Kilworth United Church is one of the oldest and loveliest churches in the London area.Built in 1850, it's one of the few buildings of the once-thriving village of Kilworth. The village, when the church was built, was home to about 200 inhabitants. The rapid flow of the river past Kilworth provided an ideal site for industry that relied on water power in the days before electricity.
Kilworth at the time had a distillery, a wool-carding and cloth-making mill, a sawmill, two cabinet-making firms, a tannery, two saddle, trunk and harness makers, a grist mill, two hotels and other stores and services.
The little stone church was erected as an Episcopal Methodist Church, a rival for the earlier Wesleyan Methodist Church across the road and slightly to the east beside one of the oldest cemeteries in Middlesex County.
The Episcopal Methodists were from a branch of Methodism that had taken root in the United States and began moving into Canada as settlement pushed into Western Ontario. The Wesleyan Methodists were more closely affiliated with the original British church founded by John Wesley. The Episcopal Methodist church prevailed as the prime meeting house for area Methodists, while the Wesleyan church became a Sunday School, a schoolhouse and finally a home before falling into disrepair.
In 1925, Methodist churches in Canada joined with the Congregationalists and most Presbyterians to form a new church — the United Church of Canada.
The Kilworth building you see today has rock and stone walls that are two feet thick. Many are hand-hewn, petrified rocks from the nearby Wishing Well spring. Petrified objects can be found in the rock walls of the church, particularly at the four corners.
On the front wall can be found imprints of ancient beech tree leaves as well as of sticks and frogs. In 1890, A Sunday school was added at the rear of the structure where many church suppers have also been held and more recently a kitchen and washrooms were added. The stone entrance was created in 1939, the same year electricity was installed.
Except for changes to the pulpit, the sanctuary has remained largely unchanged since the church was built, remaining simple and Spartan. Our congregation currently serves about 80 families.
By Chip Martin
The church in Delaware had its beginnings in the between 1816 and 1855 with the establishment of Bible Christian, Wesleyan Methodist and Episcopal Methodist groups of worshippers, who met in their homes.
Over time, these groups became more organized, meeting for worship services and Bible study, often led by local preachers and sometimes itinerant missionaries.
In an April 7, 1869, article, printed in the Canada Christian Advocate, the official organ of the Methodist Episcopal branch of Methodism, Rev. H. Locke of Delaware wrote that "the Lord has been pouring out His spirit upon the people in this charge."
More than 50 persons joined the church during eight weeks of meetings in a brick building south of Delaware, Rev. Locke wrote. At the close of one meeting during which several persons "were brought under religious influence," Rev. Locke was presented with "a well-filled purse . . . I saw plainly that God had opened a door for the preaching of the Gospel in Caradoc and Delaware West . . . We now have a good cause in the village of Delaware."
According to the Canada Christian Advocate, work began in 1869 on the construction of Mount Zion Methodist Episcopal Church in Delaware West, on a property close to the site of today's United Church. It was a small white frame structure on the other side of the river from the current yellow brick church building.
The white frame church was dedicated on Sunday, November 14, 1869, with three guest preachers participating.
From 1870 on, Delaware was listed as part of the seven-church Westminster Circuit of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Mount Zion reported the purchase of a "splendid organ" at a cost of $150 in 1879. After the of all Methodist bodies in 1883-84, Delaware became the head of the circuit, which also included Lambeth and Melrose.
A congregational meeting was held in 1892 to discuss building a new church and a board of trustees was appointed for that purpose. Two lots were purchased, for a church and manse and the board approved the project in 1894.
Church records show there were "many sacrificial gifts of money" and that volunteer manual labour "made possible the erection of the church without a heavy debt." The church was debt free six years after it was built.
The new church (today's building) was officially opened and dedicated on the second Sunday of February in 1896. It featured a sanctuary capable of seating 350 people, two stained glass memorial windows, a small pipe organ and a basement with classrooms for "young scholars" attending Sunday school.
Delaware Methodist became known in the village for its choirs, bands, youth groups, women's groups and community work. In 1925, it became part of the United Church of Canada as a result of the of Methodists, Congregationalists and two-thirds of Canada's Presbyterians.