Open Doors: Waverly Road Baptist Church celebrates 125 years in the Beach

Waverly Road Baptist Church
Waverley Road Baptist Church, located on Kenilworth Avenue south of Queen, celebrates 125 years this year. PHOTO: Submitted

In 1891, a grocer on Queen Street named Philip Whitlock started a Sunday School for children in the back of his store, in what is now Whitlock’s restaurant. From these humble beginnings, Waverley Road Baptist Church was started.

The church soon built its own building on Kenilworth Avenue south of Queen, which is now The Beach Hebrew Institute. Around 1909, the church relocated and built a new building at its present location at 129 Waverley Road, just north of Queen. The church grew to have hundreds of people attending services.

After World War II, the church had peaked, and attendance gradually declined over several following decades.  But the church continued to serve many people in the Beach and surrounding areas, with weekly Sunday services, children’s programs and youth programs.

By 2009, Waverley was struggling, with Sunday attendance in the low 40’s, and a few faithful members doing their best to keep the church going.

Change was needed, and in 2012, Waverley started pursuing a new vision to be an outwardly-focused church. Sunday services were modernized with contemporary music, a conversational preaching style, and new mid-week groups. Updates were made to the facilities, and most importantly, the church began re-connecting with the local community.

Community organizations were welcomed to run programs in the facility during the week and church participation in community events increased. The children’s ministry was revived, and Waverley Road Kids Camp was launched. With this new outward vision, new families and young adults started attending again.

Today the attendance is almost double what it was at the low point, and the church is anticipating more growth. Newcomers attend every week, and this past summer six people were baptized in Lake Ontario.

We have a staff team which includes a Pastor, a Worship Arts Director, a Children’s Director and an Operations Manager, and dozens serving on our volunteer teams.

We are thankful to our community, the Beach, for your support for 125 years.  We are a community church with most of our attendees living nearby, and we would not exist without community support.

We also want to thank the many people who have served, prayed, and given time and resources to support the church all these years.

And most of all we want to thank Jesus, the God we worship, for giving Waverley new life when things looked bleak. He is, after all, the God of the Resurrection!

Maybe it has been a long time since you darkened the doors of a church, or maybe you have never been inside.

We extend the warmest welcome and invitation to check us out. We have people attending who are at many stages on their journey of faith, with some who are simply exploring what they believe. All are welcome!

We believe you will find love, kindness, and friendship, as so many others have found at Waverley.

Most of all you will have the opportunity to explore, at your own pace, what it means to have a relationship with Jesus.

Thank you to the Beach for 125 great years in the community. We look forward to many more.

Tim Strickland is the Lead Pastor at Waverley Road Baptist Church. You are invited to attend our 125th Anniversary celebration on Sunday, Oct. 23, which includes an 11 a.m. celebration service, 1 p.m. kids carnival, tours, free food and fun, and a free comedy show at 7 p.m., featuring Beach homegrown comedian, The Real Timmy Boyle! Details are online at waverleyroadbaptist.ca.

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