A Brief History of Little Britain Community Baptist Church
Although the very beginnings of Little Britain Community Baptist Church may not be as clear as one wishes for a history to be, there is no doubt that it began in the later years of the 1830’s. The first recorded church to be founded in Elm Grove, (the prior name of Little Britain), was in 1837 when Harrison Haight gave lot number 1 on Mill Street East, (now Little Britain Road), for the construction of a house of worship. This log structure served the ‘Christian Church’ until 1850.
In the year 1850 the log chapel was replaced by a building erected at 21 North King Street West on a parcel of land donated by R. F. Whiteside Sr. The new church was a simple 30’ x 40’ white frame structure. At this time, it was a member of the Christian Church of Canada which was headquartered in Oshawa, Ontario. [This most likely was “The Evangelical Christian Church in Canada (Christian Disciples), founded in 1804 in the US, it joined with the Disciples in 1832. The first Christian Disciples of the Evangelical Christian Church was formed in 1810 near Stratford, PEI].I It also bares mentioning it was at this same R. F. Whiteside Sr. instigated the changing of the name of the settlement from Elm Grove to Little Britain, in memory of his birthplace – Little Britain Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
By the beginning of the 20th century the structure and its facilities were in dire need of enlarging and modernizing, to this end a large-scale renovation was under taken in 1914. A basement was dug underneath which provided room for Sunday School classes and meetings, a 12’ extension was added which included a belfry with a bell, large stain-glass memorial windows replaced the old smaller windows, while the interior received new pews, piano, and electric lighting.
Despite the need for enlargement at the beginning of the 1900s, by 1926 the effects of The Great War and urbanization on the local population, the depleted membership regretfully voted to close the church. The closure lasted for a decade, until in 1936. At that time three former members of the congregation felt led to seek to restore evangelical worship to Little Britain. Thanks to their diligent and enthusiastic efforts in the early 1930s the church reopened in conjunction with the Christian Congregationalist Conference of the Newmarket-Keswick area as it was determined there was sufficient interest and support. Douglas Percy were called to be the first pastor of the reconstituted congregation.
In the early 1950s the church transitioned from the Congregationalism to the Baptist, joining briefly with the Independent Baptists. Then on April 14, 1953 the church voted to join the newly established Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches of Canada (FEB), where it continues to the present. It was as a FEB institution (first as the Fellowship Baptist Church, then as Little Britain Community Baptist Church), that the church experienced great growth and enlargement.
There were more renovation and expansion in 1970 and 1973, however by the early 1990s the church membership determined that to meet their needs further expansion was necessary. Rather than doing more renovations of the existing 140-year-old building they decided that a new building should be constructed.
To this end, in 1991 a building committee was formed and began to search for land on which this new building could be constructed. By 1994 a 6.5 acre parcel of land next to the lot on which the older church sat had been purchased and fully paid for. However, they faced the daunting task of building a new church at a time they were without a pastor. God then intervened and in 1995 brought Steve Bell to lead the flock through the building process. Pastor Bell was a man with prior successful experience in leading church building projects. In 1996 a invigorated building committee under the leadership of Karl Batty undertook to complete background issues and to continue raising the considerable funds still needed for the new church. By the time, Tim Shauf came on the scene in 1999 things were set to move into the final push to complete this endeavor. On April 28, 2002, the ground was broken for the new building with the grand opening weekend held about 18 months later, on the weekend of September 8-9, 2003.
Today, Little Britain Community Baptist Church resides in this new home, continuing to seek to serve God faithfully and having a positive impact on the community.
Callan, Marilyn and Tom, etc. Celebrating 175 Years ~1837-2012~. Little Britain, ON, 2013.
Grant, Sandra. He Alone is our Rock: Building for the future at Fellowship Baptist Church, Little Britain. 1996.
Sloan, Phillipa Mark, and Yeo, Norah Jane. Church Centennial: Little Britain, 1839-1939. Local History Collection – Ontario.
1914 Whiteside Memorial Window
This memorial window was placed by the R. F. Whiteside family in 1914 when the 1850 church building under went major renovations. At that time the old church building was turned to face the road, a 12 foot extension added, the cellar dug, modern seating installed, a bell hung in the belfry and memorial windows installed. This the largest, most ornate thus preeminent of the stained glass windows added faced west in the original placement. The major inscription on the bottom of the window reads; “Search the Scriptures Daily”.
Robert Ferguson Whiteside Senior (1805-1876) came to Little Britain in 1842, purchasing a 200 acre property on the northwest side of the four corners of the settlement. Out of this property he donated the land on which the old church and cemetery sit in 1850. It was his son, Robert Ferguson, Junior (1846-1942) who donated the memorial stained-glass window and the parsonage which served many of the churches pastors. R. F. Whiteside’s grandson John Jacob William Willard Ferguson Whiteside (1898 – 1933) died young and was buried as are his father and grandfather in the Christian Cemetery on the land donated by Whiteside Sr. It was John’s daughter Margot Whiteside who gave permission for the restoration and move of this window in 2015.
October of 2015 saw the congregation vote positively for the removal, restoration and reinstallation of the window into the new church’s sanctuary. The ensuing year was spent in the collection of donations from God’s people to fund the project, The result was that in thus October of 2016, the window was carefully removed from its former site in the
Old Church Building, in five sections, and sent to the restoration experts. Then in January 2017 restoration completed, the revitalized window was returned and has become a beautiful historic addition to our sanctuary.