Church History 1945 to 1978

The following document is a history of the early days of Deep River Community Church prepared by one of the original members of the church, Les Beamish (and edited by Rod Delaney in 2019) .  It tells the story of the Church’s beginnings and growth, from 1945 until 1978.  Much has happened since 1978, but the central themes of Worship, Community, and Christian reaching out to the world are still strong at Deep River Community Church. 
As an explanatory note for those not familiar with the story, when atomic energy was first becoming established in Deep River in the Chalk River, Ontario, area, the National Research Council was overseeing the planning and building of the town and most of its roads and houses, as well as the Laboratories.  They set up a headquarters down near the river in what later became Cockcroft School and is now a complex of Senior’s apartments.  In their headquarters they had a carpenter’s shop, and that is the Carpenter’s shop referred to in Les’s history, where the first church services were held.


Here we are, young enough to remember our history, old enough to want to remember it. It’s necessary too, because “where we’ve come from” provides a fixed point for the always difficult task of aligning ourselves for the journey ahead. Any road is a good road if we don’t know where we’re going, but. with a vision and a hope before us, we have to stop now and then to check that we’re on The Way.

As we look back over our shoulders we see hopes and tears, difficult struggles and salient successes, points won and battles lost, but, always the presence of God who sustained and sustains us.

It is significant that what really matters as we look over our history, is not the number of coats of paint on the walls (though this, too, has to be done) but, the people who gave of themselves and thereby shared the presence of God with us. Our history, therefore, is not primarily about buildings, but, about our co‑workers.

This is just a chapter or two. Our history is not finished. We have great vitality and God willing, a great future. We must continue to live and work in such a way that both those who follow us, and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ will say: “Well done, good and faithful servant…..”

Our thanks to Les Beamish, editor of this short history, and to all who helped with memories, photographs, proofreading and typing. God has provided us with good servants. We are grateful to Him and to you.

L. E. (Ted) Siverns, Minister

In the Beginning

When in September, 1945, Deep River was, for the most part, still a waste of sand and jack pine, various religious groups commenced holding Sunday services in the growing little burgh. Chief among them were the Anglicans and the United Church folk from Chalk River. Since the Master Himself was a carpenter it is perhaps fitting that the favourite place was the Carpenter Shop where now stands the tower level of Cockcroft School. The shop would accommodate about twenty‑five worshippers provided there were enough nail kegs to oblige as chairs. The Contractor, Fraser Brace, worked on Sundays and usually there was a carpenter about not too busy to keep a wary eye on the babies parked in their carriages, in the outer office.

Such was the situation in the Fall of 1945 and in January, 1946, the members of the little flock, in an endeavour to consolidate their church activities, proposed and circulated a questionnaire. The two hundred and eighty‑eight replies made it overwhelmingly clear that early Deep River worshippers wanted to be “one in Christ” and rather than reverting to denominations they voted in favour of one Community Church.

The First Church Board

In keeping with the opinions expressed on the questionnaires a Nominating Committee was appointed. The objective of the Nominating Committee was to give the different denominations representation in proportion to their numbers.

In subsequent elections denominationalism was not taken into account. Accordingly the first Board was elected in March, 1946 and was convened by Dr. W. E. Park. The Board consisted of:

E. A. Russell ‑ Treasurer R. M. Johnston H. Carmichael R. McKay C. Carl son G. W. Hatfield D. Kirkbride R. F. Wright Rev. P. D. Ross ‑ Rev. C. C. Dean ‑ Ex‑Officio

Rev. P. D. Ross the first Pastor

The first task of the fledgling Board was to secure the services of a Sky Pilot. They did not have far to look and Reverend Philip Ross, Pastor in charge of the Chalk River United Church, was engaged on a part-time basis. 

“A Rose By Any Other Name”

And so, a brand new church had emerged from the period of travail ‑‑‑ a church comprised of adherents to many different denominations. What should we call ourselves? who would name the infant congregation? Suggestions by the score went into the crucible of thought and, of the many, only three survived as serious contenders:

  • Deep River Protestant Community Church
  • Deep River Community Church
  • Deep River Interdenominational Church

I think our first Board made a wise and happy decision. Deep River Community Church now had a name, a flock, and a shepherd.

Pioneer Days of Community Church

The very first service of the Deep River Community Church was conducted in Cockcroft Public School on 7 April, 1946, with Rev. Philip Ross officiating. There were no fads, no frills. Only a deep reverence; Ushers were conspicuous by their absence. Two boys, Doug Park and Wilsie Hatfield, passed the offering plates.

First Reception Service

On 17 November, 1946, Community Church held its first Reception Service when one hundred and eight charter members were received. The attendance at this service was below anticipation, since, on that morning, a tragic canoeing accident had occurred and a popular young man, Percy Adams, lost his life in the icy waters of the Ottawa.

From Cockcroft School to Assembly Hall

Meanwhile the Community Centre was under construction and, as soon as the Assembly Hall was in shape for occupancy, both the Anglican body and the Community Church congregation moved in. Bill Muir, Fraser Brace Construction Superintendent, had kindly arranged at least the rudiments of necessary furniture ‑ a pulpit, communion table, altar rail and a cross that hung at the front of the Hall.

Pioneering Days Spawned Amusing Situations

A Committee under the chairmanship of Mac Johnston was responsible for preparing the hall for Church and Sunday School services ‑ setting up chairs and assuring that the Chancel furniture was in place.Many were the anecdotes that had their birth in these pioneering days of Community Church.

On one occasion the twins of Margaret and Martin Johns were being baptised. But alas; no one had thought to supply the water. The baptismal service had started when an eagle‑eyed Board member realized the omission. He slipped unobtrusively into the kitchen at the side of the Hall and in the nick of time emerged with the all important water contained in the only vessel he had been able to find ‑ ‑ a glass ash tray. In spite of the solemnity of the occasion the congregation was unable to suppress a chuckle. In pioneer days worshippers realized it was not the vessel but the spirit that mattered. Christ Himself on one auspicious occasion rode on a lowly donkey.

From Rev. Philip Ross to Rev. F. R. Vanderburgh

Reverend Ross vacated the Chalk River Manse in 1947 to be succeeded by Reverend Carl C. Dean who also accepted pastorship of the Deep River congregation. Reverend Dean, an ex Air Force Chaplain, did not enjoy qood health and he re‑signed his charge in June, 1949. He was followed in both charges by Reverend Howard Dickinson under whose leadership Community Church grew rapidly. Reverend Dickinson, however, left us in 1951.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

After Reverend Dickinson, the Board invited Reverend F. R. Vanderburgh to accept responsibility of spiritual leadership of Deep River Community Church Rev. Vanderburgh came to us in 1951 and two years later met a tragic death in an automobile accident near Cobden. The tolling of the bell at Our Lady of Good Counsel sadly announced the death of a good man, but, happily attested to the growing spirit of Ecumenism.

Community Church Circle

During these early days ‑ before Women’s Lib was a flourishing force ‑ the ladies of Community Church decided that the powers that be would function even more efficiently with the assistance of a feminine touch. Accordingly, they met early in 1947 in one of their homes, elected an executive, and the Deep River Community Church Circle was born with Mrs. Edytha Beamish as the first president.

The First Financial Canvass

A church realizes that although the Good Book says “man cannot live by bread alone”, “bread” ‑ is still a vital necessity. Accordingly the Church conducted its first financial canvass and membership drive in March, 1947. The program endeavoured to contact a11 Protestant families except the Anglicans. The drive was a success. The budget for the year was $1,680.00.

The Story of the Manse

Our first four ministers. Reverends Ross, Dean, Dickinson and Vanderburgh officiated as Sky Pilot for both the Chalk River and Deep River congregations. Reverends Ross and Dean lived in the Chalk River Manse but during Reverend Dean’s pastorate, through the kind offices of Defence Industries Limited, a house at 47 Hillcrest Avenue was made available and the Deans moved into Deep River. Later on, a new Manse at 18 Wolfe Street was first occupied by Reverend F. R. Vanderburgh. In 1959, another Manse at 25 Faraday Avenue was purchased and enlarged by the addition of a study. Reverend A. G. Skelly was our first minister to be domiciled there. It has since been occupied, of course, by the Bob Plants, the Stan Woodcocks and the Ted Siverns.

A Real Home – At Last

It would not be expected that such a flourishing family of worshippers would continue indefinitely, without a permanent home and, during Reverend Dickinson’s tenure a Committee representing both the Anglican and the Community Church congregations opened negotiations with the National Research Council to provide a church building. Deep River, at this time, was still very much in the growing stage. 

The Committee was chaired by Ken Tupper and received the wholehearted co‑operation of N.R.C., Dr. C. J. Mackenzie and of our own beloved Dr. D. A. Keys who was, at the time, Vice‑president in charge of the Chalk River Laboratories. Negotiations were successful. A church was promised and on 9 February, 1950, the first meeting of the Community Church Building Committee was chaired by H. S. Milne. Others, including both Community Church and Anglicans, were appointed to a Joint Building Committee and were constituted as follows:

  • Community Church ‑ G. M. Hatfield, H. S. Milne, D. A. Keys 
  • Anglican Church ‑ J. M. Robson, C. W. E. Walker and one other
  • Community Sunday School ‑ S. L. Beamish

Since the Church was to be for all religious denominations, Our Lady of Good Counsel initially had representation on the Committee, but subsequently withdrew.

A contract was soon let and a building to seat three hundred and to cost $130,000.00 was on the blueprint. Before long our present church structure was a reality. The dream had materialized ‘. The building had been supplied by the National Research Council but it was the responsibility of the users to furnish the pews, the chairs, the organ and the maintenance.

Since the Church was to be for all religious denominations Our Lady of Good Counsel initially had representation on the Committee but subsequently withdrew. 

A contract was soon let and a building to seat three hundred and to cost $130,000.00 was on the blueprint. Before long our present church structure was a reality. The dream had materialized ‘. The building had been supplied by the National Research Council but it was the responsibility of the users to furnish the pews, the chairs, the organ and the maintenance. 

Early Days in the New Church

The housewarming first worship in the new building was a joint service between Anglican and Community Church, and conducted jointly by Rev. Francis Gooch and Rev. F. R. Vanderburgh. The Very Reverend Dr. J. W. Woodside, Pastor of Chalmers United Church, Ottawa, and President of the Canadian Council of Churches, was the guest speaker. The first marriage performed under the new roof tied the bonds of matrimony for A1 and Shirley Bain on 5 July, 1952. The first baptismal service was conducted on 13 July, 1952, with seven children being anointed representing the families Preece, Tingley, Williams, Dixon, Hierlihy and Dodds. Ironically, it might be said, the first funeral was that of Rev. F. R. Vanderburgh

Ties Severed With Chalk River

After the sad passing of Reverend Vanderburgh the congregation of Community Church, with considerable soul‑searching, decided it would be in the best interests of both Parishes to sever connections with the Chalk River Church and to enjoy the services of a Minister for Community Church alone. In passing, it should be noted that the Deep River Community Church is forever grateful for the cooperation and kind assistance they always received from the brethren in Chalk River

He Spoke With a Soft Brogue

An Irishman with a pleasant brogue, recently arrived in Canada after a mission in Scotland ‑ Rev. A. G. Skelly ‑ succeeded Reverend Vanderburgh. From the first his Irish wit shone through. When he was preaching for a call someone had neglected to put out the pulpit Bible. Nothing daunted the Parson, so he read a Psalm from the back of the Hymnary. After the Service he jocularly wondered what kind of a church this was without the Word of God. Mr. Skelly left Deep River for greener pastures in 1959 and became Senior Minister in the large Ryerson United Church in Hamilton.

Progress — From Skelly to Siverns

Rev. R. C. (Bob) Plant, known to many from his writings in such religious periodicals as the United Church Onward and Observer, followed Mr. Skelly. Though many of the pioneer faithful had deserted Deep River, especially in the exodus to Whiteshell. the congregation at Community Church was literally bursting at the seams. 

More often than not at morning services chairs in the aisles were necessary. We shared Reverend Plant’s philosophy with a large area, via radio and T.V. Young people especially were his eager listeners. When he left us, in 1967, Reverend S. A. Woodcock followed in his footsteps until, after a successful six years of service Mr. Woodcock, too, departed , to be followed by our present Pastor, Reverend L. E. (Ted) Siverns.

Ministerial Assistance

In September, 1962 we secured a second Minister, Rev. Merv Sergent, who was primarily responsible for the Christian Education work and congregational visiting. He was followed in September 1965 by Rev. Clair Woodbury and during his tenure youth work flourished. Rev. Paul Parkin followed Mr. Woodbury in April, 1969 and he was with us until 1972. Following his ministry it was decided to revert to a single ministry.

A Singing Church

Music for Community Church in the early days was provided by Margaret Milne. When a Choir was formed in 1946 John Steljes was choir director. Mrs. Milne and Mr. Steljes carried on until 1951 when the Church moved into the present edifice. We now had a new electronic organ and Mr. Steljes took over the organ and continued as choir director. In 1952 Fred Glendinning took over the organ and choir and carried on until 1960. He was succeeded by A1ex Moore. Dr. Moore’s term was cut short by a tragic drowning accident in August, 1962. For the next few months there were substitute organists. We were fortunate in having in our congregation Jean Baines who filled in for the greater portion of the time. Then in January, 1963 John Wilkinson accepted the post and was our organist and choir director until Easter, 1964. Again there were substitute organists until January, 1965 when Ruth Stewart took charge of the organ and choir. Mrs. Stewart led our music for ten years and relinquished the post in January 1976. At this point, Cheryl Palmai became choir director, and her husband, Bob Palmai, became organist. Later, Cheryl left and Bob took over both organ and choir.

Children’s Voices Are Sweet

Since early in 1951 our Junior Choir has made a significant contribution to our Sunday Worship Services. We have been fortunate in having several well‑qualified leaders. Our first Junior Choir was formed about 1951. Ruth McAlpin was the first director with Jean Baines as organist. Then, in 1960, Evelyn Bedford took over as director. In 1963 she was succeeded by Gloria Wettlaufer (Now Mrs. Brian Williams) who held the post until 1965. She was followed by Carol Graham who carried on for six years. It was in 1971 that Margaret Marris took over for two years. Then in 1973 Carol Graham returned.

Christian Education Centre

In 1956 Community Church decided to conduct a professionally directed financial campaign to bolster its finances to meet necessary obligations especially in the Christian Education Field. The Campaign was preceded by a Loyalty Dinner ‑‑‑ the largest banquet ever held in Deep River up to that time ‑‑‑‑ at which more than three hundred persons sat down. Both dinner and Campaign were successful. More than $100,000. was subscribed and the Christian Education Centre was the result. The official opening was conducted in May, 1960.

For a Better Understanding of God and His Plan

The Community Sunday School for all Protestant children in Deep River was started in 1945 with Dr. W. E. Park as Superintendent. This School continued until 1954, with the Superintendency alternating between the Anglican and Community Church congregations. Then early that year consideration was given to having two Sunday Schools, Anglican and Community Church. It was decided that the new Schools would start operating in the Fall. On 12 September, 1954 the first session of the Deep River Community Church Sunday School was held. That Sunday the children received a Certificate in commemoration of the inaugural service. It was presented to them by the Community Church Board and read in part “May this day of new beginnings be blessed of God that we may be led to a truer understanding of and a deeper love for Jesus Christ, our Lord”,

Midweek Activities for Children

Organizing our children into midweek groups for Christian education has been a priority in our Church program. For boys and girls 3 to 5 years of age Vicky Zotov formed the Bible Beginners early in 1960. She continued in this effort for many years. Another group, first called the Sunbeams and later the Messengers, was for boys and girls 7 to 8 years of age. This group was organized in 1960 with Barbara Ditmar as their first leader.

Girls’ Work

In the early Fifties the Women’s Circle discussed the possibility of sponsoring girls’ work in the Church and as a result in January, 1953, the first Canadian Girls in Training group was formed and they met under the joint Superintendency of Olive Parsons (now Mrs. A1. Dahlinger) and Shirley Small (now Mrs. Eric Janes). 

The work flourished and after a few years a Girls’ Work Board was set up to oversee all Girls’ work. The C.G.I.T. met continuously over the years and had many capable leaders. The Explorers Group for younger girls was organized in 1950 with Lillian Crutcher as leader. These girls graduate into the C.G.I.T. at 12 years of age.

Boys’ Work

A midweek group for boys was formed in 1954 and was called the Tyros. This group was for boys 8 to 10 years of age and the first leaders were: R. A. McNaught and D. W. McQuade. Two years later, an older group was organized known as Sigma‑C, for ages 12 to 14. After two years in Tyros, the boys graduated into Sigma‑C. Mr. McNaught was the first mentor. Later, the Sigma‑C group changed their name to Church Cadets..

Our Men Organize

The first Men’s Club was formed in 1963. The first year there was no President. A Steering Committee, composed of three Subcommittee Chairmen and a Treasurer, directed the activities of the Club. The three Subcommittees were Worship, Program and Social. At the first meeting, the dinner was prepared and served by ladies of the congregation, but, the men decided that in future they themselves would prepare and serve the meal. This practice has been followed down through the years. The Men’s Club is purely a fellowship group. Interesting speakers are secured or informative films are presented.

Couple’s Club

On 18 February, 1961, the Community Church Couple’s Club was organized. The aim of the Club was to promote friendship among the young couples of the Church. The first Presidents were Bernice and Lyn Blimke.

Study Groups

Over the years many Bible Study, Fellowship and Book Reading Groups have met at the Manse or in people’s homes under the sponsorship of the Minister.

Young People’s Groups

A group for older teenagers of the congregation was formed in the mid‑50’s. Over the years they have met under different names, “Hi‑Fi”, “Hi‑C”, “Teen Town” and “LaBas”. The work flourished when we had two ministers. In the summer of 1966 they shared in the work of Crossroads Canada by helping to build camp facilities for Eglise Baptiste Francaise at Shawbridge, Quebec.

We Remember Others

Zeal for the missionary task of our Church has been greatly fostered through discovering suitable missions and determining our own programs in contrast to churches of the major denominations. The focus is on missions which are both nondenominational and interdenominational. Thus the outreach of Community Church is a 30‑year experiment in ecumenism. Beginning first with the West China Medical Mission under Dr. Leslie Kilfcorn, our effort grew steadily year‑by‑year as new projects were added. Due to the Communist takeover in China, in 1951 we shifted our major support to the Dr. Graham’s Homes in India and shortly after added the Canadian Bible Society and the Labrador Medical Mission. Our contacts with Severance Hospital at Seoul in Korea began in 1954 when our Sunday School began supporting a act for homeless children.

By 1961 mission offerings had increased to $5,000. enabling us to add the Canadian Council of Churches to our program and to set up a policy for supporting the mission work of the three major denominations to the extent of 21 percent of our mission givings. The next year our mission funds doubled and, as well as increasing our level of support to our old missions, we added several now ones, namely ‑ The Mission to Lepers, Ludhiana Christian Medical College in India and the Crippled Children’s Centre at Severance Hospital, Korea ‑ a11 symbols of excellence in medical treatment, training and evangelism. This increasing support for missions continued and in 1965 Theological Student Bursaries were established at Queen’s, Knox and McMaster. The addition of the West Coast Indian Missions and the Kenora Indian Fellowship Centre added a Canadian flavour to our program and a native chief, Jack Beaver, became Chairman of Missions.

1957 marked the beginning of our Inner City involvement and the annual Wood‑Green Children’s summer visit which has been made possible by the support of many families not associated with Community Church. Initial steps were also taken to organize a pilot project the “Ottawa Valley Project”, later to become the “North Renfrew Family Service Bureau”.

A history of Community Church missions would not be complete without mentioning our summer volunteer program. In 1966 local “Crossroaders”, under the supervision of Reverend Clair Woodbury and his wife Mary were personally involved in building a summer camp in Quebec for French‑speaking Protestant children. Four young people from our congregation have done volunteer work with the Grenfell Labrador Medical Mission and one with the West Coast mission boat. Several others have participated in Camp counselling and Inner City training. Also over the years. Community Church has provided both excellent leadership and generous contributions to Camp Lau‑Ren.

Our best exercise in missionary education was the memorable Mission Festival in the Fall of 1971 when a11 our missions became a reality and an impact was made on the whole town. The “LOOK‑IN” theme with the “Fish and Eye” symbol attracted 1200 people over the Festival weekend. Who’s Who in missions? You name them, and at some time or other they have been guest speakers at Community Church. People like Dr. Florence Murray, Rev. Bob Lindsey, Jean Collins, Dr. Ted Johnson and many others, all dedicated specialists in their own field of service and with an international reputation, have visited us.

From an initial mission program in 1946, our projects have grown steadily to a total 1977 objective of $26,000. Our ultimate aim for the years ahead is to give to others as much as we spend on ourselves.

Paper and Ink

Our publications over the years have included the New Commentary which appeared for the first time in the late Fifties and continued to go into the homes of the members of the congregation for ten years. After a lapse of a few years Ergo appeared on the scene to bring members and adherents up‑to‑date on Church activities. Booklets for new members outlining the purpose and story of Community Church have been published from time to time to keep it up‑to‑date.

We are Accepted

In 1973 arrangements were made with the Baptist, Presbyterian and United Churches to have a representative attend their Association or Presbytery meetings. The Minister of our Church is now a corresponding member of the Renfrew Presbytery of the United Church of Canada, the Lanark and Renfrew Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in Canada and the Canada Central Association of the Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec.

Board or Boards

During Rev. R. C. Plant’s pastorate the Two‑Board system of church government was inaugurated, and the old Board of Management, with additional members being elected at the annual meeting of the congregation, became a Board of Elders and a Board of Stewards. These two Boards appointed in 1961 with the addition of an appointed Secretary and the President of the Women’s Circle comprise the Official Board. Our first Elders and Stewards were: Elders Stewards S. H. Russell, Chairman W. M. Campbell, Chairman G. 0. Baines, A. M. Aikin, S. L. Beamish, T. 0. Bailey, Lyn Blimke, C. R. Cupp, N. E. Brown, W. 0. Findlay, W. G. Cross, R. Haliburton, Mrs. Olive Dahlinger, Mrs. Margaret Hurst, W. F. Glendinning, 

Mrs. Jean Morison, S. G. Horton , N. H. Neilson ,Mrs. Carol Shuttteworth, J. N. Robertson, D. D. Stewart E. C. Smith, Mrs. Vicky Zotov,and E. Yatabe. In 1973 that we again tried the one‑Board system of managing our Church affairs, but, the following year we returned to the Board of Elders, the Board of Stewards and the Official Board.

A Plan ‑ A Guide ‑ A ‑ Constitution

When Community Church was first organized, those responsible realized that we must chart our course, so a plan, a guide, or as it was called, a Constitution, was drawn up and issued for the first time on 16 December, 1946. During the next five or six years it was revised annually. Since then it has been revised as required. The last time was in 1975.

Memorial Fund

A Memorial Fund was set up in December, 1961, by the Board of Elders. The purpose of this Fund was to provide an alternative for, or in addition to, sending flowers in time of bereavement. Funds are used at the request of the donor as donations to charitable organizations, e.g. Red Cross, Heart Foundation, etc., scholarship funds or to assist with funeral expenses. Gifts to the Fund have also been used to provide equipment useful in the work and worship of the Church.

Benevolent and Emergency Fund

In 1976 the Board of Elders set up the Benevolent and Emergency Fund to provide an opportunity for people to meet emergency (i.e. unbudgeted) needs. It is funded through personal donations.

Founder’s Dinner

In 1976 the Officials of the Church honoured the Founders of Community Church by having them as guests at a dinner on 25 September, 1976.Over eighty people sat down to dinner, including twenty‑seven of the Founders. 

A number of former members returned to Deep River for the occasion. One of the Founders, still active in the Church, reminisced on some of the highlights of the past thirty years. He recalled both serious and amusing situations in the life of the congregation during the early years.

The Future

So, the work of Community Church carries on, thanks to its members, adherents and many dedicated leaders. It has established itself as a guiding light in the community. Our Church continues to cooperate with all other Churches in the community in Projects that further the work of Jesus Christ.

May God continue to bless us in the years ahead so that we can stand as a bulwark for Christian training in our area.

May 1978

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