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A Brief History of Wesley United Church
- The Highlights -

  • Notre Dame de Grace a new Montreal suburb
  • Forming a new Wesley congregation (1913-1917)
  • The First Wesley United Church is built (1918-1925)
  • Building the Definitive Wesley Church (1926-1931)
  • Wesley during the Great Depression (1932-1938
  • Wesley during World War 2 (1939-1948)
  • Transitional Years (1949-1959)
  • The Years of Decline (1960-1984)
  • Renewal and Betrayal (1985-1996)
  • The Wesley Heritage and Committment (1997-2004)

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FORMING THE WESLEY CONGREGATION: 1913-1917

In January 1913, a group of Methodists headed up by the Rath, Reid, Martin and Lee families asked their minister at Westmount Methodist Church for assistance in opening up a mission in NDG. Rev. W.E. Baker agreed to the request and the first prayer meeting was held at the home of W.J. Rath at 70 Draper Avenue, continuing every Thursday evening. Montreal Conference was approached with an eye to opening up a new charge.

On July 12, 1913, the first Wesley Church service was held at the home of Stewart McConnell at 307 Clifton Avenue (no #2353). With membership reaching 18, a tent was obtained and erected at the northwest corner of Sherbrooke and Melrose on land borrowed from a church member. Under the auspices of newly appointed student minister A. S. Doggett, the tent served through the late summer and early autumn until October when a storm blew it away during the night. The small congregation then met for their Sunday services in the Melrose Hardware Store, owned by J. B. Staton, a member.

Realizing that Wesley's situation was desperate given the onset of winter, the Extension Board of the Methodist church lent the congregation a portable wooden building. Arriving in sections on the same property at the northwest corner of Sherbrooke and Melrose, George Homer, a superintendent of the Steel Company of Canada arranged his holidays so that he could supervise the erection of the portable church in time for Sunday services. Everything was ready, and a worship service was held on November 23. On December 1, 1913, the name of Wesley Methodist Church was officially chosen.

Winter was difficult in the small temporary church, with no running water, very cramped quarters, hot seats by the stove and cold seats near the walls. Stewart McConnell was the first superintendent of Wesley and together with his family did much to build up an impressive Sunday School in the early years. He died in 1918 and a plaque in the current sanctuary commemorates the work of this pioneer.

Winter gave way to spring, however, and in June, R.W. Armstrong, a new student minister was welcomed. By the fall of 1914, the Official Board launched a financial campaign to secure property for a permanent building. The congregation raised $2,360 and land was purchased at the northwest corner of Draper and Côte-Saint-Antoine road. The cost of the land, however, was about $5,000. R.J. Rath, first treasurer of Wesley, pledged the remainder as a loan.

The Great War broke out in 1914 and 13 young members of Wesley answered the call. All but two returned. Samuel L. Robinson and Stanley Black are inscribed on a memorial plaque in the sanctuary along with the others. In 1915, the Rev. F.J. McClement, Wesley's first ordained minister, arrived. By 1916, the church had 119 members on its rolls. Soon it would be time to build.

Why Wesley?

Wesley United Church began as Wesley Methodist Church
on July 12, 1913 when the first Wesley Church service was held.

For a history and background of the Methodist Church

When the United Church of Canada was inaugurated on June 10, 1925, Wesley Methodist Church became Wesley United Church. This merger—negotiated and planned over more than twenty years— united in Canada three prominent Protestant denominations: the Presbyterians, the Methodists, and Congregationalists.

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