The Sanctuary at Stewart Memorial
This church is designated as an Ontario Historic Site and is located at 114 John Street North, in Hamilton, Ontario.
It's original name was St. Paul's African Methodist Episopal Church when it was founded in 1835. It is the longest surviving predominantly Black congregation within the City of Hamilton.
It's first structure was log and it was located on Rebecca Street. The congregation acquired its present building in 1879.
In 1937, it severed ties with the African Methodist Episcopal body and formed a non-denominational church, renamed in commemoration of the previous minister, Reverend Claude A. Stewart.
Its history attests to the importance of the church as both a religious and a social centre of Hamiltonians of African descent. The first influx of fugitive slaves into the Hamilton area was in the 1820's.
On April 13, 1993, it was declared an Ontario Historic Site.
It was my pleasure to be invited to attend the annual Turkey dinner on November 27th,in celebration of the American Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving dinner each year is celebrated by this church on the American Thanksgiving, as the founding fathers and mothers came originally from the United States of America.
Not only was a delicious turkey dinner with all the trimmings served, but entertainment was also provided. It was wonderful to see Hamilton's Police Chief and police personnel as well as several city officials come to enjoy fellowship and the meal with the assembled diners. There were four sittings for this meal which gives an idea of how many people attended this function! The young people served and did a splendid job, and all with good humour and smiles even with such a crowd!
Among the entertainers were Colina Phillips, who was born in Nova Scotia and had lived in Hamilton for a year before moving away. She sang backup for Anne Murray, Murray McLauchlan, Ronnie Hawkins, Long John Baldry, Ronnie Prophet, Fred Penner, Bruce Cockburn, Bryan Adams, Shaka Khan, Alice Cooper and many others.
Harrison Kennedy hails from Hamilton, Ontario and sings the blues. He has evolved into one of the most gifted singer/songwriters. His work has taken him to Detroit where he was a
member of the Detroit scene in the 1970's with the Chairman Of the Board on which he sang the blues rocket "I'm the chairman of the board."
Sharon Musgrave, was born in England of Dominican parents. She was raised in Canada where she has returned to live. She is a singer/songwriter whose work has been recognized by the Urban Music Association of Canada.
Anijye Myrie - 8 years of age, performed on the Djembe drum. She is a student at Ballet Creole where she is studying African drumming and contemporary dance.
Other entertainers were the Stewart Memorial Choir, Shyla Barnes, Michael Highgate, Heather Briggs, George Reid, Dorlis, Leo Johnson, Quinn Highgate,Winston Neale.
On a personal note, I was very honoured to be invited to this wonderful event and thoroughly enjoyed it!