January 1st is often a day of reflection on the year past and looking forward to what the new year will hold. Today, I am reflecting on not only one year but many years. Today, is a day of mixed emotions.
Today, at about 11 a.m. Knox United Church, Owen Sound will cease to exist as a place of worship. Since 1873, when the congregation of Knox Presbyterian moved into a brand new building, this building has been the church home for many. They had outgrown the frame building, several blocks away.
The congregation has its roots in a Free Presbyterian Church that was officially recognized in the village of Sydenham, as Owen Sound was then known, in 1846. That church became known as Chalmers' Church. In the early 1850s, changes were happening. Some left to establish a church below the hill. Some were likely not comfortable being part of the Free Presbyterian because they had been members of the Church of Scotland and as the community was growing in size, there were enough people to have an another place of worship for Presbyterians/Church of Scotland in the village. Amongst the folk of Chalmers, some wanted the church to be closer to the country as Chalmers had drawn people from the countryside. The ministers from Chalmers had also travelled to different parts of Grey County to provide the Sacraments.
In about 1855, Knox Presbyterian Church was formed and in 1857, the congregation of Knox moved to a frame building on Boyd's Street (5th Avenue East), which was located below the hill. Because of missing documents, the earliest records that I have found so far, that show the name Knox in existence were from 1863. The congregation outgrew the frame church building and thus the move to the present building in 1873.
The church building was enlarged in 1886 and a Sunday School wing added in 1908. Some structural changes were needed when the Casavant organ, opus 794, was added in 1919. It was dedicated to the memory of the soldiers from Knox who had paid the supreme sacrifice in the Great War.
For some people, they say it is just a building. The church is a people and that we shouldn't get attached to a building. I say it is like your family home. When you leave your home even if it is for a happy reason, it is still a change. You are leaving a place of many memories -- happy and sad.
For me Knox has been my church home all my life. Even when I went away to attend school and to teach in Northern Ontario for one school year, I never left Knox as a church member. The last few years, I have spent many hours in researching the church's history. I am a third generation member of Knox. Some have been a part of this church family as a fifth generation member.
Talk of amalgmations and closing of churches is not a new thing. Even when I was a teenager, some suggested that Owen Sound had too many United Churches (five in a city of less than 20,000 people). Some thought Knox should close back then. Owen Sound currently has four United Churches and in a couple of hours, there will be three. The large number was due to the formation of the United Church of Canada in 1925, some had been Methodists while others had been Presbyterian.
During the last couple of years, Knox has been looking at is options. On May 15, 2011, the congregations of Knox United and Division St. United both voted to amalgamate with each other. It was not to be a merger but an amalgamation. It has been compared to a marriage where there has to be give and take on both sides. Like in some marriages, one will go to live in the home of the other.
Since May, two committees have worked very hard to make this transition go as smoothly as possible: the Joint Amalgamation Committee (composed of members of both congregations and a representative of Northern Waters Presbytery) and the Joint Needs Assessment Committee [JNAC] (composed of members of both congregations and two representatives of Northern Waters Presbytery). I served on JNAC.
This morning, both congregations will begin their services in their own buildings. Part way through the service, both congregations will exit their buildings. Let's hope the weather will cooperate. Some special items from Knox will be carried down the street to the former Division St. building.
We will gather together outside and enter together into Georgian Shores United Church to conclude our time of worship. There will be a New Years Levee to follow with light refreshments.
On January 1, you also look ahead. We know the months ahead will be a time of adjustment for members of both former congregations. There will be times, we will say but we did it this way in my church. As in a marriage, you choose to honour traditions of your birth family but you also develop your own traditions. So it will be with Georgian Shores.
I am sure that some tears will be shed today as we say goodbye to our church building (I have shed some already this morning) but we look forward to new possibilities for service and worship with a larger congregation. May God bless this union and each one who will be part of it.
© 2011 Janet Iles