The first definite step toward the formation of the Egerton Street Baptist Church was taken on September 18, 1904, when a meeting was called after the regular morning service of Adelaide Street Baptist Church to grant letters of dismissal to thirty-five of its members to form, if possible, the Egerton Street regular Baptist Church.
This action was completed on September 25th of the same year when a Council representing the Middlesex-Lambton Association voted unanimously to fellowship the newly organized church. It was to be known henceforth as Egerton Street regular Baptist Church.
It is worthwhile to note, however, that while this was the date on which the church was constituted as such, it was not, by any means, the beginning of the fellowship of that congregation.
The earliest beginning of the work dates back to the year 1887. It was in the Spring of that year that two young men, Mr. Robert Nesbitt and Mr. Thomas Hawkie who were members of Adelaide Street Church, started a Sunday School in a small frame building on South Street. It was here that the Egerton Street work really originated.
The work grew rapidly under the enthusiastic direction of the young men and their helpers. On January 2, 1887, it was recognized as a Mission of the Adelaide Street congregation and a committee was formed to work with the young men in directing and encouraging the new cause. The committee consisted of Pastor Johnson, A. J. Watson, George Benson, Edward Bradwin and George Palmer, together with the young men who had started the Mission. This committee was to report from time to time to the Adelaide Street Church congregation. The first difficulty of the new work arose in 1891, when some Methodist brethren working in the Mission felt that it should be a Community work rather than a Baptist Mission.
An agreeable settlement was reached, and the Baptist group moved farther east, renting a building from Mr. H. McConnell on Egerton Street, just south of Hamilton Road. This was in July, 1891. Mr. R. H. Sanders was appointed Superintendent of the Mission in its new home.
At this time Squire Harry Edwards living near the McConnell home was a tower of strength to the small cause. His home was always open to the congregation for committee meetings, prayer services and Sunday School work. The constant prayer of this good man was that the "Lord will establish a church in this place". Mr. Edwards with other Baptist pioneers rests in the Dorchester Baptist Cemetery.
It is good for us, who carry the load in these days, to remember that only out of much prayer and great sacrificial effort was this work born. We do owe a great debt to those who saw the vision and accepted the challenge of the church in years gone by. On this our Fiftieth Anniversary we pause to pay a special tribute to their memory.
In 1893 the name of the Mission was changed from South Street Mission to Egerton Street Mission and the following men were appointed a committee to be in charge: Messrs. G. F. Robertson, H. Edwards, Geo. Gould, H. McConnell, W. D. Edwards, Robt. Hawe, R. H. Saunders, Wm. Marchall, Wm. Angus, A. E. Brown, and W. H. Watson.
By the end of the year it seemed fitting to the committee that a lot should be purchased and a building erected to give permanent character to the Mission. Accordingly a recommendation was made to the Adelaide congregation to this effect. It was agreed to purchase a lot and erect a building, "providing the endeavour should not exceed six hundred dollars".
Some opposition was experienced from the parent church to assuming any further financial responsibility for the expansion program, with the result that five men volunteered to accept the trust and responsibility for purchasing the lot and erecting the building. These five of noble memory were, Mr. Harry Edwards, Mr. Geo. Robertson, Mr. William Gurney, Jno. Catling and Jas. De Wolfe. All honour belongs to the memory of such men who had sufficient faith of God and in the future of the Church of Jesus Christ that they became surety for this building commitment. Truly the Egerton Street Church has been born out of faith and sacrifice.
It is interesting to note that the new property was never deeded to the Adelaide Street Church as some members felt the venture hardly warranted the financial outlay. The deed was made to the trustees of the new Mission, being the five men before mentioned. Surely we can feel that God was abundantly justified their faith.
The new building was finished and was opened by a special service on September 10, 1893. Pastor J. Mickell preached the sermon and commended the new cause to God and the faithfulness of His people.
So well did the congregation justify the faith of its five trustees that the year 1894 closed with all financial obligations met, all expenses cleared and a balance of twenty-eight dollars left on hand.
Sunday School attendance continued to increase so that by 1895 over one hundred scholars and teachers were in attendance. Congregations filled the building both morning and evening. So encouraged was the congregation that it was decided to enlarge the building. In 1899 this was done at a cost of one hundred dollars and much free labour. The cost was met by one offering at the conclusion of the job.
For some years the congregation worshipped in this building standing where the present parsonage now stands.
As we have already stated, it was agreed on September 23, 1904, to recognize the Mission as a church to be known henceforth as the Egerton Street Baptist Church.
On Sunday, September 25, 1904, the new church having received its charted, members entered into the following covenant that is still the basis of our fellowship:
|"We the undersigned constituent members of Egerton Street Baptist Church, London, Ontario, do herewith solemnly agree to accept and practise the rules and principles set forth for churches as in the New Testament, and we pledge, moreover, by God's grace that we will, as members of this church, endeavour sincerely to live in harmony with the articles of our church Covenant and Constitution."|
As a matter of interest we record the names appended to that initial statement of allegiance and faith. They are as follows: Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Grigg, Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Gould, Miss W. Gould, Mr. Geo. Graham, Miss Ethel Dennis, Miss Annie Maine, Mr. and Mrs. R. Hawe, Miss D. Hawe, Miss M. Pierce, Miss Ida Bourne, Misses Bertha and Ethel Dean, Miss M. Roberts, Misses B. and M. Roberts, Mr. Chas. Roberts, Mr. and Mrs. A. Sharratt, Mrs. T. Fitzsimmons, Mrs. G. Pratt, Mr. E. McConnell, and Mr. W. Meecham.
Of this number only one remains a member of the congregation to this year of 1954, Mr. Geo. Graham. Two others are living but not resident of our city.
The following letter sent by Mr. W. Meecham, the church clerk, on behalf of the congregation, tells the story of the first call issued by the newly constituted church.
|To Rev. G. E. Trauter|
|October 23, 1904.|
|Dear Sir and Brother:
I am pleased to inform you that a unanimous call was extended to you to become our pastor. We sincerely hope that you may be led to accept.
The consideration is to be five hundred dollars per annum.
Circumstances may warrant our increasing this amount later but at present many special needs demand our attention.
|On behalf of the Church,
It says much for the unworldly spirit of the Rev. Trauter that he accepted the charge. Small salary regardless, he began his work in November, 1904.
It says something also for the spirit of the congregation that the promised raise was made in July, 1905. Extra chairs were purchased also for the increasing congregation, and after one year of existence the church became self-supporting.
In October, 1905, it was decided to purchase the block of land south of the church building that is the lot where the church now stands.
The ground whereon our church stands was purchased in 1905 for the sum of $400.00 (four hundred dollars).
Rev. Trauter resigned in 1906. He was succeeded by Rev. A. J. Bowen who served until 1910. Rev. W. G. Steves was minister from 1910 to 1913. Rev. W. C. Riddiford began his ministry on March 1, 1913.
With the continual increase of the congregation the necessity for a larger building was felt by all.
In 1911 a resolution had been passed by the Deacons' Board as follows:
|Whereas the Lord has seen fit to bless this church so that it is too small to accommodate the congregations of today, and whereas the Sunday School has grown beyond all proper accommodation, be it resolved that we do our utmost to raise funds for a new church building, and that it be begun not later than May 1, 1912.|
|THE DEACONS' BOARD.|
This resolution was adopted by the congregation and a "building fund" was established. On the 28th of May, 1913, a committee was appointed to canvass the congregation for funds and pledges to finance a new and larger church. So enthusiastic was the response that on September 21, 1913, the contract for the new building was let to Hyatt Bros. On October 20, 1913, the cornerstone of the new church was laid. The new building costing approximately $21,000 was ready for services in the Spring of 1914. On Sunday, June 14, 1914, the Rev. W. A. Cameron of Toronto preached morning and evening at the opening services. A week of special activity concluded with Rev. J. J. Ross of the Home Mission Board preaching on Sunday, June 21.
In 1914 the First World War started and in 1916 the Rev. W. C. Riddiford resigned to become Chaplain of the 142nd Battalion.
On September 1, 1916, the Rev. A. C. Bingham commenced a most fruitful pastorate in the Egerton Street Church. Many baptisms and additions to the church marked his ministry. Sunday services were largely attended and the Sunday School had top attendance in one year of 356. A B.Y.P.U. with an average attendance of 75 was formed. It was during this time that Mr. Charles Geer was licensed to preach the Gospel and later entered the Baptist Ministry.
On Saturday morning, February 7, 1920, there commenced a fire that burnt the beautiful new church almost to the ground.
The congregation rallied with such zeal and determination that by the end of the year over $5,000 had been raised for a new church to be built and on December 5, 1920, the re-opening services of the rebuilt church were held with Rev. R. White of Brantford as the special speaker. God greatly blessed the congregation after this and congregations and Sunday School were the largest the church had yet known.
Two outstanding classes were carried on in the Sunday School at this time - a Young Men's Class, "The Invincibles", led by Mrs. Geo. Graham and a Young Ladies' Class led by Mr. Graham. From the men's class at least two entered the ministry, Mr. Earl Hooper and Mr. Chas. Geer.
In 1922 Rev. Bingham resigned and was followed by Rev. A. E. Burgess who had a most fruitful ministry of five and a half years. Rev. J. H. Olmstead was called in November, 1927, and served with real distinction for ten years. Much good work was done during Rev. Olmsted's ministry among the young people and also with the Indians of the Muncey Reserve.
Rev. P. D. Cameron followed as pastor in 1937. A fund for the interior redecoration of the church was begun under his leadership and many new members were brought into the church. Mr. Cameron left in November, 1940. In January of 1941 a call was extended to the Rev. S. E. Larman of Bethany Church, Toronto, to become pastor.
Rev. Larman accepted and began his ministry in February of 1941. During Rev. Larman's ministry the church interior was redecorated. The dedication services for the redecorated church were held on September 14, 1941, with Rev. T. Frears of Guelph preaching. Many new members were brought into the fellowship of the church during the ministry of Rev. Larman. It was during Mr. Larman's ministry that two of the mortgages on the church were liquidated. A fine work also was done among the men of the church. Mr. Larman resigned in May, 1945, to enter the United Church ministry.
On September 2, 1945, the Rev. E. A. Pinkerton, who had served as chaplain with the R.C.A.F., began his ministry at Egerton Street. Rev. Pinkerton did an excellent work setting forth by precept and example the Gospel of Christ. A final mortgage was liquidated during Rev. Pinkerton's ministry. A new floor was laid in the Sunday School Hall and the church rewired at this time. Rev. Pinkerton concluded his ministry in October, 1950.
In this year of our Fiftieth Anniversary, 1954, we celebrate the fact that we have redecorated our church building and Sunday School both interior and exterior. We have built at the rear of the auditorium the fine Nursery and Fellowship Room and also installed a new heating system. The Dedication Service for the redecorated church and other improvements was held on Sunday, September 26, 1954, with the Rev. E. A. Pinkerton, bringing the message to us.
Much has been achieved by this congregation across the years. Through all the experiences of achievement and of discouragement God has blessed the work. We are grateful for all that has been done and all who have come to know Jesus Christ through the ministry and fellowship of Egerton Street Church. Yet we feel that much more remains to be done. We humbly ask the aid and guidance of God's Holy Spirit to make a worthy witness in this community unto the saving power of the Son of God in years to come, so that they of the future will be as thankful for us as we are for all those who have gone before us.
The Anniversary Services for this Fiftieth Year will be preached by Rev. W. A. Cameron of Toronto, who preached forty years ago at the opening of the new building.
May the rich blessing of God rest upon all who have shared. the faith and fellowship of this church and upon all who will yet be part of it.