Baptist congregation active at the turn of the 20th Century
The Baptist Church has had a place in Creemore from its earliest history.
In the earliest days of Nottawasaga Township theological students spent summers preaching and gathering together worshippers of the Baptist faith.These students travelled on foot or in some cases on horseback. They were entertained in homes throughout the area and preached in schools or other unused buildings. Eventually they had five preaching stations in Nottawasaga and up to 1866 Creemore was one of them.
Rev. Alex McIntyre came as the first Baptist minister in the township and remained until 1869. The archival records tell us that Mr. McIntyre preached in both Gaelic and English.
The Creemore church which at first was just a small chapel was located in the vicinity of 177 Collingwood Street. The building had a seating capacity of 100.
Unfortunately there is very little information about the Baptists in Creemore between 1870 and 1900. What follows are gleanings from the Creemore Star up until 1930.
The Baptist congregation in Creemore was an active one at the turn of the twentieth century and by May 1907 they had purchased property on the north side of Wellington Street. The church was moved to this property. The renovation and enlarging of the building is best described by quoting a December 1907 newspaper.
“The Baptist Church, which during the past summer was removed, renovated, enlarged and otherwise improved was reopened for divine service on Sunday last. Rev. J. G. Brown, D.D., Toronto, Secretary of Foreign Missions, was the preacher for the occasion and gave three grand sermons to overflowing congregations, morning, afternoon and evening. The choir of the Stayner Baptist Church led the singing and left nothing to be desired in that line. They are a strong choir and sing well.
“The improvements to the church which consisted of bricking the outside, 20-foot extension with porch and neat tower, new stained glass windows, new ceiling, choir gallery, baptistry and room at the back of the pulpit cost $1,400. The collection on Sunday came within a few cents of $75, which, with the proceeds of the lecture on Monday evening leaves only about $300 of a debt to be provided for. The new location of the church on Wellington Street West makes it more convenient for the public and with improvements now mark and long step forward on which we congratulate both the pastor and the congregation.”
The serious business of preaching from the pulpit often resulted in reports in the local newspaper. For example, Rev. G. Brown gave a lecture on what was accomplished in India where he had been for seven or eight years. Another time the congregation brought in Rev. B. W. Merrill, General Superintendant of Sunday School work.
Pastor Emmons took the prize for outspoken remarks from behind the pulpit. Almost 100 years ahead of his time the congregations received “Hail Columbia” for using tobacco products. A few months later Pastor Emmons said he was no billboard and refused to announce from the pulpit any entertainment of a secular nature for which admission was charged.
One wonders what brought on his rant concerning women’s place in the world: the drive for women’s enfranchisement, perhaps. The paper reported, “If women who are thinking of becoming queens in the social and political life had heard Pastor Emmons on Sunday afternoon we think their minds would be changed considerably.”
A great deal of activity marked the Baptists of the early twentieth century. A Young People’s Union was formed. Entertainments were held. The little ones from the Mission Band were reported as excelling at recitations, dialogues and music. A garden party was held on the Baptist lawns one July. A large quantity of delicious edibles was enjoyed by the participants. The nearby tennis court was very popular as was the music provided by Lochie Coleman with his pipes and accompanying band.
On another occasion an evangelistic band of five young men from McMaster University attracted such a crowd that many were not able to get in. The addressed were “bright, brief and interesting and the music of the quartette and soloists were inspiring.”