St. Philip’s has a rich history dating back to 1794 and the Dutch, German and Danish Lutherans who settled in Berczy Village as the area around the church was then called. In 1829, unable to find a German speaking Lutheran pastor, these settlers received into their midst the Reverend Vincent Mayerhoffer, an Austrian Roman Catholic priest who had recently been ordained in the Church of England (Anglican). For almost ten years Mayerhoffer pastored a combined congregation in the Lutheran Church which stood across Kennedy Road where the Lutheran cemetery is. There was a German Lutheran service in the morning and an Anglican one in the afternoon. However political developments on the national front would have serious consequences for this otherwise happy arrangement.
In 1837 the country was embroiled in the Upper Canada Rebellion. There were local repercussions as Lutherans sympathized with William Lyon Mackenzie, while the Anglicans supported the Family Compact. The story goes that one Sunday the Reverend Mayerhoffer arrived to conduct the usual Anglican service only to find the church locked and an armed guard and guard house in place. Undaunted, Mayerhoffer moved his congregation, and the name, across the road to where our cemetery is currently.
The congregation worshiped there until the early 1900’s when shifting demographics called for a change. The arrival of the railway caused the town to develop where Unionville’s historic Main Street is today. On March 9, 1913, the last service was held in the old church. Services were held in Victoria Hall while the building was dismantled, substantially modified, and rebuilt at the corner of Main and Carlton. It is still there on the north side of the Fred Varley Art Gallery where it is home to a Nazarene congregation called The Village Church.
St. Philip’s grew with the community and by the early 1980’s it could no longer satisfy the needs of its energetic members. Accordingly, additional land was acquired beside the cemetery and the modern building we have today was built.
On December 13, 1986, the people paraded up the hill to their new home on the original site and the name was changed to St. Philip’s on-the-hill.
The parish has been known for its willingness to meet the demands of the rapidly developing community around us. May that same courage and vision be the characteristics that lead us to meet the needs of the future.
Postscript. The feud with the Lutherans ended generations ago. Bethany Lutheran Church was built in the village in 1843. In July 2001, our two congregations were linked again when the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and the Anglican Church of Canada entered into full communion. Pastor Peeter Vanker and Canon Bristow exchanged visits that summer and the two congregations once more share a common life.