Chalmers History

Chalmers United Church stands in the tradition of the motives that led to the disruption of the Established Church of Scotland in 1843 and the establishment of the Free Church of Scotland.

Although there were not the same tensions in Canada between the Presbyterian Church and civil power, there was considerable support for the cause and many congregations across Canada withdrew from the parent church and formed new congregations in association with the new Free Church of Scotland.

In Kingston, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church had been established in 1820 when it received crown land to build. Sympathizers to the new Free Church of Scotland in Kingston left St. Andrew’s and formed two new congregations; a Scottish contingent at Chalmers and an Irish contingent at Cooke’s Church.

Chalmers was named after the leader of the Free Church of Scotland movement, the Reverend Thomas Chalmers, who had been appointed Chair of Divinity in Edinburgh and Principal of the First Church College in 1843, a position he held until his death in 1847. In Debate it was said that he could “bury his opponents in fragments of burning mountains.”

The first Congregational Church was erected in 1864 at the corner of Wellington and Johnson Streets. Several religious groups, chiefly Presbyterian and Congregational, came together to form a "Union Church Society, uniting with Chalmers Presbyterian in 1922.  In anticipation of the union of the Congregational Church, Methodist Church and Presbyterian Church, the Congregationalist Church of Kingston elected to join Chalmers in 1922. The Union of the churches officially took place in 1925 with the formation of The United Church of Canada.

The first session of Chalmers Church took place January 28th, 1847 in City Hall and the congregation worshipped in Memorial Hall until 1851. 

Plans were made to build a church on Earl Street (where Annandale Apartments now stand), which commenced in 1849 and was opened and dedicated on June 8th, 1851 and served as the place of worship for close to 40 years.

In 1888, a new Chalmers Church – The Chalmers Free Presbyterian Church – was planned at the triangle of land formed by Barrie Street, Clergy Street and Earl Street. The cornerstone was laid October 23, 1888 and the new church formally opened on January 5, 1890 at 212 Barrie St. It was renamed Chalmers United Church in 1925 with the creation of the United Church of Canada.