St. Mary's Road United Church is an Affirming Ministry of the United Church of Canada. We believe in a church community of safety, acceptance, inclusiveness, and openness. We celebrate the diversity that God has created, that everyone is blessed with gifts, and purpose, and dignity.
We recognize that we meet, play and worship on the original lands of Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis Nation. The water we use comes from Shoal Lake 40 First Nation.
As a community of faith, our purpose is to create disciples that are active in the world. We do this through community and worship that engages, challenges, affirms, comforts, inspires and transforms.
Members of our Ministry Team:
Band Leader - The Journey Band
Band Leader - The Journey Band
Three churches grew up along a two-mile stretch of St. Mary’s Road. All three had humble beginnings. In the 1890’s, a few families began meeting in homes. Between 1903 and 1908, Presbyterians and Methodists established tiny congregations in the Norwood and Regents Park areas. But as one founding member of St. Vital put it, “We were always a united church.” Officially a Presbyterian mission, members were from Anglican, Methodist and Baptist backgrounds. Soon, each little congregation made plans to build.
By the end of 1904, Norwood Methodists were at Marion and Kenny, and Presbyterians at Eugenie and Kenny. By 1910, Regents Park was at Ellesmere and Des Meurons. Its name came from recently surveyed areas named after posh neighborhoods in London. The building itself was far from posh; there was money for the building, but no furnishings. The women organized aid circles and took care of these minor details.
By1913, St. Vital had a building on St. Vital Road. Regents Park was first to move again. Its first ordained minister saw that development was taking place along St. Mary’s Road. The present SMRUC site was purchased, originally part of Victor Mager’s market garden. The new church was dedicated in 1925, calling itself “A Homelike Church for Friendly People”. At United Church union, Norwood members chose the Presbyterian building where the church remained until a new building was dedicated at St. Mary’s and Tache in 1951. St. Vital had moved to a new site on St. Mary’s Road in 1950. Now there were three United Churches along St. Mary’s Road.
Financial problems are a perennial theme. Regents Park’s building was a bit of an albatross for a number of reasons including the Depression following shortly after construction. In 1934, the Board tried to hive off the mortgage payments onto the Ladies Aid. The ladies gracefully declined, but agreed to take over the interest. The circles got quite competitive about fundraising and had to be reminded that the Ladies Aid should be a unified group. One ingenious fundraiser was to sell onion skin serviettes covered with ads from local businesses and even political candidates. The ladies were non-partisan and took money from all. During the war years of the ‘40’s, rising employment made it possible to clear the mortgage. By then the interest paid equaled the original debt.
The churches had more important things to focus on than financial woes. They were, after all, places of worship and centres of community life; youth groups, social events, sports leagues, study groups, and mission projects local and abroad. Choirs formed as soon as there was a group to sing. Along with them came pianos, organs, even orchestras. Drama groups have a long history as well. St. Vital had an active youth group in the ‘30’s, although on one occasion the Elders refused permission to put on a play titled The Dancing School. Regents Park also had an active group in the ‘30’s, many of the proceeds going to that pesky mortgage.
The late 1940’s and early ‘50’s were times of urban expansion. By 1951, Norwood’s membership surpassed 1000 and the others experienced similar growth. Sunday Schools were bursting and at Norwood and were held in shifts. The 1950 flood devastated the region and damaged all three buildings. Flood was followed by fire at Norwood in 1951 with extensive damage to the interior. Regents Park was again expanding and by 1958 had bought the St. Anne’s lot, putting up the CE building, now the home of Journey worship, and the present sanctuary.
In the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, all congregations began to decline in numbers as society around them changed, but this did not reflect a loss of vitality. They were exciting decades; new ideas, new ways of looking at faith and experiencing faith, new ways of reaching out to the community. Women began to come out of the kitchen and into the boardroom. Look at photos in the Norwood Golden Jubilee booklet of 1954—all the Session are men, all the Stewards are men, everyone is identified by initials and married women don’t even get their own initials. Compare that to a present day directory. All three made their buildings accessible and welcomed those who had never felt free to be themselves in a public setting. Area churches cooperatively sponsored refugees. Youth were given a voice on governing bodies. Controversies were weathered, inclusive language and acceptance of homosexuality were only two of the important challenges that emerged in these decades. Historic wrongs began to be addressed when our share of responsibility for Residential Schools began to be acknowledged. And this list does not begin to mention issues local to each congregation.
In the ‘90’s, the same desires to provide a spiritual home for members and to look to the needs of the wider world were there, but the necessary bodies were fewer and greyer. So the three churches along St. Mary’s Road did what they have always done—they got their act together. Our name, St. Mary’s Road United Church, may not have been the most exciting choice, but it may have been the best after all. Our members may no longer mostly live in the neighborhood, but wherever we may go in future, our roots are bound to St. Mary’s Road. Boards may have morphed into leadership teams, committees into small groups, orchestras into worship bands, but we are still linked to those whose vision and dedication made our existence possible. We can adapt the words of Rev. Ken Moyer in 1958, the year our present building was completed:
“Most of us simply walked into the churches with which we have been associated without thinking of the men and women who made that church possible. And any self congratulation should be tempered by the sobering thought that the ground work was laid by men and women whose names are forgotten or unknown who held their faith and stood by their church in the lean years The today of forty years ago is now beyond the sunset and is gone forever. In its place is another day with a new wisdom and a new knowledge. There will come a time, however, and it won’t be long when today will be long, long ago and beyond the sunset of today, a new day will come.”
- From the St. Mary's Road United Church 5 year anniversary book, 2009.
Located at the corner of St. Mary's and St. Anne's Roads in Old St. Vital, St. Mary's Road United Church (formerly Regent's Park United Church) is a bit of a eclectic space. The Christian Education space was built first, followed by the main sanctuary as the congregation grew. A major renovation took place in 2004 that expanded the Christian Education hall to create the Journey sanctuary.
Our space is used for worship on Sunday, but during the week there are community groups, rentals, a food bank and a Montessori school that operate out of our building, making it an active hub for the community.
If you are interested in booking any of our spaces for other events please call the church at (204) 257- 0678
St. Mary's Road United Church
Picture from St. Mary's Road
Also referred to as the Tree of Life Sanctuary. This beautiful space features stained glass, choir loft, organ and seats over 300.
Also referred to as the Christian Education hall, or the Journey Sanctuary, this multi-purpose space is the home to our contemporary worship and features stage, lighting and tech to support streaming. The hall connects to our kitchen to allow for events of all kinds. The hall seats 125.