The Presbyterian heritage began in this community about 1810, when the great Nova Scotian Presbyterian pioneer Rev. James MacGregor was the first minister to preach in the St. Mary’s River Valley area. He came to Upper Crossroads during one of his missionary tours through Eastern Nova Scotia. He followed the riverbed upstream from Sherbrooke. The first wheeled vehicles were used to convey the ministers from the community Garden of Eden to the St. Mary’s Valley. In 1818, Rev. Alexander Lewis came to preach in the area. He was succeeded in 1838 by Rev. John Campbell. Eventually, St. Mary’s Pastoral Charge formed with congregations in Sherbrooke, Glenelg and Caledonia. In 1861, with the influx of gold, Sherbrooke became a separate charge, keeping Rev. Campbell as their minister, with Glenelg and Caledonia calling Rev. Charles Pitblado in 1865. Records indicate that there was a separate congregation in East River, with ministry, shared with Barney’s River and Lochaber, by Rev. D. McGillvary from 1833-1835, Rev. Donald McConochy, 1835-1839, Rev. Hugh MacKenzie, 1842-1845 and Rev. Alex Campbell 1846-1863. Then East River joined the St. Mary’s Pastoral Charge with Glenelg and Caledonia. Rev. Pitblado was minister until 1872, then Rev. Robert Cumming from 1875-1881 under whose ministry the Glenelg Church, now Kirk Memorial, was built, being dedicated on February 5, 1878. Rev. John Ferry served from 1884-1887, Rev. Andrew Boyd from 1889-1892, Rev. John MacFarlane, 1893-1901 and Rev. Alexander Stirling from 1901-1904. In 1903, Caledonia became a separate congregation. In 1906, Rev. William Macdonald was called to the charge, being succeeded in 1913 by Rev. Joseph Howe Kirk.
Methodism in the area began around 1808 when the pioneer preacher James Mann formed a class at Guysborough. Mr. and Mrs. William McDiarmid who had moved to Liscomb from The United States, began a congregation there in 1892. The first clergyman, Rev. Clayton A. Munroe served the area from 1894 to 1896, when Rev. J. A. Hart took over the pastorate. The church in Liscomb, St. John’s, was dedicated on January 30, 1898 under his ministry. Rev. A. Lund succeeded Rev. Hart. A new church was dedicated on September 29, 1946.
On June 10, 1925 the Congregationalist, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches in Canada united and became The United Church of Canada.
Individual congregations voted whether to join union or not. In this area, the part of the congregation which had the highest number of votes remained in the existing church building while the other part of the congregation would build a new church. The Presbyterians in Sherbrooke kept their church, with those who had voted to become United building the present church of St. John’s. It was dedicated on November 13, 1927. In East River, those Presbyterians who voted to become United met in the Lodge Building until they built the present church of Bethany in 1956. In Liscomb, the Methodist Church voted to become United. In Calendonia, the new United congregation held services in the old schoolhouse. In Glenelg the majority voted to become United, with those wishing to remain Presbyterian building a new church right next door.
St. Mary’s Pastoral Charge then consisted of three points, including East River, Glenelg and Caledonia.
The present manse was built in Aspen in 1936.
Another charge consisted of the St. John’s congregations of Sherbrooke and Liscomb, under the ministry of Rev. Donald Fraser, Rev. J. A. MacKenzie and Rev. M. Linton until 1927 and then Rev. H. Hamilton until 1930. Rev. A. H. Dyment served from 1930 until 1933, Rev. J. G. Russell, 1933-1938, Rev. William Roger 1938-1942, Rev. Alexander Firth 1942-1943, and Rev. Alexander W. Robertson 1943-1948. Sherbrooke and Liscomb then joined the St. Mary’s Pastoral Charge.
The United Church congregations in Loch Katrine, Lochaber and Country Harbour also shared in the ministry of this charge for a period between 1973 and 1978, under the name Loch Haven Pastoral Charge.
The difficult decision was made to close the Caledonia congregation in 1969 and the Liscomb church on October 16, 2000, due to the decline in population within those communities.
Today, the charge includes St. John’s United in Sherbrooke, Kirk Memorial United in Glenelg and Bethany United in East River - St. Mary’s.
Ministers who have served the St. Mary’s Pastoral Charge since 1925, as The United Church of Canada, include;
Rev. Joseph Howe Kirk 1913-1935
Rev. Thomas Humphrey 1935-1938
Rev. Thomas N. Mitchell 1938-1941
Rev. Warren Dickson 1941-1944
Rev. J. F. Rowley 1944-1946
Rev. James W. Howe 1946-1949
Rev. Phillips B. Chisholm 1949-1951
Rev. Ralph Webber 1951-1955
Rev. Lloyd Salsman 1955-1958
Rev. Jack D. Hicks 1958-1962
Rev. Robert Stevens 1962-1966
Rev. John Powell 1966-1969
Rev. Waldo Grandy 1969-1975
Rev. Gordon Fraser 1975-1977
Rev. Harry Disher 1977-1981
Rev. Keith Lewis 1981-1987
Rev. Stephen Mills 1987-1990
Rev. George Micklethwaite 1990-1996
Rev. Ross Hamilton 1996-1999
Rev. James Forbes 1999-2001
Rev. Cornelia van Bentum 2001-2005
Annika Sangster (Diaconal) 2005-2006
Rev. Derek G. Elsworth 2006-Present