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Our History: It All Began in a Tent...

It all began in a tent and from that very humble beginning St. James has become the busy place it is today. One Hundred years ago on May 19, 1908, a meeting was called to discuss the need for a church in the south end of Peterborough. On Friday evening, July 3rd, the first prayer service was held in the parsonage of Rev. H. M. Manning, who had been appointed to lead this new development. On July 9th, a tent was pitched and another prayer service was held. The first Sunday service was held on July 12th at 11:00 a.m. Land was purchased at the corner of Romaine and Aylmer streets.

The cornerstone was laid for the church building, which we now call Wesley Hall. Mr. Harold Fry oversaw the construction of the new building. The men of the church were organized into a group called Nehemiah’s Band, and provided hundreds of hours of volunteer labour. The Ladies Aid made lunches for the labourers. The total cost of the new church was $21,000. The dedication of this new building was held on April 29th, 1917.

A Growing Congregation

By 1930, the mortgage was paid off through the diligent efforts of the congregation, which now numbered over 400 members. Once again, the Ladies Aid provided much financial help to the congregation. Despite the hard times that the Depression brought, extensive renovations and a new heating system were installed in the mid 1930s and in 1939 a new pipe organ was purchased. By 1944, St. James was debt free for the first time since its formation!

A major renovation of the sanctuary was undertaken in 1955. A new choir loft and pulpit was part of this new look as was the wood panelling and a new ceiling. A new Baldwin electronic organ was installed as well as new carpeting and pews. Membership reached one thousand when we celebrated our 50th Anniversary in 1958.

Building A Strong Community

It has been said that a church functions best when in debt, and this statement proved to be true. The dedication of our members gave rise to numerous fundraisers from banquets and bazaars to serving meals at the Peterborough Exhibition. One new project during this time was the formation of a drama group known as the St. James Players. Over the years this group has expanded to include those outside of St. James and has presented many excellent musical productions to the citizens of Peterborough and area. The Players have provided opportunities for many young people, and some not so young, to show their talents. Over the years the Players have made many financial contributions as well as purchasing the grand piano that graces the Sanctuary.

Through the dedication and hard work of the congregation, there was a mortgage burning service on February 20, 1977.

During our hundred year history, several members of the congregation began their careers as ministers and were provided with spiritual and financial help from St. James, with one such member (Marion Davies) going on to become a Diaconal Minister.