UKRAINIAN BAPTIST HERITAGE CENTRE
UBHC connection to the UKRAINIAN PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH – CONNECTING THE HISTORICAL SPIRITUAL DOTS

Walter Kutcher was one of the 13 original charter members [# 8] of the Toronto Ukrainian Evangelical Baptist Church [TUEBC] when it organized on May 7, 1950, after just recently arriving a few days earlier in Toronto from the Ukrainian Bible Institute in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, along with fellow graduates, Walter Ostapchuk [TUEBC charter member # 9] and John Prokopiak [TUEBC charter member #10].

 

If you read the life story of Rev. Walter Kutcher, it was his wife’s [Ria] parents, Paul and Maria Osypowich, who signed an affidavit with the Canadian government sponsoring the Tymciw family which allowed them to come to Canada in November 1962 from Germany in addition to much financial support from church members of the TUEBC.  It was at the Osypowich home where the Tymciw family first lived in Canada and had all of their wooden crates from Germany addressed to, which later arrived by ship.

 

The TUEBC held its first services at 423 Queen Street West [east of Bathurst St.] from May 7 – June 1950 at the Toronto All Nations United Church.  The small congregation then turned to Rev. Michael Fesenko, minister of the Toronto Ukrainian Presbyterian Church [TUPC], who just recently built a new church building in late 1941, early 1942, which was located at 20 Claremont Street, which was located just a few streets west of 148 Tecumseth Street. Rev. Fesenko and the church committee graciously allowed the TUEBC to hold its church services at the TUPC from July 1950 – January 1951.

 

The TUEBC then moved to a church building at 148 Tecumseth Street which was owned by the Home Mission Board of the Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec [HMBBCOQ] and continued holding its church services there from February 1951 and have been doing so now at this location for the past 68 years.  This church building was purchased from the HMBBCOQ in August 1957 for $40,000.

 

I am so thankful for Rev. Dr. Kostiw who documented all of the above historical information in his book,  1950-1965 Almanac on the Occasion of the 15th Anniversary of The Ukrainian Evangelical Baptist Church, Toronto, Canada, which was published in 1965 [pages 23-30, 39].

 

On page 27 of his book is one of the earliest church congregation pictures taken in the fall of 1950 at a special church concert.  For many years, I have wondered where this picture was taken, and now this question has been finally answered.  It was taken at Rev. Fesenko’s TUPC on 20 Claremont Street where the TUEBC was holding its services at that time.  In the second row, you will find third from the left, Michael Rewko, first church choir director, a young Walter Kutcher, Paul Brych, Eugene Kucenko, and Walter Ostapchuk.  In the first row, far right is Rev. Elijah [Eliasz] Kubryn, who was the first minister of the TUEBC from May 1950 – February 24, 1951.

 



On Saturday September 16, 2017, I met and reconnected with Shirley Dawidiuk at the famous annual Toronto Ukrainian Festival on Bloor Street West.  She works with The Master’s Foundation and was supervising their booth.   Her late husband, Rev. Wasyl Dawidiuk, was our former TUEBC minister, [1979-1984 and 1999-2004] who baptized me in May 1980 and also preached a Ukrainian message at my father’s funeral in November 2012. 

 

During my time at their booth on this hot afternoon where I took refuge from the sun and heat because of my health condition, I also met Henry Watrich for the first time, one of the co-founders of The Master’s Foundation in 1983,  www.mastersfoundation.org , along with his brother, Stan, who were also previous long-time owners of Harmony Printing which printed Dr. Kostiw’s TUEBC Almanac and many other Ukrainian Baptist publications. 

 

On July 27, 2019, I received a call from Henry and through his connection with the Fesenko family, I was able to meet the late Rev. Fesenko’s daughters, Eleanor and Rhoda, and visited their home on Monday August 12, 2019, in Toronto, and had one of the most beautiful visits and lunch with these two dear elderly sisters who are in their 80s.  We spent many hours discussing the history of both of our churches, TUEBC and TUPC, our fathers and their ministries, many other ministers, the Ukrainian Presbyterian Church in Oshawa, Rev. Walter Kutcher, etc.

 

We even had overlapping connections with the late Rev. Dr. Jack Hunka, who married my wife and I [he co-officiated in English along with my father in Ukrainian] in May 1989.  Rev. Fesenko appeared many times on Dr. Hunka’s Ukrainian Huntley Street television program, “Nasha Nadia,” (Our Hope) and the response from the viewers was so positive that Dr. Hunka repeated airings of all his messages. The overlapping connections continued with both of our parents being buried at the same York Cemetery in Toronto. 

 

It was during this visit that I was privileged to learn more about the life of their late father and received a copy of Rev. Michael Fesenko’s, April 11, 2003 Funeral Program from his daughters in which his life story and picture is found, which I have now uploaded and included in a new UKRAINIAN PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH section on my UBHC website.

Rev. Michael Fesenko lived to be 102 years, 4 months and 6 days old before God took him home.  What an incredible life story and to think he continued to publish his religious journal "The Evangelical Truth" or "Evanhelska Pravda", in the Ukrainian language for 62 years, with the help of his daughters in his later years, up until one year before his promotion to eternal glory, is an astonishing feat.

His daughters also passed on to me a collection of books from their late father’s library for which I am truly grateful to be used for further research on the Ukrainian Presbyterian Church and the life of Rev. Michael Fesenko.  To God Be The Glory for how He has allowed all of this to happen since meeting Shirley and Henry on September 16, 2017.  The tents have widened at the UBHC to include the history of the Ukrainian Presbyterian Church in Canada and the USA in my ongoing research and in keeping our Ukrainian Protestant history alive in Canada.

Peter, Rhoda and Eleanor - August 12, 2019 - Toronto 

Written by Peter Tymciw / UBHC  

August 24, 2019

 



 

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