A Short History of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Saskatoon

This story of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Saskatoon was written for the 80th Anniversary of our congregation in 2005.

This weekend we are celebrating the 80th Anniversary of this congregation of God’s People, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Saskatoon. Remembering our past, rejoicing in the present, and looking towards the future with expectation, we live, work, worship, and serve as God’s People in this place. This is our story.

Of course, we know that we cannot tell the whole of our story today. God has been at work among us and through us day in and day out for 80 years. The stories of Christ’s mission in this congregation are held in our archives, in our photo albums, and in our collective memories. They witness to the fact that God’s Spirit has been among us. They encourage us with the hope that God’s Spirit will continue to abide with us, to teach us, and to lead us into the future. There will be more stories to tell.

So let us remember and celebrate 80 years of ministry and mission at St. Andrew’s, Saskatoon. The very first meeting of the congregation of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Saskatoon, was held on January 16th, 1925. Two days later, the first public worship services were held, one in the morning and one in the evening, as was the custom at that time. The Rev. Donald Munro of North Battleford preached and lead worship on that day. Following the evening service, a 2nd congregational meeting was held, and the roll was opened for people to sign in order to identify themselves with the new congregation.

By October 18th, 243 names were put on the roll of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Saskatoon. And so began 80 years of ministry at St. Andrew’s, Saskatoon.

Of course, the Presbyterian Church in Canada had already had a presence and a ministry before the formation of St. Andrew’s. Presbyterians were among the first settlers who came to this spot on the banks of the South Saskatchewan river and founded what would become the “Hub City” of Saskatoon.

After worshipping ecumenically in the early years, slowly congregations and parishes were formed and buildings were erected, representing all the major denominations, including the Presbyterian Church in Canada. By 1901, Saskatoon had village status, in 1903 it became a town, and in 1906 Saskatoon became a city.

Ecumenical cooperation between the Christian churches was not uncommon during the early decades of the twentieth century, particularly in Western Canada where there were fewer people. There was a spirit of cooperation as Christians from many traditions settled on the new land. The Presbyterian Church in Canada had been discussing the possibility of forming a United Church with the Methodists and the Congregationalists for some time, and by 1925, the Union was finally ready to move forward.

In 1925, approximately two thirds of Canadian Presbyterians, and even more on the Prairies, formed the United Church of Canada with the Methodists and the Congregationalists.

In 1925 there were four Presbyterian churches in Saskatoon. Knox Presbyterian Church, St. Thomas Presbyterian Church, Westminster Presbyterian Church, and Mayfair Presbyterian Church. Of these, three congregations… Knox, St. Thomas, and Westminster, though they voted to join the union, they had a significant number of members that wished to continue as Presbyterians. It was these folk that met in January 1925 to form St. Andrew’s.

Although some might have said that they were stubborn or that they were anti-ecumenical, what is clear is that they were determined to retain the principles of Presbyterianism that they believed would be lost in the new United Church. Though there must have been some hard feelings between the two groups, the continuing Presbyterians who formed St. Andrew’s wanted to continue the spirit of cooperation among the churches that had distinguished Prairie churches in the past.

Among the carefully prepared set of resolutions for the founding of a new Presbyterian congregation was one expressing good will to all Christian churches and especially to those Presbyterian churches which had voted to enter the union.

“That this meeting of Presbyterians of Saskatoon having decided to form a new Presbyterian Congregation, expresses to all congregations in the city our good will and more particularly to congregations entering the United Church of Canada our desire that they and those congregations in positions similar to our own may work in harmony and further the cause which we have in common.”

In the early months of St. Andrew’s ministry, the congregation met to worship God in a variety of places… in the basement of the Masonic Temple, and then as it grew, in the Great War Veterans’ Hall, and later in the Castle Gardens Hall. A variety of ministers came to preach and lead worship from around the province and from further afield. As the first year of ministry quickly flew by, there were many firsts…

The Boys’ Club began to meet right from the start, on January 18, 1925.

A young women’s missionary society was formed on April 6, 1925, and immediately began the work of mission. Within the first year, they sent money and a bale of clothing to a mission school. Just think about that, in the midst of all the work of organizing a new church, without a church building or a minister, the young women of St. Andrew’s began to reach out in mission.

The first communion service was held on May 10, 1925, having borrowed the communion service of Westminster Church.

In mid-May, another WMS group was formed.

The first minister was inducted in the first week of July, 1925.

The first session was elected by ballot on November 19, 1925.

A board of managers was elected shortly afterward.

Church membership at the end of 1925 was 340, the Sunday School had grown to 231 students who met at the Nutana Collegiate Institute, and the Boys’ Club had 100 members.

In 1926, the initial steps were taken to provide a church building for the ministry of St. Andrew’s congregation. The building committee undertook the task of raising funds and of planning and supervising the erection of the building.

And they must have worked very efficiently because the new church (located in the spot where the Red Cross building stands today) was officially opened on October 3, 1926.

One of the important ministries of St. Andrew’s congregation in the early years was a ministry of Christian education. In addition to the Boys’ Club, willing workers provided leadership in the many church school classes at six Sabbath Schools around the city.

The Rev. Walter George Brown had an important leadership role in the early years of the congregation’s ministry. The influence of the congregation was soon felt in the city and the province as the congregation became firmly established. Though the great depression brought trials to many of the people, there were many unheralded acts of help and encouragement to those in need.

Not too many years later, the congregation undertook the large task of erecting a new church building that would accomodate a growing number of people and programs. The sod turning ceremony took place on August 17th, 1951. The cornerstone was laid on October 21st, 1951. The present St. Andrew’s opened January 11, 1953. The first sermon preached in this building was on January 11, 1953 by the Rev. James A. Munro.

St. Andrew’s has seen many changes over the years. The people of St. Andrew’s today are a very different group of people than those who worshipped together 80 years ago.

The first woman elder at St. Andrew’s, Dr. Hilda Neatby, was appointed to the Kirk Session on January 26, 1969, about two and a half years after the Presbyterian Church in Canada approved the ordination of women to the roles of Ruling Elder and Minister of Word and Sacrament. Over the years, other women were ordained as ruling elders at St. Andrew’s and women took on the role of minister as well.

In 1968, the Session decided to discontinue the regular Sunday evening service. This made it possible for two groups of senior young people, the “Koinonia Group” and the “Young Adults” to use the church on Sunday evenings for their meetings. Special evening services were held on occasion, particularly at the Christmas and Easter seasons.

In the mid-90’s, Wednesday evening worship services began to take place at St. Andrew’s, providing an opportunity for people who work on Sundays to worship mid-week. These services were enjoyed by all who participated, led worship, and provided hospitality. But they too, were discontinued a few years later to give time and space to other activities. Today, a small group gathers to worship on Wednesday evenings 4 or 5 times a year.

Work among the young has always been stressed in St. Andrew’s. In 1975, for example, ten young peoples’ organizations reported at the annual meeting:

  • St. Andrew’s Church School
  • Explorers
  • C.G.I.T.
  • Presbyteens
  • Sunday School at St. Paul’s
  • Junior Choir
  • Burning Bush Group
  • Vacation Bible School
  • Koinonia
  • Young Adults

Today, Church school at St. Andrew’s continues to be an important part of our ministry. Children from age 3 to grade 8 participate in Church School classes, Junior Congregation, and Family Worship services. We also join the other Presbyterian Churches in offering a Friday night Kids’ Club. Our high school students enjoy learning and having fun together at our Youth Group, and we plan special events for our children like Vacation Bible Adventure.

The folk of St. Andrew’s also invest a lot of time, energy, and resources into Camp Christopher – an important ministry of our Presbyterian Synod and the local United Church Presbytery that ministers to children, youth, and even adults.

Strategic planning meetings over the past 15 years have helped the congregation to set goals and work towards the future. In 1990, we decided to venture into Team Ministry, calling Annabelle Wallace to minister among us in Team with Jim McKay.

That meeting also led to the establishment of a pastoral care committee. The pastoral care committee has taken on many initiatives, including setting up a resource centre in the lower hall and organizing a worship service each year for members who are not normally able to attend Sunday worship.

The stewardship committee was also formed in 1990. This committee works hard to remind us of the gift and responsibility we have in being stewards of God’s resources. Education about stewardship, keeping an eye on our budget and our givings, and helping us to understand where God’s money goes are this committee’s responsibilities. Through our stewardship committee, we learn about how we contribute to God’s mission through Presbyterians Sharing and Presbyterian World Service and Development.

In 1995, the folk at St. Andrew’s came up with some new priorities that led to new initiatives. A mission statement was adopted: “St. Andrew’s exists to proclaim the Gospel and to share the love of God in our Church and in our community.”

As Presbyterians, the folk at St. Andrew’s have always been interested in reaching out beyond our own congregation. At one point, St. Andrew’s placed a mortgage on the church building in order to give a loan to Goforth Memorial Church so they could complete the construction of their church building.

When St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church on Idylwyld Drive became vacant, people from St. Andrew’s organized a Sunday School at St. Paul’s. This was an important ministry to the youth of the neighbourhood around St. Paul’s.

In 1967, St. Andrew’s Centennial project was to provide assistance to the mission charges of Meath Park and Shipman. They provided a worker who helped the appointed theology student to carry on services and young people’s work, as well as painted and renovated the buildings of both churches.

Over the years, St. Andrew’s congregation has found many and varied ways of working towards the mission statement that was put into words in 1995. The Presbyterian Residence and St. Paul’s Sunday School were two important ministries of the congregation that came to an end in the 1970’s. Later, folk at St. Andrew’s took on a building project through Habitat for Humanity. Members of St. Andrew’s also gave their support to friends in Sierre Leone.

In 1995, an outreach committee was formed, as we saw the need to find ways to respond to the needs of the downtown community. This committee keeps us learning about our community and its needs by inviting speakers. It also leads us to reach out in practical ways, including the annual Advent Appeal before Christmas. Through this appeal, we give our support to local programs like Interval House, the Friendship Inn, the Food Bank, and Egadz. We are also reminded of what Christmas is really about.

The 1995 strategic planning meeting also led to the formation of the worship committee and a re-commitment to work with high school youth and young adults.

In the year 2000, the congregation affirmed several important values: a desire for growth, to be a catalyst for unity within the Presbyterian community in Saskatoon, wide ecumenical engagement and celebration, and becoming a “teaching congregation”, taking a student minister every two years or so. A number of student ministers have received practical training and experience from St. Andrew’s, and some of our own members have heard the call to ordained ministry and gone on to serve the church as Ministers of Word and Sacrament.

Over the past number of years, the congregation of St. Andrew’s has been active in educating itself as well as its children. Adult education has taken the form of Bible Study groups – generally two or three active during the church year, serving different meeting times and age groups.

A ministry of music has been an important part of St. Andrew’s Church over the years. In addition to the Senior Choir, there have been various Junior and Youth Choirs, and the congregation has regularly offered gifts of musical talent to worship services. There have been several talented organists and choir directors who have been devoted to enhancing worship with music.

The church library was formed in 1977. Margaret Campbell was the librarian until February 2000, and developed and maintained the library with several assistants. It has grown from a small collection of books to include audio and videotapes, magazines, and reference books. Reading challenges, organized by the Christian education committee, have inspired the congregation to make full use of the resources in the library. It seems that we’re a competitive group of people!

The Women’s League of St. Andrew’s Church continues, as it has throughout the church’s history, to serve the needs of the congregation in times of sadness and joy. Its various fundraising efforts – teas, programs and sales – have garnered funds that are a welcome addition to the church income. The Women’s League continue to share their gifts of service and hospitality with our church community.

The Women’s Missionary Society continues an active role in encouraging the congregation in the work of the Presbyterian Church in the larger community and the world. The Hildur Hermanson Auxiliary meets monthly and continues to inspire the congregation to reach out to the world. This year, our group is focussing on the effects of HIV and AIDS and how we can be involved in the fight against this terrible disease.

Over the years, there has been a succession of ministers who have joined with the congregation of St. Andrew’s in its ministry and mission. We remember the variety of gifts that these teaching elders have brought to our community over 80 years.

The ministers at St. Andrew’s have been fortunate in recent years to be part of a ministry team, not only sharing the work of ministry between the two ministers, but also cooperating with the other staff members: Lorne Bastian – our caretaker, Lynn Needham – our bookkeeper, and Dorothy deBruijn – the ministers’ secretary.

The kitchen table at St. Andrew’s on weekday mornings has long been a place of fellowship and friendship over a cup of coffee or tea, and often something to eat as well. That is where the staff of St. Andrew’s have long gathered along with faithful volunteers and others who drop in for a visit or a bit of work.

In addition, the people of St. Andrew’s have found time to share friendship and fellowship in the midst of their work together in committees and groups, through special events, anniversaries, talent nights, and recently through the Thursday group’s bi-monthly events.

Today, we pause to remember and celebrate the fact that God’s Spirit has been with us over the past 80 years. We rejoice that God’s Spirit abides with us today. And we look to the future, trusting that God’s Spirit will guide and teach and bless us in the years to come.

Together, we are the Body of Christ. Individually, we are members of Christ’s Body, the Church. We have a variety of gifts, each of which is important so that the Body can do its work of loving and serving the world.

“St. Andrew’s exists to proclaim the Gospel and to share the love of God in our Church and in our community.”

May God be with us and God bless us as we strive more and more each day to live out our mission – Christ’s mission – in this community. Amen.

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