In 1890-1891, the townsite of Red Deer was created on the new Calgary-Edmonton Railway line.
A hamlet with approximately 100 residents quickly sprang up. The new residents soon began planning the creation of churches in the fledgling community.
There had been an Anglican congregation in the Red Deer district dating back to 1887.
Unfortunately, key members of the congregation, most of whom were Metis, had been enmeshed in a prolonged struggle with the Federal Government to secure legal title to their farms. They gave up just before the arrival of the railway and relocated to Beaver Lake, Alberta.
In June 1891, Rev. Charles Ingles, the energetic rector of St. Mark’s in Toronto, came out to Red Deer to rejuvenate the Anglican congregation.
He experienced promising success. He subsequently persuaded Bishop Cyprian Pinkham of Calgary to have a lay reader from St. Mark’s, Harry Bygrave Brashier, assigned to continue the work.
The mission field for which Brashier was responsible was vast – covering some 1,000 square miles. He used as his base the new hamlet of Innisfail, as that was the largest settlement in the region.
On Jan. 10th, 1892, Brashier was ordained as a deacon. Shortly thereafter, he formally reorganized an Anglican congregation in Red Deer at a meeting in Burch’s Hall, on the northeastern corner of Ross Street and Gaetz Avenue. Churchwardens were elected and money was raised towards the construction of a church building.
Services continued to be conducted usually in Burch’s Hall, but also in the waiting room at the new C & E railway station. In the meantime, St. Mark’s Anglican Church was built in Innisfail and was officially dedicated on June 26th, 1892.
In April 1893, the annual meeting of the Red Deer congregation drew up a petition to Bishop Pinkham asking that a parish be officially established.
On May 16th, 1893, the Bishop granted their request. The new parish of St. Luke’s had as its boundaries the townsite limits of Red Deer.
Two weeks later, Brashier was ordained as a priest and was placed in charge of St. Mark’s and St. Luke’s parishes, as well as the Central Alberta Anglican mission field.
Brashier became fatigued by all of his arduous work. He asked for a three-month holiday in Ontario and England. Arrangements were soon made to have a young priest from Upper Canada College, Rev. Francis Terry, take over St. Luke’s and the areas north of Red Deer.
Brashier continued his work at St. Mark’s and the districts in south Central Alberta.
The arrangement proved disastrous.
Terry had previously suffered from bouts of mental illness. The heavy workload contributed to a new breakdown.
Brashier again resumed responsibility for the entire mission field, on the understanding that this would be only temporary.
Several ministers followed, generally on a part-time and/or temporary basis. These appointments included Rev. Frederic Goodman, Rev. Freemantle Webb, Rev. Leonidas Wooden and Rev. Spencer Cubitt.
In 1899, an energetic young minister, Rev. Joshua Hinchliffe, was assigned full-time to Red Deer.
He tackled the task of building an Anglican church in Red Deer with great vigour. On Sept. 4th, 1899, the cornerstone for a sandstone church was formally laid on the southeast corner of Gaetz Avenue and McLeod (54th) St.
The new church was an ambitious and expensive project.
Hinchliffe had trained as a stonemason and physically helped with the construction. Challenges with finances meant that the church had to be built in stages.
On Nov. 26th, 1906, a special service was held to celebrate the final completion of construction. St. Luke’s has been a beautiful and well-loved landmark of Red Deer ever since.
On Saturday, Oct. 20th, 2018, a special banquet to celebrate the 125 anniversary of St. Luke’s will be held at Festival Hall. A Red Deer Express columnist will be speaking on the history of the Church. Tickets are only $30 and are available at the St. Luke’s Church office (403-346-3402).