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- Amherst: Trinity-St. Stephen’s Pastoral Charge
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A pastoral charge is a grouping of churches termed "preaching points" -- each with separate names and governing boards or sessions. These churches are served by one minister. The pastoral charge title usually reflects the breadth of the geographic area encompassing the charge.
Methodists had been active in the Amherst-Point de Bute-Sackville area since the 1780s. After a building built for Baptists was opened in 1819, the Methodist congregation worshiped here but then moved to the Court House in 1824. In these early years Amherst was part of the vast Parrsboro Maccan Circuit. It was not until 1841 when the first Methodist church was erected in Amherst. Amherst became the head of a Methodist circuit in 1847.
In 1874, the present site for a new Methodist church was purchased from C.E. Ratchford, and in 1876, a building with a seating capacity of 350 was dedicated. This proved too small for the growing congregation and on 22 August 1906 the cornerstone was laid for a 1200 person capacity church. The builder was Charles Reid and the architect was C.B. Chappell. The new building was opened on 22 September 1907 and became Trinity Methodist Church.
A Methodist church was also established at Fort Lawrence, located on the Isthmus of Chignecto, north-west of Amherst. A Methodist chapel was built in 1807. This chapel was used until 1845 when a new church was built. Then in 1893, the cornerstone was laid for a third building which was opened for worship in 1894. A Methodist mission was begun in the “Highlands” of Amherst in 1905. This church separated from Trinity Methodist into a separate circuit including Fort Lawrence and Brookdale.
In 1827, Reformed Presbyterian (Scottish Covenanter) minister Rev. Alexander Clark arrived in Amherst and established a church. A building was erected at the corner of Albion and Church Streets. Clark continued as minister of this congregation until his death in 1874.
St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church of The Presbyterian Church in Canada was established on 30 August 1875. Services were held in the Masonic hall, then located on the corner of Victoria Street and Maple Avenue. The Sunday School was organized in 1876. When the Masonic hall burned in 1877, the congregation moved to White’s Hall, the site of the present Baptist Church.
In 1878, construction began on St. Stephen’s on the corner of Lawrence and Victoria Street, and it was officially opened in that year. In 1880, there was a suggestion of a union between the Presbyterian Church and the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Amherst. This suggestion was rejected by the Reformed Presbyterians. After their last minister, Rev. S.D. Yates, left in 1887, most of the Reformed Presbyterians joined St. Stephen's. The St. Stephen's congregation outgrew their former building and a new church was opened in 1900.
In 1903, the congregation divided and Knox Church was organized. In 1911, however, the two churches reunited and Knox Church on Robie Street was sold. In 1925 St. Stephen’s Presbyterian voted to join the union which the created The United Church of Canada and it became St. Stephen’s United Church.
In 1925, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian voted to join the union which the created The United Church of Canada and it became St. Stephen’s United Church. Trinity Methodist Church became Trinity United Church. St. Stephen’s United Church and Trinity United Church were united to form Trinity-St. Stephen’s United Church in 1936.
In 1925, Fort Lawrence United Church amalgamated with Trinity-St. Stephen’s, and in 1968 the church at Hastings joined with them. In 1959, the Fort Lawrence church building was sold to the Reformed Baptist church in Amherst. It was taken down and moved to Spring Street.
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Trinity-St. Stephen’s United Church records
Trinity Methodist Church records
Trinity United Church records
St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church records
St. Stephen’s United Church records
Knox Presbyterian Church records
Fort Lawrence Methodist/United Church records
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For a deed for Fort Lawrence (1811) see Mount Allison University fonds 6101. Microfilms of Pastoral Charge records (numbers 11, 181 to 11, 194) are at the Nova Scotia Archives.
For the deed for Amherst Methodist Church, see the Drew Collection in Chignecto Presbytery fonds; for more records related to Fort Lawrence, see Sackville Pastoral Charge fonds. See also the pamphlet “Methodism in Cumberland County” by G.O. Huestis (1902).