History of First United
In the early 1800s, the Mississauga Ojibwa tribe inhabited the area along the banks of the Credit River. Peter Jones, their chief, became a Methodist minister in 1823. In addition to being a circuit rider preacher, Jones was an eloquent advocate for native land rights, in Canada and Britain. Peter Street in Port Credit honours Peter Jones.
Egerton Ryerson, a Methodist missionary, joined Jones in 1825. Ryerson set about raising funds from his contacts, and in 1826 erected a log mission house to serve as a church and school for the First Nations people. Port Credit had its first Methodist Church, on the site of the present Mississaugua Golf Club.
By 1838, an influx of British immigrants and Loyalists from the USA had settled in the area and a new church was needed. The property at 151 Lakeshore Road West was deeded to the church, and by May 1849 a building was in place, with seating for 200.
Fifty years later, that building was moved intact, one block south to Port Street, and still exists, enfolded in the walls of the Mississauga Masonic Temple.
A new stone and brick church opened on the 151 Lakeshore Rd. West site in 1894, accommodating 350 people. In 1913 modern electric lights were installed! Church member Mrs. A. R. Clarke donated funds for the 1922 construction of adjacent Clarke Hall, to memorialize her husband who died in the sinking of the Lusitania. The congregation raised $3,000 toward that building, and for years it housed the Sunday School and was used for church and community functions. During the Depression years, the hall’s ownership was transferred to the Village of Port Credit.
Port Credit Methodist Church became First United Church on its centenary anniversary, in 1925. On June 10, 1925, four denominations – Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregationalist and local Union churches, came together to form the United Church of Canada. In 1968, the Evangelical United Brethren joined the union. Traditions of each remain today.
In 1951, the large Sanctuary building was added, according to plans used by many United Churches of that time. The inspiring chancel window at the front of the sanctuary, designed by the renowned artist Peter Haworth, was installed in 1957. Opposite it, a window featuring The Great Commission of Jesus reminds those exiting to go into the world spreading the good news. Many other stained glass windows, installed over ensuing decades, are found in the sanctuary and other parts of the building, most created by Luxfor and Robert McCausland Studios in Toronto. All windows are dedicated in commemoration of members of the church and community. In 2007 a history was compiled to highlight the lives of those who have been so recognized as well as to explain the abundant symbolism in the windows. A children’s colouring book was also created to teach the stories seen in our windows.
The congregation continued to grow in numbers during the post war baby boom years, and the adjacent Clarke Hall was used for the Sunday School programme until 1961, when the Christian Education Wing was added to the south side of the sanctuary building.
Over the next forty years, changes in the Port Credit community and the wider world exerted their influence at First United. In 2002, the congregation was faced with a smaller membership and a large, aging building that no longer met fire code regulations. An in-depth review and extensive dialogue and exploration of possibilities ensued. The original Chapel and Christian Education building were severed and sold to two excellent new neighbours: The Freedom Centre (who subsequently sold to West Edge Church) and The Prince Edward Montessori School. A major renovation of the main Sanctuary building was undertaken, turning it into a beautiful multi-purpose space.
For two years, the congregation of First United worshipped elsewhere, but stayed strongly committed to maintaining our connections to each other and being a presence in our community. We joyfully returned to our building in 2006, and welcomed all to visit our wonderful new space. The church building once again became a vibrant, busy community hub, providing important gathering, activity and concert space in the Port Credit community as well as being a spiritual home for the people of First United.
If you’d like to do more reading…
Mississauga — Where the River Speaks; Alan Skeoch; Mississauga Library System, 2000
The Chapel’s 100 Years — 1894–1994; Chapel 100th Anniversary Committee; First United Church, 1994
Sacred Feathers: Reverend Peter Jones (Kahkewaquonaby) and the Mississauga Indians; Donald B. Smith; University of Toronto Press, 1988