Presbyterians have been prominent in Manitoba’s political, social, economic, and religious history since the start of colonial times. MacKenzie Presbyterian Church was their meeting place in St. Clements.
By the time Mary MacKenzie arrived in St. Clements, she was building on a long history of Presbyterian faith in Manitoba. The first Presbyterians in the province came as employees of the Hudson’s Bay and Northwest companies, although they were not organized in church bodies.
The first Presbyterian service was held by a group of the Red River settlers in 1815 at York Factory. The considerable number of Scottish Presbyterians in the Red River colony waited until 1851 for their first minister.
John Black’s arrival marked the beginning of firmly establishing the Presbyterian church in Manitoba and started to expand its impact through the gospel.
The first congregation to organize in the St. Clements area was at Little Britain, where a log-built structure, called “The Meeting House”, went up in 1852. It also functioned as a school and library.
With confederation came new progress, and varied services aside from gospel witness.
The Presbytery of Manitoba formed in 1870, and Manitoba College in 1871. The College became one of the founding institutions of both the University of Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg.
Aside from education, Presbyterians served in government. Manitoba’s first two lieutenant governors, Adams George Archibald and Alexander Morris, were both devout Christians of Presbyterian adherence.
The church in the province expanded rapidly under the ministry of James Robertson, who became pastor of Knox Church in Winnipeg in 1874. Robertson’s work led to the founding of numerous churches, raised large amounts of money for missionary work, and inspired many people to become missionaries themselves.
By 1885, the Presbyterian church in Manitoba was so large that the province was broken into several Presbyteries under the synod of Manitoba.
The church maintained its size and impact until 1925, when two thirds of Presbyterians joined with the Methodist and Congregationalist churches to form the United Church of Canada.
The rest, including MacKenzie Presbyterian in St. Clements and Knox Presbyterian in Selkirk, continued on under the old name.