History of Kerwood-Bethesda United Church

Written by Floyd Denning

In 1856, the Great Western Railway went through from Toronto to Sarnia and Kerwood became a thriving village.  The name “Kerwood” apparently came from the name of the man (Kerr) who supplied wood for the steam engines that hauled the train cars between Toronto and Sarnia. 

In 1871, Mr. & Mrs. Chas. Foster deeded a piece of their land at Lot 7, Con. 1 of Metcalfe Township to the Method New Connexion Church. (On the east side of the Kerwood Road just south of the railroad tracks).  A parsonage was built that year and was occupied by a minister, Rev. Thomas Jackson and his wife.

In 1873, a brick church was built beside the parsonage at a cost of $1300, fully furnished.  It was dedicated on December 21, 1873.

In 1877, the Kerwood Methodist New Connexion Church became an independent circuit.

In 1884, several of the Methodist factions joined together and the Kerwood church became part of the Methodist Church in Canada.

On May 26, 1903, the lot on the northeast corner of Kerwood Road and Grace Street was purchased for $1.

In 1904, a new parsonage was built.

In 1910, Bethesda Church, which was located at Lot 10, Con. 3SER of Adelaide twp. (corner of Mullifarry Drive and Brown Road) joined the Kerwood Circuit.

On July 20, 1920, the Trustees of the New Kerwood Methodist Church purchased the lot where the present church still stands on the corner of Clyde and Grace Streets in the Village of Kerwood from Thomas F. Mills and Georgina Mills for $100.  An 1878 map of the township shows a large mill on the property.

In August 1920, a shed was built on the north side of the lot where services were held while the church was being built.

On August 10, 1925, at a meeting of the Official Board, the name of the church was changed to Kerwood United Church.

In 1955, a shortage of ministers forced the realignment of circuit boundaries and Kerwood, Cairngorm, Bethesda, Bethel, and East Adelaide became a pastoral charge with one minister.

1973 marked the 100th year of the church in Kerwood.

In 1997, the manse (parsonage) was sold to Mike Reardon and Sherri O’Donnell and an office for the minister was built in the church basement.

In 2010, lightning struck the bell tower requiring major repairs.

On January 1, 2011, services were discontinued at Cairngorm United Church, the church was officially closed on June 30, 2011 and “Kerwood Cairngorm Pastoral Charge” became “Kerwood Bethesda United Church”.

2020 was a year that will long be remembered.  A corona virus pandemic was declared on March 16 and public gatherings including worship services and council meetings were suspended.  All church related activities were cancelled. The church council met on June 23 with a special protocol to prevent transfer of virus. Members received weekly meditations by email from the minister, but in-person church services did not resume until September.

In 2022 church life returned almost to “normal”.

chicken dinner at Thanksgiving.  On January 18, 2023, at a meeting of the Church Council, our minister announced that he planned to retire by the end of the year. Our organist also gave notice that she was also planning to retire.

A committee was formed to approach Strathroy United Church about the possibility of amalgamation, two additional trustees were appointed and the trustees were directed to start the preparations to put the church up for sale. Following the approval of an amalgamation agreement by Strathroy United Church, a realtor was selected and with the approval of the ARWs Regional Council, the church was listed for sale. 

On September 11 an Agreement of Purchase and Sale was signed to convey the church and lot to Grace Baptist Church, Strathroy. The closing date was to be December 28, 2023.

On September 21 the final Congregational Meeting was held to approve the amalgamation agreement, to formally accept the retirement of George Rowaan to be effective on December 31, 2023 and to designate December 28, 2023 as the closing date of the sale.

The service on December 17 marked the official retirement of the minister, George Rowaan. The final “Christmas Eve” service was held on December 24 at 11:00 AM and the “Taking Leave “service was held on December 27 at 11:00 AM. On December 28 the sale of the church to Grace Baptist Church closed. On December 31, several members of the Kerwood Bethesda congregation attended a special amalgamation service and welcome buffet breakfast in the Strathroy church.

On January 1, 2024 Kerwood Bethesda United Church officially amalgamated with Strathroy United Church.