On Saturday July 5th, in the year 1862, some of the workmen of our village, then known as Reesorville, set aside their tools in anticipation of the Lord’s Day which was to follow. This particular day however held special significance, since many of them would worship for the first time in the new Wesleyan Methodist Church. Prior to this eventful day, worship was held in private homes and later in a small frame building. At the time of dedication a writer described it as being a “handsome church” one of the best and least expensive in Canada West. Handsomeness was an object of pride for the Methodist Church who valued simplicity with minimal cost and ornateness. It was sited in the village of Markham north of the junction of the now highways 7 & 48. Markham was described by a writer in Smith’s Canada in 1851 as a considerable village, containing between 800 &900 residents, pleasantly situated on the Rouge River. It contains 2 grist mills with three run of stones each, a woolen factory, oatmeal mill, etc., 4 churches, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Congregational and Methodist.
The use of local labour kept the cost to the allotted $6,500.00 and the building was described in the Methodist Journal The Christian Guardian as follows: “the building is of brick, with a well finished belfry and contains a basement for the Sabbath School. About 500 persons can be accommodated in the body of the Church and 300 in the gallery. The style is Grecian, and the work is exceedingly well executed”. Originally the gallery extended along both sides of the building right to the front. Personal comfort was not considered in the construction of the pews; later changers were made to make them more comfortable. A note in the Christian Guardian in October 1877 outlines some of these changes. “the church in the village of Markham has been enlarged, improved and beautified at a cost of over $3,000.00. A new organ has been added and the seats lined with cushions throughout. The choir and organ were located behind the chancel.” Organs had become popular in the late 19th century, showy displays of organ pipes were common, likely an over compensation as a result of the prohibition of music in the early Protestant churches. By the 1850’s, music was entrenched in the Methodist services, it was felt that a powerful fine wind organ gave solemnity to the services. Stained glass windows had also been installed “increasing the degree of solemnity of the church and providing a ‘semi-religious’ light”. The overall impression of the sanctuary then was one of unadorned reverence combining the simplicity of the Methodist approach and expert application of Gothic principles.
In 1927 renovations were done to make the Church basement more suitable for increasing Sunday School attendance and in 1950 and 1951 the Church hall was built providing needed space for a growing Christian Education program. In 1960 the interior of the Church was renovated and the Narthex added.
While the United Church of Canada was officially formed in June 1925, Union did not come to Markham until the spring of 1927. St. Andrew’s was born with a team ministry which divided duties so the Rev. C.B. Jeffrey the former Methodist minister preached in the morning service and Rev. W.R.Auld the former Presbyterian minister preached in the evening. This only continued for a short time after which Rev. Auld was chosen as the Minister and Rev. Jeffery accepted a call in another charge. Rev. Auld remained until 1932.
Other ministers who served the church were Rev. Fred Smith (1932 –36), Rev. Doug Woodhouse (1936-39), Rev. B.E. Newnham (1939-1947), Rev. G>W> Thomas (1947-57) and Rev. Norman Pick (1957-62). Up until and during the time of Rev. Pick, Markham had been linked with Cedar Grove to form a two point charge. However prior to his leaving a new arrangement was made where Markham became a single charge and had the oversight to Cedar Grove which was served by a student minister.
In 1962 Rev. Albion Wright was called. The town had a population of about 5000 at this time and the long range planning committee had recommended preliminary work be done to study possible sites for a second church. However after studying the problems faced by the second congregations in churches in the neighboring towns where rapid growth had preceded that in Markham, the philosophy changed. The new position suggested that increasing personnel resources within an established church is more production than building a second church.
In 1964 Miss Margaret Smith was hired as the Director of Christian Education thus taking the first positive step towards a multiple ministry. On July 1 1967, Rev. Albion Wright resigned to become Executive Director of Cedar Glen and Rev. Don Parr was called to replace him. On April 30, 1969 Miss Smith accepted a call to be C.E. Director at Rosedale United in Toronto. At this time the congregation decided to hire a second full time ordained Minister and on July 1 1969 Rev. Chuck Beaton was called to serve in a Team Ministry with Don Parr. These two gentlemen formed a rather unique and effective team until Chuck Beaton’s resignation effective April 30, 1974.
On June 1 1974, Glenys Huws was called as Director of Christian Education and on July 1 1974, Dr. Douglas Smith became the third member of staff on a part-time basis after retiring from a long and distinguished full time career in the United Church. Again St. Andrew’s was blessed with a very effective team ministry but this time consisting of three members. Unfortunately the congregation was saddened by the death of Dr. Smith in the spring of 1977 and by the resignation of Glenys on June 30 1977 to pursue further education. Thus we began the present era of profession leadership with the calling of Rev. Leslie Alfano who began her work with us on July 1 1977, and with Rev. Tom Head who was engaged on a part-time basis beginning July 1 1978. Of course Rev. Don Parr remained as the senior minister.