In 1891, a grocer on Queen Street named Philip Whitelock started a Sunday School for children in the back of his store, which is now Whitlock's restaurant. From these humble beginnings, Waverley Road Baptist Church was started. The church emphasized trusting Jesus for forgiveness of sin, and strong Bible teaching. The church soon built its own building on Kenilworth Avenue south of Queen, which is now The Beach Hebrew Institute. In 1908, the church constructed a new building at the present location at 129 Waverley Road, just north of Queen. In 1924 a new Sunday School wing was added. Waverley grew to have hundreds of people attending services. After World War II, the church peaked, and attendance gradually declined over several following decades. Waverley continued to serve many people through weekly Sunday services, children's programs and youth programs.
Stories from our Past
Beginnings of the Toronto Hockey League – January 8, 1912
On January 8, 1912 a young man from Waverley Road Baptist Church under the leadership of Frank D. Smith, who was just 16 at the time, formed a hockey team. The boys played their first game against the Coxwell A.C’s in a blinding snow storm on a small rink at the rear of the church. The historic match (winner not recorded) was the beginning of the now famous Toronto Hockey League (now GTHL). Some of the country’s finest hockey players got their start in this league. Oldtimers might recall such players as Nels Stewart, Holley Smith, Harold Cotton and Ted Reeves.
Laying the Cornerstone for the New Sunday School – April 19, 1924
Waverley Road Baptist Church observed a Ceremony of the Laying Corner-Stone to the sound of a steady rain pattering on the unturned umbrellas of those who braved the elements. The corner-stone of the new Waverley Road Baptist Sunday School was tapped into position by Albert Matthews, President of the Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec. Because of the heavy downpour, the entire service, with the exception of the ceremony of laying the cornerstone, was conducted in the church, which was well filled with members of the congregation and of other Baptist churches in the city. A feature of the service in the church was the baptism of five new converts.
Room Sound-proofed so Mothers can come to Church – 1953
Nine small children expressed their individuality at Waverley Road Baptist Church Sunday Morning. They yelled, kicked and shouted and not a mother said “shush.” Instead all nine mothers beamed, other grown-ups did likewise and the minister dedicated his sermon to the cut-ups. The "church babyland" was a marked success. This room is sound-proof, which means mothers can sit at the rear of the regular congregation and not worry about junior. They can sit with their children or hand them over to a volunteer.
A New Vision
By 2009, Waverley was struggling, with Sunday attendance in the low 40's, and a few faithful members doing their best to keep the church alive. Change was needed, and in 2012, Waverley started pursuing a new vision to be an outwardly focused church. Sunday services were modernized with contemporary music, a conversational preaching style, and new mid-week groups. Updates were made to the facilities, and most importantly, the church began re-connecting with the local community. Community organizations were welcomed to run programs in the facility during the week and church participation in community events increased. The children's ministry was revived, and Waverley Road Kids Camp was launched. With this new outward vision, new families and young adults started attending again. Today the attendance is almost double what it was at the low point, and more growth is anticipated. Newcomers attend almost every week, and six people were recently baptized in Lake Ontario. The staff team consists of Lead Pastor, Worship Arts Director, Children's Director and Operations Manager, with dozens of people serving in volunteer roles.
We want to express thanks to our community, The Beach, for supporting us for 125 years. We also want to thank the many people who have served, prayed, and given time and resources to support the church all these years. And most of all we want to thank Jesus, the God we worship, for His many blessings to us, and for giving us new life when things looked bleak. He is, after all, the God of the Resurrection!