The eldest of eight from a Glen Allen, Ontario family, Addie Aylestock was descended from a long line of those who settled along the Conestogo River. She made her way to the big city of Toronto for greater opportunities when she entered her teens. In order to support herself she took the work that was available to all Black women at the time—domestic work (cook/housekeeper)—to earn her board and keep. Aylestock felt a higher calling and attended the Medical Missionary College with the hope of working in Africa. However, in order to qualify for this ultimate foreign service, she would have needed to find the additional means of first obtaining training in the United States.
She chose to remain in Toronto, furthering her training at Toronto Bible College (TBC) while attending the British Methodist Episcopal Church (BME). She graduated from TBC in 1951, and by 1959 she was a deaconess with the BME. The role of deaconess was a spiritual/community leadership role available to women — there were no higher positions at that time. However, The Doctrine and Discipline of the British Methodist Episcopal Church, the church’s rules and regulations, was amended at an annual conference, allowing for the ordination of women. Aylestock became the first ordained woman minister of the BME and the first African-Canadian woman minister in Canada. Since the BME had churches throughout Canada, during her more than 20 years as a minister Aylestock was able to develop or further organize Ontario BME congregations in Fort Erie, Guelph, Owen Sound, Niagara Falls, North Buxton and St Catharines as well as congregations in Montreal and Halifax. She also served as the general secretary of the BME Conference from 1958 to 1982.
Credits: Content reproduced from Black History Canada and the Ontario Black History Society.
Image: Addie Aylestock (courtesy Ontario Black History Society/BME Christ Church St. James)