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People Make a Home
It’s Sunday morning at the First Unitarian Church of Hamilton on Dundurn Street South. Inside, the clamour of people filling into the pews mixes with the melodic sounds of the piano and the choir warming up. Children’s laughter is heard, and behind the pulpit, two large windows offer a view of the changing seasons.

Throughout the building, groups are meeting and classrooms being readied for the children and youth that will soon pour through the doors.

This was once a sprawling hardware store where people came to buy hammers and nails. In the true spirit of Unitarianism, it has been transformed into a sacred place, a place of diversity where strangers become friends, where people gather to find love, trust and respect. Its existence is the next chapter in a story of perseverance and faith that goes back over 150 years.

Unitarians first met to discuss the possibility of gathering a congregation in the mid 1830s, but 50 years would pass before a serious effort to establish a church was undertaken. In 1889, a small group of committed people became the First Unitarian Church of Hamilton. Within a year (characteristically, as it would turn out) they began an ambitious building project. The building stands at 126 James Street South, where it presently houses The Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts.

The church called and ordained its first minister that year, and with help from the American Unitarian Association, was served by a number of part-time and full-time ministers over the next 16 years. Our history since then includes several periods of time as a lay-led community, as well as stretches with ministerial leadership; and our membership has grown and thrived, as well as diminished from time to time – often in response to difficult economic and social times. For 8 years between wars the church was held together mainly by the Annual Meeting and the Church Picnic. In the earlier part of this century, the church met in a couple of different church buildings, the orange lodge, two different theatres, a synagogue and a home on Main Street East! But wherever we have gathered, the people have come together to be the church.

Our last big building project was in 1951 on King Street East near Parkdale. Then, as now, members of the congregation poured in donations of time, effort, money, expertise and sheer hard work to build a spiritual home to serve a growing congregation. The baby boom was on, and a whole generation of children came through our church school in the 50s and 60s. Some of their children have grown up with us, too.

The church was housed in a smaller building on Aberdeen Avenue for almost 20 years during its "Fellowship" period with lay leadership. During these times, the church was sustained by a core of dedicated members, many of whom are still active today. In the late 1980s, the church made a commitment to growth by calling Rev. Martha Munson as their 2/3 time extension minister. The church had begun to grow and they moved again, to a larger church building on Locke Street South. This church housed our congregation until about a year after the arrival of our present minister, Rev. Allison Barrett. Both church school and sanctuary were full to overflowing, and we needed to search again for a place to build our "house of many rooms". The True Value Hardware store on Dundurn Avenue went up for sale, and we took the leap of faith, believing that it was possible, with enough vision and enough commitment, to "build the dream" of a church that was functional, beautiful, and large enough to accommodate lots of growth without moving again!

So began our present transformation, a transformation born of a dream, and made real by hard work and dedication.

Wherever we have gathered, whether we were few or many, our church has been a spiritual presence in this community since 1889. Its contributions over the years – of caring and outreach, of learning and growing, of worship and spiritual enrichment stand on their own in time, and we are indebted to all those who came before us for the church we celebrate today. Yet our church’s commitment to growth, to stability and to our ministry in the city of Hamilton has grown enormously over the years. Our "House of Many Rooms" stands before us as proof that literally and spiritually, it is the people who are the church, the people who make a "house of many rooms" a spiritual home for all who enter.

May you be blessed by your time with us.

Written upon the dedication of our present spiritual home on Dundurn Street, April 16, 2000

Member Canadian Unitarian Council
The First Unitarian Church of Hamilton
170 Dundurn Street South
Hamilton ON  L8P 4K3
Phone: 905-527-8441  Fax: 905-527-6420

General Email: info@firstunitarianhamilton.org