Central Presbyterian Church traces its origins to 1841. But the congregation has not always worshipped at the present location at the corner of Caroline and Charlton.
A schoolhouse at Jackson and MacNab streets was the first meeting place for the ten members and two adherents who formed the original congregation. From these small beginnings in 1841, the congregation built its own church on Merrick Street. Later, in 1858, a much larger building was erected on the original schoolhouse site. There the growing congregation of the United Presbyterian Church of Hamilton, later renamed Central Presbyterian Church, worshipped until fire destroyed the building in 1906.
Undaunted, members raised the money for a new church at the present location. Designed by the up-and-coming young architect John M. Lyle, son of Central’s minister at the time, the building was completed within two years.
There have been only eleven senior ministers in the long history of Central Church, two serving for close to thirty years. Four were elected as Moderators of the General Assembly of The Presbyterian Church in Canada – Dr. Samuel Lyle in 1909, Dr. William Barclay in 1940, Dr. A. Lorne Mackay in 1976, and Dr. Alan M. McPherson in 1995.
Ministers (partial list):
Rev. James R. Dalrymple 1847-1850
Rev. John Hogg 1851-1855
Rev. Dr. Ormiston 1856-1870
Rev John McColl 1872-1876 (died)
Rev. Dr. Samuel Lyle, 1878-1911. Moderator, PCC 1909.
Rev William Sedgewick, 1910-1925
Rev. Dr. William Barclay, 1926-1948. Moderator PCC, 1940.
Rev. H. Crawford Scott 1948-1952
Rev. Dr. A. Lorne Mackay, 1952-1980. Moderator, PCC 1976.
Rev. Dr. Alan M. McPherson, 1980-2005. Moderator, PCC 1995.
Rev. Dr. W.J. Clyde Ervine, August 2006-April 2014
The beautiful building is enhanced by its memorial stained glass windows. The window in the north transept facing Charlton Avenue is the most recent, having been donated in 1976 by former members of Central Young Men’s Club.
It was not until 1875 that an organ was permitted in the church, and then only to accompany the singing of psalms. Before long, however, Hamiltonians were flocking to concerts at the Jackson Street Church. Following the fire, a new organ from Casavant Brothers in Quebec was installed in the sanctuary, hailed still as one of the finest organs in the city. A concert in 1918 featuring French organist Joseph Bonnet, attracted a crowd large enough to have filled the church twice over.
Today Central enjoys all that we have inherited from a rich past. The building has recently been renovated, both inside and out, in order to provide a congregational home for generations yet unborn. As to the people of the congregation, whereas they once mostly lived in the neighbourhood, today the congregation is more scattered. From diverse backgrounds as well as diverse ages, the congregation includes a significant number of members who have become Presbyterian after shorter or longer journeys in other denominations. We thank God for leading this people of God in the past, and pray that God will guide us into a faithful and effective witness in the future.