It’s likely been a long time since anyone arrived to church in a horse-drawn buggy, but all will have the chance at the St. John the Baptist Heritage Church Centennial on Saturday.
With people in period costumes, old fashioned games for children and traditional crafts on display, the church grounds will look like a regular Sunday community gathering circa 1913.
“The celebration is about the church, about the community and about the history of the church,” said Coun. Shari Lukens. “It’s not just about celebrating 100 years, it’s about commemorating what the church has been to the community and to many people in the community.”
St. John the Baptist Church (537 Glencairn Lane) was completed in October 1913, constructed due to the efforts of the Colwood Women’s Institute, spearheaded by Laura Dunsmuir and Edith Peatt. Arthur Peatt donated the land and H.O. Miles constructed the building, using lumber milled from trees cut down to make way for Cemetery Lane.
Bishop John Charles Rope, Rural Dean W. Baugh-Allen and Rev. H.B. Hadlow dedicating the church, then simply called St. John’s Church, on Oct. 26, 1913 and the church’s cemetery was consecrated and registered six days later.
For a century since it has served as a fixture of the community and now stands as an important historical site. The Westshore Community Church and the Church of the Holy Trinity also still hold services in the church every Sunday.
When the Church of the Advent opened in 1986 the plan was to tear down the old St. John the Baptist. On Trinity Sunday of that year the 200 parishioners from the church were led by Rev. Joseph Titus to the new Church of the Advent.
In 1992 the City of Colwood began negotiations with the Anglican Diocese to purchase the church and restore it as a historical site. The city purchased the church for one dollar in 1996. In 1999 Pioneer Cemetery and St. John Cemetery were made heritage properties.
With the 100 year anniversary now here, even more attention is being paid to resurrect the church and let residents know of its ties to the community.
Committee volunteer Dick Emery said his memories of the church mostly involve his mother dragging him there as a child. Though he may not have been a fan at the time, it’s now the church which brings back memories of his mother, a sentiment that keeps Emery interested in seeing it preserved.
“Here I am. It’s been a fun experience, done a lot of hands on work,” Emery said.
An original stained-glass window from the church is at the Church of the Advent, just down the road. A new one is being made to replace it directly above the altar in St. John’s. The window will not be ready until after the celebration.
A service will kick off the celebration from 11 to 11:30 a.m. (seating is limited), before the rest of the events begin.
Judith Guichon, lieutenant governor of B.C., will be in attendance, as will many people in 1913 period costumes to give the event an authentic feel.
There will be displays on activities of the era, such as looming. West Shore Parks and Recreation will host old fashioned games for children, such as potato sack races. Live music will also be performed throughout the day.
A heritage tea and fashion show is planned, along with free refreshments and cake.
Inside the church, the Four Seasons Musical Theatre group will perform a brief piece centred around the people who built Colwood, such as the Dunsmuirs and the Peatts. The play will end in a hymn and then a dance to “The Maple Leaf Rag,” a popular tune from the time period.
Parking will be down the cemetery road from the church, but visitors will be escorted to the church by horse and buggy. The Aug. 24 event is free, funded through Heritage Canada and the city.
The church itself was consecrated on March 3, 1915, at which time the first confirmations were also held.
In 1936 the Peatt family donated land to the church which allowed it to expand the cemetery. The same year St. John the Baptist officially became the patron saint of the church, with the name changed to reflect the appointment.
The first recorded wedding took place on Dec. 11, 1920 when William Gray and Freda Knevitt tied the knot. The first burial took place in 1919, when Rev. Arthur Wells was laid to rest after serving the church as rector of the church from 1914 to 1918.