The Opening of the Christian Education Centre in 1961

We had a dream, a plan, a reality – our new church home.”

Salmon Arm’s original United Church, built in 1907, with its separate church hall, failed to meet the needs of the growing congregation. Various committees worked together to plan and create a new place of worship, training, and fellowship to be namedThe Christian Education Centre. Mr. Carman Gibson served as Christian Education Chairman, and the Architect was Mr. Drew Allen of Vernon.  Several contractors, led by William Egli and Ron Brown, cooperated in the completion of the building and a great deal of volunteer work was done.  “The Stewards looked after the finances (the project cost $45,000) while the Session invoked the Holy Spirit,” reported Carl Shoemaker.

At the dedication ceremony on Friday, September 22, 1961, as the choir sang Loud Hosannas to Our King, Rev. Clint Swallow knocked on the new door and was welcomed by the Christian Education Committee.  After the procession (Wise Men Seeking Jesus)walked to the front of the sanctuary, all the participants were thanked.  Then the architect handed the keys to the Board of Trustees, led by Mr. Harold Scales.  The Chairman of Kamloops-Okanagan Presbytery accepted the keys on behalf of the United Church of Canada, saying “many folks have laboured long and well.”

The choir sang an anthem, Rev. Aidan Clements offered prayers of thanks, and young members read out educational passages from the Bible.  Mr. Guy Graham presented verses from John’s Epistle, including “that our joy may be complete.” The whole congregation recited “We dedicate this building” – for worship, for training, for families, for service.  They honoured the memory of those saints who had gone before, “so great a cloud of witnesses” and thanked God for the gladness and inspiration of their completed task.

Rev. Clinton Swallow consecrated the Christian Education Centre, preaching “except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.”  Rev. R.A. McLaren of Naramata gave the address, and at the benediction all sang The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, Is Ended.  To organ music, people walked admiringly through the Centre, upstairs and downstairs.  Refreshments were served.  On Sunday, September, 24, 1961, the first service was led by Rev. Bob McLaren, exhorting “how to make our lives bigger.”  Unfortunately, his words were drowned out by the clatter and chatter of over one hundred excited Sunday School children in the upper rooms, where the Men’s Club had laid floor tiles: “and to my listening ears, all nature rings.”

Dorothy Askew and Helen Beer quieted the kindergarten scholars because “it was bedlam.”  The youngsters were so glad to leave the dark basement of the old hall, with its furnace and chemical toilets, for the luxury of the sunny new rooms.  After the new flat-roof building was proudly completed in the Williston orchard, contractors  demolished the old church.  George Clements had been afraid to sing too loud there, lest the windows shatter.  Many folk felt sad to see the lovely sanctuary go, with its high steps, arched roof, and wooden steeple.  Also pulled down was the church hall, built by volunteers in 1928, burnt in 1949, reconstructed in 1952.  Faithfully, every Sunday, Mr Wright would get the furnace going and arrange chairs for the Sunday School.

Jackie Cannon remembers many worthy individuals in the congregation. “They were forward-looking people, and so kind to us young folks.”  She praises the good work of helpers, such as Carl Shoemaker, in constructing and embellishing the Christian Education Centre.  “We were just so proud – the place meant the world to us.”

by Les Ellenor, Historian, October 2006

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