The Knox United Church building was sold to the Fernie Heritage Trust Society (FHTS). Pictured are members of the congregation with Gordon Sombrowski, president of the FHTS, sitting on the step of the building on Nov. 30, 2022. (Joshua Fischlin/The Free Press)

The Knox United Church building was sold to the Fernie Heritage Trust Society (FHTS). Pictured are members of the congregation with Gordon Sombrowski, president of the FHTS, sitting on the step of the building on Nov. 30, 2022. (Joshua Fischlin/The Free Press)

Reflections on the history and sale of Knox United Church building

Generations of worship, weddings, baptisms and funerals took place at the church

Contributed by Lynda Bird

The time has come. We have spoken of many things. The papers have been signed. The sale of Knox United Church building has been finalized. As of 12:01 a.m. December 1st, Fernie Heritage Trust became the new owner of Knox Church.

The current Knox United Church was built in 1909 by the Presbyterian congregation after their wooden structure was destroyed by the 1908 fire. In 1925, Knox Presbyterian became Knox United under the auspices of the United Church of Canada.

Throughout its 113 year history, Knox church has been a mainstay in the community. Generations of people in Fernie have worshipped at this church as well as holding weddings, baptisms and funerals. The members of Knox have opened the doors to the community for suppers, teas, concerts and various community activities.

After many years of discussion, soul searching and prayer, a Congregational meeting was held on September 12, 2021. At that meeting, after our church board gave a realistic picture of our financial situation and options for our congregation, it was decided unanimously to sell the building. Our congregation felt it wanted to devote its energies and resources to supporting and remaining a United Church congregation as part of our Ecumenical Shared Ministry with Christ Church Anglican. Later in September, an article was written to the Free Press about deciding to sell Knox United Church building.

Approximately one month later, we were contacted by Gordon Sombrowski, representing Fernie Heritage Trust which is interested in preserving historical buildings in Fernie. We were told that they would be interested in looking in to funding to buy Knox church building. Over the past fourteen months, discussions and negotiations ensued between the two parties as well as discussions with the Pacific Mountain Region of the United Church of Canada, and with our lawyers.

Our Ecumenical Shared Ministry Family at Christ Church Anglican has invited and welcomed us to share their space at Christ Church. On November 20, we had a Congregational meeting. The Knox Board and Trustees updated the congregation on the sale. It was decided that we would like to use Knox church for services until the end of December. On November 23, 2022, members of Knox and the community helped us to move our important church records, furniture and items to Christ Church. Although we have moved out of Knox United church building, we will continue to be an active and vibrant congregation in Fernie as part of our Ecumenical Shared Ministry.

We will have two last services at Knox on December 18 at 10 a.m. and on Christmas Eve at 7 p.m.

In our original article of September, 2021, we hoped that whoever bought the building would have a vision for the future possibilities as a hub for community activities as well as a venue for performing and fine arts. Fernie Heritage Society will make this a reality. This will be Knox’s legacy to the community of Fernie for many years to come.

Our heartfelt thanks to all the people and businesses in Fernie who, for many years have helped us keep Knox United Church working and vibrant:

Our past and present Knox United Church Boards: especially Chair person Ev Cutts, Finance Comittee; Property Committee; Trustees; Rev. Andrea Brennan (minister), Pacific Mountain Region (United Church of Canada), Gordon Leffler (lawyer), Gerald Price (accountant), Ian Stokie, George Beese, Mke Quatrin, Al Brunel, Patti and Randy Cameron (Cameron Enterprises), Robert Paulson, Andy Buchan (Cook’s Electric), Columbia Basin Trust, Dale and Leah Wyatt, Kootenay Signs, Fernie Wood Finishing, River City Woodworks, Fernie Forge, City of Fernie, Mow & Snow, Blue Spruce Landscape, Fernie Lawn Care, Peppi Rino, Jim Labey, Walter Ingram (Home Hardware), Chris Walker (CBC Daybreak South), citizens of Fernie that built Knox church after the 1908 fire, current citizens of Fernie who have supported all our fundraisers.

If we have missed anyone, our sincere apologies. The people of Fernie have all been great supporters of Knox Church.

Thank you.

READ MORE: Fernie Heritage Trust Society buys Knox United Church building

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