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Following World War II, there was a growth of new residential neighbourhoods in and around the City of Ottawa. On the north-eastern boundary of Ottawa, Rothwell Heights and Cardinal Heights came into being in Gloucester Township to respond to the general need for more housing, but particularly those created by the Rockcliffe RCAF base and the National Research Council laboratories.
In 1955, Mrs. George Rothwell, a member of a pioneer family in the area, recognized the need for a church school to accommodate the children of Protestant denominations, other than Anglican, in this growing area. As a result of her efforts, this need was brought to the attention of the RCAF Padres at the nearby Rockcliffe military base who, in turn, referred it to the Ottawa Presbytery of the United Church of Canada.
A small group of interested persons met in the fall of 1955 to discuss the matter with Presbytery representatives. Following this meeting, a survey indicated that 90 children, from 1 to 15 years of age, were living in the area and that all parents were very receptive to the proposal. The first Sunday School was held in the Fairfield School Gymnasium on February 19, 1956. Attention was then directed to establishing a new United Church congregation to serve the area. The services of Padres from the Rockcliffe base were made available and regular church services began in the Fairfield School gymnasium. A church choir was formed in March 1957. These services continued until February 8, 1958 when Rothwell United Church was officially founded at a special ceremony. Rev. Basil Adams, RCAF Padre, was named Interim Minister. The congregation quickly thereafter built a manse on Delong Drive in Rothwell Heights. On October 19, 1958, the Rev. R.W. Armstrong was named the first Ordered Minister of our Church and the first occupant of the new manse.
First plans to build a church sanctuary were formulated as early as 1957 when Mr. Ben Rothwell set aside a parcel of land for church purposes. This generous gift inspired the congregation and adjoining properties were purchased thereafter to provide the site on which the church building and parking lot now stand. The current Church sanctuary was formally dedicated on Sunday September 9, 1962.
The growth experienced since 1955 intensified through the 1960s and into the 1970s. Where 59 children attended the first Sunday school in 1956, by the early 1970s the average attendance had grown to over 400 and membership in the congregation almost 1400. The participation in church services had also grown to the extent that chairs were set up in the aisles to accommodate attendance at regular services. To cope with these pressures, a 3,200 square foot, two-storey addition to the south end of the church building was completed in 1982. It provided space upstairs for Church offices, a Choir Room and Resource Centre and meeting space downstairs for the Sunday Club and a range of groups from inside and outside the Church. More than fifty volunteers from the Congregation laboured to finish the inside of the new addition and the new addition was ready to be dedicated on May 9, 1982.
In 1997, the Sunday School created a Bible Garden on the east side of the church that contains a range of plants mentioned in the Bible. In 2000, at the instigation of Rev. Valerie Fay, we found space for a Chapel next to the nursery and it was later dedicated to her memory.
Rothwell has been blessed by the energy and dedication of its ministers over the years. The Rev. R.W. Armstrong, our first Minister, served with us from November 1958 until June 30, 1960 when he took up lighter duties at Cumberland United. Rev. Cyril Stewart Cook succeeded him and remained with Rothwell through the hectic days of construction and consolidation before moving to Quebec City in 1966. He returned thirty years later as an interim minister.
Dr. James “Jamie” R. Millar, a retired Protestant padre with outstanding service at home and overseas, replaced Rev. Cook and served with us during the days of extreme growth. Dr. Millar retired in October 1976 to be succeeded by Rev. Peter Praamsma who served us for the next eleven years through a period that saw the growth of our community slow as our young families grew up and their children began to leave home. Many of Rothwell “pioneers” began their retirement and some passed away. Rev. Peter moved to Morrisburg in June 1987 to take up a new charge and we were fortunate to have Rev. Joanne Barr serve as interim minister for a year until a new minister was selected. Rev. John Frogley, arrived on August 1, 1988, after serving in charges in Newfoundland and Labrador. John was a dynamic presence in our midst until his departure in 1997. Rev Cook returned to act as our interim minister in 1997. He was succeeded by Rothwell’s first woman minister, Rev. Valerie Fay who joined us after serving several rural charges outside of Ottawa. She served Rothwell with great devotion from 1997 until her retirement in late 2001. Rev. Val was named minister emeritus and she and Phil remained members of the congregation as she continued her long battle with cancer that was to take her from us in late 2002. Rev. Ann Durant joined us from an Ottawa congregation in February 2002 and led the congregation with energy and devotion for almost five years until her retirement in late 2006. Rev. Roy Babstock served the congregation for a number of months in 2006 during Rev. Ann’s absence on restorative leave and as interim minister from November 2006 until June 17, 2007 following Rev. Ann’s retirement.
In September 2007, we welcomed our current minister, Rev. Michael Perreault, our first minister to have roots in Beacon Hill and Orleans. He has blessed us with new and exciting ways to explore our faith with our loving God remaining our constant companion, our destination, and the reason for our journey. What hasn't changed (thankfully!) is Rothwell’s ongoing commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We continue to share God’s compassion through the many vital ministries of our Church. Our M&S givings continue to be strong, and our commitment of local ministries has grown this year. We look forward to seeing where God will call us next, and who we’ll meet along the way.
1955: Mrs George Rothwell recognizes need for church school
Feb 19, 1956: First Sunday School held at Fairfield School
March 1957: Church choir was formed
Feb 8, 1958: Rothwell officially founded at special ceremony
1957: Mr Ben Rothwell sets aside land for church purposes
Sept 9, 1962: Rothwell United Church dedication
Rev. Rinaldo.W Armstrong: (October 1958 - June 1960)
Rev. Cyril Stuart Cook, M. A. (1960-1966 and 1997)
Dr. Jamie Millar (1966-1976)
Rev. Peter Praamsma M.A., M.Div, D.Min. (1976-1987)
Rev. Joanne Barr (1987-1988)
Rev. John Frogley B.A.,M.Ed,M.Div: (1988-1997)
Rev. Valerie Fay B.A., M.Div. (1997-2001)
Rev. Ann Durant B.A., M.Div (2002-2006)
Rev. Roy Babstock, B.A., M.Div., ICRS (2006 and 2007)
Rev. Michael Perreault B.A., M.Div., (September 2007 to date)