The Gaetz United Church celebrated last week by ringing the church bell a total of 90 times, one for each year since the United Church was established in Canada.
On June 10th, the community came together with cake and a BBQ to celebrate the event as they joined hundreds of United Churches across the country in making a joyful noise – in Red Deer’s case, 90 tolls of the historic bell.
“Across the country, United Churches have been invited to make a joyful noise, or ring church bells or hand bells. Literally from coast-to-coast, starting this morning in Newfoundland & Labrador at 10:30 a.m., bells started ringing after that all the way here to us in Alberta. It’s just a way that we can each in our own time zones celebrate the time of 10:30,” said Minister Jeff Rock.
“Ninety years is a lifetime and we like to think it’s a beginning. It’s really just a flash in the pan of the longer Christian history. We’re a thriving, exciting downtown congregation here in Red Deer. As Red Deer’s downtown is redeveloping, we’re finding ourselves re-birthing,” he added.
“We share a lot of history with Red Deer, we’re 25 years older than the City. Leonard Gaetz and his brother Isaac founded this congregation in 1887. A lot of history is in this community. This year marks the 128th year of the congregation. It’s been 90 years of us being a United Church, when the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregationalist churches came together.”
The bell has a special significance to the church and only adds more rich history to the community. The original church building burnt down in 1955 and at this time the bell was sold to a neighbouring Hutterite community. It was sold at some point to another Hutterite colony and then to another.
“After it was sold and re-sold and re-sold, it was eventually lost in time. As part of the 1887 centennial of the church, Norma Martin (and others) decided it would be a good project to find the bell. They set out to do so, and after much research they found that the bell was at a Minburn Colony east of Edmonton and so they asked if could we buy the bell back. The colony needed it but offered to give it back if a replacement could be found. In 1990 the bell was returned and installed.”
The church has gone through many historic changes and significant events since its inception and is a cornerstone of Red Deer’s history.