On the outside - a traditional Gothic Revival style church, joined to a modern glass-enveloped Parish Centre. On the inside - the church has been completely refashioned and is beautifully illuminated by skylights outlining the roof. The architecture reflects the congregation - rooted in history, but wide open to the present world.
The membership is diverse and is made up of a healthy mix of seniors, empty-nesters, and parents with young children and teens.
The theme of being "a caring community” is a key goal of all of the members of the parish.
St Thomas' identity is expressed through "sincere hospitality,” which is extended to "all” persons as we seek to celebrate the Lordship of Jesus Christ through our worship, learning and discussion and diversity of opinions.
In being tasked with sharing his love with others, many members of the church family find themselves leaders in outreach programs active at local, national and international levels.
St Thomas’ offers a challenging adult learning environment, an exciting programme for the Christian development of children and youth, and many social events 'just for fun.' All members are encouraged to offer their talents to strengthen our common ministry. Even those 'shut-in' participate through prayer support.
The story of our parish began on Dec. 26, 1818, when several prominent citizens of the area petitioned the Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada to grant them a plot of land on which to build an “Episcopal” church. The Upper Canada Land Petition requested “the whole or part of the Lots between Church Street and Rear [John] Street].” At this time Belleville had only 150 residents.
The Rev. Thomas Campbell, born in Northern Ireland, arrived the next year. Construction of a small red brick building started, and was completed in 1821.
During the next few decades Belleville prospered and grew, until the “homely structure” (as Susanna Moodie called it) became too small for the congregation. It was replaced by a larger stone structure of Gothic design. The cornerstone was laid on May 30, 1855 and the new church opened for worship in March 1858. In 1876 an overheated furnace caused a fire that gutted the church, leaving only the stone walls and tower standing. These were re-used in the rebuilding of the church, which re-opened in 1879. Meanwhile the congregation worshipped at the Metropolitan Hall, an opera house which stood on the west side of Pinnacle Street, near the present Belleville Public Library.
On April 30, 1975, the church was again gutted by fire, this time as a result of arson. The walls were immediately condemned as unfit, and plans were made for a totally new building. One plan called for a high-rise seniors residence, with a worship space on the ground floor. Other parishioners wanted the building to be just the same as before. A compromise was reached. The outer walls and tower would be repaired, stabilized, and re-used, but the interior would be completely different.
Even though repaired, the walls could no longer support anything but themselves. Four concrete pillars, of the type you see under road bridges, were erected to support a steel-truss roof, which was separated from the stone walls by panes of glass. The architects and organ builder worked together to design a wooden canopy that would reflect the sound of the organ down towards the congregation. During the reconstruction, the congregation worshipped in the Parish Hall across Bridge Street, opposite the church. The church re-opened in late 1976, and the new organ was ready in 1977.
Until this time, children under high school age went to Sunday School in the Parish Hall, while their parents worshipped in the Church. “Sunday School” consisted of a short opening and closing service, with graded Bible classes in between. However, by this time, the Church was encouraging parishioners to worship together as families, allowing admittance to Communion for all baptized persons, even those of younger age.
But the separation of worship facilities by an increasingly busy road – Bridge Street – made it awkward, time-consuming, and even dangerous, to cross the road for Sunday School or church. Soon after his arrival in 1983, the Rev. Fred Gosse put forward a bold plan – build a new Parish Centre adjoining the Church. In 1987 the church sold the land on the south side of Bridge Street, where the Parish Hall and the Rectory stood, to a consortium that demolished the 1871 rectory and the ca.1960 auditorium and built the Bridge Street Retirement Residence, using the 1912 Parish Hall as a 'cornerstone'. Soon after, with much 'red tape', the old cemetery was officially closed, and the remains of 579 bodies were removed and studied under the supervision of archaeologists from McMaster University. This mammoth project was in its time “the largest non-native [sic] removal of graves ever undertaken in North America”.
The remains of the deceased were interred in a common grave, each with their own packet of bones, in the north-east part of the cemetery. The tombstones were assembled into cairns; some were repositioned by the north-east wall of the church. The Parish Hall, dedicated in June 1990, and the parking lot, were built on the cleared part of the cemetery.
Now, moving from formal worship in the Church to Sunday School classes in the Parish Centre is simple and easy. Extremely rare 40 years ago, that wonderful modern institution, the Coffee Hour, affords a simple and easy opportunity for Christian fellowship after church. The air-conditioned Parish Centre is also used for more relaxed Sunday worship from mid-June to Labour Day weekend.
St Thomas’ also had a mission church, the last in the diocese. St Paul’s history is strong and faith-full , dating from 1874.
St. Paul's Mission, located at 35 St Paul Street, Belleville, between Church Street and John Street South, closed in 2018.
Worship is the one thing that we all do together – it is our central activity as a community. It is our time to praise God, to hear God’s word,and to be fed as we share in the bread and wine.
What can you expect from worship at St Thomas?
We worship together using the Anglican Book of Alternative Services, which is a contemporary language service book.
The 8:00 Sunday service and the 10:00 Wednesday services are 'said,' meaning they don't have any music.
The 10:30 service is the principal Sunday morning service at St Thomas'. We gather to sing, to pray, to hear from the scriptures, and to share in communion with one another and with God around the Lord's table. If you would like someone to sit with you, let one of the greeters know. If you have any questions before your first visit, feel free to contact the office.
Music is integral to worship at St. Thomas’. We worship in the Anglican Liturgical context and style. Singable, solid, engaging music music of different styles, genres, and methods of performance are used to support and enhance the worship experience. At St. Thomas’ we are proud to have a talented choir, chime choir and several contemporary worship leaders. We have an extensive and diverse list of talented musicians in the parish, many with experience leading worship in different settings.
Music ministry outside of the worship service is important for the community and fellowship, including Sunday school, youth group, vacation bible school, pastoral care, and other community gatherings. We are proud to be the host church for the Hastings & Prince Edward Regional Chorus and the Belleville Choral Society.
St Thomas’ is fortunate to have a 1977 Gabriel Kney organ*, an electric Yamaha Clavinova piano, a piano and a set of chimes. Our extensive music library is supported through appropriate licensing agreements with three music resource groups.
Special services occur at different times of the year and are usually announced in church and on the calendar page of the website.
Kids are welcome to stay in church or participate in the special programming for kids (nursery - teen). If you'd like to go with your child to Sunday school, you are most welcome to do so. In any case, the kids come back into the church just before communion starts. If you have any questions, you can contact our co-ordinator of Family, Children and Youth Ministries.
Parking is available around the church, with an entrance off of Church Street. There are entrances on three sides of the church, all of which will be open on Sunday morning. Just come in the door closest to you and follow the crowd. Wheelchair accessible Washrooms are in the hall.
St. Thomas’ Anglican Church is committed to excellence in serving all community members including people with disabilities. For a full description of our Accessible Customer Service Plan please select and download from the bottom of this page.
If you're interested in more information about St Thomas' history as a parish, its buildings, its worship and its programs, please explore the rest of this website. You can select and download the full Parish Profile from the bottom of this page.
We look forward to welcoming you at any time.