Rev. David Pritchard of Grace United Church, dressed as 1812 Methodist Circuit Rider Ninian Holmes, greets visitors to the first of the Saturday Morning Historical Open House events of the summer at Grace United on Victoria Street.
Grace United Church is celebrating the 1812 bicentennial with a re-enactment of its own.
Beginning last Saturday and continuing Saturdays through the summer, Rev. David Pritchard, dressed as circuit rider Rev. Ninian Holmes, will arrive at the church and talk to visitors, just as a circuit rider would have 200 years ago.
And each Saturday for the rest of the summer, Grace will open its doors and its historic past to residents and tourists to display magnificent stained glass windows, a vintage Communion plate and other historical elements of the congregation.
Visitors to the church will receive a profile on Methodist roots, the War of 1812 and a detailed narrative for a self-guided tour of the property.
The predominantly Romanesque church was built in 1852 to the design of William Thomas, whose church architecture included magnificent St. Michaels Cathedral in Toronto.
Active locally, Thomas also designed the Court House and Brock’s Monument.
Faye Goodwin, chair of the church’s outreach committee, led her committee to create a trio of information material – a detailed history of the church and Methodism in the Niagara area; a booklet on Niagara-on-the-Lake Methodist cemeteries; and a profile of the architecture of Grace United Church.
Goodwin says Grace United has been a little remiss in celebrating its historic ties to early settlers in Niagara—its Methodist predecessors played a major role in the development of this area prior to, during, and following the War of 1812.
The Bicentennial celebrations provided the catalyst to tell Grace’s story, she says.
Rev. Pritchard researched the role of a circuit rider in the 1800s during a sabbatical last year, and says he has great respect for pioneering ministers who traveled on horseback, and in some cases on foot, to “carry The word” to far-flung congregations.
The open house will take place every Saturday morning throughout the summer, from 11a.m. to 1 p.m., with Rev. Ninian Holmes arriving at noon each time.
Local residents are invited to visit and share in this facet of their history.