The idea for a United Church in the southeastern area of Fredericton began in 1966. It started with a survey conducted by the United Church of Canada’s Woolastook Presbytery, asking householders about their church affiliations. At that point, interested people in the Forest Hill area began exploratory meetings. In November of 1967, the idea gelled into a request to Presbytery to form a congregation for United Church people in the area. On February 18th, 1968, Forest Hill congregation was constituted at a special evening service at St. Paul's United Church. The location was fitting, as many of the new congregation had previously attended that church. In the service, Charter Members were transferred to Forest Hill United Church, and officers were installed.
The congregation was placed in the newly formed Vanier Pastoral Charge with two other congregations, New Maryland United in New Maryland and Wesley United in Lincoln. The Rev. George Gillis served as the Presbytery Supply Minister, but, without a place to worship, Forest Hill had no services with Rev. Gillis. Members continued to worship where they had been attending, but contributed through envelopes to the new congregation. In July, the Rev. James Phelps was settled in the Charge, and three months later, was able to move into the Forest Hill manse, newly erected by the congregation. There was one Forest Hill service in the summer of ‘68, held at St. Margaret's Anglican Church on Lincoln Road. By September, however, the congregation was able to use Forest Hill School for worship services and Sunday School. This began nine years of school use - with one of those years in Liverpool Street School.
During these first nine years, planning for a building was a constant focus. For a time, the congregation had joint plans for construction with St Margaret's Anglican Church, which held land adjacent to that held by the presbytery's Church Extension Council for Forest Hill United Church. These joint plans ultimately fell through. In 1976, the Forest Hill Church building was begun on what was then Corbett Road; it later became Kimble Road, then Kimble Court, as the layout of the city evolved. The building was planned as a multipurpose structure, and its utilitarian nature was dictated by available funding. The floor, steel shell, internal framing and electrical and plumbing work were contracted, but the interior was finished by members of the congregation. The minister at that time was the Rev. Bud Tarrant who wielded a hammer with everyone else.
By the time of Forest Hill’s ninth anniversary, all of the smaller rooms were completed, and enough of the main hall was finished to permit use. So, on the 13th of February, 1977, there was much rejoicing at the morning and evening opening services. The congregation then had a visible base for its functioning. In the following twelve months, the interior of the "window" walls and the ceiling of the main hall were completed.
Later in 1977, the Rev. Nathan Bowering began his nine-year pastorate with Forest Hill. It was a time of consolidation, but not without change. By 1980, the Charge had finally convinced the presbytery that its diverse nature and growth potential warranted more ministerial help. Consequently, in September of that year, Diaconal Minister, Sara Harrison, joined Rev. Bowering. In 1983, both New Maryland United and Wesley United congregations gained approval to go on their own, which left Forest Hill alone in the Vanier Pastoral Charge. Miss Harrison moved to Wilmot United downtown. At that point Forest Hill convinced Woolastook Presbytery that it should be given a chance to flourish as a single-point charge. Permission was granted, due in part to the fact that levels of per-person involvement and giving were well above average, and that the debt on the building was about to be paid off. At that time approval was also given for a name-change to Forest Hill Pastoral Charge, and for a change in manner of operation to a unified-board structure. Rev. Bowering stayed with the congregation until his retirement in 1986.
The Rev. Brian DeLong was with the congregation for the next three years. At the time of the 20th Anniversary, Forest Hill held a Festival of Faith, titled "Sharing our Faith".
In 1989, Mr. David Cleveland, in his final year of divinity studies, was appointed for a one-year term as interim minister. He guided the congregation through a period of self-examination which resulted in the creation of Forest Hill’s Mission Statement.
The Rev. Andrew Richardson began his four-year pastorate in July, 1990. With a considerable number of younger children, intergenerational worship received more attention, and, starting in January 1991, children were encouraged to join in taking communion. There were major celebrations around the 25th Anniversary in 1993. Rev. James Phelps returned as guest speaker, and, at the anniversary evening service, was joined by the Revs. DeLong, Cleveland, and Richardson. Donovan Abbott compiled a history of our first 25 years, and a 25-year banner was produced by a group of talented artisans in the congregation. There was also a display in the sanctuary illustrating our past. As well, a 21-verse Anniversary Song was composed and performed.
From July to December 1994, the congregation was shepherded by the Rev. Gil MacKenzie, who had retired to the area and regularly worshipped at Forest Hill. Later in December, the Rev. Valerie Ternes-Taylor began her ministry at Forest Hill.
The Rev. Meredith Fraser followed and lead the congregatin from 2002 until the Spring of 2010.
In January and February of 1977, over 600 hours of volunteer labour by members of the congregation enabled the completion of much of the downstairs. Over the same time frame in 1997, members of the congregation were able to finish the upstairs. On our 29th Anniversary, 20 years after the building was opened, there was a celebration to mark the upstairs development. The main area was dedicated to the memory of Clair Smith, who led the original building project, and advised and worked on the upstairs development until shortly before his death. The completion of the building took two decades, but the upstairs rooms have vastly improved the facilities.
Following the arrival of
the Rev. Ali Smith in 2010, Forest Hill continues to evolve as a
small but vibrant congregation. Newcomers and visitors are a welcome addition,
and bring a deeper dimension of fellowship and spirituality to the community.