Norma Cannon with the bible published in 1886

Burton United Church centennial celebrated by community

As we sat in the lovely little church that faith and volunteers rebuilt in 1985, I was struck by the notion that the only things different were the building, electricity and the attendees, although, some of the people in the pews are the ancestors of the original members of the church. Aside from electric lights and indoor plumbing, we could have been in the first St. Andrew’s in 1911. There were hymns sung, the gospel preached and a choir made up of current and former members and friends who sang the beautiful anthem, “It is Well with My Soul”. Outside, the world carried on as it will but the eighty-seven who gathered there left it behind for an hour or two to celebrate, worship and sing.

Contributed by Suzanne Story

Last Sunday, it felt like very little has changed in St. Andrew’s United Church over the last one hundred years. How many things can we say that about?

As we sat in the lovely little church that faith and volunteers rebuilt in 1985, I was struck by the notion that the only things different were the building, electricity and the attendees, although, some of the people in the pews are the ancestors of the original members of the church. Aside from electric lights and indoor plumbing, we could have been in the first St. Andrew’s in 1911. There were hymns sung, the gospel preached and a choir made up of current and former members and friends who sang the beautiful anthem, “It is Well with My Soul”. Outside, the world carried on as it will but the eighty-seven who gathered there left it behind for an hour or two to celebrate, worship and sing.

The church was filled to the doors with members, guests, neighbours and officials from Presbytery, which is the regional governing body of the United Church of Canada. Reverend Shelley Stickel-Miles came from Kaslo to provide the moving service, and guests travelled from Grand Forks, Nelson, Lumby and several other towns.

There was variety and abundance found in the amazing lunch that followed in the Burton Hall, provided by church members and some of the local attendees. The cake, a delicious white confection, hiding half black forest and half vanilla custard, had two edible photos depicting the original and current churches on it. It was cut and served by Norma Cannon, the Chairperson of Burton Pastoral Charge and Lila Smuland, who is a descendent of some of the original church members.

Gail Detta, the Presbytery Rep and a church member read a history of the church and letters of congratulations from former pastors of St. Andrew’s, Rev. Catherine Angus and Rev. Will Sparks.  There were also letters from Desi Kantrim and an unsurprisingly humorous one from sometimes guest worship leader, Wes Towle from Nakusp.

There was a wonderful display of old photos and an illustrated Bible published in 1886, donated to St. Andrews by Rev. Adam Crisp on October 12, 1947.

Back in 1897, the Burton Brothers founded Burton City on the banks of the Arrow Lakes; the first church services were held in the dining room of the Kootenay Hotel. Preachers would travel by barge up and down the river, from Arrowhead to Edgewood, meeting in homes, hotels and sometimes pubs along the way. Could the occasional inebriated bar patron, overlooked sleeping it off in a back corner of the bar, have awakened to the sounds of preachin’ and singin’?

Jimmy Gordon persuaded the townspeople of all faiths to build the first St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Burton. On October 7, 1911, Mrs. Stevens laid the foundation stone, which is now in front of the present Church. In later years, the Presbyterian, Congregational and Methodist churches amalgamated to become the United Church of Canada.

When the lake was flooded by BC Hydro in the sixties, the original St. Andrew’s was burned down along with the town site of Burton City.  BC Hydro mapped out a relocation place for the displaced residents of Needles and Burton. Fauquier awaited the flooded-out Burtonites but Hydro didn’t take into account the stubbornness, loyalty and determination of residents, who just moved to higher ground and decided to forgo the services meant to lure them down the lake. This was their home and they weren’t leaving.

The small amount of money paid by Hydro for the church was held in trust by the United Church of Canada, who invested it wisely.

In 1984, Reverend John Stainer, from the Nakusp Anglican church encouraged the Burton members to apply to get the money back to rebuild. A “use it or lose it” letter was received by the folks in Burton who were still holding services in living rooms and two weeks a month in the rented Anglican church, which is now the Burton Full Gospel.

A trio of the faithful, Lily Grimmett nee Marshall, Betty McMullen, and Pat Philcox, set out to knock on every door in Burton, to ask for support in building a new St. Andrew’s Church. Commitments were made for labour and lumber, and former members showed up as did many in the community. Bill Brown donated the lumber from his mill; Bud Philcox brought his machines; Hans and Helga Dummerhauf crafted the altar, pulpit and many furnishings.  A community effort helped build it, and on May 15, 1985, the new church was dedicated in the town site of Burton. The bell, purchased just after WWI in memory of all who served King and country, was saved from the old church and rings to this day in its new steeple.

One hundred years ago the church was established to serve the spiritual needs of Burton City and provided social activities in the town. Today, it succeeds in the same mission beautifully with spaghetti dinners, yard sales and burger lunches, 26 years of “Carols by Candlelight” and numerous other activities … and it continues to serve the spiritual needs of its members, hopefully for at least another hundred years!

Correction: in the print version it was incorrectly stated: “There was a wonderful display of old photos and a very old bible donated in 1985 by Clark Marshall.”

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