The history of St. Paul’s United Church begins in 1829 when a public meeting was held to discuss the building of a Presbyterian Church in Fredericton. In 1830 the first worship service was held and in 1832, the same year the church was incorporated, a request was made to the Glasgow Colonial Society for a minister. Rev. John Birkmyre arrived in October 1832 to become the first minister at the Old Kirk, as St. Paul’s was known locally.
When St. Paul’s celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 1882, plans were under way for a new building. To make way for its construction, the Old Kirk was moved to the site now occupied by Fraser Memorial Hall. Four years later, on January 10, 1886, the new St. Paul’s was dedicated. This is the church building we still use today.
In 1916 a farewell party was held for the Old Kirk prior to its removal to make way for Fraser Memorial Hall which was completed in 1918 and dedicated in memory of Donald Fraser. (No longer owned by the church, the Old Kirk still stands today, around the corner on Charlotte Street where it houses several apartments.)
Although the union of Methodist, Congregational and Presbyterian churches had been discussed since 1912, it was not until 1925 that the Act of Union came into effect and St. Paul’s became a United Church of Canada.
In 1932 St. Paul’s marked its 100th anniversary. A unique feature of Anniversary Sunday was the first radio broadcast of a church service in the Maritimes. In 1947 the current organ — a three-keyboard Casavant — was installed and dedicated to the memory of the men and women lost in two World Wars.
One of the outstanding features of St. Paul’s is its beautiful stained glass memorial windows installed by families of the congregation and which, over time, have replaced most of the original windows made of diamond-shaped leaded glass. The Johnston window on the east wall of the balcony is the only stained glass window installed when the church was built.
In 1990 St. Paul’s was designated a national historic site by the National Historic Sites and Monuments Board as a fine example of the High Victorian Gothic Revival Style. The sanctuary, the largest in downtown Fredericton, seats more than 1000 and is a popular venue for concerts.
A major renovation of Fraser Memorial Hall in 1977 provided improvements needed by the active congregation and in 2004 an elevator was installed giving access to all three floors and to the church balcony. For generations, the church and hall have seen a multitude of church-related events and community activities. Cubs, Scouts, Brownies, Guides, CGIT, the UCW, choirs, quilters and seniors and the early days of Fredericton’s Meals on Wheels program have all found a home at St. Paul’s.
In 2007 the Restoration Capital Fund Campaign was launched to raise money to repair damaged stonework, windows and the roof. To date, $650,000 has been spent to restore the front wall, copper roofing and several windows. Work is yet to be done on the east and west walls.
These are a few of the events and milestones that have marked the progress of St. Paul’s since that founding meeting over 18 decades ago. Though much has changed, one constant remains – a dedicated and faithful congregation committed to meeting the spiritual needs of the church family, sharing its resources with the wider community, preserving its history and protecting its heritage.