Ebenezer United Church, Nassagaweya
When most people hear the name Ebenezer, their thoughts turn to Ebenezer Scrooge, the bitter old miser in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Scrooge has come to embody the very soul of greed, of what Christians ought not to be about.
And yet, long before Ebenezer ever became attached to Scrooge, the prophet Samuel used Ebenezer to name a memorial stone on behalf of the nation of Israel. God had delivered Israel out from under the mighty hand of the Philistines, and Samuel named a stone Ebenezer as a marker meaning, 'Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.' (I Samuel 7:12)
Thus, this pioneer church, in a land rich in rock and challenge, was named.
Ebenezer - 'Stone of Help'
Ebenezer United Church is rich in tradition. Founded in 1823, it is likely the first congregation to meet in Nassagaweya. The pioneers held Methodist Services, conducted by travelling circuit preachers, in the home of William Trudgeon. Thomas Demorest and Rowley Heyland travelled the circuit (about 10 townships) as ministers from the United States Methodist Conference, preaching every two weeks in the Trudgeon home.
Rowley Heyland had a twin brother who sometimes took his place. One time one of the brothers got lost in the bush between here and Acton. "And after wandering a long time, came across a small clearing with a haystack thereon, where he lay down to rest himself and, falling asleep, he caught cold from which he never recovered."
In 1832, the Trudgeons donated land for the log church. "It had a shingle roof and ceiling inside, well-chinked. Long planks on wooden blocks served as pews." This church served as the local school until 1846.
In 1847, a frame church was erected on the east corner of the present cemetery. A 15' x 30' addition in 1879 included a central entrance, two classrooms, and a gallery. Two box stoves provided the heating, and lighting was by oil-burning bracket lamps. The siding from this church is the wainscoting of today's church, and the pews became the window ledges. The Choir sat in the West corner of the front, with the organ. The South front corner had pews facing the side of the pulpit. The penitent rail was important (especially for the revival meetings).
An orchestra accompanied the choir - John Easterbrook, bass violin; Thomas Easterbrook, clarinet; George Easterbrook, flute; and George Norrish with his violin. For tea meetings and special services, Mr. Norrish would bring his melodeon and 'play for the edification of the congregation.'
In 1892, the Church acquired new land and erected sheds. The sheds were sold in 1960, thus making space for our parking lot.
The present church was constructed in 1915. The $10,000 budget was fully covered without a mortgage. Building: $8,600. Interior equipment, fence & sidewalk: $1,400.
The laying of the cornerstones on May 24th was the social event of the year with attendance of 1,000 people recorded by the Acton Free Press. Seven cornerstones were laid, by members of the church and local residents, to symbolize our traditions within the community.
- Rev. Jeffries of Oakville, age 92, who had been pastor from 1859-60.
- Rev. Easterbrook of Burlington, commemorating the first log church of 1832.
- Mr. Gundy of Toronto, commemorating the Frame Church of 1847.
- Judge Elliott of Milton, a stone etched with AD 1915.
- Mrs. Carter of the Ladies Aid Society & wife of the pastor. She was also the unofficial building contractor throughout the building process.
- Duncan Campbell, Reeve of the Township and Warden of the County (a Presbyterian) to remind people of their responsibility to community and church.
- Frank Sayers, who owned a sawmill on 5th Concession, the stone etched with May 24th.
Through the years, many changes have occurred - the installation of the magnificent Edward Lye Pipe Organ in 1950, and the replacement of the coal furnace with oil in 1960. The well was also drilled in 1960 and the kitchen was built in 1961/62. In 1968, the basement floor was laid.
In 1925, Ebenezer Methodist Church became part of The United Church of Canada at the time of church unification.
Until 1906, Sabbath School was held in the afternoons with an attendance of about 100. From 1860-1932, Sabbath School was offered 12 months of the year. In 1965, the rolls showed 90 enrolled, with an average attendance of 70.
The Ladies Aid Society started in 1832. With unification in 1925, it was renamed the Women's Association and, in 1962, became United Church Women.
In 1991, a significant and exciting change occurred. Recognizing the needs of our developing area and the opportunity for outreach, the members dedicated a 5,000 square foot addition. The Corner Stone, dated 1991, was fashioned from a portion of one of the original corner stones, covered in the construction. The corner stone was ceremoniously laid by Audrey Kitching, Henry Weideman, Eli Daigle, and Rod Blair. Time Jars rest behind the stone.
The 'Stone of Help' and Commemorative Plaque dedicated at the 175th Anniversary service rests over a Time Capsule for future generations. Members and friends of Ebenezer provided special items - photos, articles, letters, and memorabilia - for inclusion in this capsule.
Ebenezer is called today to serve, in the pioneer tradition of nearly two centuries ago, as a gathering place for people and families. The first congregation was symbolic of faith and hope among the hardships of their new land. Today our Community faces pressures similar to many rural areas in transition and our families face challenges different from those of our ancestors - new, but not necessarily any easier.
Ebenezer remains a symbol of faith and hope
… a Stone of Help.