A History of the Ottawa Reformed Presbyterian Church

The following is a history of the beginnings of the Ottawa Reformed Presbyterian Church (Ottawa RPC). In 1980, Dr. Richard Ganz was called as a missionary pastor to Ottawa, Canada, for a church plant in a city where there had been no previous Reformed Presbyterian (RP) church, and in a country where the RP church seemed to be near total demise. This is our story.

In 1980, Dr. Richard Ganz was an ordained minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA), and was living with his wife and daughters in Europe. While there, he was teaching in seminaries and preaching in churches throughout Western Europe.

In March of 1980, Dr. Ganz received a call to church plant in Ottawa, the capital of Canada. A number of years earlier, it had been suggested to Dr. Ganz to consider ministry in Ottawa. He had never given it a second thought, until a telephone call he received in the Netherlands kindled his interest. He learned that a family (the Aubrey and Joy Ayer family) had expressed interest in a Reformed Presbyterian church beginning in Ottawa. During the preceding year, monthly Friday night meetings had been held in the Ayer home. Lord’s Day morning worship services were started in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata, Ontario, by the Almonte RP congregation. Preaching was provided by Reverend Ken McBurney of the Almonte (Ontario) congregation and Reverend Paul Faris of the Lisbon (New York) congregation.

On May 6, 1980, Dr. Ganz and his wife Nancy, along with their daughters Shoshannah and Elisha arrived in Ottawa. The following Lord’s Day, May 11, 1980 (Mother’s Day), Dr. Ganz began preaching and leading the worship in Kanata. It was obvious from the beginning that there were plenty of obstacles to be overcome:

  1. There were no people who were members of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. This was to be a hard, lonely work, in which dependence was to be wholly on the Lord.

    Dr. Ganz walked through the streets of Ottawa that summer of 1980, day after day, speaking to everyone he met, while praying to the Lord (who could raise even the stones to life) to raise up a people in the nation’s capital who would glorify His Name. As Dr. Ganz puts it, "Every day, from May through August, I spoke to people on the streets about my ministry and the exciting new church that was about to begin in September."
  2. There was (almost) no money, either for a salary, or for a church.

    As it was with people, so too it was with funds. The dependence of the Ganz family would be upon the Lord. "Do not worry... The pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry..." (Matthew 6:31-34)
  3. There was no worship facility. Worship services had begun in a nursery room of a community centre in the nearby suburb of Kanata. It would take a year to move to Canada’s capital. The aim was to strike at the heart of this nation!
  4. There had been no Canadian pastor in the Canadian RP Church for over one hundred years! There had once been over one hundred congregations and teaching stations in the Canadian RPC. By the summer of 1980, only one organized congregation remained (Almonte). (The congregation at Lochiel, Ontario, an hour and a half East of Ottawa, had been for over a decade without a pastor and was down to just a few people.)
  5. (This sad state of affairs had come about because) There was no Reformed Presbyterian seminary in Canada to train Canadian men for a Reformed Presbyterian ministry. Without indigenous training, there is no way to have a sustained ministry.

In October of 1980, evening services began inauspiciously in Ottawa in the Ganz family home. At the first evening service, only two families were in attendance – the Ganz’s and the Ayer’s. There would never again be a worship service where just two families were present. From that time until the present day, God led, and continues to lead, new people into the church. During that first year of ministry, Dr. Ganz met monthly with Dr. Ed Robson at the U.S./Canada border for encouragement and prayer.

In May of 1981, this small, but growing, mission work in Ottawa was organized as a congregation of the RPCNA. Nine months of labour had culminated in the birth of a new church! Dr. Ganz was installed as the pastor of the Ottawa Reformed Presbyterian Church and Aubrey Ayer was ordained as an elder.

In September of 1981, Dr. Ganz began morning worship services in a dubious community centre in Ottawa. Evening worship services and a mid-week Bible study and prayer meeting continued to be held in the Ganz home. There was tremendous activity and interest in this new and unique ministry.

In October of 1981, the first concrete step was taken towards the dream of a Canadian seminary. Dr. Ganz wrote a letter to the St. Lawrence Presbytery in order

"... to apprise you of the current status of the work of the RPCNA in the Ottawa area and to propose to you my hopes and goals for future ministry... Fellow elders, I would like to propose the Canadian branch of the seminary of the RPCNA. If we really mean business about a work in Canada (and I believe we do) then this is an ABSOLUTE NECESSITY. We must have the facilities here to train young men who possess the gospel call on their hearts. A teaching institution in the United States will never be the answer... While this is an enormous commission to undertake, it is an enormous OMISSION to neglect. I know that our church can grow and become a vital influence in Canada. For this we need indigenous training... While there may be lean years for awhile, this is the obvious time to begin. We have a great possibility before us. God will provide the necessary resources, time and strength to accomplish His work... We should consider beginning classes on some kind of basis by September 1982... If this vision for the training of men and expansion of the church is from the LORD God, then I urge you to share in it with me."

The St. Lawrence Presbytery was willing to share this vision!

During the next few months, Dr. Ganz spoke with people from different seminaries about how to set up a theological institution. Everyone said that such an attempt was IMPOSSIBLE! There was no money, no building, no students, no library, no faculty. There was nothing!

The more Dr. Ganz kept hearing, “It’s impossible!” the more he kept thinking and believing, Nothing is impossible with God! (Luke 1:37) In the eyes of the world, this seemingly insignificant ministry had nothing, but in reality it had everything it needed. It had the Lord God. It had God’s Word. Dr. Ganz rounded up excellent teachers from wherever he could find them, to come and teach for a few weeks at a time. These men were faithful pastors and teachers who were committed to training men for the work of the ministry. The new seminary, named the "Ottawa Theological Hall" (OTH), was approved by the 1982 Synod of the RPCNA. For classroom space, a church was rented for use during the week.

Our first year of OTH began September 1982. We had six men enrolled as full-time students, and classes averaged around twenty per class. We were on our way!

Dr. Ken Smith, a well known pastor-evangelist, who has taught at OTH since 1982, had this to say: "I became nervous anytime the phone would ring. I was afraid it was Rich Ganz, requesting me to do something else for his ministry!"

For more details on the history of OTH, please see the OTH website.

At the beginning of the third year of our new, ever-growing church, Bible studies and prayer meetings were being held in various homes in numerous locations across Ottawa. Later that year, these studies expanded into Lanark County (Ontario) and Québec later that year as a number of families came to faith in Christ under the influence of Dr. Ganz’s ministry, and he followed up on their commitment to Christ by beginning Bible studies in their area.

In September of 1983, the Ottawa RPC was blessed by receiving the opportunity to actually have a church building as a worship facility. It made it all the more phenomenal to us that the church was in the heart of downtown Ottawa, just a few blocks from Parliament Hill. We rented the sanctuary for morning and evening worship services. We also rented a large room across the street in a community centre for Sabbath School classes for the children. We were now renting three separate facilities in Ottawa!

In January of 1984, several more families committed their lives to Christ through Dr. Ganz’s ministry. Later that month, Dr. Ganz began a Bible study with these few couples in MacDonald’s Corners, Ontario, an isolated rural community over an hour outside of Ottawa. Amazingly, it was not long before over twenty people were attending this Bible study. In January of 1985, afternoon worship services were started in Perth, Ontario, a half hour from MacDonald’s Corners, and over an hour outside of Ottawa. Pastored by Dr. Ganz, they met for worship in Perth in a small chapel that was connected to a large, beautiful, historic church building. It’s pastor told Dr. Ganz that the Reformed Presbyterian denomination had once owned the building, and had sold it for $75 to what is now the most liberal church in Canada – the United Church. We were paying more rent each month for this tiny little room in the building than what the RP Church had received in selling the entire church building almost one hundred years before! We obviously had a lot of ground to regain!

Dr. Ganz was now pastoring two churches. After the morning service in Ottawa, which began at 9:30 a.m., Dr. Ganz would leave Ottawa at 12:30 p.m. on the Lord’s Day, drop his family (now including two more daughters, Natanyah and Micaiah) off at home, and travel to Perth to conduct a service and lead the adult Sabbath School. He would then leave Perth, pick up his family, and arrive back in Ottawa in time for the 6:30 p.m. evening service. He also devoted Tuesdays from noon until late into the night to evangelism, counselling, and Bible study in Lanark County. All of this was in addition to his teaching at OTH, and the other mid-week Bible studies, counselling, evangelism, and prayer meetings in Ottawa.

Dr. Ganz continued this schedule in Lanark County without missing a single Lord’s Day or Tuesday until June 24, 1988, when Dr. Christian Adjemian was ordained to the ministry and took over responsibilities for the Perth RP church. Dr. Adjemian and his wife Laura had come to faith through Dr. Ganz’s ministry in November of 1983. That very night, Dr. Adjemian, a professor of Linguistics at University of Ottawa, began his studies at Ottawa Theological Hall. He completed his studies June of 1988 and was ordained to the ministry on June 24, 1988. It was Dr. Adjemian who introduced Dr. Ganz to Dr. Coombs, who, two months later, in January 1984, came to faith and began a Bible study in his home. This study, which Dr. Ganz led, eventually became the Perth RPC. On the night of the organization of the Perth RPC, Dr. Coombs was elected as Perth’s first ruling elder. About forty members of the Ottawa RPC became the beginning membership of the new Perth church. Dr. Ganz recalls: "Those were fabulous and exciting days. God was manifestly at work. The excitement in the Perth church was palpable."

In 1990, the Ottawa RP Church once again had to move into a larger building to accommodate its growing numbers. Soon after, in 1991, we graduated our first RP Canadian student, Matthew Hadwen, from Ottawa Theological Hall. Prior to that, every graduate had been an American student. He spent some time in an RP church plant in Kingston, Ontario.

The Ottawa church began to sense the need for a building of our own. We were still renting three separate buildings, and the rents were increasing. We had met in ten different locations over the years. We were tired of wandering, and our present facility, a Seventh Day Adventist church, was tenuous at best.

In August of 1993, we bought a piece of property in Ottawa on which to build a church and seminary complex. This land was purchased from the Strank family, and had been a piece of their family farm. It was located right in the middle of Ottawa! Dr. Ganz, along with his elders, met with Mr. and Mrs. Strank in their home. The following is a brief description of what happened: “In that meeting, we realized that the Stranks were believing Christians. They spoke of the desire that was in the family to see the property used either as a church or as a Bible college. They were really excited to hear that we were planning to use it for both. As we continued to talk together, Mrs. Strank realized that her ancestors had been part of the RP church. She was excited at this turn of events. When it came time to discuss the price for the property, we all agreed to take a week to separately pray that God would lead us to the right price, and that we would each come back with a price that we believed was the right one. A week later, we all returned with exactly the same price! A contract was drawn up, and we became owners of a beautiful property, with fifty-two pine trees lining the future lane that would lead to the doorstep of the church.” All of this was in the middle of Ottawa! You might say that this was not the normal way to conduct business over an extremely valuable piece of property in a very wealthy city, but God was pleased to glorify Himself in this manner. We have remained good neighbours with the Strank’s ever since.

In February of 1995, we moved into our new building on our property. Our official opening service was held April 23, 1995.

The work continues to this day. The Ottawa RP Church continues to grow. Ottawa Theological Hall continues to train men for the ministry. We continue to plant new churches. We continue with a vision for the church and the rule of Jesus Christ to reach "from sea to sea" (Psalm 72:8). In January of 2010, Aubrey Ayer resigned as an active elder due to health considerations. He was then appointed as the Ottawa RPC’s first elder emeritus.

At the time of this writing (May 2010), Dr. Ganz continues to persevere in his faithful pastoral ministry in the Ottawa Reformed Presbyterian Church, a ministry which now spans 30 years.

"I am convinced that He who began this great work... will perfect it to the very day of Christ Jesus. " (Philippians 1:6)
Congregational Photograph

For the history of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, see A history of the Reformed Presbyterian Church by Bill Edgar.

Contact Details

466 Woodland Ave
P.O. Box 23139
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada K2A 4E2 map

Phone: (613) 596-5566

Pastor: Dr. Richard L. Ganz

Worship: 10am and 5:30pm Sundays