By Beverley Colpitts and Ruth MacDonald
In January of 1923, the Rev. D.H. Maitland became the pastor of the then newly-organized Suburban Baptist Church in Sunny Brae, together with the two Coverdale churches. In order to keep his appointments at Middle and Lower Coverdale three times a week, he was obliged to drive through a more thickly-settled section known as Gunningsville.
In the spring of 1924 he realized the need and opportunity for an organized Christian work in this growing suburb of Gunningsville, with a population of nearly 300 people, having no provision for religious services in their district. That summer of 1924 Mr. Maitland made a house to house visitation and was well received in every home, finding 36 baptist families, 12 Methodist, and 17 Presbyterians, for a total of 65 households.
The Rev. H.R. Boyer, executive secretary of the Maritime Baptist Convention, was told of the Baptist opportunity in Gunningsville, and was favourably impressed, and approved the building of a new church building. Due to several homes being attached to services in Moncton's First Baptist and Highsfield Baptist Churches, Mr. Maitland also contacted their ministers the Rev. Dr. A.J. Huntley and the Rev. E.H. Cochrane respectively, seeking their advice in the proposal.
At the end of 1924, Mr. Boyer suggested a committee composed of Dr. Huntley, the Rev. E.H. Cochrane, the Rev. F.H. Bone, and the Rev. D.H. Maitland investigator the purchase of a lot of land from Mr. J. Hazen Gunning for $775.
The Home Missions Board met in Moncton and Dr. Huntley made an appeal for a $775 loan to pay for this lot, which action was approved by the board.
Mr. Maitland called the women of Gunningsville together a the home of Mrs. Joseph McClure on January 20, 1925 to organize a funding society to find this amount. Thirteen ladies were present and they named themselves the "Gunningsville Baptist Women's Social Welfare Society." Their plan was to provide suitable opportunity for organized effort in promoting, building and supporting a Baptist Church in the Community. The membership increased to 20 by month's end and the President was Mrs. J. Hazen Gunning, the Vice-President Mrs. Clifford Worden, the Secertary, Mrs. Joseph Hoeg, and the Treasurer Mrs. Harry Gasking.
On May 6, 1925, $1,240 had been pledged toward the new building and the Women's Social Welfare Society had raised $300 to date. By February 3, 1926 this had increased to $780. This Society played a vital role in the building of the original church.
Early in 1925 the Sunny Brae Church had decided to server their connection with the Coverdale churches and Mr. Boyer with the ministerial committee asked Mr. Maitland to arrange for weekly preaching at Gunningsville. The first service was held at 3 p.m. April 5 at the home of Mr. J. Hazen Gunning with 33 present. Mr. Maitland's theme was The secret of success in the Christian church," based on words found in the book of Acts, chapter 2, verse 44.
A meeting for the prospective Gunningsville Church was held at Mr. Gunning's home with 15 members present. The office of Secretary was filled by Jessie L. Stannard, that of Treasurer by Mrs. C.B. Somers, and the Trustees were Clifford Worden, John Wilbur and Joseph Collier.
On May 20, the first sod was turned and the first load of lumber received on site May 22, 1925.
At the June 1, 1925 meeting it was agreed that Sunny Brae Church be approached to include Gunningsville in the Moncton Pastorate, Gunningsville to offer $350 per annum towards the minister's salary and that he be required to preach one service on a Sunday plus a weekly prayer meeting.
On July 2, 1925, the New Brunswick Eastern Baptist Association gave their approval to the formation of the Gunningsville United Baptist Church.
Church services were held each Sunday afternoon at the home of J. Hazen Gunning until September 13, 1925 when it was changed to 11 a.m., 3 p.m., and 7:30 p.m.
There were approximately 70 children in the area at the time so on September 21, 1925 a Sunday School was organized, to start on October 4 with a Rally Day Service. On February 9, 1930 the first baptism took place and on June 8, 1931, three special services were held. The two former pastors Rev. D.H. Maitland and Rev. Milton Addison were guest speakers, and also the Rev. A.K. Herman. An active Baptist Young People's Union was organized under Miss Jessie L. Stannard, attendance averaging 30. Mr. J.L. MacAulay started the first Cub & Scout group in February 1938.
The Women's Missionary Society was started up in 1936. Meeting in members' homes, they studied Christian work taking place in India, Bolivia, and other Christian missions at home and abroad.