The Salvation Army Oshawa
History in Oshawa
Part of The Community in Oshawa since 1884
For almost 140 years, The Salvation Army has shared the gospel, and made a social impact in Oshawa
The first recorded history of the Salvation Army in Oshawa is from a Town Council meeting on March 3, 1884 where the Salvation Army, some 62 people strong made a request to use the Town Hall for their meetings. There are many reports of the workings of the Salvation Army at Oshawa in newspapers from Toronto to Lindsay. This early crowd created quite a stir and were known for their lively meetings both at the Town Hall and on the street corner.
Salvation Army Oshawa Church Building 1894:
The early day relationship with town council was quite mixed. Council minutes of 1885 record their disapproval regarding the “…length of the Army meetings, often going well past 10 PM with the playing of instruments and beating of the drum.” This precipitated the council’s reluctance to renew the Salvation Army’s lease. However, town council minutes of February 1886 record that councillor “Hawthorne wished to know why the constable had stopped the band from playing on the corner Saturday last.” After the constable was heard, Mr. Hawthorne motioned that the band be requested to play every Saturday and Wednesday evening on the corner of King and Simcoe streets. This exchange perhaps best demonstrates a positive change in the relationship with town council which the Salvation Army in Oshawa has enjoyed to this day.
The Toronto Mail, now known as The Globe and Mail, in an article dated March 25, 1884, noted that “The Salvation Army are having crowded houses every night since they located in Oshawa. Converts are being made gradually.”
A band was established in 1885 and has proved to be a very important ministry during the ensuing years. It was hoped that the music from the band would draw the best kind of attention, assist with the singing and distract opposition when conducting outdoor meetings. The initial photo of the band shows 12 men – 10 playing brass instruments, 1 clarinet and a bass drum.
As expected, there was opposition to this group of Salvationists. On May 10, 1895, the Whitby paper noted “Captain House has had summonses issued for several young men who have been disturbing Salvation Army meetings.” Although the Army had some enemies, including another local church group who liked to disturb the open-air gatherings and meetings, they also had a staunch friend in the Orange Lodge. Apparently, this local church group had planned to break up the open-air meeting one Sunday evening. The Orange Lodge heard about this, and to prevent any trouble occurring, formed a protective outer ring around the inner open-air ring of Salvationists. More than once this Lodge protected the Army Hall while meetings were being held to prevent these rowdies from interfering.
On March 14 1889, the first property was purchased for $600 at the corner of Simcoe and Oak (later renamed John) streets. The initial building was erected on this site using materials that were thought to have originally housed the Salvation Army in Pickering. The building was dismantled and transported by teams of horses as well as men pushing wheelbarrows to its new location in Oshawa. This building was replaced with a more permanent structure in 1911. The Salvation Army flourished at the corner of Simcoe and John having undergone many additions and renovations until Christmas 1987. After meeting for several weeks in a local high school, the present building was officially opened by Commissioner Will Pratt on the weekend of February 13 and 14, 1988.
Salvation Army Band 1895:
The Salvation Army in Oshawa has always had a rich heritage of working with those in need. In 1912, a letter to council records a request for funds to assist with the social work of the local corps. By this time, the corps had become a permanent part of the fabric of Oshawa. Photographs, newspaper clippings and council minutes record that the Salvation Army was present at many major civic activities of the day.
Salvation Army Band opening Oshawa’s YMCA 1909:
The Salvation Army in Oshawa continued to grow, with many new families beoming members. As a result, programs geared toward the whole family grew. A formal Sunday school was first mentioned at the turn of the 20th century. Later additions included a women’s ministries (home league), young people’s band, choir (singing company), scouting and guiding units. Most of these groups are still active today.
During the 1930’s, Canada was struck with a great depression. Many people were without work, but during this time The Salvation army Oshawa continued to grow, in part, due to the success of General Motors and Sir Sam McLaughlin, a good friend of the Army who did his best to provide work for the community. In 1934 The Salvation Army Oshawa celebrated its 50th anniversary. A write-up in the local paper described the anniversary weekend which included an anniversary parade: “No other religious denomination could, by dint, hint or crook, marshal such patronage. We never saw anything like it – and in that phrase we might as well emphasize their whole proceedings from the beginning to the end. Whoever saw anything like it in the way of religious service, or indeed in any other way? The scene at times on the platform was beyond portraiture, beyond imagination… The banquet and all were certainly a grand success, and The Salvation Army must feel grateful for the public favour and patronage extended to them.”
By the fall of 1939, it was evident Canada was going to war. This was a difficult time for society in Oshawa and The Salvation Army was not spared. Many of the men of the corps were either overseas fighting the war, or moved to other parts of Canada where their skills, often learned at General Motors, were put to use for the war effort. 51 comrades on the soldier’s roll enlisted for service in WW2 and 4 paid the supreme sacrifice. Following the war, The Salvation Army again experienced a time of significant growth, which continued through the 1950’s, and 60’s. With the growth came further expansion of the building at the corner of Simcoe and John. The church continued to be the center of spiritual growth for many of its soldiers. It was during this time that seventeen soldiers committed themselves to fulltime ministry as Salvation Army officers.
During the decade of the 60’s, the social services side of the corps was formally set-up with its own fulltime leadership. New living quarters were found for the corps officer allowing the welfare department to be started in the old officer’s quarters, behind the church, facing John Street. This ministry has expanded dramatically over the years and since 1993 has been housed in a modern 2 story building at 117 King St. E.
During the 1967 Victoria Day weekend, Oshawa songsters (choir) were invited to be one of the solo groups at Expo ’67 in Montreal and in 1974, they had a tour of Eastern Canada, making stops in Halifax, Charlottetown and St. John’s. In 1975, the church was involved in a successful production of the musical “Take Over Bid” and made presentations at Eastdale Collegiate in Oshawa, Niagara Falls and Montreal.
Leading into the 70’s, the style of music that the world was listening to had changed dramatically. Amplified guitars and drums had taken the world by storm and The Salvation Army was no exception. While the band and songsters (choir) continued to flourish, new groups were taking shape and providing contemporary Christian music to the community in Oshawa and around the territory. Groups such as the “Good News Group” and “Logos” were formed during this time and blessed many in their service.
In 1978, a new set of instruments was purchased for the band. Also, in the late 70’s, a Sunday School bus ministry was initiated. Attendance grew to over 200, and once again the church census board broached the subject of expanding current facilities. However, it was during the early 1980’s that the board finally decided that a new, more functional building was required. The building, at 133 Simcoe Street South, was sold to the city and is still in use today as a Men’s Hostel. Contributions and support came from the whole church family and soon the money for the new building was raised for the build and move. A suitable location was found at 570 Thornton Road North. Approximately 400 people can fill the sanctuary, with another 90 in the overflow fellowship room with removable walls, and another 120 on the platform. The Family Services Ministry remained downtown.
This move provided space to expand church ministries. In recent years, The Salvation army Oshawa has sponsored several Alpha and marriage enrichment programs as an outreach to the community. Our youth programs have offered children the opportunity for day camp opportunities at subsidized prices year after year. The Salvation Army Oshawa continues to have a vibrant ministry to the community of Oshawa and surrounds. Sunday worship is vibrant and relevant for today and there is a significant number invloved in youth programs. The youth bible studies continue to grow under our wonderful youth pastor. Women’s ministry continues its excellent up to date ministry. In recent years Men’s ball hockey and a men’s ministry called Men of Action and Purpose has begun providing needed practical service to the community, including many senior citizens.
The ministry of the Oshawa Temple Church and downtown services has been alive and well for almost 140 years. May God continue to bless His work in this community!!
Our Community’s Church buildings over the decades1335