St John the Evangelist Anglican Church
23 Water Street North, Kitchener, Ontario, N2H 5A4
Rector: The Rev. Canon Christopher Pratt
Sunday Services: 8:00am and 10:00am
Morning Prayer, Monday - Friday, 9:00am
Midweek Eucharist - Wednesday, 7:30am
Downtown Kitchener is like most other downtown core areas of major cities: noisy and busy with pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Hot in the summer with all the concrete, pavement and cars, you would be hard pressed to find a quiet place, inviting to people. Just a half block east of all this, there is just such a place: the Church of St. John the Evangelist. Walking east on Water Street, you're greeted by the largest lawn in downtown Kitchener, planted with trees, flowers and containing a memorial garden.
St. John's is the oldest Anglican parish in Kitchener-Waterloo, having been established in 1856. Until the arrival of the railroad, Berlin, as it was called then, was a sleepy, German community, and the needs of any Anglicans in the area were met by the itinerant Rev. Michael Boomer, a newly-ordained minister in the Church of Ireland. He probably worked out of Trinity Church, Galt (Cambridge), which had been established in 1840.
With the arrival of the railway came the English speaking population, and through the work of Dr. Bowlby and William Jaffray, the parish of St. John the Evangelist was established in 1856. The first services were held in the printing shop, and as the town continued to grow, it became the county seat, and the Anglicans became the dominant, non-Roman denomination in the town. By 1861 the congregation had built their first building. The east windows of the present building, and six lancet windows on the north side of the nave come fromthe original, 1861 building.
The west window, in memory of Herbert Bowlby
son of a founding father, and surgeon general of
Canadian Forces in World War I - killed in action, 1916.
By 1894, with a swelling congregation, members were beginning to "defect" to the Church of the Holy Saviour, a new parish established in Waterloo. To stop this movement, the Board of St. John's decided to tear down the old building and put up a new, larger building in its place. A Toronto architect, Eden-Smith, was engaged. Eden-Smith was the architect of St. Thomas' Church on Huron Street in downtown Toronto. In October of 1894, with Bishop Baldwin in attendance, the new building was officially opened. The local press of the day described the building as "odd but beautiful"! A large rectory appeared next to the church on Water Street. This friendly rivalry between the two congregations continued, with the parish hall at Holy Saviour bearing the Seagram name, but the impressive stained glass memorial windows in the South Transept of St. John's having been given in memory of Stephanie Seagram in 1909.
The interior of the building is brick and stained glass, with the wooden pews, choir stalls, screens and reredos done by the Globe Furniture Company. It creates a feeling of peacefulness, very conducive to its primary function, the worship of God. The reredos was added in 1955, when the rector of the day, Canon Charles Mixer, spearheaded the remodelling and enlargement of the building in preparation for the 100th anniversary celebrations in 1956. The reredos, showing the Last Supper and the Four Evangelists, was apparently ordered by another parish in the area, but Canon Mixer acquired it from the Globe Furniture Company. Being much too large for the front of St. John's, it was cut and fitted into the sanctuary, not only behind the altar, but down the sides as well. It's interesting that a smaller version of the Last Supper forms the reredos in Holy Saviour, the "rival" parish to the north. The large, airy narthex of the present building was another project of the centennial celebrations, when the church proper was joined to the rectory, which is no longer a rectory, but provides office space for this busy congregation.
St. John's ties to the community are reflected in the beautiful stained glass, with windows donated in memory of Walter Bean, the Rumpel-McKellars, the Seagrams and the Bowlbys. (One window in memory of one of a founding member, another in memory of his son, Herbert, who served as the Surgeon General of the Canadian Army during WW I, and was killed during that war.)
The best known outreach project of St. John's today is the Soup Kitchen, which has been in existence for many years. It has recently outgrown its location in St. John's, and moved to the second floor of the St. Vincent de Paul Society building.
The Memorial Scattering Garden was established in 1999, and provides a beautiful environment for the remembrance of loved ones.
October 2006 photostory by Fr. Michael Atkins (former rector
St Luke's Broughdale, London, Ontario)
Many thanks to the parish historian, John Boulden, for his time and willingness to share his knowledge of the parish.
More information on St John's is at the
St John the Evangelist, Kitchener website
Another of the Charming Churches of Huron is
Grace Anglican, Brantford, Ontario