British Methodist Episcopal Church  British Methodist Episcopal Church (Toronto, Ontario)

Christ Church - St. James, BME, known as "the BME Church," one of the oldest Black congregations in Canada, suffered a tragic loss when its building at 460 Shaw Street was destroyed by arson on April 16,1998.

The British Methodist Episcopal Church traces its origins back to the 1830s, when ministers from the U.S.-based African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church came to Canada to preach to recent Black settlers who had fled the US via the Underground Railroad. In 1856, the Canadian AME Assemblies decided to sever their ties with the US and the new British Methodist Episcopal (BME) Church was formed. The Toronto congregation itself dates back to 1845 and has occupied church buildings at several locations; in 1955 it moved to 460 Shaw Street upon amalgamation with the Afro Community Church.

Here, the BME Church not only ministered to its congregation, but was a vital force in the greater Community. Its many social, educational and recreational programs included orientation for new immigrants, Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, seniors get-togethers, and services for residents at the Castleview Wychwood Towers nursing home. At the time of the fire, the congregation numbered over 300, with some 50 children on the Sunday School roll. The BME Church had just renovated its kitchen facilities prior to launching a new Seniors Nutrition Program, but this project, and all the Church's activities, were suddenly interrupted by the devastating fire.

The Youth Group, Sunday School, Seniors Group, and Choir lost their meeting place. Weddings planned for this summer have had to be relocated. The new instruments recently acquired for the Church's Music Program were completely destroyed, as was a Library of some 200 books, including a set of new Bibles and a set of religious encyclopedias dating back to the 19th-century.

The BME Church will stand again!

Disap- pearing Act Baffles Police Christie Blatchford Toronto Sun Tues. April 28, 1998
Historical Churches Gutted By Fire: Congre- gations Need Help Linda Haist The Endeavour May 1998
Parish- ioners Weep At Fiery Loss Of Church Moira Welsh Toronto Star Friday April 17, 1998
Murder, Fires Spark Dave Rider, Scot Magnish, And Jonathan King* stone Toronto Sun April 17, 1998
Oldest Black Church Destroyed Henry Hess & Gay Abbate Globe And Mail April 17, 1998
Three Fires, Murder, And A Manhunt   Toronto Sun Friday April 17, 1998
Church Was Second Home To The Faithful Tom Godfrey Toronto Sun Friday April 17, 1998
Sunday School Teacher Wanted For Question- ing Peter Edwards Toronto Star Sat. April 18, 1998
Parish- ioners Mourn Loss Of Burnt Church Nicholas Keung Toronto Star Mon. April 20, 1998
Friend Was With Hunted Man Morning After Church Blaze Jim Rankin & Michelle Shepard Toronto Star Mon. April 20, 1998
Give Up, Suspect Urged Ian Robert -son, Jonathan King- stone, And Tom Godfrey Toronto Sun Tues. April 21
Adventists Welcome BME Parish- ioners Bianca T. Jacob Share April 23, 1998
Tears And Memories As Historic BME Church Burns To The Ground Colin Rickards Pride April 23-29, 1998
Canada- Wide Warrant Issued For BME Treasurer Colin Rickards Pride April 23-29, 1998
Historic Black Church Built By Fleeing Slaves Could Itself Be History John Allemang Globe And Mail Sat. July 23, 1988
The BME: Memories Of My Church Rosemary Sadlier Toronto Star Friday April 24, 1998
Local BME congre- gation commends elder's service      
Rev. Blackburn Dies Suddenly      
African Canadian Church Defaced Ingrid Reid Pride Sept. 11, 1996
'Cowardly' Act Cond- emned Lincoln Depradine Share Sept. 5, 1996
BME Church Conference Meets In Toronto   Contrast June 29, 1973
Black Settlers And The BME Church In Niagara Falls (Essay)