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Knox United Church celebrates 100 years

KNOX UNITED Church in 1918 when it was Knox Presbyterian Church. - CONTRIBUTED
KNOX UNITED Church in 1918 when it was Knox Presbyterian Church.
— image credit: CONTRIBUTED

KNOX UNITED Church reaches a milestone this year and with it, come celebrations to mark the occasion.

The church has been through a lot of highs and lows in its 100 years but the spirit of the  congregation and others have kept it going strong, indicates a series of church facts prepared for the occasion.

Before 1913, the Presbyterian and Methodist people of Terrace worshipped together.

They were generally served by a Methodist missionary who served the Skeena River region, a circuit that included several small communities along the river – Terrace, Gitsegukla, Kitselas and Cedarvale.

In May 1913, a Presbyterian student missionary arrived in Terrace and a Presbyterian congregation was organized shortly after his arrival.

An item in the Prince Rupert Daily News, dated 11 July, 1913 said “The Presbyterians of this town (Terrace) have decided to erect a church in the near future.”

The decision to build had been made at a meeting in Progress Hall on May 18, 1913.

Lots on Lakelse Avenue were purchased from city founder George Little and building went ahead. The congregation built a church and it was dedicated on Aug. 31, 1913.

In October 1913 it was named Knox Presbyterian Church.

The formation of the ladies guild was a godsend because those hardy workers took charge of fundraising and assisted in many ways, the church history continues.

On June 10, 1925. Knox Presbyterian voted to become part of the United Church of Canada. It was then known as Knox United Church.

Out of the 11 ministers who served the congregation between 1913 and 1925, nine were student ministers and two were ordained.

In 1949, the original church burned down.

The gloom which pervaded the congregation the Sunday morning following the fire was broken by one lady, Mrs. Madsy Brandis.

She offered to contact her relatives in Amerfoort, Holland and ask them to locate a bell for the church.

It was an interesting incentive to encourage the congregation to get on with the task of rebuilding and a gesture of appreciation for the kindness shown to Dutch immigrants.

Mrs. Brandis’s relatives eventually contacted a General Vrijdug, who offered a brass bell which was on his estate.

The bell was carefully crated along with a wrought-iron bell support. It was to be placed atop the rebuilt church in a bell tower especially designed for it.

The annual meeting was held in the new church on February 22, 1950.

Easter Sunday 1950 was the first time the bell rang in Terrace.

There had been talk about building a new manse for 14 years and in 1956 work began. It was finished in 1959.

Because the church was felt to be too small, a property committee was formed to look for a new church site. In 1964, the manse property was sold, as well as the church property.

The present property was purchased at that time from Bill Dale. The church building was moved to that property and, as in the past, the Odd Fellows Hall was used for services during the move.

In 1965, a new and larger building was erected on the property and was dedicated in February 1966.

When the church was re-roofed at the end of the decade, the bell tower was taken down and the bell was placed in storage.

The 50th anniversary of the United Church was celebrated in 1975.

Rev. Harold Allen and Rev. George Keenleyside were amongst those present for the February 9 service.

In 1989, five members of Knox United decided to build a new tower for the bell so that it might once again ring out. Peter Nicholson, Ted Wilson, Cam Simons, George Laxton and Ron Lennan all donated their talents to building the tower.

Since the original bell support was missing, a new type of yoke was needed.

This was done with the aid of machine work to adapt some self-aligning bearings.

Welding was donated by Johnny’s Welding.  George Hagen also contributed his welding skills to the project.

Once the tower was completed, the problem was how to lift it in place. Raincoast Cranes came to the rescue.

Milt Lindsay used a 3.5-tonne crane to maneuver the tower into position on March 20, 1990. And on Easter Sunday 1990, the bell rang out once again.

Knox United Church has sponsored First Terrace Scouts for 80 years and the Scout Hall on the property is still in use by them today.

Three memorial windows have been added to the sanctuary.

As of July 15, 2012, there were 13 stained glass windows in the church and another one being planned.

The installation of stained glass windows began with the Rev. Wallace (Wally) Hargrave, who came to Terrace as the minister for Knox United Church in the fall of 2001.

One day from the pulpit, he asked if anyone would be interested in installing a stained glass window as a memoriam in the church.

Rosie Cruickshank, whose husband George had died a number of years previously, had been waiting for just such an opportunity to have a stained glass window installed in his memory.

Joseph Claude Rioux, who had a lot of experience working with stained glass, designed the first window for Rosie Cruickshank – a dove, overlaying a beautiful golden cross, and it started a trend.

The second window was purchased by the United Church women’s group to honour the women of the church. The third window was designed to honour the church music, a very important part of Knox.

Subsequent windows were installed to remember longtime residents and supporters of Knox – Ev Clift, Joan Sparks, Vesta Douglas, Arnold Ferretti, Tia Azak, ”Junior” Gingles, Ron Lennan, Jean Strangway, and Marion Clift.

The 14th window is to be in memory of all the pioneer families, in particular the parents and grandparents of Carole (Sproule) and Jack Julseth, who settled and helped open up  the Terrace area.

Celebrations for the 100th anniversary of Knox United include a musical at 7 p.m. May 19 and a Strawberry Tea Social drop-in from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. May 20. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Church staff have made up 100 colour brochures with history of the church and bookmarks among other items to be given away for the celebration.

A children’s carnival is planned for the fall.

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