Documents are lacking to trace the history of protestant churches in Rayside-Balfour. They practically disappeared from the Township in the early twentieth century because the numbers in the congregation were not large enough to sustain a parish. In addition, these churches were often served by traveling preachers who covered a vast territory.
According to the census, there was a Presbyterian Church on Yonge Street in Chelmsford in 1901. This church was built under the ministry of Reverend E. J. Pelletier in 1890. In Larchwood, the traveling minister used the school for Presbyterian services until 1925, the date of formation of the United Church of Canada.
The same census indicates the presence in Chelmsford of a Methodist church on O'Connor Street in 1901. This was probably built under the ministry of the traveling preacher who served the Methodist congregations of Cartier, Chelmsford and Larchwood. However, the land registry indicates that the Methodist Church purchased property on William Street in 1908.
In Larchwood, the first church was the Methodist church built in 1903. This church and the one in Chelmsford were sold in 1919, as the numbers in the congregations were no longer sufficient to maintain them. Methodist services continued in the Orange Hall until the formation of the United Church.
From 1925 to 1931, the United Church ministers offered religious services in the Orange Hall in Larchwood and in the homes of the congregation in Chelmsford and the other villages on their circuit. In 1932, the Larchwood congregation purchased the old school at Vermilion Lake and moved it onto a lot on Larchwood Road. The building was enlarged and refurbished to form the first Larchwood Memorial Church.
Toward the end of the 1930s, the Protestants of Chelmsford joined together. The Sunday school classes promoted by the United Church and Anglican Church resumed in 1953. The following year, the United Church sent Reverend Bernard Warren and his wife to minister in Chelmsford and Larchwood. The services of both churches were held in homes of members of the congregation or in various halls for a few months. The Anglican Church later separated to serve only Azilda.
In 1956, the Chelmsford congregation decided to build a church. Generous contributions from members of St. Andrew's Church in Sudbury and the voluntary labour of members and friends in the community made quick work of building St. Stephen's Church, which was consecrated on December 8, 1957.
A few years later, in 1965, it was the Larchwood congregation that undertook to build a new Memorial Church. The congregation volunteered to do all the interior work including the heating, electricity, plumbing and finishing. In addition to the sanctuary for religious services, the structure included a two-storey wing for Sunday school classes and activities of the congregation.
Material compiled from Larchwood: A Local History, Larchwood Memorial United Church, and Chelmsford 1883-1983.