Lantern Community Church     |     Inglewood, Calgary, Alberta     |     thelantern@shaw.ca

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“THIS CHURCH JUST HAS A WELCOMING FEEL TO IT.  I FELT WELCOME AND AT HOME THE MOMENT I WALKED THROUGH THOSE DOORS.”

 

This is a sentiment that has been shared invariably by every guest who has spent any time in the Lantern Church.  Our story below explains why.  For over one hundred years our church has absorbed the open-hearted, caring spirit of its members. 

 

Long ago, back in 1875, the neighbourhood of Inglewood was established as Calgary’s first community shortly after the North West Mounted Police built a fort at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow rivers.  Calgary subsequently became a destination for immigrants the world over seeking a far better life than the one they were leaving – one with a future of boundless potential and opportunity without constraints of background or prejudice.  

“These settlers could only bring with them the personal belongings which would fit into a trunk.  They brought books, but not a school; they brought Bibles and hymn books, but not a church.” [1]

 

It was assumed by many original Inglewood residents that Atlantic Avenue (today’s 9th Avenue) would be the main street of the new town.  When land was being sold west of Inglewood after it was decided that the Canadian Pacific Railway would have its station west of the fort, and that the commercial centre would be around the rail station, a good portion of Inglewood “got up suddenly one morning and moved itself westward across the Elbow – two hundred tar-papered shacks, half a hundred unpretentious wooden buildings, and a few log structures”.  [2]

 

Fort Calgary circa 1880s [3]

Town of Calgary circa 1880s  [4]

Left behind was a solid blue-collar community of rough and ready, hard-working labourers.  They had needs the same as other Calgarians, and travelled to the same churches as other Calgarians.  However, some of the more affluent citizens went to church to worship, and to see and be seen.  They found it a little awkward to be with people different from themselves who lacked the basic awareness to dress and present themselves at their best.  But that was because these hard-working families from Inglewood had only one Sunday best; and that was the same best they wore all week.  And so these blue-collared people went to church only to find that, unfortunately, there was no room for them as all the pews were taken.

So these blue-collar families of Inglewood, barely earning a living wage with the sweat of their brows, pooled the meagre wages from their toil into building a church that would never turn anyone away.  In that spirit church members of the time, and in the future, would see their church as a welcoming sanctuary and see themselves as welcoming neighbours – ever willing to provide a helping hand to those struggling to get by.

During the Great War of 1914 - 1918, men of Inglewood answered the call and fought for King and Country.  A lot of them did not return, leaving widows and orphans behind.  Church members took it on themselves to help these single mothers find work to support their fatherless families in an age where it was difficult for women to earn a self-sufficient living.  Some widows found the prospect of raising a child without a father too overwhelming and abandoned their babies on the pews – never to return.  Church members found loving adoptive homes for each of those abandoned children.

Across the street from the church was a boarding house for warehouse and railway workers that had a strict nighttime curfew.  Sometimes, the workers would hang out with each other and lose track of time.  Sometimes that happened during a cold Calgary winter when it was well below zero at night with a killer wind chill.  Locked out, these workers would knock on the church’s door and Frank, the custodian, would let them in and let them sleep on the pews overnight.

Through these and many similar acts of deep care and concern, of fidelity to the story of the loaves and the fishes in sharing what little you have, our church has been transformed into a very special, spiritual place.  Our Sanctuary has been the setting where hundreds of loving couples began a lifelong journey of commitment and devotion to each other.  It has been the setting where family and friends sent their departed loved ones on their journey to the next world.

Downstairs, our Community Hall has hosted gatherings of neighbours coming together for a common meal or shared experience or entertainment.  Upstairs above our Sanctuary is our Prayer Room.  During weddings it becomes our Bridal Room; but for over a hundred years it has been a place where people have confessed not only their shortcomings to each other, but also their innermost hopes, dreams, and aspirations.  Indeed, since it has been here, our entire church has been a venue for community to come together in friendship and care for each other.

Built by its neighbours over a hundred years ago, our church has been a home to community members, welcome visitors from all walks of life, and also to artists and audiences – all of whom have shaped our church into the cherished landmark that it is today, as it continues to be a welcoming home to anyone and everyone who steps through its doors.

[1] Through The Rose Window – Trinity United Church 1906 – 1988, p.1
[2] Methodist Reverend Joshua Dyke in Calgary Herald, April 9, 1907.  Taken from Calgary Spirit of the West – A History by Hugh A. Dempsey.p.41.  Published in 1994 by Glenbow and Fifth House Publishers.

[3] Fort Calgary circa 1880's [NA-1642-1] Courtesy of University of Calgary Archives and Special Collections.

[4] Town of Calgary circa 1880's [NA-21-2] Created by Boorne and May Photographers, Calgary, Alberta.  Courtesy of University of Calgary Archives and Special Collections.

[5] Early Picture of exterior of Church and two interior pictures taken from Through The Rose Window -- Trinity United Church 1906 - 1988, p. 26