About the Diocese of Niagara in the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario in The Anglican Church of Canada
The origins of the Diocese of Niagara begin with St Mark’s Church, Newark, now Niagara-on-the-Lake, former capital of Upper Canada. The parish was founded in 1790 as Loyalist immigrants arrived, from the former American colonies, in what would be the province of Ontario. Governor Simcoe removed the capital to York, now Toronto, because of the proximity of the border with the United States related to the potential threat of invasion. Indeed the town was sacked and burned on December 10, 1813. Meanwhile the growth of the Church of England expanded through the Niagara peninsula and the rest of Southern Ontario. This vast area was then part of the Diocese of Quebec.
The Diocese of Toronto was created in 1839, and the indomitable John Strachan, Rector of York became the first bishop. In 1867 a coajutor bishop for Toronto was elected and given the title Bishop of Niagara. In 1875 the House of Bishops agreed to the formation of a new diocese out of the Diocese of Toronto. Prior to this the dioceses of Huron, centred in London and Ontario centred in Kingston had been set apart in 1857 and 1862 respectively.
The new diocese, called Niagara was to consist of the counties of Haldimand, Lincoln, Wentworth, Halton and Wellington, and to be centred in Hamilton, with the parish of Christ’s Church (1835) designated as the Cathedral Church. The diocese legally came into existence by an act of the Ontario Legislature; 39 Vic Chapter 107 in 1875. Royal assent was given in 1876. The first bishop was Thomas Brock Fuller, Archdeacon of Niagara and godson of Sir Isaac Brock, hero of the Battle of Queenston Heights. His consecration took place in St Thomas Church, Hamilton, as the newly designated cathedral was undergoing rebuilding to prepare for its new status and dignity.
The area enclosed by the Diocese of Niagara runs easterly from Hamilton, along the Lake Ontario shore line to include Oakville. The line moves north to include Erin and Orangeville as far as Whitfield. Moving sharply south the line includes Mount Forest and widens, south-westerly to include Elora and Guelph. Skirting Brantford and the Territory of the Six Nations Confederacy, the line then travels, again, south-westerly to Nanticoke and Lake Erie. Again going east along the shore of Lake Erie and the Niagara River it turns north-east along the shore of Lake Ontario to Hamilton.
The diocese has 111 Parishes some of which are two point. Several early parishes have disappeared with changes in demographics, some communities entirely disappearing. There are 123 licensed parish priests with a number of honourary clergy and licensed lay people who serve these parishes. The Diocese is now ordaining Vocational Deacons to assist in a number of Parishes.
The Bishops of Niagara have been;
Thomas Brock Fuller
George C. Hamilton
John Philip Du Moulin
William R. Clark
Derwyn T. Owen
Lewis W. B. Broughall
Walter E. Bagnall
John C. Bothwell
Walter E. Asbil
D. Ralph Spence
Michael A. Bird stepped down as Bishop in May of 2018.
Susan Bell is the present Bishop of Niagara.
The present Arms of the Diocese of Niagara were designed by the present bishop some time prior to his election, and were granted by the College of Arms in the United Kingdom in 1975 and subsequently registered with the Canadian College of Heralds in 2003.
The diocesan offices are located, along with the parish office of Christ’s Church Cathedral, in a building adjoining the cathedral at 252 James Street, North,. Hamilton. The cathedral interior is a very striking example of gothic revival. Movable seating, in the nave allows for a number of exciting settings for the liturgy and for public concerts. Bishopsgate in the forecourt of the cathedral’s west front is a delightful oasis in the multi cultural community, of which the cathedral is part. The present nave replaced, over a number of years, the earlier classical style church. The chancel dates from 1925.