Around 1951, the Anglicans built St. Thomas the Apostle Church on Alta Vista Drive. The United Church built Rideau Park United on Alta Vista Drive. The Catholics built the Immaculate Heart of Mary on Alta Vista Drive, and the Lutherans built on Smythe Road near Russell Road. However, there was no sign of a Baptist Church, even though many of the new families in Alta Vista were Baptists, often affiliated with Fourth Avenue, First Baptist Church or McPhail Baptist Church. Mr. Grodde of the Ottawa Baptist Extension Board was looking for some indication of interest in Baptist work. Dr. McKendry, Dr. Showalter, Mr. Jury, Dr. Thompson, the Laplantes, the Gibsons, the Ringroses, the Meldrums, Alex Hall, Aria Warner, Jean Potser, and others were also interested.
Dr. Showalter, who was new to the city, bought his home on Alta Vista Drive near Pleasant Park Road and was very keen that something should be done. Mr. Jury, Dr. McKendry and Dr. Showalter contacted most of the baptist families in the area. Dr. Showalter who had joined Fourth Avenue Baptist was singled out by Mr. Grodde as thebest person to stimulate interest and get things rolling. Mr. Jury, Dr. Showalter and Dr. McKendry, contacted Baptists in the area and decided to have a meeting at the Showalter home. Twenty-three people attended. Mr. Grodde was present and told us that the Baptist Extension Board would help us.
Our first formal church service was held in Riverview Public School on Sunday November 3, 1957 with 43 persons attending. Dr. Showalter was the speaker and Tim Showalter looked after the music. The topic of the sermon was, appropriately, "Faith".
Two weeks later we had a visit from Rev. Harold Bridge of Toronto representing the Baptist Extension Board. He felt there was a good need for Baptist work in this area and that we should be ready to take up the challenge. He explained how the Board would help us financially. We needed a minister whose salary they would pay the first two years. They had a list of Ministers who had experience in establishing new congregations. The Board would help with the mortgage.
Several Ministers came to visit who had the experience we required. After our interviews the decision was finally on Rev. Fred Bennett and his wife who were retired Missionaries. They were the favourite candidates, and decided to come to us in April 1958. Rev. and Mrs. Bennett came from Galt, Ontario.
On June 1st, 1958 we had our organizational service at First Baptist Church where we were recognized as a Baptist Congregation and part of the Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec. Ten of our members were present to take part in this service. We now had thirty-eight charter members and it was decided to leave the charter open until the end of December 1958.
Early in October 1958, the Ladies of Congregation organized the Women's Association for Christian Service, starting with twenty members.
We still had not found a piece of land suitable on which to build our church. The builders and the Government of Canada had every corner of land.
Dr. Thompson of First Baptist Church bought a piece of land in trust with the approval of the Extension Board, paying $2,500. This land was just off Kilborn Ave. The committee felt it was out of the way, not central enough for our congregation. The land was sold for $25,000.00 and the Virginia Avenue Synagogue now stands there. After expenses, the profit was just over $20,000.00 and the Extension Board decided to donate this to the Riverview Congregation.
Mr. Bennett spent a lot of time investigating other sites and finally found that Mrs. Ouellette, a flower market gardener on Pleasant Park Road, would sell some of her land. Our acre of land was acquired from Mrs. Ouellette for $18,000.00 in July, 1960.
The Rev. H. Bridge came from Toronto to review the plans for our new church and its costs, and to call tenders for the construction.
Mr. Lafortune bid the lowest, at first $74,000. Then we discovered this estimate did not include the bricks so that discrepancy added another $10,000 to the amount. Mr. Lafortune was still the lowest bid at $84,678.00. Where to get the mortgage money!
Mrs. Ether Wilson and her sister Mrs. Muriel Wilson of Clarence offered to loan us $20,000.00 at 4% interest payable at two thousand a year. The Ottawa Baptist Association pledged $3,500. A loan from the Bank of Nova Scotia, for $25,000.00 was secured. McPhail Baptist donated funds for our organ and the congregation was to supply the rest.
In January, 1959, our first Annual Church Meeting was held in the Meldrum's family room. Forty-seven persons were present and we now had fifty-one charter members. Carrying all the food, cutlery, dishes, etc, was quite a chore but under the direction of Aileen Lucas we managed quite happily.
The laying of the corner stone by Dr. Showalter was on March 19, 1961. The Rev. E. K. Smith of McPhail Memorial Church, who gave us his fullest support, preached the sermon on the "Joy of a Challenge and Accomplishment".
Now we discovered that the name of our congregation would not be suitable in our new location. So on April 23rd, 1961, at a congregational meeting, the name was changed to Pleasant Park Baptist Church. Forty-five members were present and thirty-four voted in favour.
Now the planning for the service and what dignitaries should be present. It was decided that the Hon. and Mrs. John Diefenbaker and Charlotte Whitton, the Mayor, would be our honoured guests and officiate at the service.
The building was ready for the levelling of the fill around it, which was to be done by hand. Somehow someone did not get the right direction, and used a bulldozer, taking a good section of the foundation with it. So extra repairs had to be made immediately. Just as that problem was solved, we discovered that the concrete front steps of the church were poured upside down. You could climb the stairs but could not get down. It seemed that someone was bound that we were not going to be ready for our opening day. Finally with the corrections, we managed to go ahead with our plans.
May 14, 1961, we had fair weather and a goodly crowd of Baptists, local residents and representatives from the different churches, especially in this area, as well as honoured guests. Both Mr. Diefenbaker and Charlotte Whitton were excellent speakers so we were very fortunate to have two such people at our opening service. Mrs. Diefenbaker was lovely as usual and won all our hearts.
The new church was still just a shell. Yes, we had the pews and the new Baldwin organ, but the main structure had to be dressed up. Dr. Hirtle from Halifax had the pulpit made honouring his father. The cross, in front of the church, was made by Dr. Showalter and presented. The men of the congregation did most of the finishing work - painting, cupboards in the kitchen, extra cupboards here and there for convenience. The ladies worked too - some of the curtains, drapes, etc. were done by them. The last of the Wilson (Ethel and Muriel) mortgage was paid off in 1981. We could not have built the church at the time would the generosity and trust of the Wilson sisters.
We could not have succeeded without the dedicated members of our congregation who took up the challenge; the adherents and friend who helped and encouraged us; the willingness of Mrs. Ouellette to sell an acre of her market garden land. When asked why she sold the land to Baptists, she said she was "...thrilled to have a church on her property. I love to look at the coloured glass bricks as the sunset shines on them. They sparkle like jewels." Just like the flowers in her garden. Mrs. Ouellette was a very generous, kind lady who kept us supplied with flowers for church decoration. It was sad indeed when she finally had to leave Pleasant Park Road.
God was with us all the way. May we reach out and continue our Baptist work with His blessing.
From notes by Jean Potser and Harry Showalter