The Church of Saint Andrew and Saint David, a Provincial Historic Site, is a brick and masonry church situated at 164 Germain Street in the Trinity Royal Municipal Preservation Area of Saint John. The church was formed by the amalgamation of two churches on January 1, 1962.
The Loyalist landing on May 18, 1783 brought many Scottish Presbyterians to the area, along with a large number of Anglicans. After spending their first year building a life in the wilderness, the Presbyterian Loyalists gathered on May 18, 1784, to commemorate the first anniversary of their arrival with a worship service. This gathering inspired them to establish a Presbyterian Church, marking May 18, 1784 as the anniversary of The Church of Saint Andrew and Saint David.
Many Loyalist founders, such as William Pagan and William Campbell (whose plaques can be found on either side of the choir loft), were part of the church. Before the construction of the sanctuary, some worshippers attended services at Old Trinity, the only church in town, while others maintained a Presbyterian service when a minister was available. By 1814, the congregation had grown, and the members were eager to build a church for their own religious practices.
The original structure was completed in May 1815. The first minister, Rev. George Burns D.D., came from St. Andrew’s University in Scotland and delivered his first sermon on May 25, 1817. The name Saint Andrew was likely given to the church in honor of St. Andrew’s University, where Rev. Burns received his Doctor of Divinity. The wooden structure featured the straight, strict lines of Scottish Presbyterianism. As the first Presbyterian Church in New Brunswick, it became known as the mother church of Presbyterianism in the province. Numerous area Presbyterian churches, such as Saint David’s, were part of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, which emerged from a disruption in the Church of Scotland.
The original sanctuary, opened in 1815, was called “the Auld Kirk” until it was renamed Saint Andrew’s in 1817. Initially accommodating 600 people, it was later expanded to hold 1,000.
On June 20, 1877, the Great Fire swept through the south end of Saint John, leaving the city in ruins. In just 10 hours, over 1,600 buildings were destroyed, more than 15,000 people were left homeless, and 18 lives were lost. The estimated damage amounted to over $27 million in 1877 currency. Saint Andrew’s Church was completely devastated, with little evidence remaining to indicate its prior existence.
Only the tongue of the bell, the church clock (now located over the entrance to the Chapel through the lecture hall), and the silver communion set donated by the Earl and Countess of Dalhousie survived the fire. The latter was preserved as it was stored in the vault of the Bank of New Brunswick on Prince William Street.
The fire left 80 families from the church homeless, claimed the lives of 5 members, and caused nearly every member to suffer property or financial loss. Despite the devastation, plans for rebuilding the church were initiated immediately.
Due to the city’s strict building codes, all new structures had to be built with brick or stone. With bricks in high demand during the massive rebuilding effort, the church elders negotiated a deal with the owners of the Victoria Hotel to purchase 100,000 bricks for $660. However, the required number of bricks exceeded the purchased amount, so additional bricks were reportedly “borrowed” from the hotel site under the cover of darkness. If you walk down either side of the church, you can see the scarred and misshaped bricks used in its construction. The front of the church was built using locally quarried limestone.
Saint Andrew’s Church was the first to be rebuilt following the fire, with construction costs amounting to $65,000. The church reopened on March 16, 1879, less than two years after the fire, and remains largely unchanged from its original form.
In 1875, two years prior to the fire, Saint Andrew’s Church broke its ties with the Church of Scotland after 91 years and became a member of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. On May 1, 1918, Calvin Presbyterian Church decided to join Saint Andrew’s Church because it could not continue with the financial burden that had been weighing it down for years. Calvin Church was sold to the members of the Jewish Community of Saint John. It is now used as their synagogue and bears the name Synagogue Shaarei Zedek (Gates of Righteousness”). It sits on the corner of Wellington Row and Carleton Street.
In 1925, Saint Andrew’s Church became part of the Church Union movement in Canada. This was the union of the Methodists, Congregationalists and Presbyterian Churches of Canada to form the United Church of Canada. At the time all of the Methodists and Congregationalists churches came into the union in full.
Saint David’s Presbyterian Church was formed in 1847 when part of the congregation of Saint Andrew’s left to form a Free Presbyterian Church of Saint John. The new congregation built a church on Sydney Street and officially opened on August 25, 1850 under the name Fourth Presbyterian Church, only to be renamed a year later to Saint David’s Church. In 1875, Saint David’s Church broke its ties with the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland and joined in the Presbyterian Church of Canada.
Saint David’s was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1877. Its battle with flames would continue in 1917 when it succumbed again to flames. Both times the people rallied and a new church was constructed. In 1925, Saint David’s Presbyterian Church became part of the United Church of Canada.
On January 1, 1962, Saint Andrew’s United Church and Saint David’s United Church officially merged to form The Church of Saint Andrew and Saint David, The United Church of Canada. It was fitting that the two congregations, which were once united, came together again. The Saint Andrew’s building was chosen to house the newly united congregation, while the former Saint David’s United Church building now serves as the Cavalry Temple on Sydney Street.
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