The History of Ontario Street United Church
The first congregation was Bible Christian in denomination. They formed a fellowship and built a little white church on Lot 85, Huron Street, the site of the present Baptist Church. Between 1877-78 under the Ministry of Rev. R. T. Courtice, a new church was erected on the present site. Between 1882 and 1885 the Pastoral Charge included Clinton, Turner’s and Alma. It had an outlook of broad perspective for it entered into union with the Methodist Church in Canada in 1884. In 1895 the District separated Turner’s and Alma from Clinton and joined them with Londesboro to strengthen this charge but this didn’t work out well for Turner’s and in 1905, after repeated requests, Conference joined Turner’s with Clinton.
Changes were to continue to take place. Additions were made to the Church in 1901 and 1906. A pipe organ was purchased and installed in 1909. When the question of Church Union of the Methodists, Presbyterians and Congregationalists came up in 1925, the congregation at the church of Ontario Street Methodist Church joined the United Church of Canada and took on the name of Ontario Street United Church.
At the back of the church, a shed for stabling horses was furnished with electricity, a clock and other necessities. The Parsonage was behind the shed on the corner of Rattenbury and William. In 1930 the cellar of the church was excavated and a new furnace was installed and the building renovated. In 1945 A. J. McMurray presented chimes. In 1948 the parsonage was sold and the congregation purchased a house at 128 Albert St. for a manse.
Ontario Street had two entrances until 1952 when a single front entrance was installed. In April of 1955 work began on removing the church shed to prepare for a new building, “The Christian Education Wing”. In May of 1955 a contract was signed to begin work on the new building and by the end of June the building was making good progress. The formal opening took place on November 27, 1955. In addition to the new wing the old basement was turned into classrooms. The new building contained a large Sunday-School auditorium, a Chapel to seat 75 people, a Choir Room, Kitchen, Church Parlour, Vestry and Washroom.
Opening this wing was the beginning of new activities. There were groups of boys at three age levels, two groups for girls, a Junior Choir and a Young People’s group. On Sunday there was Sunday-School, Nursery, Mission Band, Kindergarten, Nursery for Juniors, Chapel used for worship services. Junior Congregation, Quilters, Shuffle Board Club and the Men’s Club. The church became the social centre of the community. The Organ was electrified.
In the 1970's the manse, owned since 1948, was sold. For the first time in the history of Ontario Street Church it was without a manse and would pay a housing allowance to Rev. Lewis who built his own house doing much of the work himself. The minister was quite happy to be able to build and own his own home. Each succeeding minister expressed the joy of experiencing ownership of residence for the first time even with all its liabilities.
1978 was Centennial Celebration. A new electric pipe organ and glass doors were installed at the front entrance. New semi-circular pulpit area, sanctuary and gallery were carpeted as well.
1988 saw more changes. The foresight of the church committees led by the Board of Stewards pressed for the start and completion of the Access Project at ground level and an elevator was installed, washrooms refurbished as well as the adjoining lot purchased and paved for entrance and parking area. In 1989 a new program, the Summer Team program, began. This program offered summer camp work and Christian leadership development for teens.
1993-1994 – A new kitchen was renovated through bequests from the Fowler Estate and the Church parlour was redecorated.
1997-1999 – Stained glass windows were refurbished and reinstalled and the exterior of church was repaired.
1998 – Minister’s new office was relocated on main floor.
1999 – 120th anniversary celebration of the church. Voices United Hymn books were purchased for the congregation.
Probably the biggest and most important aspect of the 2000's was the inauguration of the “Unity Committee” in 2004. A dedicated group of people with their diligent and faithful efforts on behalf of the members of Ontario Street, Wesley-Willis and Holmesville brought together a shared worship and fellowship. We have greater numbers in the congregation, choir and Sunday-School. Planning, working together and new perspectives have enriched our faith and refreshed us.
June 1, 2006 Wesley-Willis and Ontario Street United Churches became one congregation and are now Clinton United Church.