KAGAWONG—St. Paul’s on the Hill United Church, which was constructed in 1881, has had a long history and been an important part of the community of Kagawong and Billings Township, held its closing service and decommissioning this past Sunday.
“As we gather for worship, let us acknowledge with solemn joy God’s gift of this place, remembering with gratitude all who have worshipped here, the faith professional at this font, the gospel proclaimed from this pulpit, the assurance received at this table,” said Reverend Joshua Kang. “The time has come for this congregation to celebrate the ministry that we have shared in this congregation and to decommission and leave this building. It has been dedicated for the ministry of God’s Word and Sacraments. It has provided refuge and comfort for God’s people. It has served this household of faith. It is fitting, therefore, that as we take our leave of this, our faith home, the St. Paul’s on the Hill United Church, we lift our hearts in thanksgiving. Let us also reaffirm our faith in our sojourning God as this building is now transferred to other uses. That which we have receive d from God let us now return to God with thanksgiving.”
Rev. Kang welcomed everyone to the service .“Good afternoon, thank you all for coming to this closing service for St. Paul’s on The Hill United Church. A closing is another beginning,” he said.
Billings Mayor Austin Hunt said, “we hope the church building carries on in another capacity. It has a great history. We are very grateful to have had this building in our community all these years.”
A history of the church was presented by Jacqueline Gordon as part of the service. “Well, here we are at the end of era,” she said, noting some of the early history she provided came out of Elda Burt’s book on Kagawong and Ice Lake.
“Earliest church services were conducted in the various homes of the church members and the school house. Mr. Hugh McKay, a Presbyterian missionary was stationed at Gore Bay, Manitowaning and Kagawong for a short time after the first settlers came.”
Ms. Gordon explained that the Henry brothers, “founders of Kagawong, gave the land and material for the church building on the condition that it was to be deeded to the Methodist but for use for all Protestant denominations. It was established in 1881 on Lot 28, Concession 15 Billings Township. It wasn’t until the fall and winter of 1883-1884 that the inside work was completed and the building was dedicated June 29, 1884.”
“The Anglicans held their services in the morning and the Methodists in the afternoon,” said Ms. Gordon. “They had a joint Sunday School and Bible Class and at that time the building was called the Henry church.”
“With the deaths of both the Henry brothers in 1882, it had a great bearing on all the happenings in the Kagawong area at that time, especially the erection of the church building,” said Ms. Gordon. “This building is a living memory to those two men and many of the pioneers who labored so faithfully to keep God’s word alive.”
Mr. James Johnston was the main carpenter and many turned out to lend a hand in the building. The interior was lathed and plastered in November of 1883 and the woodwork was given a coat of varnish and the floors painted. Times were had and work went slowly, she said.
“The Methodist and Anglican women joined together to form a Ladies Aid until 1938 when the Anglicans purchased a building down on the Bay of Kagawong.” Ms. Gordon explained when the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational churches decided to unite, “they found their teachers were essentially in agreement an d the United Church came into being June 10, 1925. The church here then was known as the Kagawong Union Church.”
“The first wedding in the church was Agnes Pierce and Albert Fraser on January 5, 1905 and the next one was Jack Burns and Nellie Lloyd on October 3, 1928. Bob Pickard was the first baby to be christened in the church in the late 1880s,” continued Ms. Gordon.
“February 10, 1971 Kagawong, Billings and Ice Lake became one congregation and formed a new board of management and the congregation was named St. Paul’s on the Hill,” said Ms. Gordon.
The ministry of music was provided by Peter Gordon, followed by Jim Munro with Wendy Graham, accompanied by Sally Orford on piano and Rachael Orford on guitar.
The scripture readings were presented by John Christian.
“It is an honour and a privilege to provide the sermon here today,” said Rev. Mary Jo Tracy. “This is a celebration of life for the community of faith of St. Paul’s on the Hill United Church. This community of faith has journeyed 136 years since 1881.”
“This community of faith has been very active in the community of Kagawong and the township of Billings,” said Rev. Tracy. “It has provided spiritual guidance and provided strong leadership. It has been a family of God providing music and praise to God. There were many musicians and quartets. You have continued to be a faithful family of God providing support to those in need, and joy to those who were celebrating.”
Rev. Tracy noted, “St. Paul’s on the Hill knew how to have fun: remember the Easter hats that were given out at the door for everyone to wear during the Easter service of worship? Remember the UCW community Christmas gatherings in the Orange Hall and then the church? Remember the luncheons? Remember the auction sales in the summer?”
“Many rites of passage have been celebrated and observe within this family of God. The baptisms, weddings and funerals were all part of the profession of your faith,” continued Rev. Tracy.
“You have been on a long journey and sometimes in the wilderness like Moses searching and growing in your faith. Sometimes there have been difficult times along the way. The road has not been easy or straight, yet you always had faith and grew in that faith,” said Rev. Tracy. “You knew this day was coming, yet you were determined to share your faith and have fun doing it.”
Rev.Tracy, said, “this building, dedicated and named St. Paul’s on the Hill United Church together with the land on which it stands, and all objects remaining in it, we now commend to other purposes. We declare that as of December 10, 2017 it is no longer the place of meeting of a congregation of The United Church of Canada.”