Where we’ve been
In the late 1940’s and 50’s when suburban living was well under way in the Winnipeg area, several families of Baptist faith took up residence in the St. Vital area. At the time they were attending Bethel, Broadway, Beulah or Trinity Church, it became evident that a new Baptist work was needed in the area to provide for the needs of these families, particularly for mid-week activities.
A few persons met informally during the winter of 1955-56, and it was agreed that they approach Mr. C.G. Carter, the Moderator of what was then known as the Red River Valley Assoc. of Baptist Churches, with a view to organizing a new church.
Through the full cooperation of the St. Vital group, the RRVA and the Baptist Union of Western Canada, a site was obtained at 137 St. Anne’s Rd., the necessary financing arrangements were made, and the services of a qualified building contractor, J.W. Beetham, were obtained at a very favorable cost. Men and women of the church, along with some outside help, provided volunteer labor during construction.
During this construction period, Sunday morning church services were held at the 4thWinnipeg Scout Hall on St. Mary’s Rd., commencing September 16, 1956. Although the new small frame building was not completely finished, inaugural services were held February 3, 1957, Dr. J.E.L. Bendor-Samuel, who was also instrumental in organizing the work, provided the lay leadership during those early days. Records show charter membership totaled 23 adults.
The Church Council report in the 1961 Annual Report showed that there was inadequate space for several activities, particularly the Sunday School that had an attendance of approximately 64. This figure actually rose to 91 by 1963. After considering other possibilities in 1962/63, the church, with financial assistance from the BUWC, purchased the lot at the corner of St. Anne’s Rd. and Bank Ave. in March 1964 for $10,000. In March 1967 the contract with W.W. Construction for the building of the church at 5 Bank Ave. was affected. The building, a masonry structure, was virtually completed in the early summer of 1967 and services were held in the lower auditorium in July and August. Opening services were held in the new auditorium September 4, 1967 and the official Service of Dedication was September 24, 1967.
Attendance continued to increase and by January 1977 the church went off Grant Aid and became self-supporting. On September 20, 1981, a dual celebration was held; the church’s 25thanniversary and “The Burning of the Mortgage.” To accommodate further growth, a Renovation Fund was established in 1987 and approximately $24,500 was raised to finance structural changes to better meet the church’s program requirements.
In the spring of 1994, the property at 143 St. Anne’s Rd. became available and was purchased for possible expansion and in December 1995 the residence bungalow at 11 Bank Ave. was purchased and established as our church offices to free up some much-needed C.E, space in the church building.
The Church Building Committee was activated in 1994, holding several meetings, including some preliminary meetings with a building contractor, to discover what development possibilities there might be with the three properties at St. Anne’s and Bank Ave. Also, a 3-day financial information seminar was presented by Gary Pearce of the BUWC office. In the end, city zoning requirements appeared to dampen further action in this direction.
Where we’re going
In the summer of 1996 information was received regarding possible availability of Southdale Alliance Church, located at 45 Willowlake Cres. Following several trips by interested members to assess the availability and suitability of the building to our church’s programs, there was generally positive interest in negotiating a purchase. The property provided many of the facilities we were searching for in order to effectively carry out the work of the church.
At the Annual Church Business Meeting in May 1997, a Transition Committee was formed to coordinate necessary arrangements for a smooth transition during the sale of the present buildings and the move to the new facility.
In June 1997, after much prayer and thoughtful consideration, the St. Vital Baptist Church agreed to purchase the church building at 45 Willowlake Cres., to take possession on August 1, 1998. Upon moving to the new location, the church was renamed Willowlake Baptist Church.
Surely, God has been with us in this journey; we pray that He continues to lead us as we face the future together.
2020 and Beyond
In March of 2020, Manitoba entered lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Willowlake did its first livestream broadcast and we waited to see what was going to happen next.
Not long after, we realized this was a long term thing and we invested in some new hardware, and we leveraged the skill sets found in some of our hard working members to commit to online services for the foreseeable future. Our online presence has become routine and our weekly attendance is already similar to what it was before the pandemic.
We are reaching people who could not come in person before, and reaching people who miss the fellowship of our community in person.
Even when restrictions are lifted, we expect to continue growing the online portion of our church. Click the YouTube link on our home page to find our livestream and archives of past services.