Who we are

The church in the heart of the city with the city at heart

Our Community
Our Minister
Our Ministry of Music
The United Church of Canada
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Our Community

The St.James United Church is a community located downtown Montreal and a member of the United Church of Canada. The community was established in Montreal in 1807 under the Methodist faith and growth led the community to build in 1888 the present church building on Sainte Catherine Street. Following a long tradition of commitment to social justice, the community meets the spiritual needs of people of all ages, claiming the value of each and everyone, regardless of their culture, race or sexual orientation, including people with the most diverse skills who are facing challenges.


Reverend Arlen John Bonnar

Reverend Arlen John Bonnar B.A.; B.Th.; M.Div., was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia, and has been a resident of Quebec for 40 years. He is a graduate of Bishop’s and McGill Universities and United Theological College. Prior to becoming a minister, Arlen worked for many years with the intellectually handicapped. His two internships while studying theology were at Augustine United Church in Winnipeg and in Lilongwe, Malawi with the Presbyterian Church of East Africa.

Upon ordination in 1984, he was settled at Sutton and Dunham United Churches in the Eastern Townships. After five years in the two-point pastoral charge Arlen returned to Montreal as Executive Director of Montreal City Mission, an outreach ministry of the United Church of Canada. Three years later he became staff chaplain at the Montreal General Hospital. For the next 10 years he worked primarily in the HIV/AIDS clinics (he was the first full-time chaplain in this milieu in the world) and in the Palliative Care Units of the Montreal General and Royal Victoria hospitals.

He attended and presented workshops at many international conferences on AIDS and Palliative Care with a focus on spiritual responses to illness from a multi-cultural and inter-faith perspective and aimed at patients, families and health-care professionals.

In 2000, Arlen began his ministry at St. James United Church. He has a passion for ministry that is inclusive of all God’s people and delights in the diverse community that is St. James.

Ministry of Music

Mark McDonald

Originally from Burlington, Ontario, Mark McDonald has worked as a freelance musician and teacher in Montreal since 2009. He joined the music team at St. James United Church in 2017. He holds degrees from Queen’s University (B.Mus.) studying organ and composition with David Cameron, Alfred Fisher, and Marjan Mozetich, and from McGill University (M.Mus, Art. Dip., & D.Mus.) where he specialized in organ and harpsichord performance with John Grew, Hans-Ola Ericsson, and Hank Knox. His studies have also taken him to Germany, studying at the University for the Arts in Bremen with Hans Davidsson and Harald Vogel. A participant in several international competitions, he was awarded the third prize in the prestigious Arp Schnitger International Organ Competition in Hamburg, Germany in 2014 and recently competed in the Tokyo-Musashino International Organ Competition in September 2017. In addition to his work as a performer and researcher, he has also served as an instructor of Musicianship and Theory at the Schulich School of Music and as a lecturer in Church Music History at the Montreal Diocesan Theological College where he also serves as Director of Music.

Norman Robert

A trained teacher, a theologian by choice and a baritone by passion, Norman Robert has built a solid career as a producer, program director and General Manager in the world of television and entertainment in Quebec. Norman trained in voice with Madame France Dion (UDM), Bernard Turgeon (McGill) and completed his lyric singing studies with Evelyne Brunner in Lyon, France. Norman has distinguished himself in the operatic world (La Bohème, Faust, Pagliacci) but has mainly made a career in the world of the musical. Norman participated in the cast of the first bilingual edition of Les Miserables in Montreal in 1992 and has been touring. It has also been distributed by Jeanne La Pucelle (PDA, Montreal) and Da Vinci (Paris, France). Since January 2017, he has been co-directing the Music Ministry of St. James United Church alongside Dr. Mark McDonald. This community of the United Church of Canada allows him to express his faith in music.

The United Church of Canada

The United Church of Canada is the largest Protestant denomination in Canada. We minister to close to three million people in over 3,500 congregations across the country, more than 60 of them in the Montreal area. Ours is a rich history closely entwined with the development of Canada itself.

The United Church was inaugurated on June 10, 1925 in Toronto, Ontario, when the Methodist Church, Canada, the Congregational Union of Canada, and 70 per cent of the Presbyterian Church in Canada entered into an organic union. Joining as well was the small General Council of Union Churches, centred largely in Western Canada.

It was the first union of churches in the world to cross historical denominational lines and hence received international acclaim. Impetus for the union arose out of the concerns for serving the vast Canadian northwest and in the desire for better overseas mission. Each of the uniting churches, however, had a long history prior to 1925.

The crest is the official signature of The United Church of Canada, placed on legal documents, ordination and commissioning certificates, and licences to perform the sacraments. Designed by the Rev. Dr. Victor T. Mooney (a treasurer of the United Church), it was officially adopted in 1944 by the 11th General Council.

For our church members, this insignia is a spiritual and historic reminder. Its oval shape is derived from the outline of a fish, a symbol of identity by early Christians. The initials of the words “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour” spell the Greek word for fish. The “X” at the centre, the first letter of the Greek word for Christ, is a traditional symbol for Christ.

In the four corners of the crest are symbols, three of which are particularly associated with the three communions—Congregational, Methodist, and Presbyterian—that united to form The United Church of Canada in 1925.

The open Bible represents the Congregational Churches with their emphasis upon God’s truth that makes people free. From this communion we have a heritage of liberty in prophesying, love of spiritual freedom, awareness of the creative power of the Holy Spirit, and clear witness for civic justice.

The dove is emblematic of the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:10) whose transforming power has been a distinctive mark of Methodism. Here our heritage is one of evangelical zeal, concern for human redemption, warmth of Christian fellowship, the testimony of spiritual experience, and the ministry of sacred song.

The burning bush is the symbol of Presbyterianism. It refers to the bush that burned and was not consumed (Exodus 3:2), and symbolizes the indestructibility of the church. From Presbyterianism we have received a heritage of high regard for the dignity in worship, the education of all people, the authority of scripture, and the church as the Body of Christ.

The symbols alpha and omega in the lower quarter are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. They symbolize the eternal living God, in the fullness of creation (Revelation 1:8).

The Latin words ut omnes unum sint that surround the symbols on the crest mean That all may be one and are taken from John 17:21. They are a reminder that we are both a “united” and “uniting” church.

In August 2012, the Mohawk phrase “Akwe Nia’Tetewá:neren” (“All my relations”) was added to the perimeter ribbon, and the background colours of the four quadrants of the crest were changed to reflect the traditional colours of the First Nations medicine wheel.

Texte tiré du site de l’Église Unie du Canada