“Christian values respect other people’s way of life,” says Harvey Graham, a congregation member of the Blackstock-Nestleton United Church.
On the upper floor of the church, there are stained glass windows that were donated by multiple families from Durham Region. Graham says the windows are interesting because they tell the story of Jesus Christ.
He and his wife, Joan Graham, have been a part of the congregation for many years.
For a church built in a small town, the Blackstock-Nestleton United Church impacts the lives of many people — even those who are not a part of the congregation.
The Blackstock-Nestleton Church has an extensive history that dates back to the mid-1800s.
Blackstock is a small farming village about 10 kilometres east of Port Perry, and Nestleton is an even smaller town a few kilometres east of Blackstock.
What is now the United Church started off as a Wesleyan Methodist church, which is a Protestant Christian denomination, when it was built back in 1844. The original log building was constructed across the street from where the present-day building stands.
The building standing there today was constructed in 1887.
The first minister of the church was John Williams in 1843. In 2014, Jennifer Uhryniw was hired as the current reverend.
“Church doesn’t mean as much to people as it did before,” she says, referring to how church was viewed in the earlier 20th century.
The church has been open for 174 years.
At one time, there were two separate churches: one in Blackstock, and one in Nestleton. But the United Church in Nestleton closed down because not enough people were attending the services. Both of the United churches were joined together in 2018.
Former farmer, Graham, 85, has been involved with the church for 75 years.
He attended Sunday school there when he was about eight or 10 years old.
During his time at Sunday school, he says children were taught Christian values, meaning they were taught to study the Bible by reading and learning verses.
“That’s not being taught in Sunday schools anymore,” he says.
According to Reverend Jennifer Uhryniw, Sunday schools are more interactive.
For example, videos are being used to teach kids about the Christian faith instead of instructing them to memorize passages of religious text.
“Sunday schools have changed to reflect the culture,” she says.
When he attended the church, he says he remembers Reverend Harrison working as the pastor at the time.
Graham has been involved in all aspects of the church. He is on three boards connected with the church: The Board of Stewards, the “session” and the Board of Trustees.
The job of the Board of Stewards is similar to the job of a groundskeeper.
He was also on a board he referred to as the “session.” During his time with the session, he was called an “Elder”. The job of an Elder is to direct the religious aspect of the church, he says.
According to Graham, the Board of Trustees does nothing unless it involves finances. For example, they sold the house that used to belong to the church where the ministers were supposed to live.
Most ministers want to own a house for themselves, so they can build “some equity,” he says.
When Graham was a teen, he joined a group organized by the church called Young Peoples. The group held meetings in the church as well as activities for the participants.
During his time with the group, he met his wife, Joan Graham.
“We met as teenagers,” he says. “Rather than going out to a bar and getting drunk… we went to Young Peoples.”
In 1963, they got married at the Blackstock-Nestleton Church — the same church where they met each other.
Reverend Hutton was the minister who held the ceremony for the Graham’s wedding. At the time, there was actually a different minister who was in charge of the church.
Reverend Hutton was leading the congregation in Blackstock, but he was also in the process of moving to Alberta, says Graham.
The minister who had taken over in place of Hutton was named Philip Romeril but he did not have his license to marry the couple, so Hutton had to be present so they could officially marry.
Although the overall turnout of the Sunday service has dropped, Graham believes the church is still going strong.
Minister Jennifer Uhryniw says, “If the weather is decent, about fifty people attend Sunday service.”
According to Uhryniw, not a lot of young people attend services.
You can be a Christian family and not go to church, adds Graham. He says that’s what many young families do.
“There’s no reasonable explanation for it, except people are busier than they used to be… especially in a rural community,” he says.
His son and daughter want to be involved with the church, but they never physically attend services — instead they attend the annual auction. The congregation donates food like jam and others donate things like tractors to raise money for the church.
Reverend Uhryniw believes society’s definition of faith has changed for young people, and it doesn’t necessarily involve the church.
But many young people still support the Blackstock-Nestleton United Church by attending their events such as the auction.
Services are still held at 9 A.M. Sunday mornings for those who wish to attend.