The earliest Baptist presence in what was then Galt was a group of people who met in the early 1850's. This group first met in a house on King Street (now Ainslie North). They appear to have "disappeared for a while" and then re-emerged in 1872.
First Baptist Church
The congregation that was to become First Baptist Church was organized in 1876 with the assistance of Dr. Davidson from Guelph. Services were held in a variety of places such as in a hall over the local newspaper. For two years the church was served by the Rev. Mr. Thomas Baldwin; then they called their first settled pastor, the Rev. Mr. W. S. Walker. The church experienced amazing growth from 25 members in 1879 to 146 members in 1888. The sanctuary on South Water Street (now the Cambridge Arts Theatre) was erected in 1885. The name was changed from South Water Street Baptist to First Baptist in 1955.
Three New Missions
During these early years this group of believers showed a tremendous commitment to outreach in the community. The pastor walked to Hespeler to begin a work in that village that grew to become Hespeler Baptist Church. A work was also begun in the west side of Galt at "The Buck" (the corner of St. Andrew's and Cedar Streets) which may have been the beginnings of what is now St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church. In 1909 a group from this congregation known as the Evangelistic Band also began a Sunday School in the north end of the city.
Delta Park Baptist Church
Under the leadership of Mr. Lawrence Ray, the North Water Street Mission grew to become Bremner Baptist Church (after the Rev. Mr. W. F. Bremner, pastor from 1917-1943). The red brick section of the church was built in 1915 and the new sanctuary was added in 1960. In the early 1950's the name was changed to Delta Park Baptist Church at the same time as the church adopted its first constitution.
In 1976, talks were begun that led to the amalgamation of these two congregations on July 1, 1978, as the First-Delta Baptist Church. It was the expressed aim of the new congregation to sell the existing buildings in order that they might move to a new location in the expanding northeast end of the city. Shortly after amalgamation the congregation of First-Delta was challenged to begin a ministry to the Portuguese community under the leadership of Mr. Isaac Amorin. This group went on to form the Gospel Baptist Church. By the spring of 1983 both buildings had been sold, a site purchased on Avenue Road, and the building was under way. For several months, during construction of the new building, services were held in the gymnasium of Avenue Road Public School. The church office had been moved into the second floor of an existing "workshop" on the Percy Cox property adjacent to the site of our new building.
Avenue Road Baptist Church
On the first Sunday of November 1983, the congregation assumed its present name and moved down the road from the school to the new building. Thanks to the vision and leadership or the Rev. Mr. Charles Tarry, and the Rev. Mr. Hartley Johnston, and the guidance and grace of the Holy Spirit, Avenue Road Baptist Church, born of the union of the two older congregations, was ready to begin a new witness to our God in this community. The Portuguese congregation soon felt led to strike out on their own and they established Gospel Baptist Church.
Following the retirement of the Rev. Mr. Hartley Johnston in 1986, the church extended a call to the Rev. Mr. W. N. (Bud) Hooper to come and minister to us. As the community grew around us, we added the Rev. Mr. W. H. (Bill) Pugh to our staff on a part time basis. Pastor Bill retired in the summer of 1995. Because the congregation felt that there was a real need for us to minister to the youth of our community, the Rev. Dan Malcolm was called as minister of Christian Education and Youth at the beginning of June 1995. In 1998 Pastor Bud was called to Dartmouth Baptist Church in Nova Scotia and shortly thereafter Pastor Dan received a call to Yorkminster Park Baptist Church in Toronto.
During 1998 Chris Heise began a Youth Ministry Internship at the church. He served as a summer staff person in 1999 and 2000. Because of his outstanding leadership in youth ministries, Chris was hired as Pastor of C.E. and Student Ministries in May 2001.
In March 2000 the Rev. Mr. Bob Shaughnessy accepted the call to minister to the people of Avenue Road. Bob was born in Sherbrooke, Quebec, and spent his childhood in the Eastern Townships. During his first year in university he sensed God calling him to pastoral ministry. He subsequently earned an M. Div. and M.R.E. from McMaster College, and in 2000 he completed his Doctorate of Ministry degree from Acadia University. In September 2004, Pastor Bob accepted a call to the Kodaikanal International School in Kodaikanal, India, where he served as the school's Senior Chaplain. Following his departure the Rev. John Caswell joined our team as Interim Minister.
In September 2005, Dr. Brian Craig joined the staff of ARBC as Senior Minister. Brian came to us from Trinity Baptist Church, Sherwood Park, Alberta, where he served as an Associate Pastor of Worship and Administration. As well, Brian served as consultant to Canadian Baptist ministries on curriculum development and continues as Adjunct Professor at Taylor Seminary in Edmonton, and the Carey Theological College in Vancouver. Brian holds a Bachelor Of Science, Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees. Brian comes to us with his wife Sharlene, and their two teenage children. We look forward to joining together with Brian in this next phase of what God has in store for the ministry of Avenue Road Baptist Church.
In 2006 ARBC began several community initiatives: once a month members serve meals at the "Bridges Shelter," we run the community garden (which contributes large amounts of produce to the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank) in cooperation with the Fiddlesticks Neighbourhood Association, and once a month we have an evening worship experience using contemporary music and an informal format.
In 2006, we took on a major ministry of hospitality and hope; converting our rental house into a home for refugees became a reality. "Welcome House," located on our church property, provides housing and personal support for new Canadians as they prepare to become active participants in their new community.
In 2007 the congregation made the commitment to further the expansion of ARBC by building an addition to include a multi-purpose room, additional office space and expanded kitchen, and handicap facilities. Construction began on September 17 and was completed by the end of March 2008. The official opening of the new church facilities was Sunday, April 27, 2008.
In June, 2008, Pastor Brian was called to serve as Director of Leadership Development at the Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec. Following his departure at the end of August, the Rev. John Lekx joined our team as Interim Minister. During John's tenure at Avenue Road, Multimedia projection was added to the Sanctuary and gymnasium.
After 28 months Rev. Gordon Rutledge joined our staff as Lead Pastor in January 2011. Gord came to us from Milton Baptist Church where he had served a Lead Pastor for the previous five years. As well, he had much involvement with the Guelph Association churches. Gord brought a rich business background to his ministry, having spent 18 years with Magna International where he was involved with quality systems, as well as facilitation and training in strategic planning. Gord received his Master of Divinity from McMaster University in 2008 and was ordained by Canadian Baptists of Ontario & Quebec in 2009. We are pleased to welcome Gord and his wife Glynis to Avenue Road.
Continuing God's Ministry
We are grateful to God and his followers here at ARBC. It is our ongoing prayer that God will continue to direct and use the people of this congregation to carry out His will in this community and throughout our needy and hurting world. It is our constant prayer that all those who come within our fellowship will sense from our actions, and our words, our deep commitment to the task of sharing His love and grace with our community and our world. We welcome you to be a part of God's ministry at ARBC.