The purpose of a church, according to CompellingTruth.com, “is to join people of different backgrounds and talents and provide them training and opportunities for God’s work. It accomplishes this both internally, within the body, and externally, in the world.”
Telkwa Community Church has been fulfilling this purpose for 70 years in the Bulkley Valley and will be hosting celebrations including worship, games, dancing and a pig roast this weekend (Sept.17) to honour the years and the many people who have supported and been a part of the church.
In 1953, the church purchased two acres of land for $600. The original church was built over the span of two years in 1954 and opened in 1955 as the Canadian Reformed Church (CRC). Before the congregation had their own church they shared a space with their neighbours in the United Church.
For the original building, the lumber and the labour were donated by several mills and many families, including several men who already worked at the mills. It was truly a labour of love.
The congregation recognized the need for the church originally, from the number of European immigrants, especially from Holland, moving to the valley and were in search of a place to worship. Many found the members of the CRC spoke the same languages and felt at home, and the church continued to grow.
The church was rebuilt approximately 30 years ago, according to Pastor Joe Ellis. The old parsonage, which is located a bit to the side and behind the church, is now used as supportive housing for youth attending school.
Ellis and his wife Michelle moved to the valley to lead the church in 2013, and share pastoral duties.
“When we moved here, there were still about three families of the founding members here, and it was very special, as I got to sit with them while they told me the stories about being in Holland when it became occupied by Germany, and the experiences they lived through,” Ellis recalls. “It is special to be a part of the community that has this much history, and see the world and all the changes, including in the church, through their eyes.”
Since Ellis arrived, the church has tried to garner a wider appeal within the community.
“People have a certain idea in their minds of the Dutch Reformed Church, and those that have branched off of that, like ours, and so we have tried to be more inclusive of other people, getting away from the commonly held idea of ‘I’m not Dutch so I can’t go there’,” Ellis explained.
“So we have gone through a time of re-branding and restructuring, while remaining true to our foundations, but meeting people where they are at so they feel welcome to come to our Church.”
It was with that outreach in mind that Joe and Michelle, along with the congregation decided a name change was in order and in 2016 they renamed it the Telkwa Community Church.
Along with the name came, they have made changes within the church to have a wider appeal to all ages of people.
They have wildlife adventure groups, appealing to younger generations, and recently put up their own Story Walk for the younger set of children.
The men have a group called “Beers and Beliefs,” a sort of informal way to approach biblical topics.
The church is very active during every month of the year now, broomball in the winter, retreats to Round Lake, Quilters from the Heart, book clubs and many more groups and activities that reach out to the broader community.
“During the days of COVID-19 shutdowns, there was a lot of tension in our church like many others, and so we’ve really tried to have reconciling conversations that we intend to continue,” Ellis said. “Like in November, we are going to have COVID storytelling time, where we can get together as a whole group and tell stories about our experiences and frustrations, to be together to heal in a constructive way.”
In a way, it’s that need to feel connected again that has led to the celebration of the church’s 70 years in the community,
“It’s a perfect time to recognize our past, to recover from our recent days, and to celebrate together in a positive way.”
As they continue to redefine and reach out to the community, Joe and Michelle are hopeful and happy with the progress they have seen and will try to continue to foster.
“It’s an exciting time, with so many opportunities and we are so blessed to be a part of such a dynamic and growing church. The next chapter of our church’s history will be challenging, but we look forward to it and would like to invite any and all to come join us.”
The celebration of 70 years in the valley will take place September 18 from 1:30 until 7:30 p.m. on Walcott Road in Quick. Any questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org