Union United Church
The Union United Church of Montreal is Montreal, Canada’s oldest Black congregation. It was founded in 1907 by several members of Montreal’s Black community who experienced racial conflict and were banned from entering all-White churches. Union was started with a treasury of just $1.83. The church has gone on to have a long and rich history, and celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2007. It is just one of the many churches that are part of the United Church of Canada. It is believed to be the only church affiliated with the United Church of Canada, however, that worships in the historically black tradition and has a predominantly black congregation
In July 1907, a group of African Canadian railway porters and their wives met to establish a Christian church where they could freely worship in their own style after having been forced entry into other churches in Montreal. In September 1 of that year, Union Congregational Church was founded on $2 and held its first service with 26 attendees. The first pastor of the congregation was Rev. F.E. Bowser.
Unlike most black congregations in Canada, the church was founded by Black Canadians from the United States as well as the West Indies. In the early years of the church, it was assisted by the Colored Women's Club, the oldest Black Women's club in Canada which was founded in 1902 by black Québécois women. The years after World War I, the congregation grew due to an increase in Railway Porters relocating to Montreal from the United States and the West Indies. In 1925, the church joined the United Church of Canada as part of the amalgamation of many Presbyterian, Congregationalist and Methodist churches across the country to form the denomination.
Today, the church is pastored by Rev. Emmanuel Kwadwo Ofori of Ghana. The church's membership has increased over the years, due to recent immigration from the United States, as well as Francophone African and Caribbean countries. Although the congregation has always been predominantly African-Canadian, it has members from 50 different nations.
Over the years, Union United Church has also welcomed high-profile visitors into its sanctuary. Among those are Stokely Carmichael, Rosemary Brown, Sydney Poitier, Dr. Carrie Best, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Bernadette Allen, Thabo Mbeki and Nelson Mandela
Prominent Church members
- Oscar Peterson (1925-2007), Jazz musician
- Oliver Jones (1934-), Jazz musician
- Percy Rodrigues (1918-2007), actor
- Mairuth Sarsfield (1925-2013), bestselling novelist
- Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré (1942-), First Black Honourable Judge appointed in Quebec
- Brenda Paris, politician
- Moses, M.: Proud Past, Bright Future (Montreal: Union United Church of Montreal, 2008).
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