CAC

History of the Cranbrook Alliance Church

Gordon Blenkhorn and his wife, Mildred, who were graduating from the Institute in Regina, later known as Canadian Bible College and then Ambrose University, were feeling a call to British Columbia. They had asked God to send them to a needy area, and a study of the Alliance map of Western Canada showed a vacant space in the East Kootenays.

A trip to the area in the summer of 1948 by Rev. Gordon Blenkhorn and Rev. Ches House proved to their satisfaction that the area was ready for an Alliance church. There were families interested in seeing a work started; it seemed there could be no doubt that the Lord was leading. Pastor Blenkhorn wrote, “Under the leading of God we left Saskatchewan in September of 1948. God had called us to labor in BC so we followed His leading and arrived in Cranbrook on September 10th.“ The first service, according to the report by Brother Blenkhorn, was held on September 19th at the home of Gordon and Emma Vance with ten people present.

Building

Soon after their arrival, Pastor Blenkhorn purchased a lot on 17th Avenue South and began construction of a dwelling which was to be their home and the home of the fledgling congregation until a more permanent and larger building could be constructed. Sometime after the purchase of the lot for his own home, Pastor Blenkhorn, on his own, found and purchased a lot on the corner of Baker Street and 13th Avenue. The Blenkhorn’s house was the home of the congregation from the 21st of November, 1948, to the spring of 1950 when the new building at the Baker Street location was completed. It is interesting to note that this building still stands on the original location (next to the present Safeway store) and is now occupied by Tangles, a hair salon.

First Church

On February 10th, 1953, the congregation was organized and officially became an Christian & Missionary Alliance Church, affiliated at that time with the parent body in the USA, the home office being located in New York. Canadian districts had been established and the Cranbrook church became a part of the Western Canadian Conference.

By 1963 growing pains were again evident. The church needed a larger facility. While the need to expand was evident to all, by the next year no suitable site had been located, though effort had been made to find one. By 1967 a number of things began to come together. A site for the new church building had been located – five acres on the corner of 2nd Street and 24th Avenue. On June 12, 1969 the ground breaking ceremony was held and construction of the footings began.

2nd street

January 25, 1970, the new facility was occupied. The church membership continued to grow. As new believers were being added, the importance of discipleship ministries was acknowledged. Agape groups were formed to disciple new believers and old. In addition, the entire congregation was divided into Care’N Share groups which were led by the elders and met once a month on Sunday evenings. This was an attempt to shepherd all members and adherents without overlooking anyone. Newcomers to the church were quickly added to existing groups.

Construction

Another feature of this “era” that deserves mention is the drafting of a church purpose statement: “It is the aim of Cranbrook Alliance Church that the Lordship of Jesus Christ be characterized by a pure heart, a clear conscience, a strong faith, revealed through our love for God, for one another and for lost mankind.” The church was constantly being reminded of this purpose statement. The church continued to grow and was experiencing exciting growth. The 1979 annual meeting reported a 16% increase in Sunday morning attendance for the last six months of 1978, a 34% increase in 1979. In the fall of 1978, at a Board retreat the motion was passed to build a facility to accommodate 1000 to 1200 people. In 1980 the Together We Build Program was implemented as a means to raise the finances required for the new building. The original plans for the church structure were somewhat more ambitious than the present facility. It was designed to seat 2000 people, including a chapel to seat 100 people and considerably more floor space for offices and classrooms than the present facility affords. The size of the planned building was reduced substantially in 1981 as concerns mounted about the cost and feasibility of the structure. The general contractor for the new facility was Voth Brothers, from Abbotsford. The event connected to the construction that is probably most vividly remembered is the windstorm that left twisted steel in its wake.

1200 Kootenay St.

On Feb. 27, 1983 the new building was dedicated, with Rev. Mel Sylvester, the CMA President, there to cut the ribbon. There was great enthusiasm as the congregation looked forward to the day when this new facility would be full.

In September of 1988, the Alliance Friendship Place Daycare began operation within the church facility. The Daycare began with 8 children, and by 1995 was licensed for 24. The daycare is still in operation today.

In 1995 the Kootenay Christian Academy began using the church facilities. While KCA is independent of Cranbrook Alliance organizationally, it has had a major impact upon the church. The presence of the students and staff in the school has added a new dynamic to the facility during the week that was missing before.

We must continue to look to the One who said “All power is given unto me in Heaven and in earth” and also, “Be confident of this one thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” If He does this for the individual believer, will He not do it for His Body, the Church?

-Portions of the above history were taken from the “Cranbrook Alliance Church History and Memories 1948-1998” compiled by Ken Wiens