Concert info for DC Presentations

Anniversary Vignette #8
The Very Rev. Dr. John W. Woodside

        Fifty-six years ago, on 01 March 1956, Woodside Hall, which has become such a vital meeting place for this church and community, was dedicated.  Who was Rev. Woodside and why did Chalmers Church choose to honour him in this way?

        John William Woodside, the 7th of 8 children, was born on 26 May 1881 in the St. Sylvestre district of Lobiniere County, Quebec.  His mother, Isabella McKee, was born in Ireland; his father, Alexander Woodside, a farmer, was born in Quebec of Irish ancestry. 

      He received his elementary school education in Quebec, attended Carleton Place Collegiate, and graduated from the University of Manitoba, McGill University and Presbyterian College, Montreal with an M.A. and honours in Theology.   During the summer months, he served “under the discipline of “Rev. Dr. James Robertson, Superintendent of Missions for Western Canada.  (Dr. Robertson was a great-grand-uncle of the author of this vignette.)

        Ordained in 1907, Rev. Woodside’s first pastoral charge was St. Giles Presbyterian Church, Vancouver, where he served until 1914.  From 1914-1918, he was minister at Chalmers Church Toronto.  In 1918, he accepted a call to Chalmers Church, Ottawa, where he was Senior Minister until he retired in 1949. 

        Rev. Woodside’s leadership qualities were recognized early in his career when he was elected chairman of the New Westminster Presbytery in British Columbia.  In June 1919, only a few months after his arrival in Ottawa, he toured Western Canada to promote the interests of the Forward Movement, an organization that aimed to increase the involvement of men in the affairs of the Presbyterian Church.   He was also an active participant in the church union movement, which required his being absent from his home church for eight months in 1924 and 1925.  In 1924 he was an organizer of the union campaign of the Presbyterian Church in Canada.  In 1925, after the voting was completed in Presbyterian churches across Canada, he carried out work for the church on behalf of “the minorities” – those “Unionist” members of Presbyterian congregations in which a majority voted not to join the United Church.  [The welcoming of such “minorities” at Chalmers Church will be discussed in a subsequent vignette.]

        Rev. Woodside was a noted scholar and a powerful speaker.  At the ceremony celebrating his being named Pastor Emeritus of Chalmers United Church, Dr. Woodside was described by Mr. W.G. Strong, Clerk of Session, as an “urbane, kindly, courteous Christian gentleman, a man of honour and integrity, of kindness and good will – a man in whom [there] is no bitterness or meanness of soul.”   Accounts of his extraordinary kindness have been passed on to some members of the present congregation: for example, the way in which he dealt with a particular grieving family and his establishment of a ‘Maple Leaf’ lounge in Chalmers Church as a place of quiet for service men and women during World War II.  

        Dr. Woodside was the recipient of many honours:

-         Doctor of Divinity, Presbyterian College, 1926;

-         Moderator of the United Church of Canada, 1938-1940;

-         Doctor of Divinity, Victoria university, Toronto, 1938;

-         LL. D., Mount Allison University, 1940;

-         President of the Montreal-Ottawa Conference of the United Church of Canada;

-         President of the North American Alliance of Reformed Churches;

-         President, Canadian Council of Churches, 1948-1949;

-         Pastor Emeritus, Chalmers United Church, 1951. 

        Chalmers United Church also honoured Dr. Woodside on 01 March 1956 when the newly-constructed hall on Cooper Street was dedicated as Wood- side Hall.  The auditorium that became known as Woodside Hall was con- structed following the disastrous fire on 10 April 1955 but it had been plan- ned for two years; the ground on which it was built was cleared only a few weeks before the fire.   At the dedication of Woodside Hall, Rev. Leonard Griffith spoke eloquently about his successor at Chalmers Church.  In his gracious response, Dr. Woodside concluded: “If I had my life to live over again, I would choose Chalmers Church, Ottawa, if they would have me, for my ministry.   …. a minister could not have a better congregation to serve.”

      The Very Rev. Dr. John William Woodside died in the Civic Hospital on 09 January 1957 – less than one year after the dedication of Woodside Hall and fifty years after his ordination.  He was survived by his wife, the former Lulu Marion Currie (whom he married in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on 02 September 1912), their son, Dr. Murray Woodside and daughter, Miss Marion  Woodside , a third child, Joan Isabel Woodside, died in November 1929 during a fire at the manse.