In 1935, the two Perth County Registries (North and South) merged into one county office based in Stratford. The South Perth building in St. Marys was closed and put up for sale. The purchaser was the recently formed Gospel Mission, sponsored by Wortley Road Baptist Church in London. This congregation had met regularly since 1935 in various rented or donated spaces downtown. Growing membership meant a need for a permanent home and the registry office was secured with a deposit of $25 in June 1938. The congregation set out to raise the balance of the $450 purchase price plus the much larger cost of renovations.
It was a daunting task to turn the registry office bunker into a welcoming place of worship. Local contractor W. J. Stafford undertook the project with as much help as possible from members of the congregation. A Journal Argus reporter checked on the progress several times, noting great piles of brick, mortar and stone accumulating as the arches of the records vaults and the flagstone floor were removed. New supports were placed for the roof, and a basement was excavated to accommodate a furnace. A new floor was installed, sloping towards the pulpit and, at the east end, a small addition held the baptistery. In September 1939, the renovations were completed at a total cost of $9,000.
The first baptism took place in March 1940 and the first wedding — Neil Nutt and Margaret Stewart — in May 1941. The first pastor, DeLoss Scott, was ordained in the church in November 1941. In 1943, the congregation chose a new name: St. Marys Baptist Tabernacle. Many will remember that name above the entrance. It is visible in the 1980s photograph accompanying this column.
The Reverend William Wright, now retired and living in Brampton, grew up in this church and was ordained there in 1952. He recalls: “…it became a wonderful place for me during my teen years. Neil Nutt was my Sunday School teacher. Our class met in the furnace room under the front part of the building. Sometimes the furnace let off a head of steam while we were sitting in a semi-circle!” A strong focus of this church was support for missionaries; these included Bill Wright and his wife Jessie, who worked in Nigeria for many years.
In 2003, the church — then known as Little Falls Baptist — merged with Grace Community Church. Once again, the building was vacant but today — a decade later — this versatile structure has been converted into attractive apartments.