Top stories of 2015: Historic church avoids demolition and celebrates grand opening

By paNOW Staff
December 23, 2015 - 7:48am Updated: December 23, 2015 - 8:27am

Our 10th top story of 2015 is about how the former St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church miraculously managed to avoid demolition.

After closing its doors for two years the church, which is now the Prince Albert Baptist Church, was filled with the sounds of worship once again on the evening of Dec. 11, 2015.

In 2013 the church shut its doors and members of its congregation had no choice but to continue to worship else where due to unsafe structural damage in the buildings attic. Up until last summer, the building’s fate remained in limbo until the Prince Albert Baptist Church organization purchased it for only $1.

Upon purchasing the building pastor David Webster said they planned to give the church a “general face lift” to both inside and outside of the church while still maintaining the historical integrity of the building.

“This building to me represents a very important part for Prince Albert … the history of Prince Albert is rooted in this church,” Webster said.

Despite not worshipping in the church for over two years, saying a final good bye to St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church was tough for most of its past members who now attend Wesley United Church across the street.

“It’s going to be sad. said Norman Hill, clerk of session with St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church  “We have people in our congregation who have been here for generations … One of [the members] said it’s going to be sad that this will no longer be a place we will worship but she realizes we have to move on.”

Repair and restoration officially began on the church in August of 2015. The most major renovations were done to the roof, where cracks had formed in the main support beams. To stabilize the building new trusses were laid over the old cracked one for support. The old beams were then sucked up to the new beams and attached, before support rods were put in place.

For pastor Webster the most amazing part of the renovation and construction process was the overwhelming support that they received from the community. Money was still spent as part of the renovations, but the total cost of the project was a lot lower than what it was originally estimated at due to volunteer efforts.

“We have not paid one penny of labour to date,” Webster said while repairs on the church were still being performed.

All of the labour was done by volunteers eager to help restore the historic church. Churchgoers from as far as Alberta visited the church to lend a hand.

The grand opening celebration and Christmas concert that took place on Dec. 11 was something that Pastor David Webster said may have seemed impossible at first but he knew the day would eventually come. He said something told him that one day the church would be filled with people again.

“When we first walked into the building with the dark cloud of the engineering report that said at one point $1.5 million or demolish the place, I had a little flicker of something inside of me,” said Webster. “As I walked through the building with the Presbyterian leaders, I said, ‘Guys, I think some day we are going to playing this old pipe organ to ‘God Be the Glory’ and this place is going to be filled with people.”

“That was in November, over a year ago, and I think that is what is going to happen tonight. I think we are going to be in a place that is filled with people and we are going to play that song.”

God Be the Glory was sung and a Christmas Cantata titled Christmas on the Air was performed during the churches re-opening event which was described by those who attended as an answer to a prayer.

“Standing in the middle of a miracle,” said attendee Murray Fenwick. “It is something we’ve prayed for, and God has blessed what he has done here.”

“I look at all the work that happened here, no serious injuries and stuff like that, so it’s a real blessing. Even to see the people turning out tonight, this is a blessing,” he added.

The evening’s grand opening celebrations also included a welcome message from Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne. He thanked everyone who worked on the project, saying his biggest fear was to see another vacant lot downtown.

Dionne also thanked the congregation for their prayers.

“I know quite a few pray for me personally and pray for our city and our council,” said Dionne. “We want to thank you for that, because we have some tough decisions to make.”

With restorations complete, the historic building, which is one Prince Albert’s oldest churches is sure to be a place where many more prayers will continue to be said for years to come.

“I am really hoping this church will become part of the spiritutal revival of Prince Albert, a spiritual awakening, a spiritual return to our roots and our christain heritage that is so much a part of Prince Albert and our country,”  said Webster.


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