Sunday, October 17th, 2021 is the 161st anniversary service of Kilbride United Church.
While many immigrants came from across the sea to our area for adventure, others came with a hope of a better future. They all understood that to make a living here it would require a lot of work. Many came without family. Many came without personal belongings. Most came with their faith in God.
I would hazard a guess that one of the items that they would bring with them would be their family bible. Not only would it provide spiritual writing, it would also provide them with a connection to family history with names, dates and occasions preserved on the back pages.
We know there was a need to gather and share their faith. Early missionaries and circuit preachers made use of homes, schools and any available buildings to offer a place for people to gather and hear the sermons. Many came and some even walked for miles to come.
Religious gatherings have been documented in Lowville in the 1830s. We know that in our area we had Presbyterians by the 1850s, and about the same time, the Bethel Chapel and Cumminsville Bible Society had been established. In 1860, the Zion Methodist Church, our Church, was built to serve our community. And the people came. They came to celebrate their faith together, hear the sermons, provide religious teachings for their children through a very active Sunday School, celebrate the joining of lives, the baptism of their children, and for comfort and to say goodbye to their loved ones in death.
Not only did the Church serve their spiritual needs, it also served the social needs of the citizens. Ladies Aid later known as the Women’s Association had so many members that there were both AM and PM groups.
Garden Parties, tea meetings, musical concerts, St. Patrick’s supper, the Young Adult Club are just some examples. Early records also talk about the Epworth League, Tuxis Square, Mission Circle and of course CGIT – Canadian Girls in Training, all designed to keep the young folk engaged in the Church while learning life skills.
The Church also supported, and still does, the community in many ways as it did in 1967 when the Church ladies provided food and refreshments of the multitude of people who searched for Marianne Schuett.
The Church was the home base for the Kilbride Chronicles, garage sales, bake sales, bazaars, community dinners and even karaoke. Many migrant workers that we rely on to work and harvest our fields have enjoyed a meal and fellowship at the migrant worker dinners. Seniors have enjoyed lunch and a social time with friends and neighbours. The Church hosted two historic film nights and the first walking tour of Kilbride bringing all the community together. Today it is the home base for the Kilbride History Group.
Reflecting over the last 161 years, Kilbride United Church has continuously supported both the spiritual and social needs of the community. Today, more than ever, we know the importance of just being visible or heard in the community.
How many villagers have commented on the Church bell being rung every Sunday morning during this pandemic? In some ways it is very comforting, letting all know that we are here. We are still here. We hope that they all know everyone is welcome.
Let us continue to ring that bell. Let us continue to support the needs of our congregation, our neighbours and community. Let’s pray that we have another 161 years.
Contributing Author: Helen Callaway