Lovingly tended by successive generations of faithful parishioners and dedicated clergy, St Martin’s Parish first took root in the years immediately after the first world war. At that time land west of what is now Churchill Avenue featured small holdings and farms .The Parish Church of the day was All Saints mission church adjacent to the Nepean Town Hall built in 1889. Trekking from afar to attend worship there was proving increasingly difficult especially in winter. In 1923 parishioners led by Mr. Fred Pooler and supported by the Reverend R.M. Stacey sought and received agreement from Bishop Roper to erect a new church with funds raised for its construction and the purchase of land at the corner of Woodroffe and Byron.
Known as the little brown church, St Martin’s was built by volunteer labour and held its first worship service on May 31, 1925. By 1927 St. Martin’s was established as an independent mission parish with the Reverend W.B Morgan appointed as the first rector with Charles Compton and Fred Pooler serving respectively as the first Rector’s Warden and as the People’s Warden. With the onset of the depression in 1930 it was no small miracle that St. Martin’s was debt free. It was the Reverend. Morgan who had the pleasure of burning the mortgage in 1929
Throughout the late 1940’s early 1950’s the burgeoning growth of suburbs with their influx of church going families found St Martin’s bursting at the seams and equipped to become a self supporting parish capable of rendering support to other mission parishes and meeting the needs of the community. By 1954 the need for new premises was clear. St. Martin’s congregation had grown to over seven hundred families with more than two hundred children regularly attending Sunday school. Three Sunday services were needed growing to four in later years
A handsome rise of land on an acre sized lot situated where Prince Charles Road meets Lockhart Avenue was chosen as St Martin’s new site. The campaign funding goal of $75,000– more than $685,000 in current dollars – was met and exceeded: a testament to the prayerful caring of parishioners of the day.
Ken Cowan was Rector of the Parish and the new Church was dedicated by Bishop Reed on January 12th 1956. In 1964 while David Thompson was Rector, the Education Wing was added. St. Martin’s 80th anniversary was celebrated in 2005 with a well-attended Choral Evensong followed by an Anniversary Dinner in the Parish Hall. The Service of Evensong included a presentation entitled “Cloud of Witnesses” in which events during the life of the Parish were dramatized. At the dinner, St. Martin’s Rector from 1981 to 2009, the Reverend Rob Heard, welcomed the Reverend Ken Cowan, the Reverend Dave Thompson and the Reverend Allan McGregor, all former Priests of the Parish.
In the years since its 80th anniversary St Martin’s has continued to serve and be served by a loyal and faithful church family: one comprising long time parishioners, newcomers , and an encouraging number of young families . While numbers are not on the scale of those experienced in the 1960’s, they’ve been more than capable of meeting and exceeding the fund raising goal set for St Martin’s as part of the Diocese five year GIFT campaign that concludes in 2016.
St. Martin’s also continues to be led by committed and caring clergy. Following Canon Rob Heard’s eighteen years of service, the Reverend Richard Vroom was at the helm between 2009-2014 followed by the Reverend Canon Gerry Peddle St Martin’s interim priest in charge from the fall of 2014 to spring of 2015. Throughout the years since his retirement the Reverend Ken Cowan has been a welcome presence at St Martin’s events including attendance at the induction of the Reverend Richard Vroom and as one of the Readers for the induction of St Martin’s current Rector, the Reverend Canon John Organ.
In the grand scheme of things St Martin’s as a house of Christian worship is about more than its bricks, its mortar or its overhead wooden beams shaped in the ribs of a boat. It is the spirit of congregations past, present and yet to come that matters most. The accoutrements adorning the altar and spaces within St Martin’s offer silent testament and ongoing tribute to that ageless spirit.
In recent decades St Martin’s, along with Anglican churches and those of other Christian denominations throughout parts of the country have borne witness to many changes— prime among them the reality of aging congregations and declining church going numbers. This is not to sound a note of dismay so much as it is a call to adjust to changing times and needs with deeper faith and openness. In the coming years St Martin’s can be counted on to remain loyal to its deep roots and prepared to embrace the future with steadfast trust in God’s grace and enduring wisdom.