Free Methodists have worshipped in four buildings that we know of in their 110 years in this city.
The first seems to have been a hall supplied by Moose Jaw realtor, Robert Snowdy. This hall likely stood near the north end of Fourth Avenue Bridge. The church was called The Free Methodist Mission.
“As a divisional center and a direct contact on the Soo Line with Minneapolis-St. Paul to Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver, Moose Jaw hosted gamblers, liquor peddlers and illegal immigrants – hence the notorious reputation of River Street. The mission was located a few blocks west of this tough area but likely more as a matter of convenience than as a deliberate attempt to minister to the rowdies on River Street.”
In 1903, the building affectionately called “the little white church” was purchased from the Presbyterians who had graduated to a big new brick church on the corner of Fairford and Main. The “little white church” had been built on part of the parking lot west of City Hall, then moved about 3 blocks west on Fairford to the “outskirts of town” and later to what is now the site of the casino. Free Methodists bought and located this nice steepled structure on the corner of High and 3rd Ave. West and it is now known as the Chinese United Church. Leith Knight, Moose Jaw‟s historian, says that building had travelled about as much as the Apostle Paul did! By 1954, after 50 years of occupancy, it was bulging at the seams with Free Methodists.
With the help of the William Barr family a lot was obtained on the corner of Hochelaga Street at 4th Avenue West. The High Street church was sold for $11,500 and our first Hochelaga Street church built for $22,000. Lyle Garratt (Jean Mercer‟s Dad) and Albert Lockhart (Thelma Lockhart‟s husband) were foreman and general carpenter but so much labour was volunteered that the total spent on hired labour was only $265! With only $7,000 in a bank loan left to pay, the mortgage was burned within a few years to the credit of many dedicated people.
By 1970, the membership had grown from 98 to 190 so that this facility also was crowded to capacity both in the sanctuary and in the Sunday School facilities.
In 1972, two more houses were acquired to the east and demolished so that our present 300-seat sanctuary could be built on the property adjoining the first building. This project included a much-needed fellowship hall, offices and eventually renovations to the old building to provide a large foyer.
Chairman for that building committee was Gord Barr. This addition cost about $85,000 and, due once more to volunteer labour, was estimated at the time to be worth near $200,000.00. The mortgage for this project was burned 10 years later – and 10 years ahead of schedule! Somehow, 400 people crowded in for the opening service.
Since then, we have acquired 4 additional lots on Hochelaga and Athabasca Streets, one of these through the generosity of the John Tuplin family. The church has been close to relocating a few times when the facilities seemed inadequate but several factors have contributed to keeping us right here in the heart of the city.
Reproduced from Upwords
(Source: The History of First Free Methodist Church by Dean Mercer)