Church of Saint Andrew and Saint David – Saint John

Church of Saint Andrew & Saint David Saint John

Church of Saint Andrew and Saint David – Saint John

The Church of Saint Andrew and Saint Davida Provincial Historic Site is a brick and masonry church located at 164 Germain Street, in the Trinity Royal Municipal Preservation Area of the City of Saint John. The Church is an amalgamation of two churches which took place on January 1, 1962.

The landing of the Loyalists on May 18, 1783 saw the arrival of many Scottish Presbyterians among the great numbers of Anglicans. The first year was spent building a life in this rough new wilderness. On May 18, 1784 the Presbyterian Loyalists gathered to celebrate the first anniversary of their safe arrival with a worship service. The coming together as a people of faith caused them to realize that it was time to begin the organization of a Presbyterian Church. Thus May 18, 1784 is the day The Church of Saint Andrew and Saint David’s use to mark their anniversary. 

The founders of the church numbered many Loyalists such as William Pagan and William Campbell (plaques on either side of choir loft). It took time for the congregation to reach a point that a church structure could be built. Prior to the building of the sanctuary, some of the people worshipped with the Anglican congregation at Old Trinity (the only church in town), while others maintained a Presbyterian service when a minister could be obtained (usually a missionary minister sent out from Scotland). By 1814 the people had increased in number and felt that a proper church could be built; they became eager to worship in a Kirk of their own in their own religion. 

Church of Saint Andrew & Saint David

The original structure was opened in May 1815. The first minister, a Rev. George Burns D.D., came from S1. Andrew’s University in Scotland and gave his first sermon on May 25, 1817. It is believed that the name Saint Andrew was given to the church in honour of St. Andrew’s University where Rev. Burns received his Doctor of Divinity. It was a wooden structure built with the straight strict lines of Scottish Presbyterianism. It was the first Presbyterian Church in New Brunswick and became known as the mother church of Presbyterianism in this province. Many of the Presbyterian Churches in the area developed with assistance from this main church. This occurred when people moved farther from the centre of town (such as, St. Stephen’s Church, St. John Presbyterian Church, West Side Kirk, Calvin Church and St. Matthew’s). Other area Presbyterian churches such as Saint David’s were part of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland that was formed by a splinter group because of a disruption in the Church of Scotland. Saint Andrew’s Church was affected by this when people separated to form a Free Presbyterian Church in New Brunswick (Saint David’s). 

The original sanctuary, opened in 1815, was called “the Auld Kirk”, until given the name Saint Andrew’s in 1817. It originally held 600 people but was enlarged to hold 1000. 

St. Andrews Church Saint John

On June 20, 1877 the Great Fire roared through the South end of Saint John. In about 10 hours the city was completely devastated. Over 1600 buildings were destroyed, over 15,000 people were left homeless and 18 people lost their lives. The damage was estimated at over $27 million (in 1877 currency). What this meant for Saint Andrew’s Church was complete devastation. The church was totally destroyed, with very little evidence remaining to even prove the church had been there. 

All that remained was the tongue of the bell, (the bell itself was made out of brass and melted in the intense heat), and the church clock (now resting over the entrance to the Chapel through the lecture hall) which was rescued by Alex A. Watson. The Silver Communion set donated by the Earl and Countess of Dalhousie, was also preserved as it was kept in the vault of the Bank of New Brunswick on Prince William Street.

The people of the church also suffered due to the fire. 80 families were left homeless, 5 members lost their lives and almost every member suffered from some form of property or financial loss. Although the Great Fire hard hit the people, immediate plans were drawn up for the rebuilding of the church.

Due to the strict building codes brought in by the city, all buildings now had to be constructed out of brick or stone. Because of the massive rebuilding being undertaken in the city, bricks were very scarce. So, they could begin the rebuilding as soon as possible, the Elders of the church approached the owners of the Victoria Hotel that used to stand on the Duke Street side of the church about buying their old bricks. A deal was struck that allowed them to buy 100,000 bricks at a cost of $6.60/1000 or a total cost of $660.00. The story goes that 100,000 bricks was not enough, so the more adventurous members “borrowed” many more bricks from the site of the hotel under the cover of darkness. If you walk down either side of the church on the outside you will see the scarred and misshaped bricks that were used in the construction. The front of the church is built out of locally quarried limestone.

Saint Andrew’s Church was the first to be rebuilt after the fire. It cost $65,000.00 to erect the new structure. It reopened on the 16 of March 1879, less than two years after the fire. It is almost in the same form as it was when first constructed. 

Church of Saint Andrew & Saint David

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. 

Church of Saint Andrew & Saint David

On January 1, 1962, Saint Andrew’s United Church and Saint David’s United Church officially amalgamated to form The Church of Saint Andrew and Saint David, The United Church of Canada. It seemed fitting that the two congregations that were once one, were now together again. The Saint Andrew’s building was selected to house the newly united congregation. The Saint David’s United Church building is now the Cavalry Temple on Sydney Street. 

Resource: Church of Saint Andrew and Saint David 

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