Beginnings of Memorial United

Memorial United Church celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2006 as a congregation in Grand Falls-Windsor. 

Here is a look at the early days of the church as recorded in "Century of Faith and Service", a history book compiled for the anniversary.

A probationary minister, Mr. H.B. Parnaby, held the first Methodist church service in Grand Falls in 1906 in the school  house situated at the site which is now #43 Carmelite Road. Parts of the foundation of that school can still be observed at  the rear of the house.

Mr. J. Leach was the probationary minister in 1907-08 and Mr. John Durant in 1908-09. These three ministers were  stationed at Glenwood and visited here to conduct worship services and administer the sacraments.

The first resident minister was Rev. W. Muir. 

The first baptism in Grand Falls was that of Herbert Pinsent, Sept. 3, 1907, by J. Leach. 

The first burial was that of Elizabeth Ann Smith, age 19, Jan. 29, 1909, also by Mr. Leach. 

The first marriage was that of Samuel Cooper and Cecilia Sparkes by Rev. H. B. Parnaby, May 17, 1907.

Plans for the erection of a house of worship were born in 1909 by the Methodist people. Our first church building was completed in 1911 and had a seating capacity of 300. Horwood Lumber Company of St. John’s was the contractor. The  site of the building was on High Street and Gilbert Street near where the former Blackmore Printing Company was later  constructed. 

Every man who contributed free labour was credited with 15-cents an hour. A new parsonage to accommodate the  minister soon followed and was built at 36 Carmelite Road.

Rev. Muir’s term lasted for three years, followed by Rev. Norman M. Guy, MA, a young and most eminent Methodist preacher. During his pastorate the first organization of women with the local church took place. Rev. W.T.D. Dunn, D.D.  was chosen to succeed Rev. Guy. It was during his pastorate that “the call to war” came. Newfoundland, as Britain’s oldest colony, responded and the local church made a great sacrifice. Some of the finest and most promising young men volunteered in the First World War, and many organizations in the church suffered greatly from the depletion of their  ranks. Many were wounded and some did not return. To those who made the supreme sacrifice a marble plaque was  unveiled when the war ceased. Every Remembrance Sunday the names of these soldiers, along with others that followed  the call to war in later years, are read aloud at the 11:00 a.m. church service and a moment of silence is held to honour their memory. Howard Barnes  prepared and contributed extensive research  documents on each of the soldiers. It can be accessed here.

In July 1919 the charge became independent from the Mission Board of the Church at Toronto, and has remained so. As Grand Falls grew, so did the church, and soon the church was faced with the dilemma of inadequate seating  accommodations. The number of families in 1920 attached to the church was 150. Plans were soon under way for a larger church. With the conclusion of Rev. Dunn’s ministry and the succession of Rev. Sidney Bennett in 1920, the organizational  work for the new church edifice began. Actual construction began in 1922. 

The cornerstone was donated by Mr. Garland Lacey and was laid September 14, by Mrs. Louisa Goodyear, who had given faithful and distinguished service over many years in the life of the church. The basement, later called Bennett Hall by the recording steward of the official board, Mr. Nathaniel Pike, was completed and opened November 11, 1924. Following the opening of the new church hall, the old church building was sold to the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company Limited and was used for a period of time as a brigade hall for the training of youth.

Coincidental with the building of a new church, the leaders of three great denominations: Presbyterian, Congregational and Methodist were discussing church union. The next meeting of the Official Board would be under the auspices of the  United Church of Canada. Methodism was established in Newfoundland in 1765 by Rev. Coughlan. Although it had a vast influence on the religious, cultural and social life of the country (now province), it paled in comparison to the extended opportunity now afforded the new church union. 

To the union which formed the United Church, Methodism contributed its evangelical zeal and doctrine of human redemption, the testimony of religious experience and the ministry of sacred song. The Presbyterian Church was noted for its vigilance, its spread of education and devotion to sacred learning; the Congregational claimed liberty in prophesying, love of spiritual freedom and enforcement of civic justice.

Rev. W.B. Bugden, B.A., succeeded Rev. Bennett, B.A., B.D., C.D., in June 1926 and difficult times followed in raising sufficient funds for the completion of the new church. The new church was officially opened on November 11, 1928, 3:00 p.m., and dedicated to the memory of the men of the Methodist congregation who paid the supreme sacrifice in World War I.

In 1933, Rev. Sidney J. Hillier came to Memorial United in Grand Falls from Carbonear. Rev. Hillier combined exceptional  pulpit ability with many other qualities essential to coordinating church work. He holds the distinction of having been the longest resident minister in the history of the Methodist (now United Church) at Grand Falls. It was during Rev. Hillier’s pastorate that the world was plunged into another World War. Again, the church rose to the occasion.

25 Years Later . . . 


Official Board Members November 1990:

John Moore, Stanley Cole, Randy Jayne, Harry Parsons, Gord Rendell, Cathy Saunders, Rev. Lawrence Watkins, Clara Barnes, Marilyn King, David Dawe, Eric Taylor, James Gould, Lloyd Buffett, George Morris, Carsons Saunders, Scott Gilbert, Dave Anthony, Melinda Anthony, Roy Stoodley, Arthur Snow, David Boone, Walter Scott, Cecil Thomas, Jasper Lake, Jean White, Shirley Down, Sarah Ivany, Larry Hutchings, Joan Budgell & Gwen Tremblett.

Building Committee Members: 

(There was also a Property Committee) This committee was responsible for the new Church: Les Antle, Wilf Roberts, Geoff Saunders, Ralph Sweetapple, Roy Stoodley, Jasper Lake, Alice Cater, Nina Butt, Shirley Down, Terry Goodyear, Eric Adams, Rev. Watkins.







More history 

For a history of the national church, click here.

For a history of Methodism in Newfoundland and Labrador, click here.

For a list of burial sites at Memorial United Church Cemetery click here.

Click here for more on Laurence Coughlin


For a read on Rev. Garland Lacey,
click here.

Lacey story.pdf Lacey story.pdf
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