St. Andrew’s United Church #1884

Honoured by past, present and future parishioners of St. Andrew’s United Church


The story of St. Andrew’s United Church began in the year 1884 when it was born in the interior of a Canadian Pacific Railway box car as an outpost of St. Andrew’s In The Pines, Mattawa. The Presbyterian congregation quickly outgrew this structure and progressed to a log school house, then a frame building very close to the present site and finally came to rest in 1904 in the bricks and mortar of the present structure located in the heart of North Bay at the corners of McIntyre/Cassells/Algonquin. In 1925 the congregation chose to become part of the United Church of Canada, when Methodist, Congregational and most Presbyterian churches joined together as one.

By 1952 members realized more space was required and built a large addition which included a chapel, gym, kitchen, parlour, offices and numerous rooms where couples meet to plan their wedding, or faith reflection groups conduct animated conversation, or community groups practice everything from Native drumming to meditation, to choral work, to floor hockey. The layout of the expanded facility allows multiple functions to take place all at the same time. In the lovely, heritage sanctuary St. Andrew’s tradition of fine music continues; the congregation even has its own orchestra which plays on special occasions. Here, overlooked by stained glass and sheltered by high-arched, almost nautical wooden beams, members gather every Sunday to be strengthened and encouraged for their ministry.

That’s what’s important about this congregation, says Rev. Jane Howe. The music and worship, the opportunities to discuss life’s big questions with people from other faiths or no faith, the room for seekers, outreach in all the different levels including the small garden outside the sanctuary producing tomatoes and peas and beans for the food bank. Most important of all though, are the small acts of reaching out to one another that happen daily – the phone calls, the visits, the small acts of solidarity, so significant, but without much profile. And these kindnesses are not always shown to people we know, just from someone who is here at the right time to offer a word of encouragement to someone, perhaps, from one of the many support groups St. Andrew’s hosts.

A quick snapshot of St. Andrew’s United Church on a typical Thursday morning. People are arriving early, around 8:30 a.m., at the big brick building at the corner of McIntyre and Cassells. They are here for welcome and food and friendship, all things we associate with church. But this is a little different. It is Loaves and Fishes, St Andrew’s food bank, and the eighty or so people here are having trouble making ends meet. The atmosphere is respectful. People know your name. Many will turn up again on Sunday for lunch with congregational members. And many, ill or in hospital, will write ‘St Andrews’ as their church even if they have never been upstairs to the sanctuary.

Over the past 128 years St. Andrew’s has benefited from the ministries of twenty-one dedicated ordained ministers and in 1974 a lay minister was added to the team. As a training congregation St. Andrew’s participated in the 80’s and 90’s in the internship of eighteen persons who were subsequently ordained and moved across the country as ministers of the United Church of Canada.

In 2012 as the St. Andrew’s leaf is placed on the pergola, we look back and remember those who came before us and established the community of St. Andrew’s in the community of North Bay; in the present we continually assess how our actions as a community of faith impact on those around us and we look to the future with faith and hope that our congregation will continue to meet the challenges of the days ahead.

As Derek Stott, choir member, wrote in his 125th Anniversary hymn The Path Up From The Shore:
Oh where the waves break gently on Nipissing’s soft sand
‘Neath the endless sky where seagulls swoop and soar,
There we’ve built a church to shelter our family of faith,
On the winding path that comes up from the shore.