THE DECADES OF ZION
THE 1880’S: BEGINNINGS
THE 1890’S: FIRST PERIOD OF EXTENSION
In the early months of 1883 the first Methodist services in Moose Jaw were held in the waiting room of the CPR Depot. By April of 1883 the newly formed congregation had erected its first church building in the zero block of Fairford St. W. In 1884 the second Methodist Church was built on the corner of High Street and First Ave. E. and became known in the community as “The Little White Church”.
THE 1900’S: GROWTH AND BUILDING
In 1890 the Methodist Conference acted to divide the Moose Jaw Mission into two sections: 1) Moose Jaw, Boharm, Carmel and Pioneer (Wesley); 2) Pasqua and Caron. The Methodist congregation of Moose Jaw continued to grow and by 1895 the Moose Jaw Mission had become self-supporting.
THE 1920’S: CHURCH UNION
The late 1890’s and early 1900’s were years of phenomenal growth. To meet the needs of a growing congregation the third church building was erected on the site of the second church at 1st Ave. E. and High Street (now the home of St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church) and then in 1906 work began on the present church building on Main Street North. Patterned after Zion Methodist Church in Winnipeg the present church building was completed in 1907 and given the same “Zion Methodist Church”. By the 25th Anniversary in 1908 a full congregational life was established in Zion and the church was the centre of many community activities.
THE 1930’S: DEPRESSION AND CELEBRATION
The most significant event in Zion’s life during the 1920’s came on June 10 1925 when Zion gladly entered the union of Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Methodist and the General Council of Local Union Churches in Canada to form the United Church of Canada. Since 1925 Zion has born the same “Zion United Church”.
THE 1940’S: THE WAR YEARS
Because of the depression of the 1930’s and drought on the prairies these were difficult years in Zion’s history however the church was maintained and continued to serve through the faith and labour of the congregation. In 1933, at the height of the depression, Zion paused for the happy celebration of her 50th Anniversary.
THE 1950’S: YEARS OF VITALITY
Again, as in 1914-1918, Zion knew the days of war and the loss of her sons and daughters. But again through the faith and labour of the congregation the church remained strong and again there were times of celebration. The 50th Anniversary of the Ladies’ Aid was celebrated in 1942 and the 60th Anniversary of the congregation was celebrated in 1943.
THE 1960’S: YEARS OF CHANGE
Following the war years and throughout the decade of the ‘50’s Zion flourished with a new vitality. To meet the needs of the congregation and growing numbers of the young the present Christian Education Building was added to provide more Sunday School space, a new Church Library, a Ladies Parlour, and Auditorium and new Church Offices. The cornerstone of the C.E. Building was laid in 1956 and the dedication was held in April of 1958.
THE 1970’S: CELEBRATION AND CRISIS
As with the whole of society and the church as a whole these were years of change for Zion. With shifts in population to the outer areas of the city Zion sought new ways to minister in a downtown situation and to an aging congregation. By the end of the decade concerns were being raised about Zion’s future. A very significant change came in the 1960’s and early 70’s with the establishment of a Church Council with Divisions to replace the Session and Committee of Stewards.
The decade began with two great celebrations in the life of Zion – the 90th Anniversary of the Congregation in 1973 and the 50th Anniversary of the United Church of Canada in 1975. However it was soon after that structural defects were discovered in the main church building which demanded that the congregation vacate the building. After much soul-searching, consideration and prayer the decision was made to restore the building and with much support and labour and faith the project was completed. In addition to the structural renovations, the sanctuary was re-decorated and an elevator installed. The restoration of the 1970’s has assured the future of our historic building in this city and was a statement of faith in the future of our congregation.
THE 1980’S: 100TH ANNIVERSARY
By the grace of God we happily see the continuation of a vital congregational life in Zion. And when a history is written in 2083 this decade may well be remembered as the decade of the 100th Anniversary! Celebrations included a presentation of slides featuring moments in Zion’s history and gifts and souvenirs were on sale throughout the weekend.
THE 1990’S: ORGAN RESTORATION
Again many changes took place. The organ was in need of restoration. Fund raising took place, and in 1993 the organ console was replaced at a cost of over $75,000.00
A REMARKABLE HISTORIC BUILDING
WELCOME TO ZION UNITED CHURCH
The building was constructed in the years 1906-07 and was built originally as Zion Methodist Church (prior to the formation of the United Church in 1925). The building was patterned after Zion Methodist Church in Winnipeg which has since been destroyed by fire leaving Zion the only remaining church of this particular design in Western Canada. The building overall is Romanesque in style with the dominant features of pillars and dome reminiscent of the Pantheon in Rome. The original building cost $65,000.00 in 1906/07 plus $6,000.00 for the Casavant Organ and additional funds for the pews.
If you entered through Zion’s main doors you will have passed through the five pillars which have become landmarks on Moose Jaw’s Main Street. These stone columns are Doric in design and are integral parts of the building’s construction. Between the pillars are the four wide entrances (equipped with a ramp) and the pillars are flanked to the north and south by the stairway towers.
Of particular note are the wide stairways leading to the narthex and balcony and the beautiful handcrafted oak woodwork which carries on throughout the sanctuary. The cut-glass windows between the narthex and sanctuary may be opened in over-flow situations.
Originally Zion’s Sanctuary would seat 1,000 worshippers. Now, after the removal of several rows of pews, 800-850 may be seated. The Sanctuary forms an almost perfect square (75’ X 75’) and is therefore of the ‘centralized’ design. This shape combined with the domed ceiling symbolized the Easter tomb and the resurrection of our Lord. The effect of this architecture is to lift one’s line of vision vertically thus also symbolizing our approach to God. The sloped floor, curved pews, wrap-around balcony, central pulpit and table, combined with the oak woodwork and colour scheme, unite to give the sanctuary its warmth and worshippers a sense of togetherness.
THE STAINED GLASS
In 1975 structural defects were discovered in the attic (southwest corner) and the building was declared unsafe for occupancy – so the church services were held in the C.E. Auditorium while the future of the church and a solution to the problem associated with a crack in a major beam in cantilever (bridging like structure) was found. A major program of restoration was undertaken to save this historic building. The four massive pillars in the sanctuary were installed to stabilize the dome and preserve this house of worship for future generations. The cost of the project was some $200,000.00, plus $35,000.00 for the elevator and additional funds for painting and decorating.
Zion is blessed with a treasure in turn-of-the-century stained glass. The stained glass of the dome is of intricate design reminiscent of a Rose Window and the colours and patterns of the dome are repeated in the tall windows of the nave with the addition of an ancient Christian symbol in each one. The following symbols are noteworthy in the nave windows:
The Anchor – symbol of the “Anchor of our souls” (Heb. 6:19) and of the cross;
The Crown – symbol of Christ as Lord and King;
The IHS – the monogram of Jesus, IHS being the first three letters of Jesus in the Greek spelling; These are also the first three letters of the Greek phrase, “Jesus, Son of God, Saviour,” or in English, “In His Service”.
The Cross – the Latin or the Roman Cross, central symbol of Christianity.
The designs and symbols are repeated in the narthex windows with the addition of one other symbol, that being The Star symbolic of Jesus the “Bright Morning Star”.
Zion’s theme windows are to be found in the landings of the stairwells – on the south-upper landing the Good Samaritan Window; on the north-upper landing the Bible Window; on the south-lower landing the Boy Shepherd Window; and on the north-lower landing the Cross and Crown Window. (Both lower windows relate to Herbie Bellamy, a handicapped child from Zion who earned national attention in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s). One other theme window may be found in Zion’s Chapel (at the Social Hall level) and it is of Christ standing at the door and knocking.
Portions of the stained glass windows were re-leaded in 1980 and the inside windows of the archives room (west wall/balcony level) were installed in memory of Eric Chappell. It may be interesting to note that the glass used came from the same area as the glass originally used 90 years before.
The crown of the building and sanctuary is of course the dome. In Western
Canada Zion’s dome is fairly unique both for its size (measuring 38’ in diameter and rising approx. 44’ from floor level) and for its stained glass centre (measuring 16’ in diameter). The circular shape is an ancient Christian symbol of eternal life and the eternal nature of God. (Note also the circular motifs in the plasterwork and woodwork).
Zion’s three-manual Casavant Organ was the first fully installed pipe organ in Saskatchewan. The visible pipes are voiced to play and are backed by approximately 1,800 other pipes in the organ chamber behind. The organ console, rebuilt in 1955, is located at the centre of the choir loft. The console was replaced by Casavant in 1993 at a cost of some $90,000.00.
Near the very centre of Zion’s Sanctuary stands the oak Communion Table, centre of worship, and to its north the grey marble baptism font. To the south of the Table is the Young Chang Grand Piano. On the upper platform stands the pulpit and seating for worship leaders and behind and above, the central choir loft. A graded brass cross, symbol of Christianity, stands on the Communion Table. The pews which fill the Sanctuary are noteworthy for their curvature and the manner they accommodate the sloping floor. (On the main floor level hearing aid stations are provided in the pews).
OVERVIEW / GENERAL COMMENTS
The spacious tiered balcony which surrounds the Sanctuary may itself accommodate hundred of worshippers. Of note here are the stairwells leading into the choir loft and decorative brass railing. The room found at the west end of the balcony now houses the Archives of Zion Church.
You may be interested to know that this massive structure, with its field stone foundation (which is at least three feet wide at the base) which has no structural steel in the original church, seems to move a bit depending on the temperature and amount of rain that falls during the year. In any event it creates some real maintenance problems in many areas as well as the roof. A new basement floor may soon be needed as the building sits in alkali soil.
Greet others cordially,
Come again soon!”
To arrange tours of Zion United Church
please contact the Church Office
Phone: 692-3842, Monday through Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
423 Main Street North,
Moose Jaw, Sask.