Nov 162016
 
St Paul's Chapel Calgary

Located next to bustling MacLeod Trail, tiny St Paul’s Anglican Church ranks as Calgary’s oldest. In fact, when built, it wasn’t even within the borders of the city (well then, a town) and was well south, the community eventually growing around it over time. Ir dates back some hundred and thirty years, when the whole province (well then, a district within a territory) had a population that was counted in the thousands. Outside scattered first nation’s groups and occasional pockets of settlement here and there the vast expanse of land in the region was home to pretty much no one.

Still, even a small population needs a place of worship.

Filling the need, St Paul’s was built in 1885. The location was then rural, very rural, a spot on the vast open plains some dozen or so kilometres south of Calgary, itself only a established a few years earlier with the coming of the Canadian Pacific Railway. A few ranches dotted the area then, today it’s a dense residential neighbourhood. Just to the north is the Fish Creek Valley, a vast city park and green space.

St Paul’s Anglican: a charming little church, Calgary’s oldest, and perhaps the tiniest. Researched, written and photographed by Chris Doering and Connie Biggart (BIGDoer/Synd/CPWW)

The building is constructed in the Carpenter Gothic style, a common design for small rural churches in this part of the world. In form it’s typified by a steep pitched roof, lower front entryway, entry-area steeple and bell tower, pointed arch windows and an overall modest rectangular cruciform (cross-shaped) footprint. It’s simple in design and construction reflecting the small budget (this one’s said to have costed $800) and limited materials available to builders at the time. Many elements of the building, especially the interior, are original. In size, we believe it’s the smallest in town.

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Inside a central walkway off the front entry porch leads to the sanctuary and is flanked by rows of seating. An organ is shoe-horned into a small cove. Space is very limited. Wood panelling is deep and rich, the tones warm and inviting.

The stained glass dates from the 1920s to 1970s and replaced earlier windows which were much simpler in form. Their glow illuminates the chapel softly and regardless of your beliefs, they’re truly moving. A series depicts the stages of Christ’s life, another is a memorial to those in the congregation who fought and died in World War One. One the wall, a plaque list the several dozen Clergy who’ve ministered at the church over it’s long history.

The land St Paul’s sits upon was donated by a local farmer. Historic MacLeod Trail, today a busy boulevard, but then a muddy meandering horse and cart path frequented by early travellers and traders, passes in front, its destination, the south part of the province. Access to the church is from side roads however. Old photos show the building in the early days alone on the plains, with nary a tree or shrub to be seen. In the early days it also functioned as a school and sometimes meeting hall.

St Paul's Anglican

A visit to St Paul’s Anglican, built 1885 and Calgary’s oldest church.

The bell has an interesting story and came donated from England (in the 1930s) and is said to be several centuries old and once having hung in a small town church there. The steeple is not original and has been replaced twice, first in the 1940s (different design) and again more recently with one in appearance more like the first. In the 1980s the building was given a concrete foundation. Recently St Paul’s has been given Alberta Provincial Historic Resource status. For a time in the modern era there used to be a second building on the property, a hall brought in from another church with seating for overflow crowds.

A small cemetery is located beside St Paul’s. Included in those interned here are a former pastor who once served the church, many early settlers from the area and a number of their descendants. Looks to be a pretty exclusive club! One or two graves are some of the oldest within the Calgary area. Sadly, with that busy road out front and the LRT and CPR tracks just behind, it can be a noisy place at times. Strangely, it’s still peaceful, the grounds, the church both an oasis of calm in spite of the din.

The first services held at St Paul’s were in the fall of 1885, the first baptism and funeral the following year, and the first wedding the one after that. I wonder how many of each have taken place since? Services are still held, from time to time and it can be rented for weddings and the like. As Calgary’s oldest church it still sees lots of love. The congregation has a much larger and more modern building not far away for normal day to day use.

When established, St Paul’s was associated with the Church of England within Canada. Later, in the 1950s, the denomination would adopt the Anglican name, officially Anglican Church of Canada.

Midnapore was annexed by the city of Calgary in the 1960s. The church has has stood all the while, as the city grew around it. To those passing by on the busy road, which it’s easily seen from, it must look out of place, this little rural church among all those new condos, all that retail and residential sprawl, wide strips of asphalt, high tech autos, the modern LRT transit system (there’s very little “old” in the area). Hopefully to some it’s a reminder of where we came from.

When the church was establish the local area it server had a handful of people, the general area, Calgary included, hundreds, and the entire Alberta District, a huge area, some couple thousand. Compare that to over a million people who live in Calgary alone in 2016. Quite the contrast. The little church saw Alberta become province in 1905, a huge influx of people over the years, changes in transportation, technology and so on – if it could talk!

The Anglican Church of Canada dates back hundreds and hundreds of years. It’s one of the largest established religions in the country.

St Paul, or Paul the Apostle, was an important figure in early Christianity, travelling the Holy Land and preaching the gospel as a missionary. He lends his name to many churches across the land.

Located right next door to St Paul’s is St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church (used today by a Russian Orthodox congregation), a relative youngster in comparison to it neighbour and dating from 1904, and in behind Lacombe Home, today St Mary’s College, a facility that formerly helped the poor and downtrodden of the area. Both are on BIGDoer.com’s radar.

The church has a website…
Historic St Paul’s Anglican Church

The congregation’s website…
St Paul’s Anglican Church

More photogenic churches…
Hillhurst United Church.
Spaca Moskalyk Church.
Notre Dame de Savoie Church.

If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!

Date: October, 2016.
Location: Calgary, AB.
Article references and thanks: Pastor Fergus Tyson, Midnapore Church of England Society, HistoricPlaces.ca.
St Paul’s can be viewed from the church grounds.

St Paul's Anglican Cemetery

In the attached cemetery, one of the older graves in the city.

St Paul's Anglican Church

Warn tones and a soft colourful glow.

St Paul's Anglican Calgary

An organ is shoe-horned into a small cove.

St Paul's Chapel Calgary

The tiny interior – it may well be the smallest church in town.

Stained Glass St Paul's Calgary

Stained glass is a modern addition (relatively speaking).

St Paul's Church Midnapore

Along each wall, various staged of Christ’s life are depicted.

Stained Glass St Paul's Calgary

A memorial to congregation who perished in World War One.

St Paul's Anglican 1885

Services are still held in the building.

Midnapore St Paul's Anglican

The location here was once very rural.

St Paul's Calgary Cemetery

Today, the bustling city is all around.

St Paul's Calgary's Oldest

Night falls – light pollution adds the glow.

Cemetery St Paul's Anglican

MacLeod Trail behind, once a horse path, now a multi-lane boulevard.

Midnapore St Paul's Anglican

The building has been historically recognized.

St Paul's and St Pat's Calgary

In behind, and a relative newcomer, old St Patrick’s Church.

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Bernard Nemeth
Guest
Bernard Nemeth

(via Facebook)
Driving up from the south, when you came past this you knew you were near to Calgary. (a long time ago)

Lynn Buehler-Gair
Guest
Lynn Buehler-Gair

(via Facebook)
My husband and I were married in this church in 1999. Having grown up in Midnapore, I was so happy to be married there. I remember when we moved to the area, the grain elevators were still there and I felt like we were moving to the middle of nowhere. Now I feel like it is a part of me.

Linda Stewart
Guest
Linda Stewart

I’m so glad it has been saved.

Jim Pake
Guest
Jim Pake

(via Facebook)
Hey! That’s not very far from our place!

Bambi Ferguson
Guest
Bambi Ferguson

Mom loved that church – I think we all did!

Phillip
Guest
Phillip

Very pretty inside. Great job documenting it.

Dabney Cone
Guest
Dabney Cone

I went to a small rural church growing. Loved the fun times we had. I especially liked the ice cream socials.

Sue Ann Harris
Guest
Sue Ann Harris

I used to pass this church everyday on my way to and from work. It really is so beautiful and historic!

Emanuela Artioli
Guest
Emanuela Artioli

John MacArthur:
“God must love small churches – he has so many of them”!

Inspiring photos!

Emanuela Artioli
Albany NY

Pamela Wakely
Guest
Pamela Wakely

My great grandfather played a major role in the that church from the very beginning. Rev.Tims. Him, his wife and my grandfather are all buried there.
Beautiful photos! Thank you for sharing!

barb huntrods
Guest
barb huntrods

Passing the little church to and fro on the highway brought me back to attending church. I have M.S. and was using a walker in the 80s, so i would leave it at the steps and creep slowly into the church, the pews were easy to grip on my way to the alter for communion. When the new church was built I was able to give them tips on accessability

Ryan Wunsch
Guest
Ryan Wunsch

Awesome pictures! Awesome history! No one’s approaching these subjects like you do.

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