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Phone: 403-652-2271

602 3rd St SW

High River, AB T1V1B4

Sundays

Sunday Mornings @ 10:30am

All About St. Benedict's

A Short History

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St Benedict’s  High River is located on historic MacLeod Trail, across from George Lane Park.

The parish came into being in the 1890’s and the present church was built in 1904. The building was officially opened on November 6, 1904, and in the spring of 1907, a $350.00 loan from the Diocese of Calgary was paid off, and St Benedict’s became a self-sufficient parish. With the addition of beautiful stain glass windows donated over the years, the warm wood interior holds precious memories for generations of families in the area. Our red doors and bell tower are noted features. The Church has been much photographed and also featured in film and TV productions. The present parish hall was built in the 1994 and hosts many parish functions as well as community activities.

After the historic flood of 2013, the church was extensively renovated, refinishing the original floors, adding more insulation, replacing all the heating systems, the plumbing, and replacing basement contents. The kitchen also received a welcome face-lift.

A well-known pioneer from High River, Bert Shepard, is remembered as telling new pastor Alan McCuaig  in 1976, that the people of St Benedicts are a loving group of people. Bert said:

Just go in there and love the people and they will love you. Come in and love us all and that’s all that we want.

The Early Beginnings

 

In the 1800’s missionaries began their work in the Northwest Territories gathering together all who wanted to join together in fellowship and share the hospitality of their surrounding neighbours. As thecommunities grew so did the missionaries come, traveling on horseback, to bring together settlers and established places of Worship. It is believed the English born Rev. E. Paske-Smith, (known as someone always ready for a horse trade) was the first incumbent to hold services in thedistrict between 1884 and 1888. He traveled from Calgary to “The Crossing”, as High River wascalled, to as far south as Mosquito Creek Between 1888 to 1892 services were on J.W. McLaughlin’s farm on the west edge of what is now High River. Occasional services were held at the CPR Station, Astoria Hotel, the Methodist Church, Bavis Hall and various homesteads by The Reverends.H.B. Collier, Theo Mathews, S. Stocken and A.J.S. Ard. An article in the “Best of Times”refers to Rev. Collier being known as, “the big Irishman who always carried a club, and lookedas though he might like to use it on the heads of his congregation if they did not pay attention to his sermons; while The Rev. Mr. Matthews was the little Englishman with the big feet who always rode an Indian Cayuse about the size of a big dog and carried a revolver”. On occasion W.E.G. Holmes lassoed all the unbaptised to receive the Holy Rite of Baptism. He would host these “baby round-ups” on his homestead 1 Y2 miles south of town. It was not until 1901 that Divine Service would regularly be held in Bavis Hall by The Rev.H.M. Lang-Ford (Deacon).

Dancing to the Glory of God

Services conducted by The Rev. Angus Robertson were held in the cabin of Buck Smith. One Sunday, the young folks, including the Sexsmiths and dozens of others who had traveled many miles to attend the worship, gathered together and plotted. Inspired by young Charlie Short, these companystarved young folks turned the cabin into a dance hall, and started in on a real old time dancing party. The party was interrupted by the minister, Angus Robertson, who severely reprimanded young Short for turning this holy house into a dance emporium. ‘Dancing is all right,’ quoted the reverend man, ‘if you dance to the Glory of God’.

Holding Church Where?

After this, the Sunday services were held in the barroom of the original Buck Smith Stopping House. On Sunday The Rev. Robertson would preach his sermon, and as soon as the service was over, the boys would drag out the tables again and resume their respective poker games. When the collection plate was passed around, it was usually mostly filled with poker chips, which were worth a good deal, and which the minister cashed in at the bar. As soon as he had finished his morning’s work, the minister was expected to retire to his room, as the boys gave no more thought to him or the day; however, he would often become tired of being cooped up in such manner. On one such day, after the service, Angus stayed down in the barroom to watch the players. He made a habit of walking along behind the players and watching their hands. Now this good man knew nothing whatsoever of poker-playing, but had picked up some of their lingo. Pausing behind Tom Henry, He spoke confidently striving to appear as one of the boys. ‘Raise him Tom’ he said, as though he knew what he was saying, and Tom, thinking he was giving out with a tip, and seeing there was a huge jackpot, did so. Tom lost a great deal of money in the next few hands, still believing the Parson’s tip was good. William Iken, a good Anglican, donated the land on which High River’s First Presbyterian Church was builtin 1892. It was called Chalmers Presbyterian church and the land on which it stood is now occupied by the newer west portion of Spitzee School. The building still stands, having been moved twice. It was moved first to the north side of Macleod Trail and became the Orangemen’s hall. Years later it was moved to the east side of the tracks and became the Apostolic church, and later the Full Gospel Tabernacle. The building now houses the law office of David Arnold.

In 1901 The Rev. Lang-Ford would hold services in the old Bavis Hall. When this building was being moved to a new site, it stood out in the middle of the street one Sunday so a service was held right where it stood. (as told by Bill Holmes)

 

Believe It Or Not - Notable Characters

At the 50th Anniversary of St. Benedict’s church Rev. Lang-Ford recalled his time spent at Jerry Boyce’s hotel while he was here to conduct services in Bavis Hall back in 1901. He recalled the room directly below his room was a small sitting room, and on his first night there, a bunch of fellows played cards most of the night! When he went downstairs on Sunday morning, Jerry was in this room with a large butcher’s basket gathering up the cards, Jerry looked at him and said; ‘The boys had choir practice here last night and were pretty late’. Later on that morning he met Jerry again who said that he’d heard of my having a church service. Rev. Lang-Ford told him that he was, ‘Well’, said Jerry, ‘Come with me’. We went into the bar room which was filled with men, most of whom had come in for the day. Jerry yelled for order, and then introduced the Reverend and spoke of the service, ‘And I want every damned one of you to be there.’ Apparently his word was law-for they all showed up. In fact it was such a good-sized congregation that the collection was most generous, and the church office in Calgary was indeed amazed when I turned it in.

The Reverend continued to recall of his meeting Bob Edwards of Eye Opener fame and two sons of an English Lord at Jerry’s hotel. When Jerry heard we wanted to build a church-he handed over $100 saying, ‘If you want anymore, let me know,’. Rev. Lang-Ford said, ‘Mr. Boyce, you are not interested in building an Anglican church?!’ That brought forth an explosion of English, such as only an Irishman knows how. In summing up, Jerry’s response was, “You build a church that helps the town and I sell my property for a profit”.  While at the hotel, Jerry would never let the Rev. pay a cent; he always told him a story of some preacher who tried to ease-off his bill by telling Jerry sob stories. Jerry said, ‘I always charged him every damn cent -but not you. You are always as welcome here as the air you breathe’.

Choosing A Name

The establishment of a permanent location to draw together those answering the call to worship in High River, Alberta in the Anglican tradition began in 1902 at an Easter Congregation meeting. Mrs. Bond, filled with excitement, wrote to her brother, W.H. Rowley of Ottawa, mentioning the establishment of this new structure; however, the building was still to be named. To celebrate this event, Mr. Rowley donated a fine Holy Bible. His only request was to be honoured by having the church named St. Benedict as his birthday was on 11 July (St. Benedict’s Day). 

Construction

At the same Easter meeting, the question of where the building would be located was also decided. W.I. Iken generously donated two lots for the site of the building; four adjoining lots were added afterward. R.J. Treacey, along with William and George Laycraft constructed the building. The Venerable Archdeacon Freemantle-Webb was the priest-incharge when the parish was officially formed and the Deed of Erection and Title was granted by the Diocese of Calgary on the 4th March, 1903 under the blessing of The Right Reverend Cyprian Pinkham, 1st Bishop of Calgary. The church was completed and formally opened by the Lord Bishop on 6th November, 1904.

“On the second anniversary of the opening of the St. Benedict’s English Church, the offering for the day was very good, leaving less than $100 still to be raised to wipe out the debt on the church.” The Church became self-sustaining in 1907 relinquishing its grant in the amount of $350.00 per annum from the Society of the Propagation of the Gospel in England (SPGE).

First Priest-in-Charge of St. Benedict’s Church
The Ven. W. Freemantle-Webb 1902-1904

Church Wardens
Harry Robertson & W.E.G. Holmes

First Church School
Classes began in 1905 with eight (8) pupils registered. By 1909 the numbers had swelled to 50.

First Rector
The Reverend George Howcroft 1905-1910
On Sunday July, 1905 Rev. Howcroft from Nova Scotia was inducted as the Vicar of the parish and in 1907, after the church became self-sustaining, he was made the Rector. It is thanks to him the hedges and trees still beautify the grounds surrounding the property.

First Parish Hall
In 1909 R.J. Treacy, William and George Laycraft and Jim Dewey built the Parish Hall.

St. Ben's Donation Information

To make a donation to St. Benedict’s, please use one of the following options.

  1. Deliver cash to the parish office at 602 3rd St SW High River, AB
  2. Make a cheque payable to St. Benedict’s Anglican Church and mail to 602 3rd St SW High River, AB T1V1B4 or deliver in person to the parish office at the same address.
  3. Send an e-transfer from your banking institute to treasurer@stbenshr.church. 

All donations are eligible for a tax deductible receipt and are gratefully appreciated.

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