by Kay Quon
The city of Edmonton first proposed residential development of this area in their General Municipal Plan of 1971, forecasting a population growth of over 40,000. In 1979, when our census figure was a mere 8,000, St. Paul's United carried out a study with the assistance of Edmonton Presbytery and 2 other south side United churches. The results of that study led directly to the approved motion at St. Paul's annual congregational meeting January 30, 1980: namely, to establish a New Church Development Committee. The outreach goal: to guide St. Paul's in fostering development of a new United Church congregation in the Riverbend area.
The first meeting of the steering committee chaired by Joan Harrison - was held in a Riverbend home on Wednesday, March 26, 1980. A host of needs required immediate attention:
- To establish a core group in Riverbend,
- To find a site for regular worship,
- To schedule pulpit supply,
- To find a pianist,
- To plan an accompanying CD program,
- To create liturgical props,
- To establish a budget,
- To publicize our work.
That memorable first service was held some 6 months and 10 meetings later - Thanksgiving Sunday, October 12, 1980 in the music room of the local elementary school. The formal adoption of our church name and the election of our first Board took place on January 25, 1981.
As early as spring of that year (1981), the New Church Development Council felt that - of the 8 new congregations in Edmonton meeting in schools - Riverbend had the most potential to establish a traditional kind of church if we wished. It was indeed a cherished dream for the majority from the beginning; but to bring that dream to fruition, we now needed:
- An articulate architect to kindle the dream;
- A pragmatic analyst to temper that dream;
- Another realist to design and implement a tenable Forward in Faith campaign;
- A Gabriel, then a host of Gabriels, to herald the campaign effectively;
- A dynamic land and building developer;
- An equally dynamic project superintendent;
- Creative interior decorators;
- An inspired grant coordinator for lower level development,
- Board liaison;
- A network of congregational support every step of the way;
- A Solomon to weld all of these elements in to one working entity.
As though by some Heavenly Design, the key skills and general support appeared as needed. 'Mighty forces' (from Presbytery to National) continued to play invisible roles. The dream became reality. Spiritual guidance and leadership have been provided by:
- The Reverend Stewart Hewlitt and the Reverend Don Waldon, who alternated between St. Paul's and Riverbend in that first year;
- The Reverend Jack Stephens, who drove here each Sunday morning from Ponoka;
- The Reverend George Spady (interim);
- The Reverend Kees Hessels, who helped the young congregation move from Brander Gardens Elementary School to Riverbend Junior High School;
- The Reverend Malcolm Profitt, who helped us achieve stability in a church home . (1984-92),
- The Reverend Bill Cantelon, who came to our pulpit from Red Deer. His many initiatives have brought new direction to our mission. (1992-2006)
Some Church Statistics.
- Total land area - 1.59 acres.
- Total building area - 10,290 sq. ft.
- Height, main floor level roof peak - 45 ft.
- Chancel cross size - 7.5 ft. x 25 ft.
- Seating - In sanctuary - 300 approx.
- Inclusive of narthex expansion - to 460 approx.
- Supper seating, Lower Level - 150 approx.
- Land - $200.000
- Building and architect fees - $500,000
- Furnishings and estimated completion of Lower Level - $100,000
- Canada Employment Job Creation Grant – applied to Lower Level -
- Note: Congregational members and friends have donated many items -
mainly for the office, lower level and landscaping. The fully equipped
kitchen is due to the efforts of the Women’s Group.
- Architect: Robert L. Paley.
- General Contractor: G & C Building Contractors Limited.
- Sod-turning event – Sunday, September 25, 1988.
- First service – Sunday, March 5, 1989.
- Dedication service – Sunday, June 4, 1989.