St. James United Church started in the boom years following the end of World War II. The Toronto Home Missions Council hired Rev. Dr. Meyers and Mrs. Mercer to visit people in the area. Soon a group of young families were gathering at Wedgewood Drive Public School in 1951, using the auditorium and a portion of the hallway for worship and Sunday School. On May 1, 1952 St. James Islington United Church was born with 218 members on the Charter Roll. In later years “Islington” was dropped from the church name.
At the time of purchase, our present church site was 2.6 acres of market garden complete with a frame house and various out buildings. Construction began on the first phase of the building on April 1, 1954 and continued on and off until the final dedication service on November 30, 1969. By 1963 there were 900 children in Sunday School, along with women’s groups, a men’s club, couples’ club and study groups.
Over the years St. James United Church has made significant contributions to the wider community. Some of the highlights included a pre-school daycare program in the 1960’s for children with special needs. This massive volunteer effort was the forerunner to the development of Seneca School located at 580 Rathburn Road.
Since 1953 to the present day we have sponsored Scouting at St. James United Church to provide boys with leadership training, social skills, camping experiences, service opportunities and male role models.
Meals on Wheels was another program supported by St. James for over 20 years until the Red Cross took over the project completely in 1994. Every Wednesday teams of women would prepare a homemade entree, and a team of drivers would deliver them to shut-ins, the sick and elderly. In 1991 we cooked over 800 meals.
Along a similar line, a monthly Seniors’ Luncheon, offering a home-cooked, full-course meal and social program, was initiated in 1984 and continues to this day, with 30 to 50 seniors taking part and rides offered to all who need it.
From 1979 through 2005 the congregation has been actively sponsoring and supporting Refugees, beginning with the 12 member Hau and 9 member Lau families fleeing the aftermath of the Vietnam war. Since then we have helped to find accommodation, furnishings, English as a Second Language classes, employment and friendship for Ethiopian, Lebanese, Salvadorian, Ghanaian, Yugoslavian and Sri Lankan refugees.
More recently, since January 1995, we have been offering Reiki and other spiritual and natural, energy-based methods that nurture well-being, and support people recovering from accidents and illness, including many with cancer. In March 2003 we established ourselves as a training centre, and later that year officially opened the St. James Well-Being Place. Last year we trained 42 people and our volunteers gave Reiki more than 500 times, serving many people from the wider community.