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Early History of Churches in Shawnigan

(from Green Branches ad Fallen Leaves by Brownie Gibson)

Records are somewhat hazy concerning early church services at Shawnigan


Catholic Services had been held at Shawnigan Lake as early as 1899 in the Rivers’ home, then at the Hartl Farm and the  Shawnigan Lake Hotel. Those who had transportation attended St. Francis Xavier Church at Mill Bay. In 1943 regular Masses were held twice a month in Mrs. Kingsley’s cottage, and then in the S.L.A.A. Hall. In 1946 Masses were increased to every Sunday. Late in 1955, the old public school property was acquired and the first service held there in Our Lady, Queen of the World Church, December 1955.  Services continued on that site until just before 2020 and then the building was demolished in 2021. (now the site of the adjacent parking lot to the Black Swan)


It is known that during the period 1905, ‘06 and ‘07 non-denominational Protestant services were held in a tent on the beach near the lake outlet leading, no doubt, to the building of the little Methodist Church, about 1910, behind what is now Mason’s Store.

Around 1916 this was burned down and replaced with the little church that was the Shawnigan Lake United Church until it was sold and replaced in the village centre, built in 1956 and opened in January 1957.  (now the site of the Quilt Shop)


Miss Hazel King tells us also of open air services held one summer on the beach below the village before the first Hall was built and the next summer in a tent at the lake outlet and both years at a house near Strathcona by a student from Knox Presbyterian College. Frederick W. Kerr took the services in 1907. He later became Dr. F. W. Kerr, having churches in New Westminster, Winnipeg and Montreal—a very popular and well-loved clergyman.


During the early 30’s an non-denominational Sunday School was held in the S.L.A.A. Hall, and in 1937 Sunday School was started in the United Church.


The first and only Anglican church at Shawnigan, All Saints’, was built about 1913, according to the consolidated memories of old-timers, by the son of the first clergyman, Rev. Jack Aitken. It was situated at the top of the hill on what is now Hipwood Road. There being no road up, but just a trail, all the material was loaded on carts and pulled up the hill on a track by a winch. Either this was the only site immediately available or the church dignitaries trusted implicitly in the church-going habits of their parishioners.


At any rate, the congregation plodded up the hill for a good many years, enjoying a respite half way up on a bench thoughtfully and strategically placed for the short of breath. Their horses were comfortably provided for in a stable at the foot of the hill just about where the children of today sometimes enjoy a skate on a roadside pond. By 1938 the modern Church-going inertia had set in so the church was literally sawed in half and moved down in sections to its present more convenient site in the village. (it became the Auld Kirk Gallery and is now a private residence.)

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