Beth Emanuel Church

Beth Emanuel British Methodist Episcopal Church, 430 Grey Street.
The new brick church for the Black Methodist community, dedicated May 16, 1869, had been built to accommodate 200 people. Early preachers included Walter Hawkins (1882), born a slave in Maryland and later a BME Bishop, and Thomas Clement Oliver (1890-91), who had been active in the Underground Railroad. Eventually most pastors and worshippers were Canadian-born, augmented in the twentieth century by immigrants from the Caribbean.
In addition to revenues from the collection plate, the congregation raised funds by hosting an annual southern fried chicken supper, organizing a Christmas bazaar, and holding tag days. The congregation boasted social and outreach groups that responded to a variety of Christian needs: the Brotherhood for men, the Stewardess Board for women, a choir ably led for many years by the noted singer Paul Lewis, a baseball team for boys, and the Women’s Home and Foreign Missionary Society.
Frequently, the congregations of Beth Emanuel and nearby Hill Street Baptist Church met for both celebrations and services. Their combined Sunday schools took the London and Port Stanley Railway to Port Stanley for an annual picnic. Attendance began to decline in the second half of the twentieth century, reaching a low of 30 members in 1969, although friends and adherents increased that number somewhat. In 1991 a fire, resulting in $300,000 damage, caused services to be held in the basement until repairs were completed, with many London churches donating to the project.
In recent decades, Beth Emanuel has evolved into a church providing social outreach to individuals and families in need. Its mother church, formerly on Thames Street, was a sanctuary to those fleeing slavery.