The Main Street Christian Baptist Church in Newmarket had humble beginnings, dating back 200 years.
On November 20, 1822 the first Christian church – Christian being the denomination, not just the religion – opened just north of Newmarket and now on November 20, 2022 it will celebrate its 200th anniversary with two special services.
Senior Pastor Andrew Hamilton shared the history of the church reflecting on their centuries of service.
Two Loyalist families settled in this area after leaving the United States during the War of 1812. They missed the fellowship they had in New York, so they prayed for what to do.
They wrote to their old church and it was agreed that a missionary would be sent to start a new church in the area. However, Hamilton said, when the missionary arrived he somehow missed Newmarket and established a church further north near Lake Simcoe in 1821. It grew rapidly and the two women who started it all connected with they.
A year later, they were able to open the Christian church in a school on Second Concession Road. The building was then moved by horses to the current property at 135 Main Street.
However, they did not spend all their time there. According to Hamilton, as the church outgrew the school, they built another building in town, which is now Masons Hall.
Then, in 1874, a man named TB Wakefield donated $10,000 for a new church. It had three conditions: it had to be at 135 Main Street, and have a steeple and bell costing no less than $500. All of its requirements were met, and this same building still dominates atop Main Street today.
Since then it has seen a number of moments in history such as the World Wars, the Spanish Flu epidemic and the first public performance of Andrew Muir. The Maple Leaf Forever and the laying of the first stone of the church by the Governor General at the time.
“A lot has happened in this town. A lot has happened as a result of two women praying,” Hamilton said.
A theme that has dominated all these years is community service. Hamilton said whether these were the early days of church women trying to spread the love of Jesus on a not-so-nice main street, or caring for the sick during the Spanish flu, or more recently of feed the hungry.
Hamilton said that a few years ago the church had seen a significant drop in church attendance and the few remaining people were preparing to sell the building. However, with nowhere to go and no valid offer, they decided to stay and instead focus on why they had been placed on Main Street.
In 2019, Hamilton was invited to church to speak and connected with them so much that he became their acting pastor.
“It became apparent very quickly when I was here that there was a lot of need on Main Street, a lot of hungry people,” he said.
He began to realize that the reason they were called as the Main Street Church is to help these people. Over the past two years, they’ve added a pantry on the porch to make food available to those in need, installed take-out windows during the pandemic to serve a light breakfast, a large meal quarterly and weekly community barbecues.
“There are people falling in the shadow of this steeple who matter to God,” Hamilton said.
He said providing them with a meal and letting them know they are loved is why the church has continued all this time.
“Who knew when two ladies prayed 200 years ago that’s why,” he said. “You can’t deny that’s why we’re here.”
Hamilton was named the church’s senior pastor in 2020, and while he continues to run his own business as an aisle sealer, he has fallen in love with the Christian Baptist Church congregation.
“I love it. I love the privilege of being here as a pastor,” he said.
There will be two services on Sunday, November 20, one at 10:30 a.m. attended by Mayor John Taylor and Councilor Bob Kwapis. There will also be greetings from Premier Doug Ford and Governor General Mary Simon. Hamilton said they might even expect congratulations from King Charles. There will be lunch after the service.
At 6:30 p.m. there will be a traditional hymn singing with beautiful historic music, which Hamilton said he was very excited for.