Organization: Union United Church
Address:(office) 4455 Mariette Ave., Montreal, QC H4B 2E9
(church) 3007 Delisle St., Montreal, Quebec
Contact: Carlita Thompson, office(a)unionunitedchurchmtl.ca
Description: An elegant marble baptismal font used in the sanctuary of the Union United Church.
Year made: 1929
Made by: Unknown
Size: 91 cm x 31 cm basin diameter
Photos: Rachel Garber. Courtesy Union United Church
The Baptismal Font
The Union United Church was “formed in 1907” and was originally known as the Union Congregational Church. The covenant set by the founding members speaks of the “privilege and duty” of Christian fellowship. The congregation of Union United Church promotes the privilege of community and fulfils the duty of service. The baptismal font of Union United Church is but one example of the congregation’s fulfilment of the founding covenant.
The baptismal font exemplifies how community is fostered within the congregation. The most obvious way would be in its use during a baptism. “Do you, the congregation, receive this child as a member of Christ’s flock...?” “YES WE DO!” With that exchange between the minister and the congregation, a child is welcomed into the community of Union United. To discover another way the font exemplifies community requires a closer look.
The baptismal font’s smooth lines create elegance in its simplicity. It stands 91 cm tall with a basin width of 31 cm. The marble font has a small plaque on it that reads, “Presented by the Women’s Club of the Union Church, Feb 3rd 1929 in loving memory of our late member MINA DELARY GATES, January 20th 1928.” The plaque speaks to the connection between a group of women and their ability to organize, finance, and obtain this font, thus maintaining a connection with one of their deceased members. In the Hostess Book, Mina Delary Gates is “noted as the daughter-in-law of Mrs. Gates. Arlie Gates was Mina’s husband and he was a projectionist and worked in a Montreal movie theatre.”
The Women’s Club of Union United Church is one of the many groups—committees and auxiliaries—that were created to help meet the needs of all members of the congregation and the needs of the broader Black Anglophone community.
A minister who embodied this aspect of service that characterizes Union United Church was the Reverend Dr. Charles Humphrey Este, who “dedicated more than 40 years of his life, not just to the Church, but also to Montreal’s black community.”
Reverend Este was born in Antigua. “In 1913, a CPR agent lured nine Antiguans to Canada - including Charles Este, future Reverend of Montreal's influential Union United Church - with hollow promises of lucrative employment.” Once in Montreal, Reverend Este studied for the ministry at the Congregational College of Canada until April 1925. In 1923, the then Union Congregational Church asked him “to be its student-pastor for the 1923 summer. His performance was so satisfactory that his office was extended until May 1, 1925.”
Reverend Este served as the minister of Union United Church from May 1925 until April 1968. (Union was a charter member of the United Church of Canada, a new ecclesiastical body that was formed on June 11, 1925.)
During his 43 years as the minister of Union United Church, Reverend Este not only led his congregation, but was also an “active member and chaplain of the Universal Negro Improvement Association...and founded the Negro Community Centre.” The Black community turned to Union United Church and the Reverend with their questions and concerns. Reverend Este “became public health officer, immigration consultant, social and community worker, anti-discrimination activist, remedial education teacher, and recreation animator...In the Fall of 1927, therefore, Rev. Charles Este suggested to the congregation that a Negro Community Centre was an immediate necessity.”
The Negro Community Centre is still active today and has honoured its founder by rechristening itself the Negro Community Centre / Charles H. Este Cultural Centre. The portrait of Reverend Este shows a distinguished, man with a contemplative expression. Not surprising for a Black man who served his community by fostering community.
Union United Church continues to carry through the covenant of its founding mothers and fathers by fulfilling the duties of Christian fellowship through service to the Black community.
Maranda Moses, Proud Past Bright Future, Montreal: Union United Church, 2008.
Leo W. Bertley, Montreal’s Oldest Black Congregation, 1976.
Email from Erene Anthony, President of the Board, Union United Church.
Email from Dorothy Williams, Historian, Union United Church.
S. Mathieu, North of the colour line: Sleeping car porters and the battle against Jim Crow on Canadian rails, 1880-1920. Labour, (47), 9-9. 2001.Retrieved from http://0-search.proquest.com.mercury.concordia.ca/docview/218787905?acco...
Whether editing or writing, Blossom Thom thrives while immersed in words. She is able to work on both sides of this cloth by understanding language and remembering its pleasure. Raised in Southern Ontario, Blossom's heart led her to Montreal, Quebec where she now makes her home.