HISTORY OF CHARLESWOOD UNITED CHURCH
In 1912 a small group of people gathered to discuss the starting of a mission service in Charleswood. Most of the people were Methodists and lived in the vicinity of Charleswood Road. Open air services were held weather permitting and in bad weather and winter they met in homes.
A congregation was formally launched in 1922 at the old red Charleswood School (where the Legion now stands).
Nine women met to discuss the possibility of regular church service and Sunday school being held in the school. The trustees consented, and the Rev. R.G. Pritchard of the Methodist district responsible for Charleswood met with a deputation and arranged for student ministers to supply services on a regular basis. The congregation was called Charleswood Union Church, formed three years before the United Church of Canada came into being.
By the end of the twenties, the little congregation felt the need of more permanent facilities and a building fund was started. The Women’s Association raised $180 in 1929 to $638 in 1932. In 1933 with help of a grant from Winnipeg Presbytery a church building was erected at the corner of Roblin Boulevard and Harstone Road. The building was simple in structure with no basement. Such a structure could probably been built for $1,500. A typical Sunday at the new church began with Sunday school at 10:00 A.M. The first person to arrive would light the fire in the floor furnace.
Charleswood was part of a three-point charge with Headingley, and Sturgeon Creek. The Rev. W. L. T. Patteson became the first minister of the new charge. The district was still sparsely settled at this time and transportation was difficult. Although 75 names appeared on the roll, attendance averaged about a dozen. There was a small choir and an active women’s group. In 1933 the Sunday school registered 62 children and received an annual offering of $33.98. Sunday School remained open in the summer months because travel was easier. People made their way to church by foot, horseback, bicycle or street car. The services were timed with the bus schedule which came each hour.
The community and church grew slowly until the end of the Second World War. With the influx of veterans and others at war’s end (especially in the Roblin Park area), the church building began to seem inadequate. In 1948, an addition, equal in size to the church itself, was added at the rear. When even the addition became too crowded, a branch Sunday school was opened at the old Varsity View community Hall on Roblin Boulevard. Both Charleswood and Sturgeon Creek were growing too quickly to share the services of one minister.
In 1954 Dr. Philip Barker concluded an eleven year ministry and Winnipeg Presbytery constituted Charleswood as a one point charge, with an energetic young student, Doug Lachlan, as minister. At the same time the limitations of the church building were being felt. When church suppers and social functions were held, the ladies had to manage in a little nook of a kitchen. The church had no running water, and two bucket brigades were required to bring hot clean water from across the street. When squirrels invaded it was time for the congregation to move.
In 1957 a new building was begun at Roblin Boulevard and Dieppe Road. Much of the work was accomplished by volunteer labor. After holding services in the basement for two years, the sanctuary was finally completed and dedicated on January 31, 1960.
Rev. O. T. Hughes was called to succeed Doug Lachlan in 1960. Growth meant the addition of a part time secretary, Dorothy Baird and a choir director, Verna Solmundson. These were years of steady growth in the church and especially in the Sunday School. Rev. Hughes retired in 1980. Jeri Bjornson was hired as a congregation worker.
In 1980 Rev J. Clark Saunders was called to succeed Mr. Hughes. With the continued growth it meant not only increases in staff but expansion of the church’s program as well. In the fall of l980, it became necessary to add a second morning service. Growth in the Sunday school and several other factors led to a $340,000 addition and renovation project in l984. The addition included 2 front offices, 1 office on the east side, meeting and choir room, handicap washroom as well as the nursery, storage area and large class room in the lower hall. The loft was changed to include two offices and a storage area.
Rev. Ray Smith joined with us in 1986 to help with pastoral visitation and Stewardship. Rev. Saunders was called to Knox United, in Edmonton, in 1988 and Rev. Smith retired in 1989.
Rev. Laurelle Callaghan-Tudor and Staff Associate, Iris Vincent came on staff in 1986.
Rev. Cliff McMurtry was with us from 1987 – 1989.
Rev. Bob Galston joined us in 1989 and retired in 1997
Rev. Michael Wilson joined us in 1994
Rev. Joanne Kury, Diaconal Minister, joined us to work with our youth in 1998 and left CUC in June 2013.
In 1995 our new outside sign was erected welcoming all to our church. In 1996 a Capital Improvement was mandated from Council. In May 1996 the congregation approved a budget of
$125,200 plus $4800 for GST. A Community Places Grant of $20,000 was received to go to the lift portion of the project. Improvements included new doors, heating, ventilation, painting, windows for the sanctuary, fax machine, office furniture. 1997 we celebrated our 75th Anniversary and a year of memories and fun. A sudden and severe snow storm didn’t deter the gathering of families at the church to renew friendships and to look at slides and pictures from our past. A large gathering at the Vasa Lund was filled with fellowship, speeches, music and a wonderful supper. Everyone had a hard time getting home. It was so bad that church was cancelled the next morning. The following Sunday we gathered for a service of celebration. We dedicated the pictures of all our past ministers which now adorn our sanctuary.
The Heritage Fund was established and was active in time for the 75th Anniversary in 1997. The mission of the Heritage Fund is to ensure that sufficient financial resources will be available to enable the Ministry Of Charleswood United to continue into the future. Income earned by the Fund will be made available to support all aspect of the Church’s Ministry, including the costs of maintaining the Church buildings and grounds, community outreach and other programs and services of the Church.
In 1999 we commissioned the designing of stain glass windows for the sanctuary. Judy Jennings met with a committee over a period of time to capture the desires of the committee. Windows were donated by individual families, the Heritage and Memorial Funds, Lights for Live Committee and many individual donations. The windows were installed by 2001.
Our youth became involved in Habitat for Humanity and work of several homes in Winnipeg.
In 2002 Joanne Kury took youth from our congregation to Jamaica to build homes for those in need. The experience was so positive that a trip in 2004 was made to the Bahamas. Funds were raised by the youth, congregation donations and many fund raising activities.
In 2004 we were “bursting at the seams” and it was time to think about being more comfortable for more of God’s people to gather with us in His holy place to give each other the love and support that every human being wants and needs. Time to make room for God’s people to gather together in one place and prepare to go out into the world to give love and support to those on the other side of our “open doors” and to invite them in.
In April 2006 we launched our first ever Charleswood United Church website, our window to the world where we were able to track the progress of our Opening Doors Expansion and are now able to keep our congregation and others informed about the work and activities of our church.
In September 2006, after 2 ½ years assessing the needs of our church, and following our successful “Opening Doors” campaign in the spring of 2006, our congregation voted to proceed with an expansion that would include an entire new wing with new general and ministers’ offices, board room, kitchen, community hall, large narthex and cloak rooms, wonderful new washrooms and much needed storage space. Winnipeg Presbytery gave their required approval and in April 2008, we had our sod turning ceremony.
In November 2008 we were able to commence use of our new addition and an appropriate dedication service was held. We now had room for all the people; room to be together at one time; room to move easily in and around one another; and room for the community of Charleswood to gather for special occasions. January of 2009 saw the dedication of our new stained glass window in the community hall, donated by loving and caring members of our congregation.
March of 2009 saw the launch of a new campaign “Opening Hearts and Minds” that would allow us to continue to pay down our mortgage. In April 2012, on the occasion of our 90th Anniversary Celebration, the new hall was officially named Van Roon Community Hall, honoring two of our founding members, Verna and Len VanRoon. Like all families, the church is constantly welcoming new members and saying farewell to dear friends, but unlike most we do so at an alarming and exciting rate. The church is not a state institution but rather a dynamic one, constantly changing, growing, evolving but continually caring, praising, nurturing. Every day there are new people being welcomed into our community and it won’t be long until we have a difficult time imagining our life without them.
Just as we are every bit as much Charleswood United Church as those who first gathered so many years ago, so too we are every bit as much the church of Jesus Christ as those who dreamed of the reign of God nearly 2000 years ago. As long as we are the dynamic body God calls us to be, we will continue to receive the blessing the church has always known.