Our Start: 1871 to 1969
Port Elgin United Church formed with the start of the United Church of Canada in 1926 with the amalgamation of the Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches. The first Port Elgin United Church remains on the corner of Mill St. and Bricker St. This building started out as the Presbyterian Church in 1870. The first services were held in the basement as the rest of the church was built. The first official service was in 1874.
The Congregation grew. In 1889 the church was expanded and in 1915 the building was renovated and a Karn-Morris pipe organ was installed. In 1926 the building became the Port Elgin United Church. In 1930 there were plans to build a new church. However, with the depression affecting the world, money was not available and the project was dropped. But the building continued to be upgraded. In 1932 the basement was improved by digging out about 1 foot (30cm) of dirt to lower the floor. This became the Sunday School location.
In 1962 St. Andrew's United Church in Saugeen Township united with the Port Elgin congregation. Many of those members or their children are now active members of our congregation. In 1968 the Evangelical United Bretheren Church joined the United Church and the local church joined Port Elgin United. (On a side note, if you look at the corner stone of the TD Bank on Goderich St. you will see the EV block. This was from their church.)
Building a Church House, Growing a Church 1970 to 1994
In 1970 Port Elgin United needed a new Church House for Sunday School and Offices. This was built across Mill St and remains there today with Ackert Insurance Brokers as residents. At that time there was some divergence of thought. Rev. Ross Cumming (our minister at the time) was not in favour of the project, but a majority of the Congregation voted in favour and so the plan went ahead. At that time it was felt that if a new church was needed, there was adequate room on the lot and that a new church could be built abutting the church house.
In the mid 1980s Rev. Gordon Williams arrived. The congregation grew. In the early 1990's the congregation started to have 2 Sunday services. The 9 o'clock service was very informal. Guitars and more modern music filled the basement. The 11 o'clock service was more formal with a choir.
Planning and Building Our new church 1994 to 1999
As the 1990's passed a growing sense of "we need a newer and bigger church" built up. Pledges were received and a consensus was slowly developed. The Congregation looked at available land and a vote decided on the current location. This beat out a smaller location on Highway 21 and the Mill St. Location. In 1996 at a very long and detailed congregational meeting (we still have a video of this meeting) a decision was made and a commitment made to start the new church.
The new church would all be on one floor, would be wheelchair accessible, would have kitchen and community activity centres and have all the office and other spaces needed to keep our church operational. Plans were drawn up, redrawn and redrawn again. Bruce Giles took the studies that had been completed in the 15 years leading up too the start of the project and starting in January of 1996 the structure committee started its work.
Planning a church of this size takes a lot of work and coordination. There were the following:
-Building Structure Committee
-Building Publicity Committee
-Office and Custodial Task Group
-Site Development Task Group
-Christian Education and Fellowship Hall Task Group
-Kitchen Task Group
-The Building Finance Committee
-Colour Coordinating Task Group
-Sanctuary and Music Task Group
-Communications Task Group
-Ministry and Prayer Group
Each group put in an incredible amount of effort to bring our dreams to fruition. A key aspect of the building is summarized in the following paragraph. "Port Elgin United Church has a proud history of inviting the community to utilize our facilities. Firstly, as a place of worship, and then as a place to meet or to socialize. This barrier-free facility was designed to serve many needs and uses. Hopefully the community will enjoy many cultural events in the Sanctuary, and physical activities in the Family Activity Centre. Our ancestors sacrificed to provide a place of worship that served our members and this community for well over 130 years."
On a more humorous note some aspects were difficult and in hind sight amusing. Originally the main entrance was to be on the North Side. Cold North winds are not very comforting on an entrance so the building was inverted with the Sanctuary and the entrance on the South side. This required a great deal of change to drawings and some cost, but it was the right thing to do. During construction people could "tour" the building. Once construction reached an acceptable phase each Sunday, after worship service Trevor and Audrey Ball prepared coffee and snacks and people looked at how the building was developing.
One of the final tasks in building the church was to put the steeple on top of the Sanctuary.
Living in Our Church 1999 to 2010
On June 02, 1999 we marched to our new church and moved in. We welcomed the new millennium and have settled into our church. Concerts, dinners, youth bands and many community groups used the Building and its Amenities. Port Elgin United Church had become Port Elgin's church. We were busy, focused and growing.
For 8 years we focused on paying off our church. All of our drive and initiative strove to complete this task. In 2008 we had a formal "Burning the Mortgage" ceremony (come and see the photo in the resource centre). Although we had completed the monumental task and we had clear title there was a loss of that common focus.
Our Minister of over 20 years let us know he planned to retire. We asked and he agreed to stay on for a little while longer. We hired a second minister and planned to grow in the future. However, times were catching up to us. A gradual decline in attendance and donations occurred. In 2009 Rev. Gordon, decided that it was time to retire.
Transition 2010 to 2015
In June 2010, our long time minister of 28 years retired. The 2010 Joint Needs Assessment Committee (JNAC) recommended (and congregation approved) that the pastoral relationship with our second minister be terminated without cause, and an Interim Minister be hired to lead us through a process of transition. In January 2011, a Transition Team was appointed and the Interim Minister started in January 2012.
By May 2012, the Transition Team had set five goals:
• Renew linkages to the United Church of Canada
• Seek ways to improve general communications within the church
• Promote a review of congregation governance
• Seek to expand the cultural appeal of the congregation by broadening the theological spectrum we accept and profess
• Engage the congregation in a dialogue that leads to increased understanding of our vision, mission and ministry
Over the course of the transition period, the church accomplished the following:
• In order to communicate with the congregation, the "Friday File" was created, and information is emailed to the congregation on a weekly basis
• As part of Governance review. a Pastoral Care Team was established following a workshop facilitated by Lorna MacQueen , Conference Minister – Faith Formation for Discipleship, Hamilton Conference, this was a significant change in role for leaders of the Church.
• A Governance Review Committee was established and our Board became a Council and meetings were streamlined.
• In order to engage the congregation, a Behavioural Covenant was developed for the church using a process entitled "Holy Manners", facilitated by Rev. Gerry Hofstetter, Zion-Amabel UC, Bruce Presbytery
• In order to engage the congregation, a History Day was organized for the congregation to develop a timeline and to help understand where we have come from
• In order to engage the congregation, an identity profile of our church was developed by the congregation to express who we are by characterizing the church as a person. The process followed the book "Who Is Our Church – Imagining Congregational Identity" by Janet R. Cawley. Please meet "Liz".
• A Stewardship Drive was held in September 2013, based on a process facilitated by Judith Johnson, Stewardship Consultant (former Minister for Congregational Support, Hamilton Conference)
• A series of "conversations" involving many in the congregation were held in small group meetings, mostly in people's homes, to share our vision for the church and discuss our mission and ministry
• Many of these activities involved re-establishing linkage and trust with the greater United Church of Canada.
• A new Mission Statement was drafted and approved.
• Most of the activities were conducted to promote an inclusive and accommodating church.
2015: A new minister joins PEUC. We have been blessed to worship under the guidance of Rev. Bonnie since 2015. In 2018 Rev. Bonnie announced her retirement. Her last Sunday leading worship for us will be June 23, 2019.
In 2018 our church formed a Joint Needs Assessment Committee and began the steps to find our next minister. To read the JNAC report please CLICK HERE. Currently we have a Search Committee in place and the search is on....