In the early 1800’s there were two Methodist Churches, the Episcopal Methodist and the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Thorndale.
Episcopal Methodist Church
The Episcopal Methodist church was build chiefly through the efforts of Dr. and Mrs. Forster. It stood at the west end of the village on the east bank of the Wye Creek. It was a frame structure, set on posts and in the neighbourhood of $600.00. The chief officials were Dr. Forster, Thos. Harrison and Robert McGuffin. The first minister was Mr. Bristol, followed by Mr. Barreltropp, Mr. Cutler, Mr. Francis and Mr. Bloodsworth. During the spring freshet, water would surround the church, filling the open ditch three feet wide in the front of the church. In order to enter the building, a platform was erected from the street to the front door. One dark night one gentleman stepped off the platform into water up to his armpits. During the flood of July 10th, 1883 this building was carried onto the street. It was moved back to place, but when the Episcopal Methodist and the Wesleyan Methodist united, the little white church was moved to the rear of the Wesleyan, where it served as a Sunday school room also known as the league room.
Wesleyan Methodist Church
Previous to 1873, the Wesleyan Congregation has no church building and had worshiped in the school house west of the village and in the Episcopal Methodist loaned to them. A special meeting of the early Wesleyan Methodist congregation was held in September 1878 in the old parsonage on the north side of King Street to consider building a new church in the village of Thorndale with the Rev. D.W. Thompson, the minister, as chairman, resulting in the appointment John McCutcheon, Thomas Fitzsimmons, Robert Walker, William Lord, Thomas Schatcherd, William Molland, Joseph Wheaton and John Crosby as the first trustee board. The idea of erecting a building was discussed and a lot was purchased from Robert Garner for $100.00. Plans were drawn up by a St. Thomas architect and the building let to a local contractor.
A canvas of the district was made and assistance was rendered by Anglican members as well as Methodist. The cornerstone of the brick structure was laid in 1879 by Rev. McDonagh and the mayor of London. The trowel was presented to the mayor and one hundred years later it was seen at an auction. It was returned to Thorndale in time for their centennial. On October 31, 1880, the house of worship was dedicated by Rev. Manly Benson, the officiating clergyman. At the close of service, subscriptions covering the total cost, $1,900.00, for the church were received.
In 1883, while Rev. James E. Ford acted as pastor, the present site of the parsonage was purchased, and the building erected during the term of his successor, Rev. James Kennedy. In the year 1911, the church sheds were built at the back of the church.
Thorndale Methodist Circuit
The original Thorndale Methodist circuit embraced Thorndale, Evans, Wyton, Bethesda, Baileys, and Lairds churches. In the year 1907, the circuit was divided and only Wyton, Thorndale and Bethesda remained on the circuit. On June 10, 1925, after many years of prayer, planning and negotiation, a new denomination was born. The union of Methodist, Congregationalists and 70 percent of the Presbyterians produced the United Church of Canada. This union was celebrated by a ceremony and communion at the Mutual Street Arena in Toronto and Thorndale became a member of the United Church of Canada. In 1948, Wyton United Church closed leaving only Thorndale and Bethesda on the circuit. In July 1961 Zion United Church in London Township joined the circuit. At the time Rev. D. Perrie was minister. In December 1973, Bethesda closed their church and members there were invited to worship at Thorndale.
Ministers who served on the Thorndale Circuit:
- 1875 Rev. Christopher Hamilton
- 1879 Rev. D.W. Thompson
- 1881 Rev. James E. Ford
- 1884 Rev. James Kennedy
- 1897 Rev. E.E. Scott
- 1888 Rev. C.C. Cousins
- 1891 Rev. George J. Kerr
- 1894 Rev. Edward Kershaw
- 1895 Rev. Andrew McCullough
- 1898 Rev. Robert Thompson
- 1901 Rev. George Baker
- 1904 Rev. David Rogers
- 1907 Rev. Joseph Hibbert
- 1910 Rev. John Mahon
- 1913 Rev. William L. Hiles
- 1917 Rev. W. Roy Osborne
- 1921 Rev. A.R. Kellam
- 1925 Rev. William Sterling
Following the building of the church and manse, many noteworthy events have taken place. In 1911, the church was remodelled and a splendid pipe organ was installed.
At the outbreak of the First World War 1914 to 1918, and the Second World War 1939 to 1945, several members of Thorndale United Church served their country in several services. The Honour Roll listing the names of services men of the two wars is in the church sanctuary. The ladies of the church helped by sending parcels, knitting socks, mitts, etc. for the Red Cross. Air pilot Taylor Mossip unfortunately lost his life in service.
In 1939, the church celebrated their 60th anniversary with a garden party. Local talent was the program.
The 80th anniversary was in 1959 and that year was remembered as the major renovation of the church. Mr. Gordon Robson of Kintore was the contractor and with stewards and volunteers of the congregation, a new basement was put under the church and league room. The floor was raised, a kitchen, washrooms, water on taps and an oil furnace were installed. A narthex was built as a front entrance. The sanctuary was completely renovated with new pews, a centre aisle, and new floor. Pews replaced the chairs in the choir loft. Newly painted walls resulted in a bright sanctuary. Services were held in the Thorndale School during renovations until the official opening on March 6th, 1961. The morning service with the President of Middlesex Presbytery and an evening service with the past president of London Conference conducting the Re-Dedication services was a very joyous event. Cost of the renovation was $28,000.00. The mortgage was burned at the annual meeting February 16, 1971, ten years after the official opening.
Anniversaries are held every year on the 3rd Sunday of October and the following Tuesday, a turkey or beef dinner is a great money raising event. Prices have been as low as 75 cents per plate in the 1930’s to $1.50 in the 60’s to $10.00 in the 90’s.
The 50th anniversary of the United Church of Canada was celebrated in 1975. Rev. Don. Atkinson was the minister and he had us making banners for the first time. Our famous Strawberry supper was started that year also and Zion church members joined us as a joint project, the profit goes to the upkeep of the manse.
We welcomed 1979 as our centennial year with a committee selected to plan special events. They were busy locating former members and mailing invitations to the anniversary in October. The moderator, Rev. George Tuttle came in April and during the year Rev. Sommerville, Rev. Perrie, Rev. Ralph Waugh, Rev. D. Welsh and Yvonne Clipperton and her husband Rev. Van Slyke. Revs. Donald and Donna Atkinson were anniversary ministers. During the week following, a large centennial bazaar with ladies in period costumes was a great success. A quilt was made for a silent auction, the tea room with candles and oil lamps was a reminder of former times.
A memorial Fund was started in 1979 and from this all stained glass windows except three were restored. The other three were donations from members. The communion cabinet, baptismal font, flag pole, service books and many other useful gifts were purchased from this fund which continues to receive donations. The donor of each of these is identified by an engraved plaque.
In the 90’s we were blessed with two legacies from former members, and these more improvements such as Voices United hymn books, large illuminated sign outside the church, vacuum cleaner, new carpet in the sanctuary and basement, a new sound system, renovated washroom etc.
In June 2001, the committee of Dorothy Jones, Yvonne Elliott, and Susan McCutcheon, presented to the congregation, estimates for the kitchen renovations. Frayne Custom Cabinets of St Mary’s was chosen and work started August 1st. Mr. Marty Askes of Thorndale was the carpenter to take out the old kitchen and prepared the location for the new.
The new refrigerator, stove and sink were purchased from Don Brown Appliances of St. Mary’s. The electrician was Mr. Latta from Lucan. The church has its own water from the new well drilled at the manse in 2001. The new kitchen was finished by October 2001. The cost was $29,000.00 paid from a legacy donation.
A plaque on the kitchen doorway reads:
“Renovated and dedicated in memory of Amy Dobbie and Ella Murrell.”
A service of dedication was on July 7th, 2002.
In the year 2000, the minister, Rev. Jane Van Patter and her family had a home London and was commuting to Thorndale, so the manse was rented out for three years. A meeting of both Zion and Thorndale congregations resulted in both churches in favour of selling the manse. It was listed by Re-Max real estate with Harold McCutcheon salesman. It was sold on November 2003. Earnings go to the Central Treasurer to pay a housing allowance to the minister. The new owner of the former manse is Richard Burnett, who keeping the property very neat and in good appearance.
The stained glass window at the back of the church has been in the church since 1879. It has been re-pained several times, most recently in 2002. A new centre circle picture of Jesus, shepherd of the sheep, was added to the original. It was dedicated in 2003 in memory of Lenore (Guest) Butler and James Butler from their legacy to Thorndale United Church.
Thorndale is a good supporter of Missions. The Food Grains Project for developing countries has our young farmers planting and harvesting corn, soy beans, or wheat for the needy in Africa. Thanks to all volunteers and those who donate to this project.
All this has been possible with the guidance of dedicated ministers and members. The sacraments have been administered, the Word preached, and the joy of music has carried us through the years.
Ministers at Thorndale United Church since 1925:
- 1926 Rev. H.B. Parnaby
- 1929 Rev. Arthur Brown
- 1931 Rev. Geo. Gilmore
- 1933 Rev. Harry Royale
- 1936 Rev. P.S. Banes
- 1937 J/F. Sutcliffe
- 1938 E.S. Hiscock
- 1941 Rev. M.G. Newton
- 1944 Rev. H.W. Treffry
- 1947 Rev. F.E. Clysdale
- 1950 Rev. C. Tavener
- 1953 Rev. T.C. Wilkinson
- 1957 Rev. L.M. Somerville
- 1960 Rev. E. Southcott
- 1961 Rev. D. Perrie
- 1974 Rev. D. Atkinson
- 1977 Rev. Murray Bannon
- 1981 Robert Hunt
- 1982 Rev. Roger Rice
- 1987 Rev. Ross McCann
- 1991 Mrs. Irene Richardson
- 1992 Rev. Sheila Macgregor
- 2000 Rev. Jane Van Patter
- 2007 Mrs. Mary Stewart
- 2008 Rev. Tracy Crick-Butler
- 2012 Mrs. Pam Wilcox