St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church – Sackville

The Presbyterian form of the Christian faith was planted in the Sackville area by the great Scots-Irish pioneer missionary and minister Dr. Alexander Clarke (1794-1874). Clarke was sent by the Reformed Presbyterian Synod of Ireland and landed at Saint John in August 1827 with his wife and family (including a daughter born during the voyage “whilst the ship was tossed upon the Irish Channel”). The following year they sailed up the Bay of Fundy in a schooner, landed at Fort Lawrence, and took up residence in Amherst which Clarke was to make his base of operations for the next 46 years.

Clarke founded several Presbyterian congregations and where numbers were small established “preaching stations” including one in Middle Sackville. Though active from at least 1843 the congregation was not large enough to build a church until 1870 when they purchased a site at “Happy Hill” in Middle Sackville and erected a building completed in 1871. In 1875 the congregation joined the newly created Presbyterian Church in Canada, as a preaching station linked with Dorchester.

St. Andrews Presbyterian Church 1944
St. Andrews Presbyterian Church 1944

By the dawn of the 20th century the centre of population had moved to Sackville. The Presbyterian congregation moved also, and in 1905 they constructed St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, a two story building at the corner of Bridge and Squire which served as both sanctuary and hall. Attendance increased and there was a flourishing Sunday School.

In 1925, when Methodists, Congregationalists and some Presbyterians combined to form the United Church of Canada, the Sackville congregation voted to remain in the continuing Presbyterian Church. Some of the most able members and leaders left and the congregation struggled to survive, with Sackville, Port Elgin and Dorchester being combined as a three-point charge. Students supplied the pulpit until the appointment of Dr. Alexander Craise in 1935. His daughters Miss Jessie Craise and Mrs. Helen Beale were among the few who kept the church going during these “lean years”. 

By 1944, however, the congregation was able to undertake a major renovation of the building, turning it round ninety degrees (to its present position) and reconstructing it as a church. On Sunday, October 8, 1944 three dedication serviceswere held to celebrate the newly renovated church building. The stained glass window of The Good Shepherd was donated by Senator and Mrs. A.B. Copp and installed in 1952. As the population of Dorchester declined, the church there was eventually closed in 1968 leaving Port Elgin and Sackville as a two-point charge. During the ministry of Dr. Art Van Seters (1965-1968) the decision was taken to move the manse from Port Elgin to Sackville where the prospects for growth seemed better. The Sackville congregation continued to grow during the ministries of Dr. Charles Maclean (1972-1976), Dr. Brian Ross (1977-1983) and Rev. Herb Hilder (1983-1997). In 1987 the congregation became self-supporting and no longer dependent on aid from the national church. A thriving Church School developed and music became an important part of worship.

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church - Sackville

1989 saw an extension to the church building, while the following year a Letourneau pipe organ was installed; the debt on both projects was paid off within four years. On 3 September 1998 Rev. Ruth Houtby was inducted as the first woman minister of the congregation. As the population and economy of Port Elgin declined so did the support for the church there. In 2002 the Presbytery of Saint John severed the link between the Port Elgin and Sackville congregations, and St. Andrew’s, Sackville became for the first time a fully independent and self-supporting congregation. On 28 February 2007 Rev. Jeffrey McKay Murray was ordained and inducted as minister of St. Andrew’s.

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