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128 Years and counting

Strathcona Baptist Church from from 84 Ave and 104 St


SBC was founded in 1895, with 19 charter members.  Until then, Baptist families living in the City of Strathcona on the south side of the river crossed by ferry in summer and by sleigh in winter to worship at First Baptist Church Edmonton.  Once formed as First Baptist Church Strathcona, the new church called Rev. Alexander McDonald (Pioneer McDonald) from FBC Edmonton to take up the pastorate a FBC Strathcona.  The church name was changed after the cities of Edmonton and Strathcona amalgamated in 1912.

Until 1904, the congregation worshipped in a small schoolhouse that they had purchased and moved onto the property at the corner of 104 Street and 84 Avenue.  A brick building was completed on the site in 1904 and served the congregation as sanctuary and Sunday School until 1964 when the current sanctuary was built. 

Over a period of decades, as the original brick building proved too small for the 400+ congregation, a gymnasium was built in stages beginning in 1927 and completed in 1953.

As early as 1913, SBC had been involved in planting churches in the Edmonton area, mortgaging the parsonage (built in 1904) to build a mission in Allendale.  Although challenged by the 1913 depression and the departure of many men for war service, the building was kept open for Sunday School and it was that group at Allendale that formed the nucleus of McLaurin Memorial Baptist Church.  In 1915, SBC similarly established a Sunday School east of Mill Creek which became the Bonnie Doon church.  In 1959, SBC made a significant loan to help Braemar Baptist build their house of worship.

From its earliest years, SBC has been active in learning about and supporting overseas missions, sending missionaries to India in the 1940s and again in the 1980s.  Recently interest in international missions has been revived with short mission trips to the Gambia and Lebanon.  SBC has also been, over the years, a leading contributor financially and in leadership personnel to the now-named Canadian Baptists of Western Canada.

Church and Sunday School attendance peaked in the early 1960s (congruent with church attendance across north America) just as SBC was building a new and much larger sanctuary on the site of the original 1904 building.  This 1964 building houses the current sanctuary, Sunday School rooms, kitchen, parlour, meeting rooms and offices.  A Building Investment Committee formed in 2019 is leading the congregation in considering whether some of our land might be used to build affordable rental housing with an emphasis on residents experiencing community together.  This plan includes provision for a new sanctuary and program rooms.

SBC has a long history of using its resources – buildings, money, people – to respond to needs as we become aware of them in the community around us.  Building a gymnasium in an era that pre-dated City-financed recreation centres is an early example.  In three years in the early 50s, a great influx of new immigrants taxed the capacity of institutions offering courses in basic English; SBC responded by setting up ESL classes in the church basement, staffed by volunteers.  Again in the 90s, SBC responded to the economic situation that required both parents to work by establishing a daycare in the basement rooms not needed for Sunday School.  As homelessness increased on Edmonton’s southside, SBC responded by making space available for overnight shelters, serving hot meals, and partnering to have a presence on the street by hiring a social worker who walked the Avenue with her dog.  Eventually we initiated the establishment of the Neighbour Centre, a resource centre for homeless people subsequently taken over by The Mustard Seed.  For the past three years we provided the home base for a street outreach ministry in the Old Strathcona area, a ministry which is now operating independently with financial support from local churches and members of those congregations.  Currently, fourteen AA groups meet weekly in our facility, organized as the Southside Chapter House.  Care for the marginalized and concern for social justice are very strong values for SBC.

Concurrent with societal changes from the mid-sixties onward, attendance and programs dropped off at SBC.  In the mid-eighties, Rev Ken and Shirley Knight stabilized the church, reaching out to connect with the Old Scona area churches and social agencies.  These initiatives resulted in the formation of what has become the Old Strathcona Area Community Council.

The church found a new vision and mission under the leadership of Rev. Shelley Utz (nee Schneider), the first woman to serve as senior pastor of a CBWC church.  The administrative structure was streamlined to suit a church of 100 congregants, an outreach pastor hired to connect with the community around us, community ties and caring were gradually rebuilt within the congregation, prayer ministry was introduced, and we adopted as our mission statement: We are a community of Christ followers, growing in the love of God and sharing the love of God with others in Old Strathcona and beyond. We are on a journey, moving from brokenness to wholeness in relationship to God, self and others.

From the founding of the University of Alberta in 1908 in the City of Strathcona, our proximity to the university has shaped our congregation, ministries and leadership with professors and students well represented in our congregation. We support, as one of our local missions, the work of congregational member Sherri Goethe in her role as Alberta Director for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Through this connection, many IVCF students and alumni have found a church home and contributed their gifts of leadership at SBC.

As the community around us has evolved into the southside Arts District, home to the Fringe Theatre Festival and many galleries, theatres and performing arts organizations, we have recognized the opportunity for mission on our doorstep.  For several years SBC partnered with other churches in the area to conduct outdoor worship service on the two Sundays of the Fringe.  On other occasions we have sponsored Fringe shows or made our building available as a venue for off-Fringe events.  It is our desire to explore further the possibilities for engaging the surrounding community through the arts.

SBC has seen a resurgence in our Sunday School attendance and programs in the past 20 years, from a time when there were two children to now when there are as many as 20 ranging from infants to early teens.  This growth has been organic in the sense that a number of young people met and married at SBC and have become sustaining families in the church.  A new curriculum has just been implemented and we are looking to hire a Sunday School worker for 5 hours per week to prepare and teach and to handle some of the related administrative tasks.

Demographics data presented elsewhere reflect that seniors, many of them single, and single people of all ages, comprise another significant component of the congregation.  We are ethnically diverse.  We tend to draw people from our community who are marginalized but find SBC a welcoming place.

Our congregation is intent on continuing the witness for Christ in the Old Strathcona area into the future, basing that witness on worship of the Lord and on following the lead of the Holy Spirit in all decisions and actions. 

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