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John Spanner began his ministry at Richmond Hill United Church in 1958 as a Commissioned Minister. He was the first person in the United Church of Canada to become a certified lay assistant which meant he could perform any duties of an ordained minister with the exception of offering the sacraments.

Concurrent with his arrival in town along with his wife Martha, the new Christian Education addition to the church had just been completed – this was made necessary to accommodate the burgeoning population of the town and the large number of children (560) attending Sunday School. John Spanner’s career had been in teaching so it was a natural transition for him to assume a leadership role in Christian Education, nurturing the young people.

John had taught printing at Central Tech High School in Toronto When he came to the church, he brought with him an old but still functioning printing press which was kept in a basement room that became known as The Printing Room. There he met all the printing requirements of the church at the time. The press was eventually given to Black Creek Pioneer Village after John’s retirement.

John Spanner’s influence on the congregation and the value of his service to our ministers cannot be overstated. He is remembered as a kind, gentle and respected leader; this esteem and affection led to the naming of the chapel in the new building The John Spanner Chapel to honour and recognize his ministry. Additionally, The John Spanner Fund was established with a legacy gift from the Spanners and subsequent donations from congregants. The express wish was for this money be used to support youth attending church related conferences and camps.

The stained-glass window on the west wall of the sanctuary is in memory of his wife and mother of their two daughters: Laura Marguerite Spanner. (Martha referred to in the second paragraph was his second wife; Laura had died before he came to RHUC.)

Donna Smith