Worship services are in English. You can easily follow the order of service through a printed bulletin. As well, you can read scripture and sing along to hymns as words are projected onto a large television screen in the sanctuary, which is also visible for those who are worshipping online through Facebook Live.
Music is fundamental to worship at St Thomas Christian Church (STCC). We have two dynamic pianists who lead congregational singing and special musical performances. As well, we often sing The Lord's Prayer, a Psalm response after the scripture reading, and our benediction.
STCC has a casual worship style. Elders, worship leaders, and congregants can wear a suit, dress, and fancy shoes; they can also dress in a hoodie, shorts, and sandals. Come to church dressed comfortably; come just as you are!
Every month, a different community organization or congregational ministry is chosen as the focus for that month's Connexction Box offerings and donations. Throughout the year, STCC members have supported and donated to:
STCC is the proud sponsor of the St. Thomas Music Festival (formerly known as the Rotary Music Festival). Every year, the church hosts Christmas Shoppe, a local organization that helps parents from low-income households shop for gently-used and brand new items for their families at Christmas. In addition, STCC provides affordable rental space to an Alcoholics Anonymous Group, an Al-Anon Family Group, and other community groups.
In 1864, the original church was located just west of Centennial Avenue in a rural area (the former Yarmouth Township). The founding pastor was Edmund Sheppard who was also the pastor at the South Dorchester Church, now known as the Mapleton Church of Christ (Disciples). Pastor Sheppard was instrumental in planting Disciple churches all along Talbot Road from Aylmer to Windsor.
In 1879, just 15 years after the little country church began, a decision was made to move the church into the rapidly growing railway town of St. Thomas on Princess Avenue. The church was renamed Princess Avenue Christian Church. To celebrate the opening of the new church, three weeks of evangelical meetings were held in the church.
In 1905 a mission Sunday school began in the area of Yarmouth Heights. This mission outreach laid the groundwork for the formation of the second Disciples church in St. Thomas in the 1940s. By the mid 1890s the congregation's numbers had surpassed 400 members. Renowned local architect, Neil Darrach, was employed to design the new church building. On April 28, 1907 the new church was opened and dedicated. This former church building is now the home of the Elgin Theatre Guild, and it is listed among the designated heritage buildings in St. Thomas.
In 1956, a brand new church building was opened at Park Avenue and Forest Avenue. Park Avenue Christian Church and Princess Avenue Christian Church continued to work together in the community until the 1980s when church membership and attendance declined. It was at that time that both congregations voted to amalgamate and form a brand new church. Both churches were placed for sale and a search began for a suitable site to build a new church. The current building was dedicated during its official opening worship service on May 31, 1987. (Source: The St. Thomas-Times Journal (September 2014)
The congregation has grown and changed over the years. Today, the congregation is still made up of faithful members of both founding churches and it includes members who are long-standing Disciples, come from other Christian denominations, and new people who are looking for communion and community. While most members are of European descent, there are now a few members of Southeast Asian and South Asian descent.
St. Thomas is known as Railway City. As the halfway point betweeen Detroit, MI and Buffalo, NY, St. Thomas became the Railway Capital of Canada. By 1914, over 100 trains passed through St. Thomas every day. Today, St. Thomas is home to several manufacturing plants with plans for a new EV battery plant in the near future. As well, the neighbourhood around the church has changed from farmland to new houses and condos being built for young families, seniors, students, and newcomers to Canada.
The church has one floor making the entire building accessible. Visitors and members can enter the double doors with their wheelchairs, walkers, and canes. There is a covered entrance for easy passenger drop offs/pickups and handicap parking spots in the parking lot.
To honour the history of this blended congregation, the entrance to the sanctuary and the inside of the memorial chapel feature stained glass windows from the two founding churches - Princess Avenue Christian Church and Park Avenue Christian Church.
Rev. Awit Marcelino
Awit is a second-generation Filipino-Canadian from Winnipeg, Manitoba. She completed her Master of Divinity at Emmanuel College, a multi-faith seminary that is part of the Toronto School of Theology at the University of Toronto. At Emmanuel, she delved into Indigenous spiritualities, intersectional feminist theologies, and intertwined texts (Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scriptures).
In addition to her role at STCC, Awit provides pulpit supply in person and online to several Disciples congregations. She also co-leads Open Table, a monthly Bible study and dinner church for young adults hosted at Hillcrest Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Toronto.