Monday, January 31, 2011

Norfolk United marks 175 years of worship

Rob O'Flanagan/Guelph Mercury photo

GUELPH January 31, 2011 — Rob O’Flanagan, Guelph Mercury staff - A Guelph Civic Museum display that opened Sunday launched a series of events that will mark Norfolk Street United Church’s 175th anniversary.

The church, which began as a Methodist congregation back in 1836, is the third historic church in Guelph to reach the milestone.

The stately limestone structure that rests at the corner of Norfolk and Cork streets in downtown Guelph was constructed in 1856, and is inscribed “Wesleyan Methodist Church” above the front entrance.

Three display cases in the museum hold artifacts from the church’s storied history — a history that included a strong connection to prime minister Lester Pearson. His father, Rev. Edwin Pearson, was a Methodist minister at the church between 1917 and 1921. Lester was a young man at the time.

A patterned communion cup, a wedding dress and a Sunday school record are some of the intriguing items on display at the Civic Museum. The exhibits were compiled by guest curator Ken Russell from the church’s archives and the museum’s collections. He spent about a year on the project.

“The church became a United Church in 1925,” Russell said during an opening at the museum Sunday afternoon. “The Presbyterians, the Congregationalists and the Methodists all decided that they needed to combine. Not all the Presbyterians came along. About two-thirds of them came, and that’s why we have St. Andrews Presbyterian and Knox Presbyterian churches here in town.”

With that merger, the United Church became second only to the Roman Catholic Church as the largest Christian denomination in Guelph, he added. During the early years when the church was Methodist, about 6,000 people were the full story at the Guelph Mercury