Our History

Orillia Presbyterian Church (St. Andrew’s) was established in 1851. The original building was erected the following year and was enlarged twice. In 1889, it was taken down to make way for the present church building, with a sanctuary to seat 1,000 (currently seats 850). The north wing comprising the Sunday School Auditorium and Fellowship Hall area was added in 1914.

In 1983, the building was designated a Heritage Building in the Province of Ontario. A brief excerpt from the architectural summary by LACAC of the City of Orillia: “Architecturally, the building is quite unique, boasting three towers, one of round turreted version. Stone string courses and labels over doors and windows form a contrast to the red brick walls, which are also decorated with buttresses, and pointed gothic window and door openings. The building employs a basic transept type plan and rests on a limestone foundation. Decorative brickwork includes corbelling along the eaves and recessed stepping used at the doorways.

“Outstanding interior features of the church include ornately carved woodwork, stained and leaded glass, a decorative iron railing around the balcony, and a beautiful raised choir loft.”

A “Tour” of the Building

LOWER LEVEL

Ground Floor Entrance. This level includes:

  • The Coffee House, which is used by several community organizations
  • Coffee House Kitchen
  • Former recreation centre, used for Rummage sales
  • Custodian’s room
  • Furnace room
  • Elevator to the upper floors (installed in 1991)

MAIN FLOOR

The entrance from Peter Street leads to the Welcome Centre with seating by the fireplace and photographs of previous ministers on the wall:

  • Church Office
  • Fellowship Hall, the scene of many dinners, receptions, coffee hours
  • Welcome Centre, for information on upcoming events
  • Minister’s office
  • Library and photocopier
  • Church School Auditorium, with classrooms off the auditorium and office of the Director of Youth and Family Ministries; with children’s activities and games on the upper level
  • Kitchen
  • Washrooms
  • Access to elevator, for all levels

SANCTUARY

  • The original pulpit, just inside the ramp door, was restored in 1950. On it is the "In Remembrance" book acknowledging many gifts received through the years.
  • Plaques around the sanctuary walls honour the memory of many members and ministers who contributed greatly to our congregation.
  • The pulpit is a memorial to the Rev. John Gray, MA, DD, first minister of the church who was associated with OPC (St. Andrew’s) for 62 years (1851-1913).
  • The 4 Manual Casavant Organ was installed in 1921 in the substantially enlarged organ chamber, with most of the 1893 Warren instrument being moved to the south-east tower to become the Echo division. The front façade, still a stop of the Pedal division, is from 1893. A fire in 1985 destroyed the Echo organ, and a year later, Casavant installed a new Echo instrument. The Main organ was rebuilt and enlarged from 1995-97 by Orgues Létourneau, with the entire instrument containing over 5,300 pipes over nine divisions. This organ ranks among the 20 largest great Pipe Organs of Canada.
  • The audio visual system is operated from a control desk at the back of the sanctuary.
  • The balcony, showing the beauty of the sanctuary, is reached by a circular stairway in the south west entrance or a stairway in the south east entrance.
  • The Bell Tower houses the Centennial Carillon, installed in 1967, which was modernized in 2002 to a digital system, chiming the hours at noon and playing familiar hymns at noon and 5pm.

TOP FLOOR

  • Office of Pastoral Care Minister and Session Clerk
  • Organist’s office, with a large supply of choir music
  • The Parlour
  • Kitchen, to provide facilities for light refreshments
  • Sanctuary Choir room, accommodates choir gowns
  • St. Andrew’s Room – a large meeting room
  • Session meeting room, the Upper Room, with photographs of past elders on the walls
  • Descending the stairs, on the first landing - the Church school office and storage

THE CHURCH IS NOT A BUILDING, THE CHURCH IS THE PEOPLE

Some memorable events…

  • 1832 First settlers arrive (Ojibway Indians at Orillia)
  • 1834 Mrs. James Dallas started Sabbath School
  • 1851 Formation of congregation. Rev. John Gray, M.A. first minister
  • 1852 Original Church was built - the first church building in Orillia
  • 1856 The Female Assoc. organized, became Ladies’ Aid, then St. Andrew’s Guild, now Ladies Auxiliary
  • 1865 First organ placed in church
  • 1886 Women’s Missionary Society was formed
  • 1889 Present Church opened
  • 1893 Pipe Organ installed
  • 1914 New Sabbath School building opened
  • 1921 Memorial Organ dedicated, one of the largest in Canada
  • 1937 Sanctuary redecorated with some modifications to the Choir and Pulpit area, new Communion table & new electric light system
  • 1967 25 bell Carillon installed, Coffee House and Recreation Centre opened
  • 1977 Major fire in the N.E. wing, reopened September 1978
  • 1980 New entrance ramp to the Sanctuary installed
  • 1983 Church designated a Heritage Building in Ontario
  • 1985 S.E. Tower struck by lightning, Echo Organ destroyed, extensive damage to sanctuary
  • 1986 Sanctuary restored, new Echo Organ dedicated
  • 1991 Elevator installed, Coffee House renovations
  • 1994-7 Building and Organ restoration
  • 2002 Schulmerich Carillon Bells digital system installed
  • 2005 Sanctuary multi-media system installed in the church; main kitchen renovated
  • 2006 Main kitchen renovated and two new heating plants
  • 2008 New washrooms on main floor, stage lighting in the sanctuary and new light fixtures and audio system in the Fellowship Hall
  • 2009 Library window installed
  • 2009 New youth groups launched
  • 2010 Present Minister Rev. Karen Horst arrived
  • 2010 Seniors’ Centre launched
  • 2011 160th Anniversary Celebrations
  • 2011 Mission relationship with James Village, Malawi Africa established
  • 2012 Portions of entire roof repaired and completely shingled over-all
  • 2013 Ministry with University/ College students launched
  • 2014 Rev. Peter Rombeek arrived to do Youth and Family Ministry from 2014 to 2016
  • 2015 Rev. Karen elected as Moderator of the Presbyterian Church
  • 2015 Our first ECE was hired to cover our nursery programme
  • 2017 The Rev. Dr. Karen Horst receives a Honorary Doctorate from Knox college