The land we now know as East Scarborough has changed a lot since 1833, when the original St. Margaret’s in the Pines Church was built.
It has been transformed from the empty fields and sparse rural villages of a 17th century British settlement, into the concrete jungle of a modern Mega-city, home to a diverse metropolitan community.
Yet throughout the process of urbanization one thing has remained a constant: a chapel at what is now 4130 Lawrence Avenue East has always provided a place of worship for Christians in Scarborough, and has been a hub for community events, activities, and outreach programs.
2008 marks the congregation of St. Margaret’s 175th anniversary, and the church will be celebrating this landmark occasion on November 15 and 16th with a Gala dinner, Entertainment, and a Sunday morning service with the Right Reverend Patrick Yu, Area Bishop for York-Scarborough.
“It’s a very historic event,” says St. Margaret’s Reverend Ron Scott. “We are actually the oldest Anglican parish east of the Don River.”
Their property was originally surveyed, purchased, and donated in 1832, to provide the area with its first Anglican parish, and burial ground. Scarborough, at the time had a population of 1135 people, and was not even recognized as a township until 1850. Settlers were originally forced to hold makeshift church services in houses, taverns, and schools.
According to Reverend Scott, although their current church was built in 1960, it is the third structure to be built on the historic land. The original 17th century wooden church tragically burnt down in a brush fire in 1904. The second chapel to be used, built in 1905, still stands today in the St. Margaret’s cemetery alongside the resting places of some of Scarborough’s earliest pioneers.
“We are a big family, and we serve the community in many ways,” explains Rev. Scott. “Throughout the week we have bible studies, quilters club, girl guides, a community market, senior’s yoga and exercise, Alcoholics Anonymous support meetings, and a regular Tamil congregation.”
Former Church Secretary Susan Humphreys, 61, of Toronto has been attending St. Margaret’s for fifty years, and remembers sitting out in the 1905 chapel as a child.
“We were growing and needed more room, so the new building was unveiled in 1960, and all of us kids got to put our names in the cornerstone,” she explains. “However, now with the demographics changing and people not having to come from a far, our numbers are down.”
Long-time parishioners attest to this, saying there has been a drop from 300 regular members in recent years, to the current 120. For this reason, fundraising and community events have become a big part of the church’s future.
Joycelyn Williams, 42, of Oshawa, is a leader on a committee of 15 members dedicated to the 175th gala event, as well other fundraisers.
“Our theme is a ‘Faith-Full Future’,” explains Williams. “We had a Community Festival as well as an evening concert in September as a count down to our anniversary, and all the funds from those events are going to our ongoing ‘building fund’.”
The Nov 15th Gala Dinner & Entertainment will be held at West Rouge Community Center and the cost is $55.00 per person. The feature entertainer is Canadian singer Derrick Paul Miller, with other performances by Irish dancers, and a steal pan band.
“It’s a chance for current and past parishioners to meet, socialize and enjoy the history,” says Williams. “Indeed a night to celebrate and rejoice in fellowship.”