1. Sun on restored spire
    Sun on restored spire
  2. Welcome
  3. Organ


     Reaching in to care for our history             
Chalmers-Wesley United Church, built in 1853, is located in the heart of Old Quebec, which is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
      This imposing Neo-Gothic structure is home to one of the few English-language congregations within the walls of historic Quebec City. This photograph shows its iconic 177-foot (54 metre) steeple, a feature of the skyline of Old Quebec.
​       We are very proud of the contribution made to the city by our congregation throughout our history of more than two centuries.  Since 1987 we have been sharing our premises with a French-speaking congregation: Église unie Saint-Pierre.  
     Six of the eight large stained-glass windows were originally installed in the former Wesleyan Church between 1897 and 1906. The two Chalmers windows were installed in 1909 and 1913. All but one were designed by Wallace J. Fischer and were built at the Bernard Leonard workshop in Old Quebec.
       The windows were donated by well-to-do members of the above two congregations in memory of departed loved ones. The Holt and Renfrew families, founders of a well-known chain of stores, each donated a window; the Webster family is remembered in another.
Church History
 Chalmers-Wesley United Church originated with the Reformed (Protestant) church members who came to Quebec City as soldiers with the British Army in 1759. The first religious services for Presbyterian and Methodist soldiers were provided by military chaplains and lay preachers, who used the Jesuit Barracks (the former Jesuits’ College, located where City Hall is today) as a place of worship. By the early 1800s, three congregations had developed: the Calvinist Presbyterians, the Wesleyan Methodists and the Puritan Congregationalists.
     In 1800 the Congregationalists and Presbyterians petitioned the London Missionary Society for a minister “of evangelical sentiments” and were sent a series of ministers beginning with the Reverend Clark Bentom. Worshippers gathered in a room in the Freemasons’ Hall at the top of Mountain Hill (côte de la Montagne) until 1817, when they built St. John’s Chapel on St. Francis (now Ferland) Street. In 1830, the majority of the members of St. John’s Chapel professed themselves willing to conform to the doctrine, discipline and laws of the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland, and applied to the Glasgow Colonial Society for an ordained minister. 

The same year, a small group of Congregationalists within St. John’s Chapel decided they were unwilling to “be made subject to the decisions of the Presbyterian Church.” They left St. John’s and in 1840 they opened the Palace Street Congregationalist Church (on côte du Palais). However, with the decline of the shipbuilding industry in Quebec in the later 1800s, the congregation was finally forced to close their church in 1881. The building was eventually acquired by the Salvation Army. A large majority of these Congregationalists joined Chalmers Free Presbyterian church.

     In 1844, following the “Great Disruption” within Scotland’s Established Presbyterian Church, the members of St. John’s Chapel decided to break away from the Church of Scotland in Canada and joined the newly formed Free Presbyterian Church of Canada. As the congregation grew, a new church was built on Ste. Ursule Street, near the Citadel. Chalmers Free Presbyterian Church, named for the Reverend Dr. Thomas Chalmers, founder of the Free Presbyterian Church in Scotland, was opened for worship on March 6, 1853.
     Methodism was founded in England in the late 1700s by the followers of the Reverend John Wesley. The Methodist Society in Quebec City was formed in 1807. The first Methodist ministers to come to Quebec were “saddlebag preachers” from upstate New York but the War of 1812 brought this arrangement to an abrupt end. After the war, ministers were sent from England by the British Methodist Missionary Society. The Methodists built several churches in Quebec City, the first being the Ste. Anne Street Chapel in 1817 and the last, the 1,200-seat Quebec Methodist Church on St. Stanislas Street in 1849.
      Both Chalmers Free Presbyterian Church and the Quebec Methodist (Wesleyan) Church experienced steady growth in the second half of the 19th century. Protestant churches in Quebec City were heavily dependent on the timber trade and the shipbuilding industry for their membership and financial support. By 1890 however these industries were in rapid decline. It soon became clear that the challenges of the 20th century could best be met by union under one banner, not only in Quebec City but across Canada.
     Congregationalist, Methodist and Presbyterian churches throughout the country merged in 1925 to form The United Church of Canada. In Quebec City, Chalmers Free Presbyterian and the Quebec Methodist (Wesleyan) Church independently joined the new body. As a result, there were two United Church congregations located in close proximity in the Old Town, each with a large building to maintain. Therefore, in 1931, Chalmers United Church and Wesley United Church decided to join together in the Ste. Ursule Street building, then renamed Chalmers-Wesley United Church. The former Wesleyan Church on St. Stanislas was later sold to the Ville de Québec and the lower level, l’Institut Canadien, is now used as a public library.

  1. Description
In 1890, a pipe organ for the sanctuary was purchased at a cost of $3,000 from the Warren Company of Woodstock, Ontario, one of the best organ manufacturers of that era. The new instrument had 19 stops, two keyboards and a pedal board. Its enormous bellows required strong young lads to act as “pumpers.”
In 1912 a major rebuilding of the organ at Chalmers was entrusted to Casavant Frères, which added a third keyboard and a dozen new ranks to create an instrument of 33 stops and 51 registers. Twelve new pipes were added and an electric blower was installed to replace the hand-pumped bellows. No changes were made to the attractive casing or the beautifully decorated, imposing front pipes. The annual report boasted that “the organ is in first class order, and we now have an instrument which is equal to anything of its size.” The unique blend of Warren and Casavant qualities was appreciated by performers and audiences alike and Chalmers soon became a preferred site for organ recitals in Quebec City.
By 1981, it was clear that the 90-year-old organ was in dire need of an overhaul. Under the skilled leadership of Jacquelin Rochette, our organist at that time, the firm of Guilbault-Thérien of Saint-Hyacinthe was contracted to rebuild the organ. Much of the on-site labour was initially provided by Rochette himself and his team of volunteers, many of whom were choir members. This major work, estimated at some $120,000, was to proceed in three phases and would increase the number of pipes from 1,944 to 2,381, while renewing over 2,000 parts.

The organ underwent a third major restoration by Casavant Frères Ltd in the fall of 2013. The work included securing the large organ pipes in the façade to keep them from falling into the choir loft, complete the leathering of pedal offset actions and other repair work. The façade pipes were removed and the supports under the pipes were strengthened. As this is a historic organ in a historic church building, we were fortunate to receive financial support from the Conseil du patrimoine religieux du Québec up to 70% of the total costs, estimated at some $130,000. The congregation successfully raised the remaining 30% of the cost. The organ is now in tip-top shape.