From its place at the corner of Peel and Colborne streets, Alexandra Presbyterian Church has shone as a beacon of divine light for one hundred years.
The church held a ceremony on Sunday to begin its yearlong centennial celebration and give thanks for the generations of worshippers and friends bound together in faith by the distinctive red brick building.
“We thank God for this place of worship, this Alexandra,” Rev. John Cruickshank prayed during the morning service. Cruickshank thanked the congregation – Alexandra’s “living stones” – for making the community-minded church a source of spiritual and corporeal comfort in East Ward.
Alexandra Presbyterian is one of the few churches in Canada named after a monarch.
“It was not named after a park,” Cruickshank said dryly, referring to nearby Alexandra Park.
Alexandra – better known as Queen Alexandra, wife of Edward VII – was a special lady, Cruickshank said.
“Her whole life was given to good works. And so this church was given to good works,” he said.
Those works continue to this day, as the church’s soup kitchen recently served its 10,000th family.
The congregation traces its origins to Wellington Presbyterian Church, founded in 1845 on the block where city hall now sits. After several moves, the people of Alexandra found a home in East Ward.
David C. Onley, Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, found it fitting that he should attend the centennial commemoration as his predecessor, John Morrison Gibson, was present at the laying of the cornerstone in 1912.
“Alexandra Church did indeed become the hub of life for this community,” Onley said.
Speaker of the House and Brant MPP Dave Levac paid tribute to the congregation’s “blood, sweat, tears and toil” over the past century.
“Thank you for providing our community with the needed part of who we are as human beings, and that is our spiritual side,” Levac said.
Onley made special mention of Alexandra’s large stained glass windows, lovingly restored by the congregation.
Sunlight illuminated those windows on Sunday, bathing the church in golden light as the choir sang of God’s love radiating outward “as far as the eye can see.”
Levac, Onley and Onley’s wife Ruth Ann chatted with church members, including several nonagenarians whose lives trace the history of their church.
Fourteen-year-old Kaitlin Vandertuin likes to listen to stories from church elders after Sunday service.
“Everybody is able to talk. It’s basically hospitality,” she said.
Alex Cook, a regular at Alexandra since emigrating from Scotland in 1971, values the “compassion” of his church community.
“Everybody comes and shakes your hand,” said Cook, who volunteers with the church’s breakfast program.
“That’s worth a million bucks, that friendship every week.”