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Church Street celebrates community, heritage

McCauley area has rich diversity of cultures, religious institutions

By: Scott Hayes

  |  Posted: Saturday, Jul 12, 2014 06:00 am

CHURCH COMMUNITY – Edmonton's historic Church Street area will be the scene of the inaugural Church Street Fair on Saturday. The event has been organized by two former St. Albertans, Colleen Chapman and David Prodan.
CHURCH COMMUNITY – Edmonton's historic Church Street area will be the scene of the inaugural Church Street Fair on Saturday. The event has been organized by two former St. Albertans, Colleen Chapman and David Prodan.
CHRIS COLBOURNE/St. Albert Gazette

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Preview

Church Street Festival
noon to 9 p.m. on Saturday, July 12
96 Street between 107A Ave. and 111 Ave. in the McCauley neighbourhood of downtown Edmonton

12 to 3 p.m.: artisans, buskers and vendors along 96 Street

Main stage activities (located in front of Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples)

3 p.m.: Kokopelli Choir singers

4 p.m.: Inner Voice gospel group

5 p.m.: The Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers presents their Global Choir featuring immigrants from all over the world

6 p.m.: Voice of the Proud, formerly known as Micah Street Evangelists, will play Aboriginal rock and roll, soul and gospel

7 to 9 p.m.: Sober street dance with uplifting dance music by DJ David Prodan

The University of Phillipines Alumni Association will be selling pancit (Filipino noodles) and snow cones. There will also be free iced tea and lemonade for everyone at the Seniors Welcome Centre, plus free face painting.

Four churches will host open houses, offering tours to allow visitors to see inside. There will also be walking tours of the area.

Bouncy castle and playground will also be available for the kids.

Call 780-668-3194 or visit www.friendsofchurchstreet.com for more details.

Edmonton proves its status as Festival City as it launches another unique event. A new festival is coming to Edmonton’s downtown core for today only. It might be short and sweet but it celebrates everything about the multicultural heritage district known as Church Street.

The Church Street Fair is set for a two-block stretch of 96 Street, where there are an almost unbelievable 16 churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other sites of worship between Jasper Avenue and 111 Avenue.

Colleen Chapman is the chair of the Friends of Church Street Society, one of the event’s co-sponsors. She said that it the place is indeed a wonder to behold.

“I’ve travelled all over North America. I’ve never seen such diversity,” she stated, joking, “I have travelled the world by living in Edmonton. I meet people from every continent, except of course Antarctica. I’ve never met a penguin!”

“The churches work together; they care about one another. All the different denominations … the ministers on the street get together. It’s an absolutely wonderful small community. It’s the way St. Albert was when I moved out there in the 1970s,” she continued.

The area is so well known for its density and variety of these spiritual sites that it was rumoured to have been inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records. She loves the claim, even though there’s no proof of it. She’s been trying to find the source of it for a decade now.

“Everybody has heard that story, so we’re not trying to kibosh it. We’re also not advertising it,” she said.

“We think it is one of the greatest urban legends ever devised. The diversity of churches from 111 Avenue to Jasper Avenue is absolutely incredible: the different sects of the Christian faith, plus the mosques, plus the synagogues and temples … I’ll bet you would find it difficult to find that in New York or Chicago or any place else.”

To prove her point, she offered some examples. Immaculate Conception Church used to be a French Catholic church 100 years ago. About 10 years ago, it was bought by a Vietnamese congregation and it became Queen of Martyrs. That congregation has since moved to a bigger church and a Nigerian church moved in.

There’s a Buddhist temple that used to be a Seventh Day Adventist church and a United Church afterward. She said that there are also “an inordinate number of Lutheran churches.”

The examples continue. The city’s first Jewish synagogue was just on the outskirts of Church Street. It is now St. Boniface Catholic Church. Also nearby is where the very first mosque in all of Canada was built in the 1930s.

“It’s a vibrant wonderful history. We just have an incredible diversity in our neighbourhood. It’s a wonderful place to be.”

With such a rich multicultural heritage, it was inevitable that the City of Edmonton would eventually designate it a Heritage Area. Those plans are still in the works but hosting this Church Street Fair will mark a big step toward making it a reality.

The festival is being put on by E4C, the downtown Edmonton-based non-profit social services organization. It offers social services in the form of feeding hungry children, arranging for affordable housing for families, offering education and training assistance to youths, and providing emergency shelter housing for women.

Formerly known as the Edmonton City Centre Church Corporation, E4C sees this family-friendly fair as an excellent avenue to reaching the community and celebrating all faiths, cultures and nationalities.

St. Albert Catholic High grad David Prodan is the program manager at E4C. He said that there are already long-term plans to make this an annual event, growing and expanding as time goes by.

“At its first year, it’s kind of a low-key event. We’ve just got two blocks that we’re closing. In the future, we’d like to actually make it run all the way along the length of Church Street, which goes from Jasper Ave. up to 111th. It’s quite a long stretch. There’s quite a large number of churches along the street.”

Those plans include opening a museum or gallery, and installing heritage plaques along the street as well. There is also a strong interest to expanding the Church Street district to include the numerous churches and other religious institutions that lie in close proximity.

“We’ve reached out to those churches as well to be a part of it. We’re definitely going to be trying to incorporate other churches in the neighbourhood to this project.”

The event will see all kinds of entertainment from buskers to stage performers, children’s activities and open houses for a few of the church sites. The event will also see the launch of a new guidebook written by Paula Kirman, Sara Coumantarakis and Gary Garrison. It will feature a written tour of Church Street.


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