The early history of St. Andrew's as chronicled by Esther Lunan is below. Mrs. Lunan is warmly remembered as a Sunday School teacher, teacher, and author of Spruce Grove's 'As the Roots Grow' history book.
The Early Missionaries
The history of St. Andrew's United Church of Spruce Grove has its roots nearly a century ago in the work of the early missionaries, both Methodist and Presbyterian, who came to Edmonton and ministered there and to the surrounding area.
The church's work in the west goes back to 1840 when Rev. Rundle, after whom Mt. Rundle is now called, arrived in Edmonton.
In 1860 a Methodist missionary, the Rev. George McDougall, a tough, experienced, and far-seeing explorer and pioneer, was given a stupendous job. He was appointed Chairman of the Hudson's Bay Missions of the Methodist Church. His parish was then the unknown Canadian North-West. Up until 1871 there had been no regular appointee to Edmonton nor had there been any regular church services. However, Fort Edmonton had been carried on the list of stations in the Missionary rooms of the Wesleyan Church. Mr. McDougall, from his first visit in 1862, had always had in his mind that Edmonton would someday be the site of a great city. Early in 1871, at his own desire, Rev. G. McDougall was invited to open up and take charge of the new mission in Edmonton.
In 1881, Dr. Baird, a young Scottish Canadian student from Motherwell, Ontario, came to Edmonton by buckboard to the first Presbyterian missionary in this part of the west. Although he was not the first ordained Presbyterian to set foot in Edmonton, he was the first who stayed to direct the affairs of his denomination. He left Winnipeg in August. 1881, and made most of the 900 mile journey alone. Five days after his arrival Dr. Baird had collected his flock. Within a few weeks the congregation was on its way to construction of its own church. Mr. Baird found there were opportunities waiting for a Protestant clergyman in every direction from Edmonton and proceeded to serve small groups at surrounding points, including the Spruce Grove area.
Early in 1887 Dr. Robertson, the "Chief" visited the graduating class of Knox College in Toronto and laid hands upon David McQueen. "I want you for Edmonton" he said. With a conviction that he should go where the church called him, David left Toronto and arrived in Edmonton in 1887.
Mr. Baird and David McQueen built themselves a three-roomed cottage and batched together. Living on a salary of a few hundred dollars a year was difficult under normal conditions but with flour at $15 to $20 per hundred weight and sugar and salt at 3 pounds for $1.00 the business of house-keeping and providing meals all hours was no mean task. Expertly he stepped into the shoes of the "beloved pastor" and himself earned the title in the church where he served the rest of his life.
In 1889 he made his first trip east and at this time met Catherine Robertson, whom he married in 1890. Mrs. McQueen soon won the hearts of the people of the west.
It was in 1889 or 1890 that the little log church was built on the site one mile east of the present site of Spruce Grove. Many were the trips the young minister made to this little church to hold services with a congregation of various denominations.
Mr. McQueen's work and interest spread from the church to education. He became supervisor of schools of the northern district with included the district of Stony Plain. In many cases, until the time of his death, the old timers continued to regard him as the man to whom they had a peculiar right to turn in times of trouble or rejoicing. He baptized their children, buried their dead and in the 43 years of his ministry married over 5,000 persons. It is interesting to note at this point that many years later the church here was privileged to have as one of its active members, Dr. McQueen's daughter Mrs. Christina McKnight.
Another minister who also came to this same little log church was Rev. T.C. Buchanan, who was minister of McDougal Church from 1899 to 1903.
A New Site
Other than this there seems to be no specific records until 1911 when Rev. John Wood took over the pastoral charge which included Spruce Grove, Winterburn, and Chalmers United Church in Calder. Services were still held in this same little log church until 1917. In this year Mr. Schwindt built a brick block which still stands on Main Street, the purpose of the brick being to ensure there would be no repetition of a calamity that had occurred when fire had destroyed the building on the same site. So it was in 1917 that church services were moved to a hall in the second story of this building, always referred to as Schwindt's Hall.
A New Church at Last
On July 26, 1920, Rev. Wood called a meeting in Schwindt's Hall to organize the building of a church. There was no money in the treasury until fall, and Rev. Wood raised the question, "shall we wait?" The answer was "no". That same meeting formed a building committee with Price Jones as chairman. Work began immediately on property donated to the church by Grand Trunk Pacific. The work was all free voluntary labor, supervised by one paid carpenter, Mr. A.E. Poppleton from Graminia. Mr. & Mrs. W. McLeod extended their usual hospitality and supplied hot dinners for the workers. By the fall of the same year, despite the "bare scantlings" inside as Dr. McQueen called them and the planks resting on nail kegs for pews, the congregation was delighted to have their official opening. The ground was covered with a fresh fall of snow the day of the dedication service about November 1, 1920. Dr. McQueen came to assist at the service.
Rev. John Wood continued to serve the people of Spruce Grove Union Church until 1924.
The early history of St. Andrew's as chronicled by Esther Lunan is below. Mrs. Lunan is warmly remembered as a Sunday school teacher, teacher, and author of Spruce Grove's 'As the Roots Grow' history book.
On June 10, 1925, after long years of study, voting and decision making, The United Church of Canada was born. Officially it took place in Toronto as the National bodies of the Congregationalists, Methodists and 80% of the Presbyterians came together. Thus is was that the St. Andrew's United Church of Spruce Grove came into being. Whereas the Spruce Grove congregation had been in the same pastoral charge as Winterburn it now was combined with Stony Plain under the ministry of Rev. W.J. Whelan.
The Ladies' Aid
In the history of most churches the ladies have played a prominent role and in this respect the Union Church was no exception. On March 27, 1924, a number of church women met at the home of Mrs. Roy Sherwin to organize the first Ladies' Aid. Down through the years the women of the church have never wavered in their enthusiasm and dedication to the work of the church.
In January of 1949 the Ladies' Aid Joined the Women's Presbytery of the United Church, and then assumed the name of Women's Association - the W.A. It was at the end of 1961 that their name was once more changed to the United Church Women - the U.C.W.
The Building Grows
In 1930 the ladies were extremely pleased to have a kitchen added at the back of the church. Work continued and in 1935 the church was finally plastered. The year 1936 was another busy year - a utility shed was built on adjoining the kitchen. This was used mainly to house the coal and wood and to store the church tables and extra chairs. A stove was installed in the kitchen and a hinged table was built.
By 1932 the debt of the church had been reduced to $611 and everybody dreamed of the time when they could say they were free of debts. By May of 1934 they finally achieved their goal. The following month a special service was held to celebrate the event. The Rev. John Wood came from Blairmore for the mortgage-burning ceremony and the rededication of the church.
The Work Goes On
It was a relief to the congregation to have the mortgage paid off but the need for fundraising projects still went on. Besides the usual expenses of running the church, the building regularly needed redecorating and as it grew older, many repairs and renovating.
In 1951 the feeling among the church members became very strong that a basement for the church was a necessity for Sunday school and recreational purposes. With this aim in view a Building Fund was established.
In 1941 the church played a dual role. With the public school overcrowded, the Church Board granted permission to local School Board for the school to be held in the church. So for the term 1947-48, Grades 1, 2 and 3 were taught there. This was not the only event that went on, up until recently the church was used for many community purposes.
In the spring of 1945 the electric lights were installed.
As time progressed, the idea of a basement became less feasible because of the age of the building. Yet to build a new church large enough to meet all the needs of the congregation seemed to be financially impossible. Thus in 1964, plans were started for a Christian Education Building to be built to the east of the church. A special effort was made to increase the Building Fund to make this plan a reality in the near future. But as time progressed and as people began thinking in terms of multiple use of buildings already in existence instead of a small congregation burdening itself with enormous debt, the idea of building lost its impetus. The Sunday school was held in the Elk's Hall across the street from the church.
November, 1970 marked the 50th Anniversary of the building of the little church and on June 8, 1975 the 50th Anniversary of the birth of the United Church of Canada was celebrated across Canada.
Those five years were a period of immense growth in the town itself, as well as in the surrounding district, where many acreages came into being. This, of course, caused a great increase in church membership. The biggest problem, however, was the housing of the Sunday school. Previously the Elk's Hall across the street was used and occasionally the children joined the congregation for part of the service. As this was not considered at all satisfactory, much thought was given to the solving of the problem. The Anglicans were using the United Church for their services, the Roman Catholics were worshipping in St. Matthew's Lutheran Church, and the United Church congregation needed larger quarters. In September of 1971 the members of these three congregations decided that one church to house all three denominations was an excellent idea, as this would mean just one-third of the cost of building and of the maintenance. This was a wonderful example of strong ecumenical feeling.
To fulfill this aim, on January 4, 1972, the first meeting to form a company was held. Triune Holdings Ltd. was the result. They extended the idea of housing the three congregations to a civic and cultural centre in which the churches could rent space. Three years of preparation and planning followed in which many dedicated people did an enormous amount of work. But as the result of the withdrawal of the Roman Catholic and the Anglican Church, the project did not materialize, and on December 31, 1974, Triune Holdings ceased operations. It was a unique idea, which received great publicity and commendation that three denominations were willing to combine in their place of worship.
But, meanwhile, larger quarters were immediately necessary for the United Church. At this time Peace Lutheran very kindly offered to share their beautiful sanctuary. In October 1972, St. Andrew's United Church began holding services there. The Sunday school used the basement of the church, but came upstairs to worship with the congregation during the first part of the service. The use of Peace Lutheran was only a temporary arrangement. The problem of permanent quarters was still an urgent one.
In the summer of 1974, a second minister, Rev. Barry Lyall was appointed by Presbytery to work along with Rev. Steele.
June 1975 saw the little old St. Andrew's Church still standing. It still was used for meetings, and as well, as a church office.
Early in 1976, building and property committee investigated several properties but began negotiations with the Alliance Church for the present building and land. It was purchased for $203,000 and occupied in the fall of 1977. The old St. Andrew's was sold to the Golden Age Club for $1.00 and moved from its site, where the Credit Union is now, to its present location on King Street near Participark.
The Pastoral Charge
During this time The Stony Plain Pastoral Charge consisted of Stony Plain, Mewassin, Brightbank, Wabamun and Spruce Grove. Brightbank was dropped and Presbytery permission was received to divide into two pastoral charges, Stony Plain and Mewassin, Spruce Grove and Wabamun. July 1978 saw Rev. Wayne Shortt called to Stony Plain and Rev. Gordon Crossfield to Spruce Grove.
Each succeeding year more changes were to take place. In 1978-80 Wabamun worship was at 9:30 and Spruce Grove worship at 11:00 with an Intermediate Sunday School added at 9:30 in Spruce Grove in 1979. In 1980-81 Wabamun was supplied by lay preachers, and Spruce Grove adopted two worship services and complete Sunday school at both services. The Rummage Sale operated year round. Wabamun joined Onoway Pastoral Charge in 1981-82. The need for additional space was investigated and in 198283 Spruce Grove constructed a 4,000 square foot C.E. building for $105,000 on the present site, and a full C.E. committee was established. From 1978 to 1983 our budget increased by 330%. At the annual meeting in January '84 a decision was made to hire an assistant. It is easy to document these tangible things. The impact of all of these changes on the people is not as easy to measure. But we do realize what a debt we owe to the faithful who have caught the vision and moved ahead in faith as St. Andrew's United Church in the last 144 years.
Esther Lunan, 1984
The Ministers through the Years
1. Rev. John Wood 1911-1925
2. Rev. W.J. Whelan 1925-1927
3. Rev. G. Al Sauder 1928-1931
4. Rev. W.E. Sieber 1932-1934
5. Rev. L.G. Sieber 1935-1939
6. Rev. G.A. Kettyls 1940-1943
7. Student 1944
8. Rev. A.W. Magee 1945-1948
9. J.G. Kay (lay supply) 1949-1951
10. Jack Ward 1952-1953
11. Rev. L. McArthur 1954-1957
12. Rev. R.E. Eskdale 1958-1960
13. Student 1961
14. Rev. K.C. McLeod 1962-1965
15. Rev. W.H. Steele 1966-1977
16. Rev. B. Lyall 1974-1975
17. Rev. W.H. Barkwell 1975-1978
18. Rev. J. Pereboom 1977-1978
19. Rev. G. Crossfield 1978-1988
20. Rev. Dave Friesen 1984-
End of Esther's list. The following needs revision
1. Rev. Dr. Tom Gilchrist
2. Rev. Dr. David Crombie -2003
3. Rev. Earl Reaburn (supply) 2004
4. Rev. Nel Ouwens October 2004-September 2012
5. Rev. Curtis Tufts October 2004-
A great deal has happened since 1984. The 'present site' that Esther referred to in 1984 was sold to the Anglicans. Their congregation grew to the point where the building was sold to the Truth Tabernacle while the Anglicans bought the former Catholic Church.