Northland Central United Church
In a small valley surrounded by tree-clad hills nestles a small white church which serves the people of the former Dunn’s Valley, Poplar Dale, and Rock Lake churches. The Northland Central church is 14 miles north of Bruce Mines and 25 miles east of Sault Ste. Marie.
Presbyterian Missionary reports for Algoma District in 1892-93 indicate the opening of a new field, known as the Rock Lake Mission Field, with four preaching points, including Dunn’s Valey and Rock Lake. Work by the Methodists started in 1894-95 with the opening of a new Ophir Mission under the supervision of the Bruce Mines Mission.
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church at Rock Lake was opened in 1902. The existence of the nearby rock Lake Copper Mines and the considerable number of people employed there gave impetus to the building of a spacious church, larger than most rural churches in Algoma. Ten percent of the cost of $1,600 was contributed by the Rock Lake Mining Company.
Cooperative union between the Methodists and Presbyterians became a reality by 1917, eight years before the official date of Church Union. The Rock Lake church was associated with Poplar Dale and Dunn’s Valley. In 1920 Rydal Bank joined the churches of the Ophir Circuit. After Union the name was changed to the Rydal Bank Pastoral Charge. In 1938 Cloudslee United became associated with thi charge. In 1960 the Algoma Larger Parish was formed. The minister from Rydal Bank, assisted by a lay minister, looked after the congregations of eight churches – Cloudslee, Dunn’s Valley, Poplar Dale, Rock Lake, Leeburn, Rydal Bank, Plummer, and Gordon Lake.
In the next few years many changes took place in our communities. Many people sold their farms and went elsewhere, few young people remained, and attendance at our churches dropped. The congregations of Dunn’s Valley, Poplar Dale, and Rock Lake made a motion to amalgamate. At a meeting of the Algoma Presbytery it was unanimously agreed to concur with all requests of the motion. A special amalgamation service was held at Rock Lake on Sunday May 19, 1963. The following Sunday, May 26, a sod turning ceremony for the Northland Central United Church took place at the site on Highway 638 at the Ophir Corners. Mrs. Eveline Moore, who donated the land, turned the first sod.
The people of the area gave freely of their time, talents and money during the summer and with some financial assistance from the Home Missions Board and Algoma Presbytery the building was completed six months later. They now had a church building free of debt, accessible in the winter, centrally located, heated with oil, and made more beautiful by the stained glass windows from the Rock Lake Church.
It is our hope and prayer that we may continue to worship God in our rural churches.