A History of John Black Memorial Church

     On a beautiful day in September, 1851, the Reverend John Black, first Presbyterian minister to serve in the West, arrived in Winnipeg.  Services were held in the manse until construction of the church was completed in 1853.  The first service was held in Old Kildonan Church, on the west side of the Red River, on Sunday, January 5, 1854, and it has been in continuous use for worship ever since.

     Rev. John Black remained as pastor until his death in 1882.  He, with his wife and three of their children, lie buried in the cemetery close to the old church.

     The settlers on the east side of the river were faithful members of the Old Kirk, ferrying across the river in summer, and traveling across the ice by sleigh in winter.

     In 1907 a Sunday School was organized on the east side, and classes were held in the public school building.  The school grew rapidly, and from this beginning there emerged John Black Memorial Church.

     On August 13, 1926, a disastrous fire of unknown origin entirely destroyed the church building.  Undaunted, several congregational meetings were called to discuss plans for a new church building.  Services in the meantime were held in Lord Wolseley School and the Scottish Hall.  The present site on Roberta Avenue was obtained, plans were drawn up and the erection proceeded with.  Opening services were held on the first Sunday of October, 1927.

     A unique feature in connection with the erection of the second church, and one of special historic interest, was the incorporation of a granite boulder, known as the John Black Stone.  This boulder on which the initials J.B. were roughly carved, had for 75 years marked the spot where Rev. John Black stood on Little Stony Mountain as he preached to his Kildonan parishioners who had taken refuge there from extensive spring  floods of 1852.  In June 1927, Mr. H. Black of Morden Manitoba, son of the pioneer minister, formally laid the corner stone.

     During the next 30 years, our church grew by leaps and bounds.  By the 1950's three services of worship were held each Sunday at 9:30 and 11:14 a.m. and 7 p.m.  It became necessary to hold Sunday school classes in Lord Wolseley School, and in 1954 a separate Sunday school was started to accomodate children living north of the Bergen Cut-off.  These classes met in Lord Kitchener (now John Pritchard School).

     After three years of earnest and often times difficult deliberation, the John Black congregation unanimously gave its approval to the new and challenging task that lay ahead, the building of a large church.  On Sunday, July 25, 1956, the congregation with members of the Sunday School and mid-week youth groups, gathered on the church lawn to witness an official turning-of-the-sod ceremony.  On Sunday, May 26, 1957, the official dedication and opening services of our present building were held.

     There have been many changes through the years, but John Black Memorial United Church continues its ministry in the community and beyond.  Young lives are pointed towards the way that they should take, the mature find fellowship made real, new friendships are formed and faith is supported.  We are thankful to God for all who have faithfully served the Church, and we are confident that He who has led us this far will also go before us, so that future generations will find within the Church continued opportunity to serve and be served.  To those who have given fathful service over the years, we offer our grateful thanks.  To those who are coming into the Church now, we say that yours is a heartfelt heritage.

For other historical information about Rev. John Black and our church please see the files  below:

Original sermon 1881.pdf Original sermon 1881.pdf
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Centennial Celebration 1951.pdf Centennial Celebration 1951.pdf
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Letter 1882.pdf Letter 1882.pdf
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Tribute to Rev. John Black 1973-74.pdf Tribute to Rev. John Black 1973-74.pdf
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Rev. John Black story 2008.pdf Rev. John Black story 2008.pdf
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