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.
The first session of Chalmers Church took place January 28th, 1847 and plans were made to build a church on Earl Street (where Annandale Apartments now stand). The original Church was opened on June 8th, 1851 and served as the place of worship for almost 40 years.
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.”
In 1890, 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. 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.
Ministers of Chalmers
On January 28th, 1847, worship services were held at City Hall. The Rev. Dr R. F. Burns was inducted as first Minister and two years later in 1849 the name “Chalmers” was adopted. The first Church building “Chalmers Presbyterian Church” opened on Earl Street and was dedicated on June 8th 1851. Four years later The Rev. Dr R. F. Burns left.
On December 1st, 1855, David Blair Pierce was inducted as second Minister of Chalmers and faithfully served until his departure on March 19th 1857. A year later; The Rev. Patrick Gray was inducted as third Minister of Chalmers on March 9th, 1858. After approving the concept of Union of all Presbyterian churches in Canada early in 1857, Chalmers entered into such a Union, forming the Presbyterian Church of Canada in 1875. Seven years later Chalmers adopted an amended constitution, bringing us in line with that of the central church. Shortly after, The Rev. Patrick Gray died, on October 29th, 1876. On the following July 26th, 1877 The Rev. Finlay McQuaigis was inducted as fourth Minister of Chalmers. After serving Chalmers for 11 years, he left and was replaced by The Very Rev. Dr. Malcolm Macgillivray who was inducted as our fifth Minister on Sept. 13th, 1887.
January 5th 1890, our present church building was opened and dedicated. The Very Rev. Dr. Malcolm Macgillivray was elected Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Canada in 1915 and a couple of years later he moved on and was named Minister Emeritus. He was replaced by The Rev. Dr R. J. Wilson who became our sixth Minister on June 19th,1918.
In 1922, Chalmers Presbyterian Church united with the First Congregational Church. In October, 1923 The Rev. Dr R. J. Wilson resigned and was replaced a few months later by The Rev. Dr. George A. Brown who was inducted as seventh Minister of Chalmers on March 28th, 1924. One year later, Chalmers entered the Union of the Presbyterian Church of Canada, the Methodist Church of Canada and the Congregational Church of Canada, forming the United Church of Canada on June 10th, 1925.
After serving the members of this new united church for 26 years, the Rev. George Brown left and was made Minister Emeritus of Chalmers. On Sept. 8th, 1950 The Rev. Dr. W. Franklin Banister was inducted as our eighth Minister. Rev. Dr Banister left after 14 years of service to the people of Chalmers on June 16th, 1964 and a decade later was named Minister Emeritus. Meanwhile, The Rev. Robert K.N. McLean became the ninth Minister of Chalmers on September 10th,1965. A year later Virginia Dobson was installed as Deaconess and on August 1st, 1966 David Cameron became Music Director at Chalmers. In June 1969, Virginia Dobson left and was replaced by Margaret Quigley, as Deaconess.
On October 8th, 1972 Rev. McLean left and the following September, The Rev. Dr. Stanford R. Lucyk became the tenth Minister of Chalmers. January 31st, 1978 the Rev. Stanford Lucyk and Margaret Quigley both left. On September 14th, 1978, The Rev. Dr. Roy Wilson was inducted as our eleventh Minister and a couple of months later The Rev. Dr. Lois Wilson became Associate Minister of Chalmers. At the General Council Meeting in August, 1980, the Rev. Dr. Lois Wilson was elected Moderator of the General Council of the United Church of Canada and ceased to be Associate Minister at Chalmers. In 1981 The Rev. David Logan was engaged as Ministerial Assistant at Chalmers. In 1983, both the Rev. Dr. Roy Wilson and the Rev. David Logan moved on to new ministry positions.
On September 8th, 1983, The Rev. C. Wayne Hilliker, was inducted as twelfth Minister of Chalmers and the following July 1st 1984, Joyce Holden was engaged as Associate in Ministry.
On February 21st, 1995, faulty wiring caused a fire in our church building resulting in extensive damage to the organ console, pipes and chancel wall. Following repairs and restoration, the sanctuary was re-dedicated on December 10, 1995. Four months later, Chalmers sold Macgillivray-Brown Hall and adjacent lands to Queen’s University. The restoration of the organ was completed on April 18, 2003.
Meanwhile, after more than 15 years of ministry at Chalmers, Joyce Holden retired as Associate in Ministry on December 31st, 2000. In 2002, we welcomed our thirteenth Minister The Rev. Sharon Cohoon, Minister of Christian Education and Pastoral Care as part of our pastoral team. On June 30, 2005, The Rev. C. Wayne Hilliker retired and was named Minister Emeritus. June 2006, we called our fourteenth Minister, The Rev. Dr. Steven Chambers, who was installed in September of that year as our Minister of Word, Sacrament and Pastoral Care.
In June 2007, The Rev. Sharon Cohoon left and The Rev. Elaine Smith and Michelle Hawkins were contracted part-time to co-ordinate Pastoral Care and Christian Education respectively and have since moved on. Rev. Elizabeth Hayward became the Co-ordinator of Children, Youth and Family Programs and Pastoral Care. On June 30, 2011 both Rev. Dr. Steven Chambers and Rev. Elizabeth Hayward moved to take up pastoral ministries in BC. After a year in interim ministry at Chalmers, Rev. Drew Strickland was called to the Ministry of Word, Sacraments and Pastoral Care in 2013 ands retired in Dec. 2017. On September 16, 2018, the congregations of Chalmers United and Sydenham Street United welcomed Rev. Barry King as Intentional Interim Minister, in an exploration of sharing services and resources. After a predetermined two year time period, the congregations reverted once again to individual congregations, in conjunction with Rev. Barry King retiring on September 13, 2020.
Chalmers has been fortunate to have had many distinguished ministers during its years. The list includes: