“A wise nation preserves its records” – Joseph Howe
The congregation of Trinity-St. Stephen’s considers itself starting from a few founding congregations. It is in remembering our past that we can see a future.
Amherst Reformed Presbyterian
The Presbyterian tradition goes back farther than the Methodist tradition and actually dates to 16th Century Scotland and to 1750 in Nova Scotia. One of the problems with the early Presbyterian Church was it many divisions, most of them in Scotland itself.
In 1827 the Rev. Alexander Clarke came to Amherst from Ireland. He was a Minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, and it was with his arrival that Presbyterianism really commenced in the Amherst area. The first Presbyterian meeting house was erected in West Amherst cemetery. A new church was built at the corner of Church and Albion streets. Rev. Clarke continued as minister in the Amherst area for almost 50 years.
St. Stephen’s Presbyterian
In 1875 most of the branches of the Presbyterian Church in Canada united and on August 30, 1875, St. Stephen’s congregation was established in Amherst. The first minister was Rev. Thomas Tallach. Although the Reformed Presbyterians did not participate in the union of 1875, St. Stephen’s gradually absorbed all the members of that congregation in Amherst.
In 1898, the original building had become outgrown and a new church was completed in February, 1900. This church was located on the corner of Victoria and Lawrence in downtown Amherst.
In 1925, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church became St. Stephen’s United Church. This church was used until the union with Trinity United in 1936. For some time after this, St. Stephen’s Church building was used as a recreation hall; it was taken down following World War II.
The first Methodists in America arrived around 1766. The first Methodist Church in Amherst opened in 1841 on Upper Victoria Street (J. W. Douglas property). Prior to this, a Meeting House had been built in 1819 to serve many denominations on today’s site of the First Baptist Church on Victoria Street.
The present site of Trinity-St. Stephen’s was purchased by the Methodists in 1874 and dedicated for worship in 1876. This church seated 350 and 12 years later it was expanded to seat approximately 800. This was done during the first pastorate of Dr. W.H. Heartz for whom the present Heartz Hall is named.
During the early part of the 20th Century, Amherst was growing rapidly. There was need for a new church and the present church was dedicated on September 22, 1907. There were 2,200 in attendance for the dedication.
Trinity-St. Stephen’s United Church
In 1925 church union was consummated between the Canadian Presbytery Church and the Canadian Methodist Church. Trinity Methodist Church and St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church both became part of the United Church of Canada. Both congregations continued as separate entities until they amalgamated in 1936 and became known as Trinity-St. Stephen’s United Church.
On July 5, 1936, the first services were held of the united congregation of Trinity and St. Stephen’s in the former Trinity Church where the new congregation had decided to be. The Baptismal Font and stained glass windows at the rear of the sanctuary are from St. Stephen’s Church.
Fort Lawrence United Church
The Fort Lawrence United Church joined with Trinity-St. Stephen’s in January, 1957. The congregation sold their church building and it was moved to Spring St. It was the home of the Wesleyan Church until they sold it and moved to a larger place. A stained glass window that was in the building was moved to the windows of Heartz Hall.
Hastings United Church
Although there was no formal amalgamation, when the Hastings United Church closed its doors many of its members found their way to Trinity-St. Stephen’s.
In 1950, Rev. Warren Langille saw the need for an enlarged facility to accommodate the rising primary and junior departments and asked the congregation to take action. As a temporary measure, in 1955, the wall between the sanctuary and hall was soundproofed so the space could be used by the Sunday School for classes during the service.
In 1959, the congregation voted in favour and financial pledges were made. The tenders were called and on July 10,1961 were awarded.
The cornerstone of Heartz Hall was laid on October 29, 1961. It was dedicated on February 22, 1962.
Heartz Hall remains a focal point for church and community activities. It houses the offices of the minister, music director and the administration assistant. The church library is upstairs and its’ many meeting rooms are used by the church and community groups alike.