History of St. Peter's United Church

A Brief History of the Church and its Governance and the Evolution From Official Board To Church Council

A New Church Started (1954 - 1958)

In November, 1954, a Sunday School of 50 children and eight teachers was started by Miss Helen Mack, a W. M. S. Missionary. From this beginning, the work grew and preaching services were started, the first being in Wembley Public School on November 27, 1955, conducted by Rev. J. L. Carder. Rev. Dr. D. S. Lautenschlager chaired a meeting of the congregation on December 19, 1955, which elected the first men's committee with members Donald Phillips, Harold Tunney, William Somers, and Fred Weight.

By action of Sudbury Presbytery, under its chairman, Rev. Robert Kaill, the congregation was officially constituted on March 18, 1956, with 62 charter members. The name, St. Peter's, was chosen by the congregation on May 27, 1956.

St. Peter's Church was joined with the United Churches of Larchwood and Chelmsford on July 1, 1956 to become the Wembley Pastoral charge, and Rev. Bernard Warren was called to be the first full-time minister (July 1, 1956 to June 30, 1962). During 1957, a manse was bought with the help of the Board of Home Missions, and committees were appointed to secure plans and finances for the erection of a church building. St. Andrew's United church presented the congregation with 5.5 lots totaling one acre for the building site.

A Self-sustaining Church in a New Building (1958 - 1962)

On July 1, 1958, St. Peter's Church became a one-point self-supporting charge with 223 active resident members among 175 families. A Building Committee with members George Lang (Chair), Sheldon Macartney, Madella Purdy, Gilbert Walsh, Rev. Bernard Warren, and Cecil Winton was established to plan for the new building. The General Contractor, Chisnell-Ganton Limited of Sudbury was awarded the contract for the building. The blasting of the first rock took place on February 14, 1959 and a ceremony was held to commemorate the occasion. The visiting ministers at this ceremony were Rev. Dr. James Lyttle, Superintendent of the Board of Home Missions, Rev. H. N. Hillyer, Chairman of the Sudbury Presbytery, and Rev. Dr. E. S. Lautenslager, President of Hamilton Conference. The new church building which cost approximately $176,00.00 and designed to seat 375 people with another 90 in the balcony, was dedicated on October 16, 1960. This was the beginning of a week-long celebration of ceremonies and activities to mark the event.


Exterior and Interior of the original St. Peter's building (circa 1962).

Jesus said, "And I say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it". Matthew 16 : 18

Eleanor Zaitz was the first Secretary at the church. Jack Davidson was the Music Director and Mary Crozier was the Organist. The first custodian was Ed Williamson. William Somers was the Clerk of Session, Don Groom was Chair of the Committee of Stewards, Fred weight was the Church Treasurer, and William Groom was the Secretary of the Official Board. The Trustees were: Ken McConnell (Chair), Gerald Gray, George Lang, Gordon Sinclair, and Fred Weight.In 1961, Chris Mather became the first candidate for the ministry from St. Peter's.

The Ministry of Rev. Bruce MacDougall (1962 - 1972)

In 1962, Rev. Bernard Warren accepted a call to Alderwood United Church in Toronto.

Rev. Warren was succeeded by Rev. D. Bruce MacDougall who was called from Massey United Church (July 1, 1962 to October 31, 1972). At this time the resident membership stood at 399. Like most ministers, Rev. MacDougall was a tireless worker. He initiated Pete's Pop and Talk Shoppe at St. Peter's as a novel method of telling the children's story. Also, he was instrumental in starting a branch of Lifeline in Sudbury and he was an active participant in Faith at Work. The Turtles Group for young people became a very active and integral part of life at St. Peter's during his tenure.

First Church Building Destroyed by Fire (1972 - 1973)

1972 Fire

The church building was destroyed in a disastrous fire on Saturday, April 8, 1972. After the fire, the congregation accepted the kind invitation from St. Paul's United Church to worship in their building. Later that spring Rev. Bruce MacDougall accepted an executive position with Faith at Work in Hamilton, and the congregation spent some time deciding if the church should be rebuilt. By fall, a pastoral relations committee had been formed and Rev. G. Rupert Evans from West Humber United Church in Toronto became minister on May 1, 1973 (May 1, 1973 to June 30, 1980). In the interim, Rev. John Romeril from St. Stephen's United Church in Sudbury was the supervising minister and his father, Rev. Romeril, a retired minister, led the worship services for the congregation. Rev. Evans was minister at St. Peter's from 1973 to 1980, a time when the congregation really went through a renewal and rebuilding after the fire of April, 1972.

A New Church Building Becomes a Reality (1973 - 1980)

1974NewStPetersPlans for the new building were already under consideration by the spring of 1973, and the congregation approved acceptance of a tender by Nu-Style Construction Company for $157,000 on September 5, 1973. The above-ground remnants of the old building were torn down and construction commenced on September 19, 1973. Rev. Evans, along with Unified Board Chair, Bill Osborne and Building committee Chair, Bill Groom, organized the effort to design and build the new church. The architect, Andy Frick, had reservations about working with Rev. Evans at first, he developed a real respect for him by the time the building was completed because of his knowledge and dedication to the project.The congregation worshipped at St. Mark’s United Church from September 23, 1973 until the dedication of the new St. Peter’s Church on May 5, 1974.

Rev. Evans was a great organizer and facilitator as well as a gifted preacher who always made clear his strongly-held beliefs. He did not hesitate to speak out on issues in church and community where he believed the church should be heard. He took a passionate interest in the growth and stewardship of the congregation. He always counted the number present each Sunday and could quote the numbers at will. While in Sudbury, Rev. Evans served a term as President of the newly-formed Manitou Conference. Rev. Evans truly was one of the significant builders of St. Peter’s congregation and, in many ways was the right minister at the right time in St. Peter’s history.

In June, 1980, after seven years of pastoral leadership at St. Peter’s, Rev. Evans retired to Guelph, Ontario with his wife, Phyllis. Unfortunately, she passed away shortly after their move to Guelph. He remained active in Waterloo Presbytery for a number of years, taking supply and interim ministries in the area. Rev. Evans died on October 9, 2001 in his 88 th year in Fergus, Ontario where he lived in retirement with his second wife Noreen Cumming-Evans.

The First Woman Minister in a United Church in Sudbury (1980 - 1988)

1986MinistersWith the pending retirement of Rev. Evans in the spring of 1980, A Pastoral Relations committee, chaired by Russ Boyles, was established to seek a replacement. By late summer the congregation accepted the committee’s recommendation that Rev. Bessie Lane be called from Cambridge Street United church in Lindsay, Ontario to be the new minister at St. Peter’s (November 1, 1980 to June 30, 1990). She became the minister at St. Peter’s on November 1, 1980. This was a history-making occasion because Rev. Lane was the first woman minister in a United Church in Sudbury.

Rev. Lane worked extremely hard in her own right but she also gave members of the congregation and church council the freedom to accept more responsibility for the welfare of the congregation. She brought a very caring attitude to the work of the Church. During her ministry, St. Peter’s was involved in the internship program and Miles Vardy spent a year under her supervision as an intern.

In 1988, after 10 very productive years at St. Peter’s, Rev. Lane was called to Westminster United Church in Whitby from which position she retired.

Consolidation and Inspiration Years (1988 - present)


A Pastoral Relations Committee chaired by Jim Elliott was established in the spring of 1988 to seek for a replacement for Rev. Lane. Rev. Dawn Vaneyk who had recently moved to Sudbury from the Mindemoya Pastoral Charge, Manitoulin Island, was serving St. Peter’s as a supply minister during the fall. In its wisdom, the Pastoral Relations committee recommended to the congregation and it approved that Rev. Vaneyk be called as the full time minister to St. Peter’s. As a young energetic person, Dawn tackled the work of the church with vigour and enthusiasm and gave renewed leadership to the congregation as it faced the many challenges of the last decade of the 20th century.

During the 1990s the United Church of Canada as a whole was experiencing a number of important changes. At the 32nd General council in Victoria, BC in 1988, General Council declared that "all persons, regardless of sexual orientation, who profess their faith in Jesus Christ are welcome to become members of the United Church of Canada." and that "all members of the United Church are eligible to be considered for order of ministry." Needless to say, this decision caused quite a stir among congregations and some people withdrew their membership from the church. Also, at the 35th General Council in August, 1994, the United church established The Healing Fund to help First Nations communities respond to the painful legacy of residential schools.

In October of 1998, the United Church offered an apology to former students of United Church Residential Schools. By the end of the decade, the safety of people served by the United Church, as in other organizations, became a high priority issue.

Growing on the Rock

Following a needs and planning study, the congregation at St. Peter's United in Sudbury approved preliminary plans for an addition and renovations to the church in 2007. Central features of the changes are an elevator, serving all three church levels, a new barrier free washroom on the lower level and enlarged entrance and narthex areas as well as a new kitchen and several new offices and meeting rooms.

A Growing on the Rock financial campaign was held in early 2008 and contributions and pledges currently are close to the $ 600,000 mark. After a period of tendering and consequent adjustment of the plans to match the funds raised, a contract with a project management company was signed in July 2009 and a ground turning and blessing ceremony was held in September. The construction work is scheduled for completion by the end of January 2010.

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