Early in the year 1855 Elder Williams, of the Arkona Baptist Church journeyed westward and, finding those of like precious faith with himself, began services in the log schoolhouse, 6th line Warwick. Succeeding pastors of the Arkona church carried on the work. The Ebenezer Church of Warwick being erected jointly by the Baptists and Congregationalists, services being held on alternate Sundays.
We copy the following from the Arkona church records: March 5th, 1870:
At a meeting of the Church, held in Deacon Goodhill's settlement, it was resolved that the following members, be, at their own request, set apart as branch of the Arkona Church, to be know as the West Branck of the Arkona Church, to be subject to the rules and discipline of the church, but having the privilege of holding prayer meetings, covenant meetings, and communion meetings.
David Goodhill, Mrs. Goodhill, Philip Kilmer, Anna Goodhill, Thompson Watt, Mary Goodhill, William Phillips, Mrs. Watt, Daniel Campbell, Josephine Watt, David Schooly, Lou Lambert, William Lester, Agnes Campbell, David Crysler, Catherine Campbell, James Burns, Mrs. Phillips, Joseph Goodhill, Mrs. Schooly, George Coomes, Mrs. Burns, J. Wellington, Vina Watt, J. Stacey, Angelina Kilmer, Margaret A. Ressigue, Ann Wellington, Martha Crysler, Amy Crysler. Total 31 members.
On Sept. 22nd of that year, by motion, they were set apart as an independent body, to be known as the Warwick Church. This was during the pastorate of Elder Conrad, a contemporary of uncle Joe Little, so that when it comes to one sowing and another reaping, the Baptists plead "not guilty".
Elder Conrad was succeeded by Elder Clarke who, in addition to Arkona, Thedford and Warwick, found occasion to visit Forest, and reported to the Home Mission Board, "that the work was capable of extension." Accordingly, in 1871, Elder Charles Northrup visited Forest. A get-together social was held, the musical part of which was furnished by the Ressigue family.
Services were commenced in the Congregational Chapel, a log building, corner Clyde and Union streets, (eventually the home of Mrs. J. Marshal), and a joint Sunday School was begun. Here the veteran choir leader John W. Bell began his twenty years of service to the church. On Sept. 13th, 1871, the Forest Church organized with the following as charter members:
Henry Boughton, Martha Boughton, George Cronkite, Amanda Cronkite, N. Cronkite, Mrs. N. Cronkite, David Schooly, Mrs. D. Schooly, Williams Phillips, Mrs. W. Phillips, Thomas Bell, Mrs. T. Bell, Mrs. M. Syms, Mrs. E. Collins, Mrs. D. Cornell. Total 15 members, with Elder Northrup as first pastor, Henry Boughton and D. Schooly being chosen as deacons.
In 1920 Rev. Thomas Doolittle, M. A., B. Th, was called and a third forward step was taken in securing a parsonage on Main Street south. Mr. Doolittle retired from the pastorate in 1925 and remained a resident in Forest until his death. He was followed by Rev. W. H. Howard, a faithful pastor in many churches, who passed away in 1946, at the home of his daughter, Mrs. C. E. Burney, of Forest. The longest pastorate in the first 100 years of the Church followed in the person Rev. Andrew Amos Barnes, a local district boy from Arkona. Rev. Oliver Broughton came in 1936, and in 1942 Rev. G. G. Harrop, again a student from McMaster was ordained at Forest. In 1944, Mr. Harrop resigned to enjoy a scholarship for further advanced Old Testament studies at Chicago University Divinity school. He was succeeded in December, 1944, by Rev. Ralph D. Wright, M.A., B.D., of Renfrew, 1946.
Rev. Ralph Wright was pastor at the close of the second World War with the return of the boys from overseas. A fitting honour roll was prepared by the pastor and the church suitably welcomed the returning heros. Also two, Harry Keast and Golden Kennedy did not return. On December 1st, the general secretary, Rev. H. H. Bingham, D. D., led us in dedicating new furnishings in memory of the two boys named, Mr. and Mrs. George Campbell and Rev. W. H. Howard, only the general shortage of materials has prevented us from proceeding with the intended renovations in time for the 75th anniversary. But we rejoice in these our past blessings and are unite and determined to advance for our Master in all departments of our work.
Rev. A. J. Filedus came to us in July 1949. The Family Night was held the last Sunday of each month and a Radio Ministry, the Friendship Hour, was carried over C.H.O.K. Mr. John McDonald of Emmanuel, Sarnia, Mr. Ken Welch of Wallaceburg filled in after Mr. Fieldus departed to Delhi.
Rev. R. Wilson began his ministry with us in Sept. 1959 and remained for five years, oing to Thornbury.
Rev. A. A. Barnes, 1963, came as an interim member until Rev. Motchman was called. He had been in retirement and was living in Arkona, Ontario at this time. He brought back many fond memories to many.
Rev. A. Motchman, 1964, came to Forest, from the Listowel, Ont. charge, in September of 1964. s the old church parsonage on Main Street was sold in September 1964, he and his sister Mrs. Irene Dodd lived in the McLean's apartment building until the new parsonage was built on Royal Street at a cost of $14200 plus $500 for the lot.
The outside of the Church was painted in 1954, the old shed had been torn down and crushed stone was donated by one of our members for the Church parking lot. The inside of the Church had been painted in 1950. In 1956 a new floor was laid in the Sunday School room. The steeple was repainted in 1969 with the rest of the Church being painted outside in 1970 - 71. A second bathroom was added to the Church in 1970.
In September of 1965 a Junior Teens and Senior High groups were re-organized. In February 1967, Miss Julie Voirol joined the church. She was a retired missionary from Africa and took over teaching the adult bible class. In January 1968, Mr. George Goodhill and Mr. Robert J. Philips were made honourary deacons. In 1969 there was a special Church services for the Town Centennial with a dinner following with a large attendance for the re-union.
On January 21, 1970, there was a special service for the burning of the parsonage mortgage. On March 28th, 1971, the choir was arrayed in new gold gowns in a special service to commence the 100th anniversary of the church.
Over the years we have been privileged to have had many Godly men who have preached the truth from the pulpit and in appreciation for all the early pioneers and founders of our church, and all others, who have gone to their heavenly reward, also including the now living, who in many ways willingly shared in time, efforts, and substance for the Church's progress and witness, we heartily thank God.
During this Centennial Year our oldest church member, Mrs. J. E. Burney, went to her heavenly reward after 79 years of membership here.
Following Pastor Motchman, Rev. Loren Gorman took the church through an interim time until Rev. Perley Tidd was called as the pastor. In 1976 Rev. Ken Duncan came and the church began a new era in its life. An addition was built on the church which gave new washrooms, more classrooms and a large classroom/parlour on the top floor. Various church programmes took advantage of this expanded facility. The church continued to prosper both spiritually and numerically.
In 1982 Kirk Wellum came as pastor and he served until 1984. Bob Lewis arrived in 1985 and began a wonderful ministry of healing and teaching which led to considerable growth in the church during the 1990's. A part time youth leader was engaged - and the youth group became known as RIOT [Radical Individuals of Truth]. It became clear to the congregation that the old building was inadequate for the ministry God was calling the church to but no clear decision was made. However, a fund was begun to expand or develop a new facility.
Following Rev. Lewis' departure to Listowel, the church was able to purchase the former Forest Central Public School building with all its land just a block away from the old church. In the fall of 1999 the congregation raised the money and purchased the building taking possession of it in February of 2000.
As well Rev. Laurie Morris was called to the church in January of 2000 and began his ministry in March. The congregation worked hard at renovations to the Forest School and AWANA moved there in March, Prayer Meeting in May, Sunday Evening services in July. A decommissioning service was held on Labour Day in the old church with a march to the new church for lunch with many old friends of the church present. All church ministries began in the new church after that date with a commissioning service on Sunday September 10, 2000.
The congregation continues to grow and with the departure of the youth leader in January of 2001 the congregation voted to call a half-time associate pastor to specialize in youth and Mr. Kevin Furtney began his ministry on June 16th, 2001. Kevin is now a full time associate pastor with the congregation.
Presently the church is preparing to construct a permanent sanctuary as well as add a kitchen and modify some other rooms.
We have adopted the theme: "A Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in the heart of Forest, with all of Lambton Shores on our heart."
(Last edit June 2001)