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The History of Tansley United Church

In 1983 Halton Presbytery of the United Church of Canada saw a need for a United Church in the North Burlington area south of Dundas Street (Highway 5). The area was rapidly changing from a quiet village surrounded by fruit and vegetable farms and soon to became a town and then a city. A survey of the area was taken by Presbytery and from this survey Tansley United Church had its early beginnings. It was originally called Tansley Ministry, Tansley being the name of an early Post Master for the area.

The Church Extension Council of Halton Presbytery purchased a small parcel of land including a house on 2111 Walker’s Line just north of Upper Middle Road. This house was used for offices and Sunday School and Sunday services were held at Dr. Charles Best Public School while a pre-fabricated steel building was set up on the property for worship.

1986, January - Tansley Ministry received their Charter from the Presbytery with 120 members. In March the minister’s office and the church secretary were moved to the portable.

Once the pre-fab building was ready, the old farmhouse was demolished and on January 19, 1986 Tansley United Church was constituted with 130 charter members signing the Official Roll. The cross that currently hangs in the church was made from the beams of the farm house. 100 children were enrolled in Sunday school by this time.

Rev. Jim Carney replaced Rev. Parr in 1987. By 1990, the number of confirmed members had doubled to over 300. It was clear that the pre-fab building and farmhouse could no longer serve the burgeoning congregation, and plans were quickly made for a new permanent building to be constructed on the site. The portable building came down and Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School was the place of worship until the present building was habitable.

In 1993 the foundation for the new church began and the corner stone was laid 19 January. As the new building was opened, the congregation called Rev. Donna Howlett to be Tansley’s half-time minister to assist Rev. Jim Cairney. The U.C.W. was formed shortly after the dedication of the portable and is a very active group today. Burlington Montessori Preschool moved into the basement as a Monday-Friday tenant, and has been part of Tansley since then.

In 1996, Rev. Jim Cairney left Tansley, and Rev. Donna Howlett became the full-time minister. The congregation was still trying to find their financial feet after the building construction problems, and the half-time minister’s position was left unfilled for the time being.

In 1997, the congregation decided to finish the loft and in order to raise funds, “sold” 1m. x 1m. squares of the floor. The new “owners” got to paint a picture on their square. Although those colourful works of art were eventually covered up by the final tile flooring, photographs were taken first. In 1998, the second-floor project was finished, and the “Loft” immediately became a popular meeting space for church and community groups.

That same year, the congregation spearheaded a publishing project which became “Church Quirks”, a book of church anecdotes gathered from across Canada and published by the United Church of Canada in 1999. Later the same year, at a visioning day, Tansley created their current mission statement: “to be an enthusiastic, Christ-centred family, journeying in faith, looking in, reaching out…”.

Tansley was still designated to have both a full-time and a half-time minister, and in 2001, Rev. Linda Clark, diaconal minister from Hamilton, was called to fill the role of half-time minister.

The following year, in 2002, Rev. Howlett and Rev. Clark helped to create “Bethlehem Live”, an outdoor re-enactment of the Christmas story featuring a stable with live sheep, goats and a llama, with most of congregation acting as citizens of Bethlehem (as well as tax collectors, shepherds, angels and magi). Over 500 members of the community came to visit Tansley that night, and the production was repeated the following Christmas.

In 2004, Rev. Howlett moved to the Halton Presbytery office, and the congregation called Rev. Dick Prince as the full-time minister. Rev. Prince strongly believed that connections made at various groups in the church helped to knit together the congregation, and this belief led to the creation of many “connection groups’ that met for spiritual or social activities, including a book club, a prayer chain, a bridge club, a photography project and bible studies.

Jane Walmsley became the first Music Director and she was followed by Leslie Polci. When Leslie stepped down as music director in 2005 Michael Mulrooney, a former St. Michaels’ choirboy, and a talented pianist who had worked in the orchestras of most of the big musicals in Toronto became the Music Director.

In 2008, the congregation made the difficult decision to officially reduce the ministry staff to only one full-time minister for the first time in Tansley’s history. Both Rev. Clark and Rev. Prince chose to leave at the juncture, and the congregation called Rev. Stephen Huntley to serve as Tansley’s full-time minister, beginning May 1, 2008.

On Sunday the 2nd of June, 2011 Tansley celebrated its 25th Anniversary.