In the late 1800’s, as missionaries and settlers moved up and down through the Skeena River Valley, sometimes working alongside, and sometimes displacing local Tsimsian First Nations communities, Christian spiritual needs were met by a variety of denominations. Occasionally, it would be a Methodist Minister gathering the Protestant faithful, while Catholic Priests, Brothers and Sisters, gathered the Catholic faithful. Sometimes, it would be a Congregationalist Minister, or a Presbyterian worshiping with the Protestants. Sometimes, Union Church Pastors came through offering spiritual leadership.
Tents, Tent Revivals and home churches gave way to simple buildings set aside for worship space. But, in the early 1900’s, a Presbyterian Minister came and stayed in the Terrace area. He was the driving force in planting and building Knox Presbyterian Church. An item in the Prince Rupert Daily News, dated 11th July, 1913 reads as follows: “The Presbyterians of this town (Terrace) have decided to erect a church in the near future.”
The decision to build was made at a meeting in ‘Progress Hall’ on May 18th, 1913, lots on Lakelse Ave. were purchased from George Little, and erecting the structure started right away. Completed, August 31st, 1913, it was dedicated to God and commissioned as Knox Presbyterian Church October of the same year.
Along with the construction of the church building, the Ladies Guild was formed – the Missionary Societies of old, precursor to the United Church Women (UCW). As with, pretty much, every community church, it was the fundraising, baking, caring, shaping, hard-working efforts of the women’s group that ensured the building of the church was paid for; and that those building the church were cared for.
Then, June 10, 1925, the United Church of Canada was formed by Parliamentary Proclamation. Finally, after several years of negotiations, prayer and working together, the Methodists, the Congregationalist, Union and (many, but not all) Presbyterian churches came together to create a Basis of Union, and Articles of Faith, that member churches and its leadership would adhere to for many years to come. These founding documents, with their archaic language, are now considered ‘historic’ documents in the UCC. Since then, a New Creed was developed in 1968, with an addition of a reference to Creation added in the 1980’s; and a Song of Faith was created and adopted in 2006.
With Church Union, Knox Presbyterian became Knox United Church. But that would not be the only change. The original church burned down in 1949. They decided to erect a new church as quickly as possible on the site of the old one. Then, February 22, 1950, on the day of the Annual General Meeting, Dutch immigrants, as a token of appreciation for the friendship extended to them, gave a bell to the church (which is still used today).
New housing for the Minister had been a subject of conversation for fourteen years. In 1956, construction of a new manse (church owned home for its Minister) began. But unlike the church building, it took three years to be completed. That old adage, improve one thing, everything else will need to be upgraded, proved true.
In 1964, people felt the church was too small, so, a Property Committee was formed with the mandate to find a new site for the church. The manse and the church properties were sold, but the church building alone was moved to its present location on Lazelle Ave. This piece of land was purchased from Bill Dale. In the interim, the Odd Fellows’ Hall was used for services during the move.
The original church building is now the current “Church Hall”. An education wing was added with the ‘Baby Boomer Boom’ in the mid-60’s. And the current Sanctuary was built in the 1970’s.
On May 19th and 20th, 2013, Knox United celebrated its 100th Anniversary. The First Day of Pentecost, May 19th, incumbent Minister at the time, the Rev. Debbie Bentham, began the worship service with both a traditional and Tsimsian welcome. Instead of the usual readings from the Revised Common Lectionary scheduled for that particular Sunday, Rev. Debbie took a trip down ‘Memory Lane’, starting in 1913 and ending with 2013.
Communion was also served that morning using the oldest, usable Communion set still kept on site. After service, “100th Anniversary” booklets were distributed to those who were in attendance. Initially, 100 booklets were given out, but, within a month, another 75 were printed.
Looking back on more than 100 years of Christian worship and service to the wider community, and to the global peace & justice initiatives, we know that Knox United Church owes much to God, and to the enduring spirits of the communion of saints who cared deeply about this particular faith community. Words cannot express the gratitude felt for the committed, faithful, creative lives of its past and present members – for the people who called Knox, ‘home’; and for those who still call it, ‘home’.
A Difficult History…
Looking back, as a preaching and teaching site which is part of the United Church of Canada, we also acknowledge the difficult, painful history we share with our First Nations sisters and brothers. Colonization and assimilation, and the United Church’s role in residential schools throughout BC and other parts of Canada, is a humbling reality that is difficult to hold. But, we do hold it.
Living into the new millennium, we remember the first time, at the 31st General Council Meeting, in 1986, the United Church apologized to First Nations peoples. The national church received a response and a challenge to that Apology in 1988. And then again, in 1998, the UCC apologized for its role in residential schools.
Over the last 30+ years, the UCC embarked on various initiatives to walk the road towards healing and right relationship. Across the country, local churches, presbyteries and conferences participated in various ways in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). And local congregations today are encouraged to honour the particular “Calls to Action” of the TRC in relation to religious institutions; and to support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples(UNDRIP).
Encouraged by the national church, Knox United Church introduced an “Acknowledgment” at the beginning of each of its services of worship in 2016.
“As is our practice, so to honour Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s, “Calls to Action”, and in support of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, it is with gratitude and humility, we acknowledge that our church home resides upon the unceded, traditional territory of the Tsimsian Nation, the sacred home of the Kitsumkalum and Kitselas peoples for 1000’s of years.
With God’s healing, reconciling grace,
we seek to create and sustain right relationship
with our brothers and sisters of the Skeena Valley;
caring for the earth and all its creatures.”
And where and when we can, at various educational functions we host, we invite representatives from our local First Nations communities to offer a traditional welcome at the beginning of our programme. We continue to seek to create and sustain healing relationships with the First Peoples of the Skeena River Valley and beyond.
Longstanding Relationship with the Scouting Movement
Terrace Scouts have been gathering in the Knox Scout Hall for as long as Knox has been “United” – and even before that! According to a framed Scout Group Charter document titled: “Canadian General Council The Boy Scouts Association: Incorporated by Act of Parliament, 1914″, which hangs on a wall in the church hallway, 1st Terrace Scout Group and Knox United Church have been in relationship.
And prior to this document, dated, March 31, 1927, the Scouts were connected to Knox Presbyterian Church. It has been a relationship that is over 100 years in the making.
Throughout those 100 plus years, involvement has waxed and waned, ebbed and flowed, depending upon connections and intentions set by members both inside and outside of the church and the Scouting Association. In recent years, the incumbent Minister, the Rev. Teri Meyer, has taken steps to reconnect Knox with the Scouts, Scouters and their families who still utilize the Scout Hall and camp in the Church Hall.
February 2017 and 2018, at the start of Scout Week, commemorating the birthdays of the Scouting Movement’s founding couple, Lord Robert and Lady Olave Baden-Powell, “Scout Sunday” was celebrated. Cubs, Beavers, Scouts, Ventures and leaders and families participate by bringing in flags, speaking about why they are Scouters, singing camp songs, and reciting their pledges and promises for the coming year. And afterwards, there is usually cake!
It is Knox’s intention to continue to build and sustain relationship with a new generation of Scouters in the Terrace region.
Our Stained Glass Windows
In the fall of 2001, the Rev. Wallace (Wally) Hargrave was called to Terrace to serve as Minister for Knox United Church. Like many churches, Knox was struggling to manage its finances and maintain the physical facility. Rev. Wally felt that beauty was closely linked to spirituality and, if we looked after our spiritual health, the temporal things of the Church would follow.
One day, from the pulpit, he asked if anyone would be interested in installing an ‘in memoriam’ stained glass window in the church. Rosie Cruickshank, whose husband had died a number of years previously, had been waiting for just such an opportunity to have a stained glass window installed in George’s memory.
With some research, Dr. Don Strangway, a member of the congregation, was able to contact local glass artisan, Claude Rioux. He received his training in Montreal, where he learned the Art of Stained Glass as a hobby. Prior to moving to Terrace, he had re-worked a large window in a Montreal Cathedral. Once in Terrace, in addition to his job as a surveyor, he continued to create stained glass works of art in his Jackpine home basement workshop.
When Dr. Strangway contacted him, Mr. Rioux was in the process of making and installing stained glass windows in the Haisla Village United Church in Kitimaat. They include stylized First Nation designs of salmon, eagle and other animals. People wanting to commission windows gave Mr. Rioux their ideas and, with his extraordinary insight and artistic talent, he was able to bring the themes alive. He has become well known in the northwest, sells work through the Raven Gallery for example, and has made a number of windows for churches in the Nass Valley.
The second window was purchased by the Knox United Church Women to honour the women of the church. It goes back to the start of the Terrace Branch of the Women’s Missionary Society (WMS) in 1913. Later, the group evolved into the United Church Women (UCW). This window consists of “praying hands” and, at the bottom, a hand shake with an adult and a child signifying the multi-generational interest of the women.
The fourth window was donated by Marion Clift in memory of her late husband, Ev. Clift. Mr. Clift had served on Town Council and operated a high quality men’s clothing store, “Ev’s Men’s Wear”. In retirement, he spent a lot of time fishing on Lakelse Lake. So, the window consists of fishing disciples, with an over-arching rainbow.
The fifth window was donated by the Sparks Family, in memory of Joan Sparks. Joan was a long time member of Knox, and a staunch supporter of the UCW. Loving Morning Glories and humming birds, the window depicts flowering vines & humming birds, with a lit candle to signify the Light of Christ.
The sixth window, thanks to the efforts of Charlie Meek, was donated by several community members in memory of Vesta Douglas. Vesta much loved teacher in Terrace. Long after her retirement, children still loved to visit her home; especially at Halloween. She supported many community organizations and quietly supported a variety of endeavours in Knox United, especially its music ministry. She was a Freeman of the City of Terrace. Loving red roses, a red rose dominates her window. The wheat represents the transition between death and new life.
The seventh window was installed by Marianna Ferretti in memory of her late husband, Arnold (and she saved room on the plaque for her own name to be added; which it was, about a year later). They came from Nova Scotia so Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse, the Cross & Dove, and a rainbow complete the Christian symbolism for this window.
The eighth and ninth windows were placed on either side of the entrance to the sanctuary by the Strangway Family in memory of Tia Azak. Tia, a ‘ray of sunshine’ had many physical challenges and was part of the Strangway Family until her death at age 21. Tia was a member of the Killer Whale Clan, through her biological mother, Margaret (father, Russell). One window depicts Jesus’ love and respect for children; and the other, a Killer Whale, representing Tia’s First Nations culture. It is surrounded by a heart, indicative of her loving nature.
The tenth window was donated by Mags Gingles in memory of her late husband, “Junior”. He loved many outdoor activities. The shamrocks represent his Irish origin; and, their three leaves represent the Trinity. God’s hands embrace the world and the eagle. A perfect local symbol, the eagle also holds scriptural significance: Psalm 91, “On Eagle’s Wings”; Isaiah 40:31. This window truly represents the wonderful world that God created.
The eleventh window was commissioned by the Lennan Family in memory of Ron Lennan. Ron had been an integral part of KUC, right from the time when the old church was moved from Lakelse Avenue to its present location on Lazelle Ave. He also was very involved with building the present Sanctuary. He made all of the original windows. In his life, he looked after the maintenance of the church. and was involved with all of the church activities, including the UCW Christmas Bazaar. He was so helpful that the UCW made him an honorary member. Since Ron was a carpenter, as was Joseph, this window depicts Jesus as a boy, using a plane on a a piece of wood. The boy is under a shade tree in front of a Palestinian carpenter shop.
The twelfth window was installed by the Strangway Family in memory of Jean Strangway. Jean had been a doctor in Terrace for many years and was a very active member Knox, involved with worship, UCW and the Choir. Appropriately, her window was installed behind the choir loft and consists of the sun’s rays shining on a flying dove over a lake, with mountains in the back ground a view similar to that seen from the Strangway cabin at Lakelse Lake.
The thirteenth window was installed by Marion Clift’s Family in conjunction with the Terrace Historical Society. Her daughter, Sally Smaha, was instrumental in finalizing the design. Marion, spiritually gifted, was community minded and involved in many Terrace organizations. An active member of Knox and a senior member of the UCW Guild Group, she had a committed interest in young people. Her window shows a shepherd looking towards Golgotha with the three crosses. The Gentian, her favourite flower, is included with an Angel caught in the sun’s rays.
The fourteenth window was donated Carole Julseth to honour the pioneers, including her family, the Sproule’s, and her husband, Jack’s family, the Julseth’s, who settled in the west and around Terrace. Sitting behind the organ, it depicts wheat, which represents new life; a scythe, which represents the hard work of the early settlers; and, a Church, which nurtured their faith, gave them purpose and strength.
So, from Rev. Wally’s dream, and Rosie’s wish to honour her late husband, a beautiful legacy was born. All people who use the Sanctuary space for weddings, memorials, concerts, recitals and worship, are blessed by the colourful, meaningful images.
Original text: Dr. D. Strangway, Oct. 2012
Revised: Rev. T. Meyer, July 2018
Our Nativity Scene
Vivian ‘Pop’ Bennett, and his wife, Peggy, lived in a home on the east side of Vancouver, which he built himself. Set back from the road on four lots on E. 49th Ave., the Bennett’s front yard was a massive canvass. ‘Pop’, even though he lost an arm in ‘the Great War’, turned his yard into an annual prize-winning garden. There were rockeries and fountains, fish ponds and shrubs, and flower border walk ways.
Now, the Bennett’s had 3 sons, and each of them, like ‘Pop’, went off to serve in the Second World War. Bill went over with the Seaforth Highlanders in 1939. That same year, Jim went to Europe as a pilot in the RCAF. And their youngest, Dick joined the Highlanders as soon as he was old enough later on in the war. But in 1943, the Bennett parents received news that Jim was listed as “Missing and believed dead.”
Pop was a Minister’s son. He had a sense that his son, though at rest on foreign soil, deserved a memorial at home. Always interested in youth, Pop started a Boy’s Club, which ran for several years. But the insanity of war, the wasted lives, weighed heavy upon Pop. So, he decided to make a bold, visual claim for “Peace” in the only way he know how. He decided to turn his garden oasis into a Christmas Light display like no other.
Police had to direct traffic along that stretch of 49th Ave. throughout the Christmas Season, as people can to see the spectacle of Lights. Santa and his sled, stars, angels, choirs and lanterns and a blazing caption, “Peace On Earth”, all led the eye to a floodlit Stable where the Christmas Story began. Mary and Joseph, Shepherds and sheep and the Wise Ones all focused on the Baby Jesus.
Years later, in 1964, after Peggy died, he sold his home and moved to Terrace to be closer to his eldest son, Bill. The Christmas display came with him. Bill tried to recreate the magic from his Vancouver Christmas scene, but weather proved a challenge in Terrace. When Pop died in 1969, Vancouver papers headlined that “The Man of Lights” was gone.
Used for a time at the Elks Hall, and at Mills Memorial Hospital, the Creche was loaned to Knox United Church and then donated to the church by Pop’s son, Bill. In 2012, after much wear and tear, the figures were repaired and refurbished by Grant Piffer and his wife, Betty Barton. Thanks to many hands and big hearts, this homage to “Peace On Earth” carries on through the Christmas Season at Knox – and likely will for many years to come!