More than 110 years after the first Presbyterian church service was held in Prince Rupert, the congregation held its last service.
Since 1925, the First Presbyterian Church has overlooked the coastal city from its perch on Fourth Avenue East. Now, on May 30, 2018, the church’s congregation gathered in the gothic-style building for the last time.
“We were very sad about this happening, but our congregation dwindled down to six people,” said Carol Hadland, the clerk of session and a church elder.
“It was very disappointing, especially at Christmas when there were only two families. I think the writing was on the wall then that God probably has another plan for this building.”
Over the years, many church-goers had either passed away or moved away. The fate of the church was decided at the annual meeting of B.C. Presbyterians. There was just no way six people could afford a minister.
“It’s always the mighty dollar,” Hadland said. “Even with church, you need money to run.”
Hadland herself had been attending the First Presbyterian Church in Prince Rupert for 65 years — her whole life. It’s where she was baptized, where she attended Sunday school and where she worshipped every week.
“A lot of our families have been through a lot in the church — births, deaths, being baptized. We’ve just worked really hard to create a family church. With the closing, you’re losing memories,” she said.
“It’s pretty sad because you always thought it would always be there, and now it’s not going to be there.”
But for the last service, many more people joined the congregation to say goodbye to the church. The crowd spanned generations as babies murmured and some, whose grandfathers had designed and built the building, sang hymns. Laughs were shared and tears shed. They took communion, the last breaking of bread in the building, and blessed the religious items like the baptismal font and pulpit that had served them for so many years.
“I was shocked to see so many people here,” Hadland said. “It was wonderful to see everybody here. It made me feel like the community is giving us support and that they’re sad to see it close, too, as a church.”
As Reverend Shirley Cochrane gave the final sermon, titled “The everlasting promise,” she said the service was a call for a celebration of the full lives that had been lived in and around the church. Cochrane had been ordained — twice — under the same roof. She recounted when the church once caught fire (the varnish is still bubbled on the staircase) and when the building was accidentally and controversially painted red.
Throughout the service, the ministers spoke of the resurrection of Jesus. Perhaps the old church would be given new life, too, they said. All of the church’s belongings, like the tables and chairs they once used for luncheons and Sunday school lessons, have been given away to other organizations in Prince Rupert.
As for the congregation, while not everyone has decided where they will worship, Hadland said the idea of a group Bible study had been discussed.
“I’m hoping and praying that the doors will open for us and we will all find a new congregation to welcome as our church family.”
The building was to be listed for sale the next day.