Camp meetings with itinerant preachers were held in tents both in Mill Bay and Shawnigan Lake before each opened their own buildings (1878 Mill Bay and 1910 Shawnigan Lake). Both began as Methodist churches which in 1925 joined the union of Congregational, Methodist and some Presbyterian congregations to form the United Church of Canada.
In 1957 a new building opened in Shawnigan Lake. Both it and the Mill Bay church were served by a single minister as a joint pastoral charge. In 1994 the two congregations amalgamated, forming Sylvan United Church.
In 2000, the Shawnigan Lake building was sold, and the combined congregation moved to the local community centre where services were held for the next five years. In 2003 the present Sylvan property was bought, and in October 2004 the congregation walked from the Shawnigan Community Centre to the new site, where the bell from the old steeple was rung.
THE PAINTING ‘PILGRIMAGE’
Sylvan United Church, through its predecessors Shawnigan Lake United Church and Mill Bay United Church, has been a faithful presence in the life of the communities of the South Cowichan Valley for over 100 years.
The painting symbolizes, in many ways, the journey of our faith community. The painting is of the congregation of Sylvan United Church entering their new sanctuary in 2004. It represents the culmination of a period of transformation in the life of the congregation which included the amalgamation of Mill Bay United and Shawnigan Lake United Church congregations, the renaming of the church as Sylvan Pastoral Charge, a nearly 5 year sojourn worshipping in the Shawnigan Lake Community Centre, the search and securing of an appropriate property on which to build a new sanctuary, and the construction and completion of that edifice.
The previous year, on Sunday the 31st of October 2003 (Halloween) church members had engaged in a symbolic pilgrimage from Shawnigan Lake to our new property in Mill Bay, “crossing the Jordan” at Shawnigan –Mill Bay creek and entering the promised land of our new future.
The congregation of Sylvan presented the then minister, Reverend Groom, with a generous gift of cash, which he decided ought to be spent on some legacy to mark the event. Peter Spohn was approached with the idea of commissioning a painting in honour of the event. The painting is the result of this.