The seeds of this church were planted in 1888 when several local residents were healed by Christian Scientists. They started to meet in the home of one of them for the purpose of reading the textbook of Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. These residents in turn became Christian Science healers (practitioners), and one of them Elizabeth Higman started teaching classes on Christian Science in 1899. She had been in contact with the founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, shortly after her healing of hereditary tuberculosis. She along with her husband took classes in Christian Science healing from Mrs. Eddy.
The cause grew steadily necessitating constantly enlarged accommodation. On December 26, 1899 a group of Christian Scientsts met to formally organize a church which became First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Ottawa. A Reading Room was rented in the Bank Street Chambers, and a place of worship was fitted up in Newman’s Hall, on Sparks Street. On April 30, 1900, the Reading Room was moved to a larger space over Wilson’s Art Store where services may also have been held. Services then moved to “Christian Science Hall” at 123 Sparks Street. During 1900 the church outgrew this hall so the Tilley homestead at the corner of Metcalfe and MacLaren streets was purchased. This house was remodeled to form a chapel with a seating capacity of 200 and was used from January 1901 until the current edifice was built. Construction on the current 288 Metcalfe Street location commenced in 1913 and the first service was held on February 22, 1914. The church was dedicated free of debt on March 23, 1919. This was achieved in only five and a half years, four and a half of which were years of war in which members did not relax in giving to the allied cause of human liberty.
The church was dedicated
“to the more consecrated practise of Christian Science, to the healing of sickness, the destruction of sin, and the establishment of the kingdom of heaven upon earth … humbly confident of God’s protection and love in the words of St Paul, in the 13th and 14th verses of his epistle to the Philippians, ‘forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, [we] press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.'”
(From the announcement read by the First Reader on the day of dedication.)
Members continue to demonstrate the efficacy of prayer as taught in Christian Science and these experiences are related at the weekly Wednesday evening testimonies. A number of verified healings of members of the Ottawa church have been published in the Christian Science magazines –The Christian Science Journal, Christian Science Sentinel and The Herald of Christian Science. These healings include:
heart trouble, supply, housing, consumption, effects of car accident, chronic sore throat, rheumatism, lumbago, smoking, deafness, tonsil trouble, retinitis, sick headaches, bronchitis, inflammatory rheumatism, pneumonia, Bright’s disease of the kidneys, catarrh, whooping cough, diseased ankle bones, skin disease medically given up as hopeless, skin eruption, sciatica, paralytic stroke, grippe, constipation, burns, severe headaches, tumour, inflammation of bladder, drinking, gambling, chronic indigestion, brain concussion, tonsillitis, hemorrhage, heart palpitations, profanity, blood poisoning, toothache, strained back, fractured skull, concussion of brain and faulty memory following an accident, influenza, low blood pressure, finding employment, eczema, gastritis, compound astigmatism, nervous indigestion, childhood measles, scarlet fever, typhoid fever, croup, spinal meningitis, complete nervous breakdown, bowel cancer, appendicitis, sprains, timidity and self-consciousness, grief, polio, impaired vision, hip dislocation, headaches and fainting spells, difficulties with school work improved to outstanding, warts, skin infection, mouth infection, relationship problems, return of stolen articles, tendency to seasickness, heart attacks, chicken pox, infected molar, severe sunburn, full placenta praevia, groin injury and effects from an oil-charged atmosphere.
A number of schemes for the current building were put forward, and Classic Italian Style was decided upon, using Ohio Sandstone, which was described as “the most durable and preserves its colour best of all the available stones.” Ohio Sandstone ashlar would face walls, pillars, pilasters, and pedestals. Canadian Art Stone would be used for moulded work, cornices, and capitals. This stone “so nearly imitates the Ohio Sandstone as to be practically undetectable while its durable qualities are similar.” Foundations on front and sides would be covered by a native limestone ashlar. The back foundation would be the best selected rubble stone and the front steps would be granite. Windows would be of cathedral glass. The inside finish would be the same as in Union Station (present Conference Centre), which opened in 1912, and the floor would be of softwood covered with cork carpet.
Work began on the site with the demolition of the existing dwelling in early April 1913. The new foundation was finished and work began on the superstructure early in June, with the laying of the cornerstone in the northeast corner of the church at 5:30 a.m. on July 14, 1913. Several items were placed in a copper box in the stone. The church finally had its first service on February 22, 1914, and was dedicated free of debt on March 23, 1919.
A 1994 newspaper article on church architecture in the city described the church edifice as “a defiant monument to classical enlightenment amid the ubiquitous Gothic revival spires” (John Ibbitson, Citizen, Sept. 3, 1994). Ibbitson noted that older architecture of 19th century Ottawa belongs to the Gothic revival period, and quoted Caroline Guay, an architectural technologist, as saying that this church edifice represents “one of the best examples of Palladian revival in the city.” According to Ibbitson, “The Gothic revival movement sought to emulate the medieval;… the neoclassical (or Palladian revival) sought to celebrate ancient Rome and Greece.”