Knox United Church congregation members and friends gathered on Sunday, August 27th at 10:00 am to celebrate 114 years of ministry and to say farewell to their beloved building.
All were welcome to this historic event that while it was a celebration it was nonetheless a bit melancholy although the congregation is pleased to transition to a new home.
The Reverend Canon Andrea L. Brennan, B.A. (Hons.) MDiv., Pastor, Priest and Prophet, Regional Dean, East Kootenay Region, Incumbent, Elk Valley Ecumenical Shared Ministry Christ Church Anglican & Fernie Knox United of Fernie, British Columbia was joined on the podium by Kathy Davies, Regional Minister (Pacific Mountain Region, United Church of Canada) and the Rt. Reverend Dr. Lynne McNaughton, Bishop (Diocese of Kootenay and Archbishop of B.C. and the Yukon, Anglican Church of Canada).
A screen was in place that allowed for former pastors and others to attend the event by zoom.
Reverend Brennan delivered a welcome to everyone, introduced the clergy on the podium, said prayers to begin the celebration and then called me up. As a member on the board of the Fernie Heritage Trust nonprofit Society that has purchased the Knox building, I was present to provide a few words on behalf of our chair Gordon Sombrowski as he was unable to attend.
Before I began, I introduced board members Brad Snell and Jill Palamarek who were present and who have been very dedicated towards turning Knox Church into a public space for arts and culture.
Thanks go to Gordon for contributing the meaningful words below that I delivered in his place.
Today is remarkable, it is a day for the spirit and the soul, a day for the intellect and the arts, it is a day on which a beautiful building ceases to be one thing and yet continues to serve so many of the purposes it was built for and new creative purposes waiting to be discovered.
The Knox United Church congregation has made great change to sustain itself and, in that process, it has helped to leave a legacy that continues a tradition of service and community started almost a century and a quarter ago.
This building has been a place of spirituality and a place of community, and we are pleased that life continues for the building in the spirituality of community, art, and culture. Since December we have already seen the mystery and the magic that music and theatre have made for audiences in our community who have come together under the arches of Knox. As we adapt the building that wonder will only grow and mature.
Thank you to the United Church of Canada and the Knox United Church congregation of Fernie, the Board of Governors, and the Trustees and especially Evelyn Cutts, Annie Cox, Adele Jakubec, Andrea Brennan and Bruce Elson for your special assistance on behalf of Knox in helping to make this happen. And thank you to the many generations who stewarded this building, we look to your example and will seek to steward the building into the future.
A video presentation from a past reverend of the church was shown, who said she was “forever grateful for my time with you”.
Evelyn Cutts spoke next saying that she hoped that the building would, “keep that all are welcome here, and not lose the dignity or musical space”. She thanked all the ministers and did Bible readings from Joshua and Corinthians.
Bishop Lynne McNaughton said this was another time of change in their community, “as Joshua says goodbye to the people, saying farewell to the old is a solemn moment of good bye, Joshua takes back to the roots of them , just as we are doing here, remembering the past people and offering the building for a new purpose for the community, Knox has been bold, God never confined us to a building built by human hands. Anglicans are courageous as well, and together you are creating a new worship, a sacred space, moving in together means we have to be generous in listening, being respectful of those sharing a space, being open to change, to kindness, forgiveness, and peace. Remember nothing is lost in God’s loving arms. Enter this union with courage, strength, stamina, and agreement. The symbols being removed from Knox to bring to your new home are symbols of hard work in sharing, you have what you need to continue this shared ministry.”
Longtime pianist for Knox Scott Smith did a reading, Kathy Davies, Regional Minister chose the symbolic items to present to Knox members to bring to their new home at the Anglican Church. First was a banner presented to Annie Cox that she explained was made by Sunday school children, adding that “we already feel like we are home, old friends, new life, it’s not one or the other, this banner will go into the Anglican church.”
Evelyn Cutts was presented with the wooden talking stick adorned with colored ribbons of both churches.
Revered Andrea was offered the Candle, a Bible with a long church history was handed to Linda Bird. Annie Cox provided me a letter dated May 16,1956 written by Reverend David Gordon with information stating it was first presented to Rev. David Gordon as a Family Bible but having no Pulpit Bible, he used it in the pulpit of the Fernie Presbyterian Church until 1904. Reverend Gordon moved east but years later he had the bible rebound and then returned it to Fernie to be used by his old congregation led by Rev. Norah L. Hughes and to be made available to her successors. He expressed the hope that the Terrace L.O.L. was still carrying on. Adding that a few of the old timers may remember that Sunday afternoon in 1901 when the Terrace Lodge marched to his church which stood on the same lot as does the United church of Fernie today.
A beautiful gold cross was presented to Bruce Elson, a cross that has been part of the church for 100 years. All remaining items were to be left for other groups to use.
This concluded the worship and then Rev. Andrea Brennan gave thanks and a blessing to everyone and extended the invitation to all to head to the Anglican church for a sumptuous hot lunch prepared by the ladies.
I spoke with Scott Smith who said he has been pleased to play the piano for a long period. He said he had first mentioned to the late Mary East that he played piano, she got him to do just that going on for nearly thirty years. That was 1994 and since then he has been alternating with Louisa Sullivan and Mary Eckersley. Scott added that it “has been a year since we have joined together with having the same pastor, so it made for a much easier transition, it was part of our biweekly turn to have Andrea.”
Mary Menduk said that “it was a very moving symbolism of the artifacts chosen; it was a new ritual but we need rituals in our lives”.
At the lunch Anglican Church member Orlan Webber thanked everyone for coming and said this was a great occasion to have everyone come together.
One person commented, this situation was inevitable, as it could have been one or both churches that would have had to shut its doors. This scenario is found in many communities as younger people have moved away from churches for a variety of reasons although one comment was that “sports have been made into worship.” It’s also the older generation that supported churches are passing away making it difficult to sustain a large building. Looking around the tables at the lunch it was easy to understand that sentiment as it was clearly seen mostly everyone present was in their middle or senior years.
Still the celebration was made wonderful by Reverend Brennan who always has the right words and tone to provide a beautiful and memorable ceremony.
Congratulations to the Knox United and Christ Anglican congregations on their new venture showing the love of God for his children has no denomination and that church is not the building but the Love held in the heart of each one no matter where we worship.
By Mary Giuliano
Mary arrived in Fernie in May of 1953 and has lived here ever since, by choice, because she loves the Elk Valley and everything it stands for. Read more from Mary here.