by Robert Quicke
This year is shaping up to be one of great historic significance, not only through world events, but especially for those of us here in Canada. One such event took place this past June 4, when members of the congregation at St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in Saanichton celebrated the 155th anniversary of their church’s founding. The story goes back to February 1862, when some of the earliest non-indigenous settlers in the Mount Newton Valley, on the Saanich Peninsula of southern Vancouver Island, began to clear the woods and start constructing a modest Anglican church on a five-acre site which had been donated by a Presbyterian homesteader.
Those pioneers held their first worship service in the new sanctuary on June 3, 1862, two months before Victoria was chartered as a city and some 61 months before the four Eastern regions emerged as the new nation of Canada. For some time afterwards, that humble wooden structure served double duty— both as a place of worship and a school for the children in the valley.
Members of the congregation celebrated the 155th anniversary as part of the regular Communion Service, remembering with gratitude:
Parishioners also prayed to continue as worthy stewards of the heritage, holding it in trust for future generations to receive with celebration, respect and joy.
St. Stephen’s, Saanichton is not the oldest church building in British Columbia, (church buildings in Hope, Yale, Maple Ridge and Barkerville pre-date it), nor is its congregation the oldest one that has operated continuously since being founded; yet what makes St. Stephen’s unique is that this is the oldest, continuously operating place of worship in the whole province of British Columbia still on its original site.
Robert Quicke is the office administrator for St. Stephen’s (Parish of Central Saanich). He also writes poetry, short stories, news articles, and Scripture drama.
Photo by: St. Stephen’s archives.