A QUAINT COUNTRY CHURCH WITH BIG CITY INTENTIONS!
St. John's Stevensville Untied Church may not look big from the outside, but it has a strong congregation and a wide reach. A number of programs and missions are run out of both the church itself as well as our Mission Outreach Center, called the Embrace Center, in downtown Fort Erie. Between those two locations, they support their communities in a variety of different ways, which can be read about throughout this website.
However, this page will focus a little bit more on where we came from. If you are interested in learning more, ask one of our Ministry Team for our small book of Vignettes (Historical Treasures, Present Programs and Future Hopes in Service to God -Rev. Brian Brown) which include the information shared here, along with much more!
*ANNOUNCEMENT: St. John's Stevensville United Church will be beginning a "Living History" project after the Easter Season (2023) to gather all of the memories and histories of the church as told by it's members. If you would like to be involved, or have suggestions/ideas, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Original Building
The building you see to the left is a painting of the original Union Church built in 1824 by artsist Eva Schwartentruber. It was established by 35 families who raised the necessary 28 pounds sterling to build a log church in Black Creek. We believe that this was the first Union Church in Canada. A union church was a model that included Mennonites, Quakers, Catholics, Gypsies, Jews, Evangelicals, Reformed and Lutheran members.
In 1834, a log church was built on the current site that was identical to the one left in Black Creek.
The original log church was replaced in 1861 by the now existing brick sanctuary. The original logs became floor joists and stringers and are still in use today. They can be seen through a small glass section at the back of the sanctuary (just ask someone to turn on the lights!). This is our way of showing how one generation continues to build upon another.
We discovered the original logs when we were renovating in 2006. Pulling up the floor revealed the beautiful beams, and our very own Bill Hartman knew exactly how to incorporate them into our current structure.
Next time you are in the sanctuary, ask someone to show you the beams. We have had a window placed into the floor, with it's own light, so that the original structures are visible.
The New Sanctuary
Over the years, the church started becoming a little more modern. We got a balcony, electric lights, gas heating, new stained glass windows, a steeple bell, etc. Then, in 1960, the fellowship hall was added. In 1984 we put in a study for the minister and then we doubled the size of the sanctuary in our 2006 renovations.
Doubling the sanctuary in the way that we did created an interesting product. Half of the room still has the original ornate tin roof that was popular when it was added in 1918. The front half of the room opens up to allow beautiful acoustic sound which reaches even to the very back.
The front part of the sanctuary also has wooden logs along the walls, as a nostalgic look at the original log-cabin look that the church began with many years ago.
Part of the sanctuary addition was the inclusion of the Table Rock Altar. This piece of Niagara history was installed so that equal amounts of the 7.6-tonne rock was usable both inside and outside. The inside portion of the altar is used in regular, weekly, services, while the outside portion is used for special services held in the "back chapel."
The congregation has been intentional in its inclusion of accessibility and functionality. The parking lot was expanded during the 2006 renovations and all of the rooms and entrances are accessible. The church is scent sensitive and tries its best to provide a peanut-free environment.
Across the street from our building is our graveyard.
The original log church was ministered by a rotating staff from the Lutheran, Reformed and Evangelical churches in the area. Therefore, many of the people resting in the graveyard now are from a variety of backgrounds.
Due to research and help finding documents, we know the stories of many in the graveyard. This includes the "Unknown Soldier" who was finally identified as Corporal Carrington from the Bedfordshire 16th Regiment.
Many of the oldest pioneer graves were beginning to deteriorate and so were carefully moved together in a line, visible from the road. Since then, they and all of the others, have been carefully cared after by the congregation of St. John's Stevensville United Church.
At the back of the graveyard, there is a small sitting area for those who wish to take a moment to remember their loved ones. It is an ideal location for quiet prayer and meditation.
In the future, this area will be expanded with a memorial tree sculpture.
The Morningstar Gallery
Off of the fellowship hall there is an art gallery, named after Bob and Katherine Morningstar. The gallery was added to the church under the idea that "Not all art is religious, but all art is spiritual."
Throughout the year, you can see artwork by local artists such as Gwen Plyley, Carl Beam, Richard Bedwash, Wilf Lowry, and many more. Some of these pieces are also on display at the Embrace Center located downtown Fort Erie.
Along with these artists, the Morningstar Gallery has been known to host art shows featuring work done by young artists in the region who are testing their artistic boundaries by sharing with their community.
If you would like to take a look at the artwork in the gallery, feel free to stop by the church whenever the office is open.