The Gift of Land – Some Land to Call Their Own
The land upon which the church building currently rests was given to the congregation as a gift by a local businessman. A newspaper article appearing in the Columbian, on August 23rd, 1890, read:
“On a corner of a street leading to the waterworks, just on the brow of the hill, overlooking the entire valley, a new Presbyterian Church lot has been donated by T. J. Trapp, a local businessman.”
An excerpt filed with the Land Title Office circa 1911 identifies the land as 2 lots, bordered by Columbia Street, Sherbrooke St., and Knox St.. These 2 lots were finally amalgamated into a single parcel of land in 1990.
The Birth of a Building
The architect hired to design the church building was George William Grant. Having begun his career in Nova Scotia, and after traveling west with brief stays in Winnipeg and Victoria, George Grant set up his architectural office in New Westminster in 1887.
Grant’s work in New Westminster included the flamboyant Exhibition Building in 1887, followed by others such as the stone Court House, the original Masonic Hall on Columbia Street, the Woodlands Asylum Fire Hall, the Electric Building, a dozen red brick buildings on Columbia Street, and many private residences. He was considered New Westminster’s leading architect.
To this list of accomplishments, Grant added Knox Church, small in size, but with all the atmosphere of a cathedral, complete with soaring columns and arched ceilings.
With the vision on paper, the contractors were sought out. The following were the bids of the day:
A. Kennedy $3,350.00
Alf Cederberg $3,400.00
D. H. Peterson $3,460.00
John Thompson $3,500.00
J. F. McKenzie $3,520.00
Ernest Easthope $3,750.00
Mr. A. Kennedy was awarded the contract, with construction beginning in September, 1891 and completed in December of that same year, three days prior to the inaugural scheduled service of worship on the morning of Sunday, December 20th, 1891. The following appeared in the Columbian, on the Friday prior:
“The beautiful building that has just been erected on the corner of Sherbrooke and Columbia Streets in Sapperton, will be opened on the Sabbath next for Divine worship by Rev. Dr. Robertson of Winnipeg. The building is in the Gothic Style, is of wood with a fine tower on the west corner of the front which faces Columbia St.
The interior is of cruciform shape. The roof of the main body of the interior is nicely grained and rests on four molded pilasters. The walls are sand finished and wainscoted in cedar.
The church is lighted by four magnificent arched windows, fitted with leaded lights. There are three entrances to the church, two for the public, facing Columbia St., and a pastor’s entrance of the east side…Rev. Mills and his young congregation are to be congratulated on having such a commodious and beautiful Church Home.”
The Anatomy of the Building
The church building was originally constructed based upon a ‘cruciform’ floor plan, meaning the church was design to resemble a cross when seen from above. The building was also built to include many features typically found in Gothic church architecture. Aside from soaring windows intended to fill the interior space with light, other such features included:
The word ‘narthex’ has come to mean ‘entry’ or ‘foyer’, and denotes an entrance area to the church, separated from the sanctuary by the likes of either a door or a screen.
Also referred to as the ‘Sacristy’ in some denominations, the ‘vestry’ is where sacred vestments, liturgical vessels, etc., are stored.
Usually refers to the main ‘body’ of the church building in which worship is typically conducted.
The Anatomy of the Sanctuary
The sanctuary of the church incorporates many traditional elements of a Gothic period cruciform styled church, including:
Originally taken from the Latin for ‘ship’, ‘navis’ , (and originally referring to the ‘barque of Peter’ and ‘Noah’s Ark’, in the Roman Catholic tradition), the ‘nave’ has come to mean the area where parishioners once stood, but now sit (pews being a late addition to the nave area) during worship services. In Gothic architecture, the nave typically had an aisle (or two) on both sides.
The transverse arm of a cruciform church is called the ‘transept’. Because ancient church liturgy was intended to be celebrated ad orientem (facing East), the left side of the transept is called the North transept and the right side of the transept is called the South transept. This is so, regardless of the church’s actual orientation relative to the cardinal points.
The place where the nave, chancel and transept intersect. This area is often domed.
The word ‘chancel’ comes from the word ‘cancelli’, meaning ‘lattice work’, a device once used to separate the ‘choir’ from the ‘nave’ where the rest of the people sat. Today, the chancel denotes the elevated area at the front of the church, from which the worship services are led.
The Cathedral Ceiling
The vaulted ceiling of the sanctuary produces not only a cathedral appearance, but also superb acoustics.
The two filigree rosettes set in the ceiling act as ventilation, allowing air and moisture to pass out of the sanctuary and into a venting system built between the interior arched ceiling and the exterior gabled roofing. This ventilation system allows the air and moisture to pass along the length of the roof, and ultimately through vents to outside.
The walls and ceiling were originally constructed of lathe and plaster, with a grey siding clad exterior finish, and a wooden burning bush adorned the top of the church steeple.
The Logo and Motto of the Presbyterian Church
Though its graphic depiction has changed over the years, the logo of the Presbyterian Church in Canada continues to be the image of the Burning Bush (the biblical story can be found in Exodus 3).
In the biblical account of Moses and the burning bush, the bush was burning, but was not destroyed. It is this detail that has given rise to the ‘motto’ of the Presbyterian Church in Canada: ‘Nec Tamen Consumebator”. The motto is Latin for “yet not consumed”.
The adoption of this logo and motto reflect the Presbyterian Church’s commitment to being the church, the body of Christ, which can never be destroyed. The motif of the burning bush can be found embedded within window designs, pulpit decorations, and atop the church’s steeple.