Innisfail Presbyterians ‘uplifted’ after landmark celebration
Congregation celebrates 130 years in Innisfail as church celebrates 132 years of Presbyterian ministry in central Alberta
INNISFAIL – 75 years ago, local Presbyterians were called upon to build a new church for the congregation after a fire destroyed their old place of worship.
The site of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church at 4716 – 50th Ave. became the third home of the city’s Presbyterian community.
Construction in 1947 may have initially been a hardship for local Presbyterians, but their mission to serve their Christian faith and their community has always been paramount.
Any inconvenience was quickly brushed aside, especially recognizing that the rigors of life and service were far more demanding when the Reverend James Fleming came to serve the newly born pioneer community in 1890.
Innisfail was then known as Poplar Grove and the Presbyterians had no church. The first Presbyterian house for worship was built the following year along with a parsonage, a house occupied by a Presbyterian minister.
For 132 years, the local Presbyterian community has walked proudly; an admirable victory of faith over all adversity to serve the community.
On August 28, Presbyterians gathered for a special celebration to mark the 130th anniversary of the Innisfail congregation and the 132nd year of the effective start of Presbyterian ministry in central Alberta.
“It was very uplifting. The congregation had been without a minister throughout COVID,” said Reverend John Rhoad, who served as a church minister from 1968 to 1973. “They (the congregation) needed something something uplifting and we needed to be reminded as a congregation that we have a long history, and there have been great years and there have been years of struggle.
On its day of celebration, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and its congregation received greetings from the Mayor of the Town of Innisfail, Jean Barclay, neighboring ministers Steven Webb of Sylvan Lake and Sandra Franklin-Law of Eckville, and the church’s national moderator, the Reverend Dr. Bob Faris.
At 10 a.m., the 30-member congregation and guests worshiped for approximately the next hour and 15 minutes.
When it was finished, everyone gathered for lunch; a feast of roast beef on bread, beans, salad and cake.
Best of all was the camaraderie, with lots of heartfelt laughter and memories of the delicious lunch.
Although Rhoad left town nearly half a century ago, he continued to serve his faith with the utmost devotion; ministering in British Columbia, Ontario and then Edmonton. He then retired and returned to central Alberta. He lives in Red Deer but comes regularly to Sunday service in Innisfail.
Rhoad played an important role in ensuring the success of the celebration.
“I kept an album with photos and recordings because we started the celebration five months ago,” he said, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic had dulled bigger celebrations there. ‘era. “We had special ministers who came to preach, and we had special events and we took pictures and recorded.
“We have a member, who is now in a nursing home in Olds, who came to this church in the 1930s,” he added. “We went to his seniors’ residence and presented him with a special plaque of recognition for all his years of service.”
Reverend Charles McNeil has currently served as pastor at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Innisfail for just under a year. He too lives in Red Deer and his local ministry is shared with Knox Presbyterian Church and West Park Presbyterian Church in the city.
He noted that the August 28 observance was special for his church as it not only saluted both faith and community, but also recognized the remarkable history and indomitable spirit of the congregation that braved all challenges. during its humble beginnings and after.
“The first missionaries who came here, the Anglicans and the Presbyterians, came around the same (time) and established two congregations and worked together. And you know? Talk about fearless and faithful. Yes, amazing people,” said McNeil, who called the celebration “wonderful” and “appropriate.”
“Something like a milestone of 130 years, which is incredibly meaningful, you have to celebrate. We celebrated, gained energy and encouragement, and we will move forward.
And his ministerial predecessor could only agree. In fact, Reverend Rhoad was inspired to believe that the best is yet to come for the faithful congregation at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.
“They (the congregation) needed something uplifting and we needed to be reminded as a congregation that we have a long history, and there have been great years and there have been years of struggle,” Rhoad said. “It was a nice way to end the five months.”