By Ken Blaber
The first services were held in 1939 with perhaps two or three services conducted by outside clergy. In June, 1942 Canon Sims of Kirkland Lake called a meeting of all Anglicans in town, and they agreed to become an organized mission known as St. Matthew's, then in the Diocese of Algoma. This was approved by Bishop Wright of Algoma and he placed Captain E. Privet, C.A., in charge. The first service was held July 12th, 1942 in the McGarry Public School, with eight members attending.
With school classes resuming in September, church services were switched over to the Employees' Hall and alternated between morning and evening prayer. Holy Communion services were arranged with the priest from either Kirkland Lake or Noranda, Quebec. The first baptisms were conducted by the Bishop during September, 1944 and in November the first ordained minister was assigned to the mission being the Rev. R.M. Letarte.
In 1945 the boundary of the Diocese was changed and Virginiatown was transferred to the Diocese of Moosonee. The late Rev. R.J. Renison, then Bishop of Moosonee, made his first visit in 1946 and appointed the Rev. R. Foster in charge of the mission. For the summer of 1947 Mr. E. C. Grey, then a student minister, took over the work. From the fall of 1947 to April, 1948 saw services being conducted by Canon J.A. Watton and Mr. C.A. Loosemore. Services were still being held in the Employees' Hall which was also the scene of many different social events as well as the services of other denominations. June, 1948 brought a general meeting with Canon Watton present to discuss future plans. It was chaired by Mr. A. Butler, People's Warden, with 26 Anglicans present. The results were immediate, a location was approved and building started the same month, the work being mainly voluntary.
This earlier St. Paul's can be seen on the same street as the new church, being on the same side but on the hill to the south. The building is now the Assumption Ukranian Catholic Church. It had accommodation for about 80 persons and had a tiny kitchen and cloakroom. The present bell was also used in the old church being given from the old St. Peter's of Kirkland Lake,
The first service and confirmation was held on December 12th, 1948 with an attendance of 43. The Rev. E.C. Grey was priested while in Virginiatown before moving to the parish of St. James, Geraldton. He was succeeded by the Rev. Lloyd Howard in 1950. Mr. Howard married a local girl, Bula Latimer and during his service here the rectory at Kearns was acquired. In April, 1955 Rev. L. Howard was appointed travelling priest and the parish was vacant till March, 1956. During this time services were conducted by the laymen of the parish assisted through the winter by Captain Knight.
The present Incumbent, the Reverend Cyril Elliott, took over in March, 1956. Mr. C. Elliott was born in Dublin, Ireland and arrived in Canada in 1947. His first position in Canada was assisting with the teaching in Bishop Horden's Memorial School. He was ordained Deacon by Bishop Renison in June, 1949 and served at the mission post of Albany on James Bay for five years. His priesting took place in Timmins in 1950 and he then spent three years at Moosonee at the Church of the Apostle before coming to Virginiatown.
The increase in the Anglican population of Virginiatown gradually strained the capacity of the old St. Paul's until by 1957 it was obvious that an expansion was necessary. In the spring of 1957 the existing lot was surveyed to determine the possibilities of extending the church. At the annual congregational meeting held in January, 1958 it was agreed that the Sunday School was working under very cramped conditions and a parish hall was very necessary. It was decided to build a new church on a different site and that part of the cost be covered by a loan not exceeding $11,000.00. The financial position was envisaged to be favourable now that the balance of the rectory mortgage was very small. In actual fact the burning of the mortgage took place on May 10th, 1958.
To cope with the building programme the vestry divided into two groups, building and financial. The building committee being P. Pullen, Chairman (Rector's Warden), V. Baker (People's Warden), D. Tyrrell, L. Locke and later D. Turnbull. The financial committee consisted of K. Blaber, Chairman, J. Sagin, C. Locke, F. Kaiser, H. Armstrong and D. Turnbull.
The building design was carried out by D.H. Tyrrell and P.F. Pullen, with D.H. Tyrrell concentrating on the structural design.
The old church was vacated on June 30th and the first service was held in the partially completed building on July 6th. Services were held either on the main floor or in the basement according to work programmes. There are adequate facilities for all church activities and should cater for the needs of the parish during the life of Virginiatown. The dedication took place on November 27th, 1958.