History of theKillarney United Church   Part I.


“When Killarney United Church celebrated 100th Anniversary”  by BETTY ST0RIE



This millennial year coincides with the 100th anniversary of one of Killarney's oldest institutions. On June 18th, the Killarney United Church will celebrate a century of growth, highlighted by many successful transitions and renewals. Situated on the southeast corner of Finlay and Williams, the Church was constructed in 1900 to serve the local Methodist congregation. It has a colourful history that began in the final decades of the 19th century.

The Methodists held their first services in Killarney in 1883 under the direction of Rev. Andrew Stewart It was Rev. Stewart who established many of the early Methodist churches in the Turtle Mountain district. Born in 1910, Mabel (McCalpin) Britton is the Church's longest living member. Notations in her family Bible from 1885 make reference to the McCalpin's membership in the local Methodist Church.

In 1887, the Methodist congregation built their first Church and a small parsonage where Killarney United now stands. Rev. John Tozeland was a Minister of the original Methodist Church. Years later, he purchased retirement properly on the lakeshore that became known as Tozeland's Point. He and his wife are buried in the Killarney Cemetery.

In the late 1890's, Rev. ™C.F. Van Norman replaced Tozeland and plans began for the building of a new church. The old church building and parsonage were moved off the property and construction began on what is known today as the Killarney United. A memorial window was dedicated in honour of Van Norman's service. The corner stone at Finlay and Williams was laid in the spring of 1900. Before the Church was completed in the fall of that year, Van Norman fell ill and was replaced by Rev. Sam Wilkinson.

Meanwhile, it was 1884 when the first Presbyterian missionaries were sent to serve the area of Cartwright, Killarney and Highview. In 1898, the Presbyterian Mission of Killarney built its Grskine Church at 318 William Ave. During its first decade, the Methodist Church welcomed a significant number of dispossessed Grskine Presbyterian Church members. The needs of the increasing Church population led to the addition of a schoolroom. Eventually, the Presbyterians were accepted back into their own church, leaving the Methodist congregation to carry the debt for the new schoolroom.




In the early 1920's, the Methodists purchased a parsonage south of Tupper on Main (Broadway Ave.). It continued to serve as home to church ministers until 1941. In 1922, discussions began between the national governing bodies of the Method- ist and Presbyterian Churches. Ultimately, those negotiations lead to Union and the United Church of Canada was born on June 10, 1925. Immediately following Union, the Killarney Methodist Church became the Killarney First United.

Local churches often amalgamated their congregations when there was a shortage of Ministers. Such was the case in 1913 when Rowland Church was built by local Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodist and Mennonites. That history of cooperation prepared many for the concept of formal Union.

The idea of was first introduced locally in 1913 when a group of Methodists circulated a petition advocating union. When the issue came to a vote, the Presbyterian vote was 84-40, the Methodists voted 102-2 and the Lena congregation was 100% behind Union. A second vote showed an increase in support for union although a quarter of the Presbyterian congregation abstained.




Although many Presbyterians, both locally and nationally, were slow to acknowledge the formal Union of 1925, the Erskine Presbyterian Church, nevertheless, became the Erskine United. Rev. Andrew Little was Minister of the Erskine Church at that time. He and other strong leaders within the local congregation are credited for their efforts toward an amicable transition.  Still, a significant number of Presbyterians rejected Union and continued to worship in their chosen faith.

In Killarney, such dissenters worshipped separately in the Free Methodist Church until they built the Presbyterian Mission Church in 1950. The Lena United Church, dedicated on Dec. 7, 1925, was one of the first built after Union. In the first year after Union, Killarney First United celebrated the burning of its $1500 mortgage and paid off a $500debt on the parsonage.

In 1941 finding itself in need of a new Minister, the Board of First United instead called a meeting with Erskine United and representatives from Lena and Hullett to discuss the possibility of uniting their congregations. Since the Erskine Church was in financial difficulties and in need of a new church building, its response to union was favorable. An Inaugural Service was held on Sunday, July 6, 1941.      



  A story in the July 7th Killarney Guide states, "The congregations of First and Erskine United Churches, Killarney, were formally joined in their union services held Sunday morning. Rev. James Savage. Minister of the Erskine United, was inducted as Minister of the new union.

Killarney United's parsonage on Main Street was sold and the Erskine Manse was retained as the Minister's residence. The Erskine Church, itself, was finally razed in 1960 to make way for the new Samaritan Hall. The former hall has been the home of Lakeland Regional Library since January 1974.

In 1951, a new manse was built at 232 Williams Ave., replacing the original Erskine Manse. Rev. J. Alex Stephen arrived from Pilot Mound with his family and they became its first residents in January 1952. This, the last of the Church-owned residences, was sold in 1990. Lena Church closed its doors in May 5,1968 and its membership merged with the Killarney United. In 1964, when the Ninga United Church closed, Rowland Church became part of the Killarney charge. In 1975, Rowland Church also closed and its congregation joined Killarney United.


The Christian Education Centre was conceived in 1964 under the ministry of Rev. John Wood. A building fund was soon established and the property to the south of the Church was purchased. Construction began in 1967, during Rev. Riddell's term. In the past three decades, the C.E. Centre has served the Church and the community as a multi-purpose facility. In addition to its regular use for Sunday school and classrooms, its stage and kitchen accommodate dinners and entertainment activities. The Centre is often rented for community meetings and gatherings.  

Killarney United's history involves much more than its physical structure. It is the people and their organizations that bring its history to life. Church women have a well-recognized tradition of hosting dinners, teas, and bazaars and taking responsibility for various Church housekeeping duties.

Perhaps less well-known is the degree to which their activities have financially supported the Church. In fact, the formal organization of Church women had its beginnings in serving the financial needs of the Church. The first reference to the work of the Methodist Ladies’ Aid indicates that the group was established in about 1890 to help pay off the debt of their newly-built church.

That tradition of financial contribution has quietly continued throughout the years. In the 1960's, for example, the United Church Women contributed considerably to the Christian Education Building Fund, completing the kitchen and meeting room, furnishing the Minister’s study, laying carpet in the foyer and stairs and installing a P.A. system in the auditorium.

The U.C.W. has its origins in the Methodist and Presbyterian Ladies' Groups which joined forces on April 5, 1926 to become the Women' s Association (W.A). Mrs. A.M. High, having already served 14 years as President of the Presbyterian Ladies, became President of the W.A. in 1929 and remained in that position until 1960. She was also the church organist and Sunday school teacher for many years.   In addition to their commitment to the local congregation, Church women have a long-supported national and international charitable cause. To that end, the local Presbyterian Ladies formed a Women's Foreign Mission Society group in February 1905. In 1928, Mrs. Cooke, wife of the Minister, Dr. Cooke, requested that the Women's Missionary Society be given a seat on the Church Board. Although the W.M.S. received permission to appoint a member to the Board, there is no record of such an appointment.


In fact, despite their significant contributions, women's names rarely appeared in the official Church documents and the women, themselves, kept few formal records of their activities. Their first formal recognition came in 1943 when Olive Atkin became a member of the Board of Stewards. She served as Church Treasurer and remained on the Board for 12 years. In 1968, Ruth Dow and Olive Fairhall were elected as the first women members of the Session.   In 1962, the Women's Missionary Society and the Women's Association became officially known as the United Church Women. Mrs. Eva Sanders became the first President of the new organization. The U.C.W. continued the tradition of supporting charitable efforts including sponsorship of a series of foster children through the Foster Parent's Plan.

The group provided financial assistance to the Omegas for the establishment of a Thrift Shop and in the early 70's, took over its operation. The Thrift Shop continues to be an excellent community resource and a source of income for other U.C.W. initiatives.

Over the years, the Church has spawned a number of organizations and activities in support of its membership, particularly young people. The first Young People's Summer School held in Manitoba was conducted in Killarney around the turn of the century under the ministry of Rev. C.F. Van Norman. Other such groups have included the C.G.I.T., Omegas, Hi-C, Young Adults, Mission Band and Messengers, to name a few.

  In 1962, the United Church was joined by the local Anglican and Killarney Mennonite Churches in the sponsorship of a refugee family from Palestine. A rented house was cleaned, dressed and furnished, only to be sold by the owner before the refugee family arrived. A second house was secured and the family arrived in Feb. 1964. They found the transition to their new country difficult and remained in Killarney for only 9 months.

A second sponsorship brought the Dong family from Vietnam to Killarney in June 1980. Phong, Quyen and their family remained in the community for several years before moving to Winnipeg. They have made regular return visits to Killarney since that time.

The Church has benefitted from the service of a long succession of Ministers and their dedicated spouses. Most served for five years or less; the longest serving, Rev. Allister Riddell, wanted to raise his children in Killarney. He served from 1967 to 1981, transferring only after their last child had graduated.

  The otherwise-famous, Rev. Stanley Knowles, ministered in Killarney for a brief period in the fall of 1936. Rev. Spence served during the tumultuous period of Union, from 1922 to 1927. He returned to Killarney in the mid - 50's as an interim Minister. For six months, at the age of 88, Rev. Spence travelled back and forth from Winnipeg to conduct weekend services.

  In July of this year, Killarney United will welcome Rev. Colin Grambo from McCreary, its eleventh Minister since the 1941 amalgamation of Erskine and First United. Joining Rev. Grambo will be Beth Clark, serving half-time in Killarney and Ninette. Rev. Grambo's predecessors have included Rev. James Savage ('41-43), Rev. Wm. Conley ('43-50), Rev. J .A. Stephen ('50-56), Rev. Spence (interim). Rev. Bab- cock (interim), Rev. Schneider ('57-50), Rev. John Wood ('61-67), Rev. Allister Riddell ('67-81), Rev. Tony Maunder ?"81-90), Rev. Brent Denham ('90-98) and the current Rev. George Holliday (interim).


Through the years, the congregation has also enjoyed the dedication of a long list of volunteers including Sunday School teachers and choir leaders. The many talented organists have included the previously-mentioned Mrs. A.M. High (1930's & 40's), Edna Miller, Mary Hawkings, Patricia Buckley, Andrienne Shewfelt, Mary Collins, Harold Kuipers and, current organist, Glenda Archibald.

In honor of the 100th anniversary, a morning worship will include guest preacher, and former local minister. Rev. Tony Maunder. The afternoon's entertainment will feature the congregation's former organist, Harold Kuipers.

(Historical data for this article was gleaned from the booklet A History of Killarney United Church by Olive Fairhall (1975). Additional information and clarification was provided by Mary Mitchell, Edna Miller and Mabel Britton as well as the Killarney United Church Office.)



Many changes and challenges have taken place since the "Reflections" History Book was published in 1982. Our Killarney United Church has continued to be a very active and progressive church. God has continued to bless us and challenge us over the past 24 years. Our vibrant Sunday morning worship service is, of course, at the heart of all that we do. It is there where we are uplifted and nourished for all of the work that we endeavour to do in Christ's name.

Some of our regular church activities through the years have included: Bible study groups, special days for seniors, many work parties (repairs, painting, cleaning, planting flowers), Fall suppers and other special fundraisers, Christmas carolling, organizing a church float in the Summer and Christmas parades, a monthly church luncheon, and a Book Club which was started by the Ekatons Group in 2006.


We try to be a church who reaches out to care for others and for the world. This is done through offerings to the Food Bank, recycling, our giving’s to the Mission and Service Fund (over the past 24 years we have given a total of $420,473.00 to M&S, including 156,054.68 from our UCW), and knitting teddy bears for the "Teddies for Tragedies" project, to name a few.

Our church has hosted many special services through the years that we see as a form of outreach to the community. These have included Christmas and Easter Cantatas, Blue Christmas services held in memory of loved ones, and Communion and Sunday services at Bay side Personal Care Home.

Countless volunteers help in all areas of our church's life. We are very fortunate to have so many dedicated people in our congregation who give of their time and talents. Some of these include: church office helpers, committee members, U.C.W. and Thrift Shop workers, those who volunteer at teas and sales, our choir members (Senior and Junior), pianists for Sunday school, Sunday school teachers, Vacation Bible School and youth leaders, people who prepare communion, fall canvass organizers, those who tape our Sunday services, deliver Sunday bulletins to seniors, create birthday/anniversary cards for our members, decorate the sanctuary for special occasions, make seasonal banners for our sanctuary, offer pastoral visiting, and many more. God never says "Someone else can do it. I have done my share."

Our United Church Women (U.C.W) is an organization for all women of the United Church. There have been as many as seven units with four active at present. The neighbouring Rowland and Lena U.C.W.'s carried on for many years after their churches closed, but both units disbanded in 1985. Each U.C.W. unit meets monthly, as well as a general meeting for all women. These women do a terrific amount of work in and out of the church, all done through a love for the church and to the glory of God.

Some of the work the ladies have done over the years and are still doing includes: raising money for local church improvements and additions, special appeals and general church expenses through catering, teas, an annual yard sale, sale of 40th anniversary cookbooks, and many other projects; support for mission projects and disaster relief overseas (in Bangladesh, Mexico, India, El Salvador, & Southeast Asia, to name a few); countless hours of pastoral care and visiting in homes, hospital, and care homes; leadership in special services such as World Day of Prayer and the Least Coin Service.

The U.C.W celebrated their 40th Anniversary in 2002 and the 30th anniversary of the Thrift Shop in 2004. These ladies have continued through the years to be a very faithful and dedicated group and spend many hours in preparation for all the activities they do. Their work is always a shared venture, with countless women taking turns in leadership and in every facet of their ministry. Behind everything our United Church Women do is the spiritual side, with prayer and study being a vital part of every meeting. Their faith in God and their willingness to be disciples of Jesus Christ has been a vital part of our church, and has touched countless lives through the years. Remember to "Trust in the Lord" as it is from God that all good comes.

Many generous and thoughtful donations throughout the years have added to the use and comfort of our church. These have included: major renovations to the church in 1982 (wall papering, painting, new carpet, completion of choir room and baby fold, upstairs washrooms, and new entrance completed, coloured windows by pulpit restored). In 1983 the manse was renovated and church windows were repaired. The new organ fund was started in 1987 and our new Allan organ, as well as a new sound system, was purchased in 1989. In 1991 a church library was established, and renovations to the minister's study were completed.

In 1995, we began talking about the need for a major building project. In 1996, Voices United Hymn Books were purchased, and we upgraded our Sunday School classrooms.

In 1999, we purchased the lot beside the C.E Centre from Chapman's. Since 2000, the church has purchased round tables, new chairs, mailboxes for the sanctuary, and had pew cushions donated.

2000 saw the 1OOth anniversary of our Church building and we celebrated in style with special events throughout the year. In December, we held a very special C.G.I.T Vesper service with many former members.




We had Congregational Directories made in 1992 and 2000 with pictures of our church families.

We are fortunate to have a good relationship with the Anglican Church as we share Maundy Thursday Services, our two choirs join together for funerals and Remembrance Day services, our Sunday Schools combine classes a couple of times a year as well as the summer Vacation Bible School, and we share our buildings whenever needed. Dean Letts has been a welcome friendly face around our church for the past few years as he picks up and delivers our mail twice a week.

The Sunday School is also very active. For the last two years Christmas cards have been sold with pictures of our Sunday School children on them, the proceeds going to Mission & Service. The Sunday school children receive certificates, and each child receives a bible when they are in grade 3. Enrolment continues to stay constant even with all the pressures of the times.

In 2002, our Acting Crazy Comedy Troupe was formed. Rev. Cole and Diane Grambo founded the group and we have been enjoying amateur theatre in our church ever since. We have performed a major comedy each year and it has become a major fundraiser for the church. Many members of our congregation have taken to the stage and worked behind the scenes to help make these productions successful.

The Thrift Shop has continued to be a very important part of our church. Many volunteers have worked so hard through the years, organizing, pricing, repairing, and selling the clothing. The Thrift Shop was located in the basement of the church since 1975. In 2006, it was temporarily moved to the basement of the Killarney Professional Building until the new church is built. The Thrift Shop is a much needed service for the community. Any clothing left over at the end of a season is boxed up and sent wherever it is needed.

An Easter flower fund is collected each year in memory of loved ones. Half the proceeds buy flowers for the sanctuary and they are delivered to the shut-ins of our congregation after the service. The rest of the proceeds go to our Mission & Service Fund.

The Killarney Nursery School has been a welcome resident in the basement of our C.E. Centre, holding weekly classes there for many years.

In 1986 our church embarked on a new committee structure which includes Church Council and many committees.

In 2000, we expanded our vision of ministry, and hired a half time Staff Associate. We also began a relationship with St. Andrew's United Church in Ninette in which we share our ministers.

Church attendance has stayed fairly steady over the past 20 years with approximately 150-190 in attendance each week. Our congregation stayed strong through the challenges and changes of the mid 90's. George Holliday served as our Interim Minister and spent two years with us, helping us through that time with many tears, laughter, and much pastoral care. 

In 1995, our congregation started talking about the need for a new church building. The original church was built in 1900, and had served us so well through the years, but the time seemed to have come to plan for the future. The congregation voted in favour of building our new church, and plans have been coming along ever since.


In 2005, we made the difficult decision to close our church sanctuary. Our final service in the old church was January 15, 2006. The following week, we moved our worship services next door to our C.E. Centre, which has proven a very suitable worship space until our new church is completed.


The old church was demolished on June 19, 2006, and plans are to start building in the fall of 2006. The original plan called for both sanctuary and CE Buildings to be demolished, but after much thought and discussion, we voted to keep our C.E. building, and to replace only the church building.

With the building of a new sanctuary much fundraising was needed. In 2000 we started raising money in earnest. Some of our special projects have included Valentine's dinners, fish frys, talent/pie auctions, a booth at the summer fair, men's breakfasts, selling of pewter Christmas ornaments, special concerts, a Christmas Memory Tree, and a $100/square foot campaign.



Since 1982, our ministers have been: Rev. Tony Maunder (1981-1991), Rev. Barb Jardine (in 1987 while Tony was on sabbatical), Rev. Brent Denham (1991-1998), Rev. George Holliday (1998-2000), and Rev. Cole Grambo (2000-2012). Two staff associates have served us: Beth Clarke (2000-2003) and Marianne Olfrey (2003-present).

We have also had three student interns through the years: Michelle Downs in 1993, Noelle Bowles in 1998, and Emmanuel Menyereye in 2003-2004. We were very fortunate to have these three students in our midst. Emmanuel and his family were with us for 16 months. They were originally from Burundi so we not only learned about them as a family, we also learned about a different country and way of life.


Church secretaries since 1980 have included Frances Gerdis, Doris Enns, and Aileen Bridges (May 1984-present), and office helpers have included Gwen Powell, Jean McMullen, and Merle Campbell. The following have served as church treasurers: Terry Lewis, Alvin Jones, John Chester, Larry Cox, and Jeanne Jones. Our caretakers have been Henry and Marion Stockwell, Paul and Kathy Berry, Allan and Betty Urquhart, and Brian and Aileen Bridges (June 1996-present).


Choir Directors through the years have included Harold Kuipers, Carol Avison, Ken Harms, Jonelle McLellan, Cheryl Scharf, and Diane Grambo.


We have enjoyed the talents of two long-term organists/pianists over the past 24 years, Harold Kuipers and Glenda Archibald, with Jackie Olver joining us in 2006 (as well as many others who have offered their gifts in music leadership playing organ/piano, leading Junior Choirs, Mens' choirs, special groups and Sunday School Christmas presentations. Special mention should be made of Jean Lawson, who helped in many of these areas.)


Sunday School and youth groups are areas where we have enjoyed many blessings through the years with thanks to many leaders and volunteers.


God has greatly blessed us here at Killarney United Church. We are thankful for God's guidance and continued presence, and for the faithfulness of all those who have been part of our church family through the years.