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Bridge Street United Church celebrates 200 years

By Meaghan Bury [7]

BELLEVILLE – Bridge Street United Church [8] is looking good for its age.

The downtown Belleville congregation has been celebrating the church’s 200th anniversary this year, with the coming weekend set to wrap things up.

Bridge Street’s history dates back to the first Christian congregation in the city, a group of Methodists. When the United Church of Canada was formed in 1925, Bridge Street – along with Methodist and Presbyterian congregations from across the country – became part of the new denomination. The original building burned  down in 1886, but the church was rebuilt within two years.

The congregation is now home to between 350 and 400 members, with 110 to 150 showing up for services on a regular basis.

Veronica Leonard, 67, has been part of the church for five years and says the congregation makes it special.

“We’re not celebrating 200 years of a building – we’re celebrating 200 years of a spirit-led group of people,” she said.

Leonard is part of the 200th anniversary committee at the church. The group has been working toward this year since 2013.

The events that the committee has held throughout the year included a concert series by the minister of music, a performance from the Metropolitan Silver Band, a stage performance of Mendelssohn’s oratorio Elijah with opera singers from Toronto, and a Sunday School picnic.

Committee member Rick McKee, 70, says a lot of work has gone into planning the events and he is excited about this weekend.

“It’s been a busy year and this is the culmination of all the work that we’ve done,” he said.

The weekend will include a large display from organizations that have received grants from the Bridge Street United Church Foundation [9], showcasing what they have achieved with the money.

Other events include a music recital by the bell choir, a visit from Ontario Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell [10] and a dramatic performance about the circuit rider [11] ministers who in the early days of the church rode on horseback to visit their congregations.

There will also be refreshments, and on Saturday a cup of soup for all those who want it, based on the stone soup [12] children’s folk story.

A complete listing of the weekend’s events can be found here [13].

After this weekend the board of governors at the church will start to develop a five-year plan.

Leonard says the governors are going to have to look at ways that the large building will be able to support itself for years to come.

But she adds that the building itself is not the most important thing.

“If the building burned down, the congregation would go on,” she said.

McKee puts 200 years into perspective by saying that at the time the congregation was formed, Napoleon was being exiled [14] and Sir John A. Macdonald [15]was born.

“It’s exciting. We’ve survived 200 years and we’re looking forward to the future,” he said.

Rev. David Mundy, the lead minister at Bridge Street, says he hopes that reflecting on the church’s history can help the congregation improve what it is now. but adds that church members should not spend too much time looking in the rear-view mirror. The focus, he says, is to be good neighhbours in a neighbourhood that is changing.

All are welcome to come celebrate the anniversary this weekend with its kickoff at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

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