history

History

Talbot Street Christian Reformed Church, formerly known as First Christian Reformed Church had its beginning in the countryside around the city of London, Ontario.

The church began as house church among Post War World II Dutch immigrants in the late 1940’s. The first worship services were in the home of Mr. & Mrs. Andrew Haagsma.

The church’s formation was greatly aided by the work of a Christian Reformed Home Missionary sent from Detroit, Rev. John Gritter. Rev. Gritter gathered Dutch farm workers from an area that stretched from Arkona to London. By May 1949, the group was meeting in the Bethel Presbyterian Church on the corner of Highway 4 and Ilderton Road.

In May 1950, enough gathered to officially form a congregation within the Christian Reformed Denomination and elect its first church council. In 1951, the larger part of the congregation formed a new church in Strathroy, leaving the smaller part, about 30 families, to continue worshipping near Ilderton.

In January 1952, a group of visionary members decided that their largely rural congregation had a preferred future in the city among the urban immigrants that were beginning to settle in London. The group named itself First Christian Reformed Church of London, presaging other CRC’s to follow. Worship was held at various temporary locales in the city among them the Orange Hall and a former downtown milk factory. Then in 1953, the church purchased the seventy year-old First Baptist Church on Talbot Street for $50,000 in a time when very few members owned a farm, a house or property. The first worship service was held on Talbot Street in 1954.

In 1954, Pastor John Gritter continued to gather immigrants. In 1958, it was decided to call a young pastor out of Essex CRC; Pastor Gerard Bouma. The congregation continued to grow with arrival of new immigrants to London and the migration of immigrants from rural areas to the city in search of jobs.

In 1959, unfortunate news hit the congregation with the discovery of structural problems in the church building and the subsequent condemning of the building by the City Engineers’ Office. It was a crucial time as the congregation had to decide whether to pick up and move out of downtown, or engage in some expensive renovation work and stay downtown. The decision was made to stay downtown in the heart of London. This decision was to be renewed and reaffirmed several times in the following decades.

In the 1960’s one major emphasis of First CRC was the task of starting Christian day school education in London. London Christian Elementary School opened its doors in 1961 and London District Christian Secondary School opened in 1965.

By 1967, First CRC had nearly 1,000 members and a decision was made to birth a new congregation in the east end of the city. In 1968, Bethel CRC was formed.

The CRC started a campus ministry when it called Rev. John VanTil to take up work at the University of Western Ontario in 1970. The connection of campus ministry to First CRC gave the congregation a new ‘youthful’ dimension.

The church experienced significant transition as Rev. Bouma left after serving First CRC for 14 years and with the arrival of new pastor, Rev. Dirk Hart in 1974. Rev. Derk Hart was a younger and evangelistically oriented pastor. This attracted young people and young families. The church grew steadily to the early 1990’s when it once again approached 1,000 members.

In 1989, a third CRC, Good News Church, was born in London mainly out of Bethel CRC, but also from First CRC.

In 1992, a fourth CRC, Forest City Community Church was planted in South West London by the Christian Reformed Church.

As the 1990’s progressed and the church moved towards its 50th birthday, a new vision for the church and what it might mean to the downtown core of London began to emerge. A series of visioning processes were undertaken with the result that new ministries were developed, properties adjacent to the church acquired and plans put in place to add facilities.

All of this led to thorough renovation of the 1881 building in 1999. The church was renovated to restore the original 1881 architectural style of the building and at the same time make the building functional for a congregation in the twentieth century. First CRC was proudly recognized as a Heritage Building of London.

In 1999, the idea was born to start a fifth CRC in London. First CRC was very instrumental in the start-up if this church. In 2006, the vision became reality with the call to Pastor George Saylor who started Connections Community Church in the SilverCity movie theatre in North London, which has since merged to a be a north campus with Forest City Community Church.

From September 2010 to December 2011 we worshipped at the old Empress United Church on Blackfriars street while we underwent major expansion and renovations of our church facility on Talbot Street through the GROW Project. At roughly the same time, we also officially renamed ourselves the "Talbot Street Christian Reformed Church" or "Talbot Street Church" for short - signifying our location and commitment to downtown London. We are excited to serve the community through our new facility and look forward to future ministry opportunities.