The Formative Years : 1927 – 1952
The beginning of the 20th century was a turbulent time on the theological landscape of Canada. Liberal theology challenged the church and Christians unlike any period in the Dominion’s short history. As a result, many Bible-based churches were formed, including Collier Street Baptist Church. On June 14, 1927, thirteen people made the decision to rent the old Congregational Church in downtown Barrie. The first worship service was conducted on July 3, 1927 with thirty-five people in attendance. The offering amounted to $47.24. In the fall of 1928, Collier Street Baptist Church became a member of the Fellowship of Independent Baptist Churches and hired its first Pastor, Reverend A.C. Whitcombe, who served until 1930. Between 1931 and 1944, Reverend J.H. Garbig and Reverend T.L. White saw the church community deepen in faith and quadruple in size. But it was under the care of Collier Street Baptist Church’s fourth Pastor, Reverend A.G. Mitchell, that the church saw substantial growth between 1944 and 1952. Sunday services saw an average attendance of seventy-five people in the morning, seventy-five in Sunday School and fifty people in the evening. The church purchased a parsonage in 1947 and installed its first organ four years later. In 1951, Collier Street Baptist was supporting three missionaries and the Fellowship Home Missions.
Growing Years: 1952 – 1977
In the decade following the end of WWII, Canadians entered an era of unparalleled prosperity – and procreativity! The Baby Boom was in full swing when the church called its fifth pastor, Reverend Ernie Nullmeyer in December of 1952. By the end of 1953, due in part to Pastor Nullmeyer’s weekly radio address, weekly attendance grew to 200 people. Many were coming to the faith and, as early records show, baptisms were being requested weekly. This led to the creation of a building committee which subsequently led to the purchase of property on St. Vincent Street for the sum of $6000. The new building was dedicated on June 16, 1957. With the new location came a new name: Emmanuel Baptist Church! The construction of the new Emmanuel was only one important event of 1956. On April 15th, the church commissioned its first ‘home grown’ missionary, Yarmella Jelinek, who would go on to serve for many years in Bolivia. Pastor Nullmeyer left Emmanuel in 1961 and was replaced by Reverend J. Williams from 1962 to 1966. In August 1966, Reverend R.D. Holliday assumed the pastorate. Under his care, Emmanuel’s commitment to missions excelled, with more than $40,000 being raised for local and foreign missions. Following the departure of Pastor Holliday in 1970, the Lord continued to bless Emmanuel’s ministry under the care of Reverend Brian Baxter and Reverend Frank Wuest. By 1975, the church created another building committee to address the needs of the growing congregation. The sod turning for the addition took place on April 18, 1976. Mrs. Eva Kissock, the only remaining founding member, did the honours.
The Transformation Years: 1977 – 1996
With the first service in the new sanctuary on February 13th, 1977, the next phase of Emmanuel’s history began. As the church grew, so did the congregation’s needs. This precipitated the need to change from a single pastorate to a team ministry model and a broader range of ministries. Pastor Wuest left Emmanuel in 1983 and was replaced by Reverend Gordon Reeve. During his four years of service, Pastor Reeve led in the establishment of an Emmanuel church plant, Willow Creek Baptist Church, in Midhurst. Reverend Arnold McNeill replaced Pastor Reeve in 1988. During his five years as Emmanuel’s pastor, Pastor McNeil further developed the team ministry focus of the church and oversaw the purchase of two additional properties adjacent to the church which were used for youth activities and much needed parking. Following Pastor McNeil’s departure in 1993, the church was without full-time pastoral leadership for three years, though Reverend George Bell served faithfully for much of that time. However, the lay leadership committed itself to strategic planning and established important goals for the future, including ‘. . . a desire to reach out to the people of our community.’ This God-given vision would prove to be the catalyst for a period of unprecedented growth.
The Vision Years: 1996 – Present
In September of 1996, Emmanuel called its eleventh Senior Pastor, Reverend Rick Buck. Under his care, the church’s spiritual and numeric growth skyrocketed, growing twenty percent by 1998. This required the addition of more staff positions, including Pastors of Family Ministries, Small Groups, Outreach and Worship. Two morning services were introduced in November 1998. That same year, a committee was established whose purpose was to find a way to accommodate growth, as well as institute long-term objectives. Investigating a number of options, including the establishment of another church plant, the committee recommended that Emmanuel relocate to a new site in order to create a regional church complex that would meet its current and future needs. In December, 2002, after many years of prayer and research, the church purchased its current site strategically in the path of Barrie’s growth development. The sod turning ceremony took place on May 30, 2004 and the first service in the new facility was on September 28, 2005. Since arriving at our new location, God has continued to bless Emmanuel. In June, 2013 we expanding our building to the south of our property to accommodate our growing need of children’s ministry space and meeting rooms.
Thirty years ago the writer of Emmanuel’s history stated that “This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes.” Similar thoughts are echoed today as Emmanuel enters its 80th year of service to God and our community. The rock at the centre of these monuments bears the inscription ‘To God alone be the glory.’ Let these words remain the foundation of our future path as we “win, teach, and equip our world to passionately follow Jesus Christ.”
The Multiplying Years
In the Spring of 2015 we launched another Campus in Orillia called EMMANUEL//Orillia.