History

With the establishment of a railroad from Halifax, communities along the Bedford Basin began to develop. Hundreds of men flooded to the communities along the line to help build the railway. The largest numbers were in Rockingham as much of the work in the summer of 1855 was taking place there. It was for these men that the Rev. Peter G. MacGregor, D.D., pastor of Poplar Grove Presbyterian Church in Halifax conducted the first Presbyterian services.

These meetings were held in a large barn. There was no flooring but the bare ground. A table from a house served as the preacher's desk and the seats for the congregation consisted of rough hemlock boards placed upon upright blocks of wood. The barn was used by the travelling public during the week, so on Monday morning the table and seats were removed and in due time were replaced for service on the following Sabbath.

From the winter of 1855 until 1870 no services were held in the area and the people of Rockingham attended services in the city. In the year 1870, in response to the wishes of the people, the Reverend Allan Simpson, successor to the Rev. MacGregor, frequently held public worship on Sabbath evenings in the houses of persons living in Rockingham. Services were held infrequently but in 1887 a Hall was constructed in which all Protestant denominations shared services. By 1898 the seven Presbyterian families of Rockingham were ready to proceed with the building of their first church building and on July 10, 1898 the opening and dedication service was conducted. The Rev. Professor Gordon, D.D., preached to a crowded congregation at 11 o'clock, composed of all denominations in the community, giving evidence of their interest and congratulations. Dr. Gordon's text on this occasion was, 1 Corinthians 3:9, we are laborers together with God.

On June 10, 1925 the United Church of Canada was formed. The pastoral charge was in favour of union without voting. There is no record as to why there was not a formal vote at Rockingham. Perhaps the historical services at the union hall permitted the congregation members to realize the benefits of a church union. More likely there was an informal show of hands and because it was unanimous a formal recording of the vote was not needed.

Rockingham was either a mission field or part of a multiple point charge with student ministerial supply from Pine Hill Divinity College being the norm rather than the exception. There were sporadic attempts at sustaining a full time minister. Population growth finally permitted the charge to become a continuous self-sustaining charge in 1958 with hiring of Rev. Elton Smith.

The population boom of the 1950's and 1960's prompted the building of a Church Hall in 1951. Many social events made good use of the Hall but eventually the congregation would outgrow the church building. At that time there were three Sunday services each week.

The first mention of building a new church was in January of 1959. Some people were hesitant about a new Church because of the financial drain, however, others stated that a new church would help pay for itself by attracting new members who by-pass the present church in favour of better city churches. The committee was convinced that the present buildings were inadequate.

A building lot was bought at 12 Flamingo Dr. and a groundbreaking ceremony was held at the new church site on Sunday, April 29, 1962 with Rev. Elton Smith turning the first sod. It was a special moment for the congregation when the new church was dedicated on February 10, 1963.

With the opening of the new church ‘modern’ changes to the worship service saw a general invitation being extended to all who wished to participate in communion, not just communicant members and that girls could help usher with their fathers. These were received favourably by the congregation. The statistical report of 1965 showed an increase of almost 100 members from the previous year. In the 1970’s congregations were encouraged to experiment with new forms of congregational government. The official Board of Rockingham United recommended the elimination of the Session with responsibilities to be assumed by an overall executive council and committee structure. The new organization structure was passed unanimously by the congregation on February 12, 1978.

As a means of maintaining touch with the congregation a newsletter ‘Rockingham Reflections’ was begun in December 1982. During the 1980’s the glass end walls were deteriorating and in need of replacement. The cost of replacement was more than the cost of the original building a short twenty-two years earlier. Services were conducted in the church hall during the summer the construction and brought the congregation back to the days of early services in the barn or union hall. A stained glass window was added to one end wall and designed to complement the existing cross in the sanctuary. 

The closing decade of the millennium saw the installation of a pipe organ, the creation of the honourary eldership, the addition of a part time staff associate position, the dedication of a new United Church Hymn Book ‘Voices United’ and the beginning of the John Turner Memorial Garden. On a sad note, the Kearney Lake United Church was closed after 30 years. This church had a link to Rockingham during some of the time it was opened. To celebrate the dawn of a new millennium, a millennium chapel was created that involved the work of many volunteers. A mural was painted by three artists in the congregation and serves as the backdrop for the altar. The chapel was dedicated on December 5, 1999.

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