Cherry Valley Church

This morning we look back briefly to the beginnings of church activity leading up to the building of the Cherry Valley Church prior to the beginning of the 19th century.

The origin of the Bible Christian Church came to fruition through the efforts of Rev. Francis Metherall and records start as far back as 1848. Mr. Metherall first settled in the Vernon River Valley with his wife and family. His first wife passed away and he later married Mary Nelson, a resident of Cherry Valley.

The first church built in Cherry Valley was a Bible Christian Church and was situated on Irving property on the Loyalist Line Road or as the locals called it, the Back Road. This buildings was erected around 1864-65 and according to the 1880 Atlas, it was still there although no deed was found for this piece of land on which it stood.

In 1884, the Bible Christians and the Wesleyans united to form the Methodist Church of Canada and it was then that the Cherry Valley charge was added to the Pownal Circuit. In a Wesleyan Methodist report of 1864-65, there is no mention of the church in Cherry Valley, so it is assumed that it continued to the Bible Christian until the union of 1884.

A free gift of a church site was donated just above the intersection of the three roads leading in to China Point and Earnscliffe and the former church was sold and moved into Cherry Valley where it served as a community centre for some years. Some people will remember the very active Young People's Union and the three-act plays that they worked hard on to present to the public. The first performance or permier, if you like, was always in Cherry Valley and then the cast was invited to present this play at various halls roundabout. These presentations were popular.

Benjamin Huntley was commissioned to build a new church on the donated site for a projected cost of $1600. During the building of this church, it was interesting to note that he stayed at the farm home of the Haydens and at the site of this homestead, George and Norma Hayden still reside.

Mr. Huntley designed this church with a distinctive loveliness in no way imitating or competing with grander scale and the more massive construction of city churches but built in accord with the rural decorative style of the 19th century. The uniqueness of Cherry Valley Church was found in the onion steeple, the matching peak of the square sanctuary, the keyhole design for the door and the large keyhole window in the entry. All these were spiritually symbolic and aesthetically the mark of distinction. The small church chapels dotted the landscape of Prince Edward Island and served as a nucleus of community life.

A cemetery adjoined the Cherry Valley Church and it is still maintained as the Cherry Valley Memorial Cemetery.

Is it any wonder that our forefathers, at the turn of the century, glowed with pride because they were instrumental in this church to God's glory?

The Cherry Valley Church formed ties to the Methodist Church from 1903-1925 and, due to merger, became affiliated with the United Church of Canada. It became a part of the Vernon pastoral charge from 1925-1962 and then the Vernon-Pownal pastoral charge from 1962-69.

This beautiful little church, the maroon reflecting the island soil and the gold reflecting the fields of ripening grain which surrounded it, was a center for W.M.S., Sunday School, C.G.I.T., Young People's Union, besides the worship services every Sabbath.

Many ministers served through the years. The longest serving minister that I remember was Rev. Dr. A.S. Weir--a kindly genial man who first lived in the manse at Vernon Bridge and later he came back to serve again, but this time he resided at the manse in Pownal.

The only adherent of the Cherry Valley charge to enter the ministry of the United Church of Canada was Sutherland MacLeod. He became an ordained minister and served in charges throughout the Maritimes. He, his wife and family would worship in his home church as they vacationed on the homestead in Earnscliffe. A nephew, Vernon, lives on the property and is actively involved in the work of the church here at St. Andrew's.

To span seventy years of any church's history in a short time is impossible, so for local interest, as well as personal interest, I would life to relate two first events. It is personal because I married into the Mutch family fifty years ago. The first wedding solemnized in the new church at Cherry Valley was that of Jennie H. Jenkins and Willaim J. MacEachern on July 6, 1898, and the officiating clergyman was Rev. J.W. McConnell. Throughout their lives they remained loyal to the church they were married in. Their only daughter, Marguerite, Mrs. William (Will) Mutch--Mom--Nanny--was organist in the Cherry Valley Church for many years and for a short time at the new church in Vernon Bridge.

The first burial at the cemetery adjoining the new church was that of Mrs. William Jenkins--nee Maggie Dingwell, in 1900. She was the mother of Jennie Jenkins MacEachern, Mary Jenkins MacLeod, Delite Jenkins Hayden, and I well remember Uncle Dingwell, Uncle Trueman and Uncle Will. Descendants of these families are actively involved in the life of the church here at St. Andrew's--descendants that span several generations.

History shows that change is a sign of times. In the mid-1960s, some members within the six-point charge began to look to the future and the idea of amalgamation and consolidation began to take shape. There was little denying that the demands of the church to serve its community were changing. You can will imagine that there was a lot of soul searching as this idea took root. Did we need the proposed changes to enhance our service to God and our service to a more complex community with wider awareness of world problems, better communication and quick transportation and in a time when methods of meaningful experiences were broadening.

Efforts toward consolidation, which is a practical merger to build a church which could be used not just for Sunday worship but for seven days a week for many activities and concerns, seemed to be a healthy response for the needs of the future. It must be built on the cornerstones of the past, the cornerstones established by our forefathers.

Rev. Eric Grant vigorously spearheaded meetings toward this goal for two years, but he did not see its culmination as he accepted a call to another charge and so another change took place.

Rev. Hugh MacLean, a recently ordained minister, came to our charge in 1967 and the road was a strenuous one that led to our final goal--this church we are worshipping in this morning.

In 1969, a unique project in the history of the United Church of Canada was completed and the new church was opened on March 30, 1969.

It was a proud moment for me as Recording Steward to respond to the knock on the doors at the entry and invite the clergy and visiting dignitaries to enter--a memorable occasion indeed!

In 1970, our new church was officially named St. Andrew's United Church. I would be remiss if I did not mention the first minister to come the congregation of St. Andrew's--Rev. John VanOmme and he is currently serving in Kitimat, British Columbia. His wife, the former Linda MacLeod, is a great granddaughter of Mary Jenkins MacLeod, mentioned previously.

The Cherry Valley Church was demolished in 1970 and many felt that a very attractive part of the landscape was gone but our hopes have been realized for this church of nearly twenty-five years.

We have paved the way for our young generations and by walking in God's grace, we have built on the cornerstones of the past, the six churches that decided this was the path to the future. We are as proud of our achievements to God's glory as our forefathers were at the turn of the century when Cherry Valley Church was built.

Thanks be to God.

Sources: Muriel Mutch

This information was originally presented as part of the 25th Anniversary Services
of St. Andrew's United Church on January 30, 1994