Our History - Parkhill United
St James United is made up of several congregations.
Parkhill Church Passes On
Parkhill United Church has a new future. After thoughtful deliberation, its few remaining active members decided last June to seek amalgamation with its sister church, St James United, Sambro. Members of St James have welcomed the idea and arrangements are being put in place for amalgamation of the two churches to take place on December 31, 2022. Since no more services will be held in the Parkhill Church building after 2022, it will be repurposed. Under the directions of the United Church of Canada, it has to be sold at a fair market price. It is currently listed for sale as suitable for another faith community or conversion to a new function.
After 70 years of worship and service in the community of Jollimore and its neighbourhoods, a celebration was held on Advent Sunday, November 27, 2022, to recall the passage of those years. An interactive service of remembrance, with hymns and choruses used in different periods of the church’s life, was followed by a social gathering around a large cake with tea, coffee and Orange Crush. Here are some reminiscences about life at Parkhill Church that were offered on that occasion.
Ogilvie Flour and Orange Crush: Brave and Dedicated Beginnings
Some churches are built to purpose, according to the wishes of the founding congregation. Other times individuals and families come together to worship in whatever local location is available for their use. The 16 folk who made up the first congregation of Parkhill United made their first church home in a disused Jollimore corner store, the Northwest Arm Cooperative. Amid the signs for Ogilvie flour and Orange Crush, this dedicated group, under the initial leadership of retired minister Dr Charles H. Johnson, worshiped together for the first time on December 30, 1951.
It looked different then! On that first Sunday, the worshippers perched on planks covered with brown paper and sang hymns to the accompaniment of an old fashion parlour organ lent by a very supportive neighbour, Fred Bignall. The next year the building was purchased and major renovations began. Soon a fine bell tower and vestry were in place, - all due to the vigorous efforts of Fred Bignall, members of the congregation, and the various student ministers who followed Dr. Johnson. A basement was excavated out of bluestone and granite and in this added space a kitchen and Sunday School facilities were built. It has been rightly said that this was a church founded on a rock.
In 1961 the Church combined with Long Pond and St James, Sambro to form a Pastoral Charge. In 1995 the Long Pond Church closed and the Parkhill congregation was happy to welcome members of that congregation as part of Parkhill United Church.
Dr Bordon Tupper was our first regular ordained minister, followed by Revs James Martell, William van Zoost, James Hicks, Richard Fairchild, Robert Zinck, Dale Chisholm, Anne Singer, Heather Landry, Keltie Van Binsbergen and Helene Burns. We have also had memorable support and leadership from Rev Ellen Wilson and the late Rev Trevor Phillips.
Life at Parkhill Church
The life of Parkhill Church has been anchored by the traditional practices of Sunday Worship and Bible study groups, though there has been much variety in the way these have been conducted over the years. In times past a choir augmented the singing in church and occasionally contributed to special joint services at St James, Sambro.
From the earliest days the women of the church began fund raising. They became the forebears of Parkhill’s United Church Women, a vibrant group held together by bonds of worship, service and conviviality to this day.
For many years the church offered a Sunday School to a fluctuating number of children who were taught imaginatively by a dedicated group of church members. Children have explored a biblically based curriculum, enjoying the various creative activities it offered. Evidence of their imagination and artistry can be seen in the church’s unique stain glass windows. They display Christmas and Lenten themes as well as a number of exuberant angels and a travelling Magi. Several banners made by the Sunday School also hang in the sanctuary. For many years an in-house written Christmas pageant was a highlight of the Advent season. We discovered a variety of ways to tell the Christmas story, a narrative which left space for lots of music, flocks of shepherds and sheep, for angels and of course the Holy family.
Each year in June a Sunday School picnic was held, initially in Fleming Park, to which all members of the church and their families were invited. On these occasions a large potluck meal was shared and many vigorous games were played by young and older together. These included egg and spoon races, three legged races, sack races and tug of war. Teams competed enthusiastically for the Jollimore Olympic trophy. One year there was no winner of the tug of war because the mighty power of the participants snapped the rope and both teams tumbled over backwards!
Other social activities were held during the year in the church hall below the sanctuary. These included celebrations after baptisms and other special occasions, and social evenings at which films were shown or the singing of “old favourites”. both spiritual and secular, took place. For nearly twenty years, Sid Hughes orchestrated a festive brunch on the Sunday after Easter which he dubbed the Big Boys Breakfast. The men of the church sang an unique chorus, also of Sid’s devising, before serving a choice of hot or cold meals that included porridge, pancakes, kippers, scrambled eggs, muffins, breads, cold meats, cheese and fruit with fruit juices, tea and coffee. What a choice!
Connecting in the Community
As Parkhill Church prepares to close its doors, we look back with pleasure at the ways in which we have connected with all ages in our neighbouring community.
We have celebrated Christmas with the spirit of the season. We have carolled together in all weathers, for many years as a strolling group from door to door. Nowadays we gather outside in the parking lot to sing around a snowy Christmas tree. Then we go then inside into the warm sanctuary for more Christmas songs and subsequently downstairs to the hall for a hot drink and treats. On these occasions, we have lit a star on the tower and illuminated the Christmas tree, as a fundraiser for the Family Resources Institute, Spryfield. We will carol sing again this year on December 14 at 6:30 pm. Please join us.
We have provided a welcome space for community activities. In earlier years we held lively mother and tot play groups; in recent years we hosted music rehearsals, especially for the local quintet, Fifth Wind. We have been at one time a rehearsal space for Theatre Arts Guild productions, for a local bagpiper, for singing harmony workshops with Betty Belmore, and for varied community meetings. We have hosted joyful Meet and Greet Concerts as well as the popular Little Neighbourhood Library that is nestled in our woodland.
We have mounted successful Spring and Fall Sales, offering the community a variety of donated goods at bargain prices. They have always included a large, attractive and popular garden stall. The food has also been a great attraction, be it a chance for coffee and a muffin with a neighbour or the opportunity to store up on delicious Jollimore jams and jellies, loaves, cookies and pies. Games were also played. Notably the chance to win a cake or a jar of jellybeans be estimating its weight or their number.
We have tolled the church bell in moments of grief and remembrance in the presence of community: at the time of the Portapique murders, on the anniversaries of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
Lastly but not least, for decades Parkhill Church has provided financial support to many causes, including the United Church’s Mission and Service Fund, the Family Resources Institute, Spryfield, Phoenix Youth Programs, the Spryfield Food Bank, The Rev Trevor Phillips Memorial Scholarship Fund at Dalhousie, and more recently the Halifax Refugee Clinic.