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Braeside Presbyterian Church on the move after 55 years

Preschool to take over 55-year-old building
MOVING ON — George Lumsden (left) and Rev. Janet Taylor spoke about the history of the Braeside Presbyterian Church at 6 Bernard Dr. on Aug. 12, 2023. The congregation will be moving to 44 Riel Drive this October. KEVIN MA/St. Albert Gazette

St. Albert’s Presbyterian Church is moving across town this fall because their 55-year-old home is too big for their needs.

Members of the Braeside Presbyterian Church announced earlier this month they sold their church building to the St. Albert Montessori Preschool and Daycare. The building, located at 6 Bernard Drive, has been the church’s home since October 1968.

Church minister Rev. Janet Taylor said rising operating costs and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the congregation’s 60 members to this decision.

“The building is too big and too expensive for a congregation the size of ours to operate,” she said. The sanctuary holds 200 people, and they average 45 at a typical service. Church members felt it was more important to put their funds toward community-service projects.

Taylor said the church voted to sell their 55-year-old building last December and agreed earlier this August to sell it to Montessori, which has run out of the building’s basement for about 30 years.

Montessori owner Aleksandra Nikolic said the school has always had close ties to the church — its first teacher was a church member, and church attendees used to read and garden with the school’s students. Taking over the building will let her host about 40 more children and help chip away at the waiting list of about another 140 kids.

“To be honest, my heart is broken,” Nikolic said of the move.

“We are always going to be like family.”

This old church

Rev. W.D. “Biff” Jarvis started the Braeside Presbyterian Church in St. Albert in April 1964, reports The Black Robe’s Vision (St. Albert’s official history book). St. Albert was a town of less than 10,000 back then, and there was no Sturgeon Hospital, no Fountain Park Pool, and no St. Albert Place.

“There was a lot of empty land around here,” recalled longtime church member George Lumsden, and initially no church building — the congregation held its first meetings in Sir George Simpson (now Hillgrove) school, and later Paul Kane (now Lorne Akins).

Construction of the church building finished in October 1968, Black Robe’s Vision reports. Lumsden said the original sanctuary was in the boxy east half of the building with the tall vertical windows, which were originally stained glass. The current sanctuary to the west (the part with the cross on the roof) was built about 40 years ago.

Fire ravaged the east half of the church on Dec. 29, 2012, destroying the stained-glass windows and Taylor’s office, Lumsden said. Investigators believe the fire was caused by faulty wiring. The congregation was devastated, but still met in the church’s sanctuary — which was untouched by the fire — the next day, and had the building fully restored about 10 months later.

Lumsden said the congregation realized it was too expensive to stay in the current building about two years ago. He said it will be tough for him to drive by this place after the move, as he has decades of memories associated with it.

“This has been a second home, basically,” he said.

While this was an emotional time for many, Taylor said the congregation was excited by the move, which will let the group continue as a church. Savings from the move would let the church fund food hampers for St. Albert students and other international projects.

Taylor said church members will keep meeting at 6 Bernard Dr. until their new home at 44 Riel Drive is ready, which should happen by Thanksgiving (Oct. 9).

Questions about the move should go to Taylor at 780-459-6585.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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