In 1838, when the village of Stratford boasted 40 souls and 22 buildings, the Canada Company granted a parcel of land for a church site and cemetery to the Presbyterian congregation. It was recognized as Presbyterian with connections to the Church of Scotland in the Huron Tract. Stratford became a "Separate Charge".
In 1843 a major split took place within the Church of Scotland when hundreds of ministers and congregations broke away from the established church to form the Free Church of Scotland. St. Andrew's Church found itself caught up in the debate when, in 1844, their minister and a majority of the congregation withdrew to form a Free Church. Being in the majority, they felt entitled to the building and records of St. Andrew's. It took a civil court decision in favour of the established church for the issue to be decided.
During the next 20 years, the congregational membership grew and prospered, so that in 1868 a new white brick church was built. That building continues as part of the church structure and is the core of the Christian Education and office facilities.
In 1903 land was "given over" for the Stratford Public Library which is adjacent to the church, and one lot for the red brick manse at 46 Church Street. With a congregation of 600 in 1911 it was necessary to build a larger structure, which is still today's sanctuary. The large stained glass windows are considered to have been unique for they were lined with bronze castings instead of the universal lead framing. Modern technology does not permit this to be duplicated.
Since its beginning, St. Andrew’s has been involved in mission work. In 1884 the Stratford Presbyterial W.M.S. was organized with associate groups developing from it. And in 1896 the Society sent its first bale consisting of uncut materials to the North West Indies. Members were instructed by the president "to go forward with a willingness to do, a readiness to serve and to build as they were able" and members continue to display this today.
Over the years, the WMS and its associated groups have offered special prayers for our soldiers, our people and our country. Much work had been done in collecting clothing for bales sent to the mission field as well as quilting and sewing, assisting in the church nursery, helping the Mission Band with supplies and suppers. Members made children's clothing and in war years, packed gifts of food. Friendship and Service have been practiced at all times, visiting and sending cards to the sick and bereaved families. The group now known as PCW continues today with their mission projects and fund raisers, a dedicated group of women at work, giving of their time and talents and supporting their church in every way.
During the 1930s, 40s and into the 50s, St. Andrew's had a tent at the Fairgrounds during the annual fair where they served meals to the men who stayed in the barns with the cattle and horses. They also had a booth in front of the tent selling hotdogs etc. In the 1950's dinners were also served three nights a week to patrons of the Festival and the money earned from this was used to pay for a new kitchen.
In 1969 the group become involved in helping with the community Meals On Wheels program and St. Andrew's members continue to volunteer on a regularly basis.
In the 1970's St. Andrew's allocation for the National Development Fund, a fund to assist needy congregations in Canada was $5,000 and it was the only church in the Presbytery to meets its commitment. Over the years, members have cared deeply about their contributions to the Presbyterian Sharing and worked hard to make sure their commitment has been met.
Over the years, the Christian Education program taught not only the children and young men and women of St. Andrew's, but also in the 1920's provided lessons in English as well for Chinese men who came to Stratford to work. St. Andrew’s was also the "home away from home" for young people attending Stratford Teachers' College. Students were welcomed to Sunday school and the Young People's Society as well as the church choir. It was also home to groups such as C.G.I.T. and various young peoples groups and many bible study groups.
The Good Morning Bible Study Group formed in 1981 has, over the years, purchased a number of reference books for the church library and contributed to the St. Andrew’s Memorial fund. The formation of a Flower Guild took responsibility for decorating and placing flowers in the sanctuary for special occasions. The Guild also delivers flowers with notes of scriptures and caring to our sick and shut-in members each week.
Since 1983, the editors of The Saint newsletter keep us up-to-date with current events, meetings and news from various organizations within our church community. While attending members pick up their copies, those homebound receive their copies in the mail to keep them in touch with the news of their church family.
In 2001, Community Meals was started and continues to serve the community every Wednesday evening from November to April with volunteers from St. Andrew's as well as volunteers from other churches and the community. Presently, volunteers are also covering Monday nights with a soup and bun night as the Salvation Army was unable to continue their Monday night meals.
In 2005, a team of volunteers from St. Andrew's and Knox as well as others from the community went to Mississippi to help with the clean up and reconstruction after hurricane Katrina. One member described the trip as “the start of a more caring and giving congregation". Other teams from our community have since followed in their footsteps.
At a Joint Sessions meeting in September, 2008, approval was given to provide five thousand dollars ($5,000.00) per year for five years to PWS&D Partners in Mission Program. Fundraisers have already begun to reach this commitment.
The first Sunday of November 2008 marked the 170th year of this congregation’s service to God in this community and upon this same property. This proud celebration would not have been possible if it were not for the leadership of the Teaching and Ruling Elders over the many years and the dedicated members of the church family.