggested that the church should start making pies to raise money for an elevator to make St. Paul’s more accessible to all worshippers and users of the church building. Since that day, you can drop by the church on most Tuesday mornings and find the Pie People rolling pastry and filling pie shells. Why not just drop by and ask for Isabel.

St. Paul’s continuity strives to discern the call of God in the wider community and so, over the years, we have been involved with sponsoring refugees from Vietnam in the 1970s and with the current effort to bring a Syrian family to the Ottawa area.

Someone surely was moved by the Spirit when they decided that in order to provide space for the Richmond Food Bank, the church could live without a second bathroom.  For over 15 years the Richmond Food Bank has offered hope and food from a space not bigger than a small walk-in closet. Food packed in crates for the food bank has been known to find its way under the pews in the sanctuary when the Food Bank runs out of storage space.

There is always something going on at St. Paul’s: whether it is Spiritual Explores, Book Club, UCW (United Church Women), pie making or our new venture Messy Church for young families.

The saints of this church for over 189 have dared to follow Jesus in the best way they knew how. They have sacrificed and been willing to look silly and foolish when it would have been easier to choose another perhaps safer path.

We are a church family that is always listening and willing to explore the nudges of the Holy Spirit wherever that may take us.

Together, I can’t wait to see where we will go next.

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