O'Leary United Church to hold heritage service

Eric McCarthy newsroom@journalpioneer.com
Published on May 29, 2014

Guide, Kilmeny Boates explains some of the special characteristics of the pulpit in O’Leary United Church to Sally Lockhart and Robert Turner.

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O'LEARY - There's a lot of history packed into the O'Leary United Church and this Sunday, as part of PEI2014 celebrations, that history will come to life.

Members of the congregation are preparing for a 1922 themed church service interspersed with vignettes or skits depicting the church's history.

"O'Leary United is a mix of old and new and we are very proud of our beautiful church which dates back to 1923," said Sally Lockhart, one of the performers for the 11 a.m. special service.

Other cast members are Rev. Ewen Moase, Kilmeny Boats, Robert Lockhart, Robert Turner, Thane Frizzell, Marjorie MacKay, Audrey Weeks, Linda MacDonald, Charles Adams and Ernie Hudson.

They will be dressed in period costumes, some of which have been in their possession since the 1967 centennial celebrations and some borrowed ones, for the special service.

A group of history lovers from the congregation, Fran Lewis, Audrey and Alden Weeks, Bev Makin, Kilmeny Boates and Sally Lockhart, formed a committee to brainstorm ideas for the special service, and rehearsals have been ongoing since mid-March.

Congregation members are invited to drop by prior to the service for Muffin Sunday, where they can enjoy a beverage and a muffin while they wander through the sanctuary viewing historical items in the building and on display.

The committee invites everyone back at 2:30 p.m. when the Summerside Community Choir will perform their "Together in Song" Tour.

The dynamic choir will be singing an all-Canadian line-up of music in honor of the 2014 events. A freewill offering will be collected for the afternoon entertainment.

The church history, reveals Alden Weeks, dates back to 1850 when there was just one Presbyterian congregation west of Lot 11.

The O'Leary congregation had its beginnings in 1885-86 when services were held in the home of a Mrs. Ramsay.

Once the congregation outgrew homes, they met in a warehouse fitted with rough seats.

The start of the first Presbyterian Church in O'Leary was made between 1981 and 1885. When the Baptists decided to build in Knutsford instead of O'Leary, the Presbyterians purchased their lumber and lot in O'Leary and work on a church building on the current United Church corner commenced between 1881 and 1885.

A fierce windstorm blew down the first attempt and then the following year a thunder and lightning storm flattened the next attempt at a frame.

A new church was finally dedicated on May 22, 1888.

By 1922 a larger church was needed to accommodate the rapidly growing congregation.

The current church building, with its unique floor slanting downward toward the altar, was dedicated on May 28, 1923.

In 1925, when most Methodist and Congregation and some Presbyterian congregations in Canada joined together to form the United Church of Canada, the church in O'Leary was renamed the O'Leary United Church.

In 1969 the Bloomfield United Church congregation became part of the O'Leary congregation.