MULHURST BAY UNITED CHURCH CLOSES AFTER 54 YEARS
Pastor Barbara Lieurance, here seen with the now closed St. James United Church at Mulhurst Bay, continues to serve the remaining two churches in her Pastoral Charge in Ma-Me-O Beach and Millet.
St. James United Church in Mulhurst Bay held its final service on Christmas Eve, 2013, exactly 54 years after holding its first service on Christmas Eve, 1959.
It was with heavy hearts that the small congregation closed the door for the last time, recognizing that they simply do not have the resources to maintain the church, especially since the Finishing Touch Ministries Word of Faith Family Church had moved to a different location. United Church services have been held alternate weeks at the Ma-Me-O Beach church and at the Mulhurst Bay church for awhile, so the two congregations are already close.
The Ma-Me-O Beach congregation invited the Mulhurst Bay congregation in, and the Millet congregation gave its support as it participated in the final service, and the Christ Candle was taken from the Mulhurst Bay church to the Ma-Me-O Beach church. Key members making the move at this time included Ken and Helen Hansen, Jack and Georgina Tupper, the Manson family, and Jalna Ryrie.
Pastor Barbara Lieurance has served the three-church Pastoral Charge of Ma-Me-O Beach, Mulhurst Bay and Millet for the last four years, and will continue to serve this Pastoral Charge with its two churches. After earning an agricultural degree, she left Germany to seek adventure in Canada, and stayed. Later, she discovered the United Church as a comfortable fit and sensed a call to ministry. She had served as pastor in Dawson Creek and Fort Nelson in B.C. before coming here. She lives in Lacombe and feels blessed to serve this Pastoral Charge.
There are three major threads that intertwine to tell the story of St. James United Church at Mulhurst Bay: there are the dedicated stewards who led the congregation and made the building happen, there was the Sunday School which met continually following the 1950 Daily Vacation Bible School held in the Fish Hall by Canadian Sunday School Mission personnel, and there were the ladies of the church who organized and helped in every way they could. Services had also been held in the Legion Hall at Mulhurst prior to having a church building. When Terry Stewart came as a Student Minister in May of 1959, he promptly recognized the need for a church building. The first organizational meeting was held on June 11, 1959, and stewards L. Ouimette, L. Francis, W. Hildebrand, N. Campbell, C. Johnson, F. McLeod, A. Irvine and M. Scott were elected.
The response to a canvas for funds and workers exceeded expectations, Judd Mulligan donated land for the church, and Pigeon Creek School was purchased from the County of Wetaskiwin. Cal Jackson of Ma-Me-O dug the basement, H. Lange built the cement block foundation, and Mr. Leske moved the school. Ted Johnson beautifully decorated the interior and loaned his piano to the church. Terry Stewart led the Daily Vacation Bible School in August of 1959, and in the fall the Sunday School was invited to use the facilities of St. James United Church while continuing to use materials from Gospel Publishing House, Springfield, Missouri. The first church service was held in the building on Christmas Eve, 1959, and the building was dedicated on April 24th, 1960.
For a number of years St. James continued to be served by Student Ministers in the summers with lay speakers from Wetaskiwin and, later, Pulpit Supply from Edmonton covering the rest of the year. Mr. Herb Chandler and Mr. MacEachern of Wetaskiwin often helped out in a variety of ways including Church Membership Classes, Sunday School, and leading congregational meetings, so were called "Our Gentleman Preachers" by the congregation and were greatly missed after their passing in August and September of 1965. From 1976 until 1981, the churches at Millet, Mulhurst and Ma-Me-O joined with the Wetaskiwin United Church sharing two ministers. The three-point Pastoral Charge of Millet, Mulhurst and Ma-Me-O was instituted in 1981.
In 1950, the Canadian Sunday School Mission personnel followed up the July DVBS program with classes every Sunday to the end of August. In early September, Mr. And Mrs. J. Manning Bend accepted responsibility for continuing the Sunday School and remained as Sunday School Superintendents until May of 1961. The average attendance of the Sunday School began at around 17, and increased, especially after oil was discovered in the Bonnie Glen area about 1956 and new families came to the community. The highest attendance recorded was 84 in 1962. The attendance records for 1966 show a decline, and in late 1967 the decisions was made to hold Sunday School at the same time as the church service, after which numbers gradually declined until an urgent letter was sent out in 1970 because attendance was down to one. There is record of a Sunday School leader's name until June of 1973. The best records were kept by the ladies' organization from1960 to 1975. They kept track of every penny they raised through activities that included collecting small dues, selling cards etc. from Regal, and holding suppers, bazaars, bake sales and teas which enabled them to give back in a variety of ways including donations to the church and Presbytery, food hampers for needy in the community, and even sewing choir gowns and table clothes for the church. They were a tremendous support to the church, a very important part of the congregation.
One door has closed at St. James United Church in Mulhurst, but as a result, the church in Ma-Me-O Beach has grown and gained strength. The Pastoral Charge continues, and Barbara Lieurance continues to serve the same communities through the churches in Ma-Me-O and Millet.