GRAND BEND UNITED CHURCH
The first worship services for immigrants that settled in Grand Bend were held in their log homes. Sometimes ministers would visit from other areas - which was important for baptisms, weddings and funerals. For several years student ministers were sent to Grand Bend for a 6-week period during the summer.
The first Presbyterian services were held in the old log schoolhouse which sat in the area to the east of the Grand Bend Cemetery. In 1874 a brick church was constructed directly in front of the log school (lot 1, Lake Shore Concession) at a cost of $1,445. When the church was dedicated in July of 1874, one of the elders mentioned was Hugh Love - my husband's great-great grandfather.
One of the ministers that preached at the church was Reverend Samuel A. Carrière. He held non-denominational Sunday School services, so there were youth from Presbyterian, Methodist and Catholic families, both English and French-speaking.
The Methodists built a church around 1880 at the corner of the Mollard Line and Highway 81, just outside Grand Bend. It was a frame church and painted white so it was referred to as the "White Church." Members of the building committee were in disagreement about which of two locations to build this church. The lumber was delivered to a site on the B-line east of Grand Bend, but during the night it mysteriously relocated to the site where the church was actually built.
With an increasing number of campers spending their summers at The Bend, about the turn of the century a third religious group was organized in the area. This group originated with the Huston family of Exeter and their friends. They met on the beach on Sundays for Bible study. Their numbers grew from summer to summer, and when a visiting minister was invited to preach, a Parkhill merchant, Charles Gibbs, offered the group the use of his shady grove just east of the beach. His offer was readily accepted and the spot continued to be used for about a quarter of a century. On the beautiful slopes of the grove, both morning and evening services became very popular.
1925 was the year of church union, when the United Church was formed, uniting Congregational, Presbyterian and Methodist churches. It was decided that a new church be built. Co-incidentally, Aunt Helen (Love) Des Jardine was born that year. One of her parents was Presbyterian and one was Methodist - so there was more that one "union" that year!
It soon became known that both Presbyterian and Methodist families were favourable to a local union in a new church on the Presbyterian Church site at the north end of the village. However, as the new minister became familiar with the situation, he realized there should be a larger union to include the campers on a central site, which might be near the old ball ground. On the part of the Presbyterians, there was some hesitation about leaving their old site. When the proposal was placed before the campers by the minister, they agreed to adopt the proposal which would make them partners and shareholders in the new site, because their meeting place was used from season to season on the basis of goodwill. Some Presbyterians feared the proposal involved building a large enough church to accommodate summer audiences, but too large for the other months of the year, until the minister pointed out that the campers preferred
an open air service, and, if necessary, a canvas roof. The plan gave the campers a site near the old one and equally central. It gave the village congregation a wider interest and greater support. The campers left the carrying out of the plan and the future service arrangements to the local congregation.
In May, 1927 the cornerstone was laid for Grand Bend United Church. It was a union of the Presbyterian and Methodist churches. The outdoor services during the summer have remained a tradition at this church ever since. The first couple to be married in this church were Mr & Mrs Colin Love.
My husband's great grandfather, John Love, Sr. was a very staunch Presbyterian and was involved with the plans and construction of the present United Church. When the new church was built, he didn't want a local bell because they sounded like "cow bells" so he had one shipped from Scotland. It has two ropes, one which makes the bell swing back and forth to ring for Sunday services; the other operates an arm which strikes the bell from the side and can control the timing. This is for when someone has passed away.
John Love ordered the bell and a Bell Fund Committee was established to raise money to pay for the bell. My husband's other great grandfather Edward Gill offered to pay whatever amount remained owing after contributions were given. After that offer, few people contributed and Great Grandpa Gill ended up paying for the bell!
The yellow bricks from the old Presbyterian Church were used as inside bricks for insulation of the new structure, and then red bricks were put on the outside.
Grand Bend has always been a "tourist town" so families come and go, along with their ideas. Grand Bend United has seen many changes in its interior. The choir loft at one time was arched and finished with plaster. We are told the acoustics were beautiful. In the 1970s a committee was formed to modernize the front of the church and wooden panels were placed on the walls and ceiling to form the present box effect. Within the past few years, the cracks between the panels of wood have been filled and everything painted so that it looks somewhat like plaster again.
The stained glass window "Christ Blessing Little Children" was donated by John and Alice Love in memory of their daughter. The stained glass windows in the entrance of the church are in memory my husband's grandparents, Bill and Florence Love. These windows were dedicated the same day that Charlie (daughter of Joan & John Love) was baptized.
From Log School to United Church by Rev. A. M. Grant