History of Our Faith Community
More than 55 years ago United Church services in south-west Edmonton were held in the old Rabbit Hill School located on the southeast corner of 142nd Street and 23rd Avenue. Sunday afternoon worship services were led by or under the guidance of the Reverend Dr. W. T. Young, who was the Minister at Norwood United Church.
Dr. Young often arranged to have members of the Norwood Young People’s (NYP) group lead the service at Rabbit Hill. They took responsibility for music (piano and solos), reading scripture, prayers and preaching. In the NYP in the 1945 to 1950 era there were at least three members who were later ordained to the ministry of the United Church.
The Reverend Dr. Jack Towers was one of those three and recalls his first experiences in preaching were at Rabbit Hill School in the afternoon and the same Sunday in evening worship in Norwood United Church in 1947. Joanne Barnett, now married to Jack, read scripture and led prayers. Rabbit Hill School was bulldozed and removed in early 2005.
Worship continued over the years, frequently in the homes of congregation members, and in the 1980’s many services were held in the home of Dr. Don & Kay Quon.
Over those years, we were graced with many wonderful ministers, including:
- Kees Hessels (1982 – 1984)
- Malcolm Profitt (1984 – 1992)
- Bill Cantelon (1992 – 2006)
- Tom Sawyer (2006 – 2007)
- Don Koots (2007 – 2016)
- Valerie Oden (2017 – current)
In the 1980’s our fledgling congregation was meeting in the Music Room at Brander Gardens Elementary School. Edmonton was booming in those days, and the Riverbend area was growing rapidly. With the recession of the early 1980’s many families sold their homes or were transferred. The new congregation was determined not to let their dwindling numbers defeat them. During 1983-84 the congregation began growing again and a larger space was required. Rev. Kees Hessels scouted out Riverbend Junior High and the congregation was soon meeting in the gymnasium. While the space was larger and much-needed storage space was available, converting the gymnasium into a place of worship was a challenge. Part of the transformation was large silky blue curtains that had been sewn and were hung on a clothesline behind the pulpit. When the move was made to the new church home, these curtains were re-sewn into an organ cover, and other materials were incorporated into some of the worship banners.
About an hour was required to set up the space before worship began, and then all had to be dismantled and put away until the next Sunday. Once again the new congregation was challenged by a decrease in attendance.
In the meantime, Rev. Malcolm Profitt accepted a call to be the congregation’s first full-time Ordained Minister. Riverbend United Church now had an office in the Brander Gardens mall. If the new church was going to survive, it was going to have to have a home.
With the driving forces of Rev. Malcolm Profitt, Gordon Wilson and Jim Fargey, and with the commitment of the congregation the step was made to move Forward in Faith. By 1986 a Building Committee was formed and the process begun. Many dedicated congregational members made the dream become a reality. The sod turning took place on Sunday, September 25, 2988. The first service was held Sunday, March 5, 1989 and the building we now call home was dedicated on Sunday, June 4, 1989.
Additional space & construction
Throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s Riverbend United Church continued to be a thriving and growing church community. It became obvious that our congregation needed more space – for meeting, for storage and for worship. A loose collection of congregation members began to have conversations about building an addition to the church. Frequently those conversations occurred over Saturday breakfasts at the ABC Country Breakfast with Rev. Bill Cantelon, our minister (from 1992 to 2006).
In 2007 the congregation approved a building project that would add an extension to the Church to accommodate a Chapel, additional meeting rooms, a Music room, family room and a corresponding increase in the square footage in the basement. The United in Faith fundraising campaign began in earnest in 2009. Significant congregational donations along with many events and activities resulted in a healthy building fund.
Construction began in earnest in 2013 and the expansion was completed in 2014. A Dedication service was held on Sunday, June 8th, and a Celebration Dinner in October 2014. With the significant increase in space, Riverbend United Church was able to offer rental space to a greater number of community groups and organizations.
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