A Brief History of St. John’s Eastwood
St. John’s Eastwood is one of three church congregations along with Christ Church, Oxford Centre and St. Paul’s Princeton that form our Parish.
Before 1836, part of the congregation of Old St. Paul’s Woodstock, consisted of the community of Eastwood. It was felt that there were enough families in this area to support their own place of worship. Early records show that the land for St. John’s Church was donated by Henry Vansittart whose home, “Eastwood Park” was one of the centres of Oxford County’s early history. The Admiral donated £25 and the Rector put in £50 from the fund raised probably in England in 1837. Reverend William Bettridge conducted services in the church on alternate Sundays. All this makes St. John’s the second oldest church in Oxford County.
The original building was a rough cast structure situated just east of the present church with about 250 to 300 members attending on Sunday evenings. In spite of difficult travelling conditions they came by ox cart, horse and carriage and by sleigh in winter. Some even walked considerable distances for the opportunity to worship.
The present church was originally a white framed building and in 1893 was clad in brick, when that was underway Services were held in the village community hall. The refurbished church was re-opened on October 25th, 1893 by Bishop Baldwin.
The church was heated by wood stoves and lighting was by oil lamps and candles. In 1922 electricity was installed.
The church was redecorated in 1936 in time for its centennial celebration. A new chancel window was dedicated to Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Perry, a gift of their son Thomas. The Perry’s were very active in the early years of the church’s life. Other gifts and memorials provided furnishings for the building. In 1964 Mrs. Chisholm donated a new electric organ. Three stained-glass windows were installed, two in memory of Mr. Shelby given by his son Car, the third being in memory of Henry and Eliza Balls a gift of their family.
In 1956 in preparation for its 125th anniversary the interior was again renovated and the pews realigned to provide a centre aisle. Mr. S. Potter Sr. and his family provided the hardwood flooring extant in the Chancel.
In 1958 a major step was taken when the basement was excavated for a Parish Hall with a great deal of volunteer help, tractors, scrapers, bulldozers, etc. The hall was dedicated on November 2, 1958.
In 1977, panels with hand rails were made and placed at the steps of the chancel by Melvin Balls. The display-case was installed in 1981 with a guest book for visitors. A platform was built in 1984 by Mr. Cyril Depper to raise the Baptismal Font, and in 1986, railings were made and installed to enclose and enhance it.
In the winter of 2010 – 2011, a committee under the leadership of Mr. Frank Gordon saw to the rebuilding of the narthex – a renovation which gave the church a kitchenette and an accessible washroom as well as a proper cloakroom. It also opened up the church interior to make it more airy, while preserving the dark wood panels from Cathcart Anglican Church recently deconsecrated.
The physical parts of our church have undergone changes as we have continued to grow, and with the help of many parishioners and clergy along the way, a congregation energised by the Holy Spirit has emerged. St. John’s now stands quietly amid the resting places of our loved ones, and is surrounded by a grove of trees. It is a fitting place to worship Almighty God, and a welcoming spiritual home to all who come through our doors.