The Road Home
In the preface of MONTREAL’S OLDEST BLACK CONGREGATION, the late educator, author and historian Dr. Leo W. Bertley, writes, “Union Church is one of the cornerstones on which the modern Black population of Montreal is founded… At the moment, it is facing one of its most important challenges. Its home for more than 60 years has been expropriated, will be destroyed and be replaced by a subway station…”
One of these predictions has come to fruition with the construction of Lionel Groulx metro station, but Union United Church is still standing.
However, as much as times have changed, the issues that dogged the church in its heyday – securing financial resources and ensuring its sustainability – have not changed. Then, as now, Union United, the foremost spiritual haven of Black Montrealers, is reaching out for help.
Bertley was right when he wrote “For many years after its establishment, it represented one of the few institutions in the city dedicated to the advancement of Black people…”
It still is.
In evoking the name of Rev. Dr. Charles H. Este, the longest-serving pastor who ministered at the church from 1925 until 1968, and who became not only a well-known spiritual, but also a socially active force and voice in the Black community that the legacy of Union United is still being written.
Despite various trials and tribulations throughout its existence, not the least of which was the threat of expropriation of the church property (and forced vacation of the premises) in 1978 by the city of Montreal, in 2014, Union United Church remains one of the sole functioning and readily identifiable historic Black institutions in Montreal.
This is due to the efforts of generations of Union United churchgoers who remain loyal to the church, as evidenced by their expressed “deep desire to be owners of the property in which they worshipped,” as Dr. Leo Bertley writes.
Hence the initiation of a “building fund” despite the dire financial conditions of the day – 1914-18. That decades-old story resonates today with the church’s ongoing renovations and fundraising campaigns to ensure its financial stability.
The temporary relocation of the congregation four years ago to its current space in NDG, as the historic building undergoes renovations emphasizes the importance of the church’s place and role in the lives of generations…
As Bertley writes, “by the time the dedication service took place on June 28, 1959, approximately a quarter of a million dollars had been spent…”
In preparation for the long-awaited move back home in the coming months, the clarion call was sounded in the Sunday, October 19 service, under Union United Church’s Going Forward 2014 theme.
It is in keeping with the ongoing Capital campaign and the spirit of preservation, that the church family invites Montrealers to a Gala Evening, a fundraiser to help make the return home a bit easier.
It takes place on Nov. 8, at Buffet Il Gabbiano and promises to be a stellar evening of praise, worship and celebration.
Audiences will be treated to magical moments with performance by several top Montreal artistes. Highlight performance will be by Wendy Davidson, who recently wowed concertgoers at the annual Men Gospel Show at Trinity Church in LaSalle.
Masters of ceremonies for the evening will be Maya Johnson and Jonathan Emile.
For tickets and info. Call 514 932 8731.