First United Church has historical roots in two congregations: St. Luke’s Presbyterian (Church of Scotland),1829, and Trinity Methodist Church, 1830. The Trinity Methodist sanctuary was built in 1832 and St. Luke’s Presbyterian in 1839.
A former St. Luke’s sanctuary was destroyed by fire in 1915. It was replaced by a new building two years later in close proximity to Trinity in what is now known as the city’s downtown core. It is interesting to note that this construction coincided, within a five-year period, with the incorporation of the Town of Bathurst and the construction of the local pulp and paper mill.
Trinity Methodist church was remodelled in 1916 after being rebuilt in earlier years.
Following official church union in 1925, the two congregations maintained separate identities until 1941 when merger created First United Church. Worship services were held in St. Luke’s United while Trinity United became the centre for Sunday School, midweek groups, funerals and other service functions.
In 1947 the Donald Eddy Memorial Hall was built on a separate site to provide much-needed facilities for education and recreation.
By November 15, 1998 the original church structures were demolished and a new $1.4 million building, attached to the hall, was dedicated as First United Church. This new building is now debt-free.
The original edifices were testimony to the faith of their founding congregations; just as the new First United Church building is an affirmation of the faith and vision of the present church membership. That faith is incorporated in the mission statement for the pastoral charge.
First United Church and its predecessors have sponsored a number of youth entering full-time ministry service. This list includes the late Dr. Ralph Chalmers who was chair of systematic theology at both Pine Hill Divinity Hall in Halifax and St. Andrew’s College in Saskatoon. Others entering ministry service include Rev. J. Clair Johnson, Rev. Roy DeMarsh, Rev. Heber Kean, Rev. Helene Manning and Marion Ronalds, who received professional training as a teacher, nurse and Christian Education worker before embarking upon full-time church service.
The longest-serving ordained minister at First United was Rev. Dr. E. Russell Woodside who served from 1949 to 1963.
Our most recent ministry personnel include Rev. Jim Forbes and Rev. Carolyn Palmer, Rev. William MacLeod, Rev. Keith Adams and Rev. Blair Lewis.
In the early 1800's, the families of South Tetagouche were served by Methodist ministers settled in Bathurst. Services were conducted in the homes of the people. There are baptismal records from April 28, 1836.
In 1861, a site was chosen and secured from William Payne. Here, the original Methodist church was built. The date on the deed is March 23, 1861. Organized work, to build a church, began in 1861 and the first Board of Trustees was appointed. The property was “to be held by them under the name of ‘Salem Church’ for the benefit of the members of the Wesleyan Methodist Church or Society, in the said Tetagouche in the Parish of Bathurst.”
In 1880, another piece of land was purchased from Sylvanus Payne and on this site, the present church was built and a cemetery lot provided.
On August 30, 1883 a decision to take immediate steps for the erection of this new church building was made. The dimensions were to be 45' x 26' with a 15-foot post. This decision was made by the Board on December 13, 1883. After the erection of the present church building, the old church was demolished on August 27, 1894.
In 1953, the present church was raised, a concrete basement built and a new furnace installed.
In 1959, the cemetery was leveled, re-seeded and the headstones reset. A Perpetual Care Fund was accumulated for the purpose of maintaining this improved condition throughout the coming years.
In preparation for the observance of the 100th anniversary, several renovations were made to the roof, the floor and choir seats. The Communion Table was refinished. Several memorial donations were received.
In recent years the roof and furnace were changed and new windows installed. Another piece of land was acquired from the Payne family to enlarge the cemetery.
The congregation continues to work and worship together in this twenty-first century.