The History of St. Paul’s
Our history is a shared history.  St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church has always been in Eckville, but in the 1970’s we were given the opportunity to become an amalgamated congregation with Hespero Presbyterian church.
The two communities are very close to each other.  Our families are intertwined, our fields are shared and our communities celebrate and share milestones together.  The following histories tell the story of Hespero Church and the wonderful families that built up that congregation.  Then the history of St. Paul’s follows.  We were blessed as we came together as one, and we have been a blended faithful family of followers every since!
The Hespero Church
In 1937 Rev. Campbell, who was stationed at Eckville, conducted church services, which were held in the Hespero Community Hall. The hall was destroyed by fire and services were discontinued.
In 1938, plans were laid for the erection of a Church building and a very successful; every person visitation was made to solicit funds. The late Enno Lind, a local carpenter, with the aid of volunteers erected the building on the property donated by G. H. Macdonnell. The board of managers consisted of:  William Edgar, Reginald Tisdale and Robin Hartley. Mrs. G. H. Macdonnell was the organist and she was assisted by Mrs. Douglas Snider.
A congregational meeting was held February 1940, and a board   of managers elected,   consisting   of:   Mr. James Spence, Mr.  Douglas Snider, Mr. Elmer Cole and Mr. Reginald Tisdale.
The ministers during the years were:  Mr. Fraser, Miss Ruby   Walker,   Rev.  McGregor, Rev. D. L. Crocker, Rev. Coles, Rev. A. F. Howich, Rev. Kingsley  King, Rev. Glen Marsh, Rev.  A. L. Sutherland, Mr.  Ken Grant,   Rev. Peter Walter, Rev. Sheldon McKenzie, Miss Iris Ford, Rev.  B. S.  Hartley, Rev.  K. G. Knight, Rev. Bob Burton and Rev. Sidney Chang.
In 1945 a church manse was purchased for $5000. Mrs. Ruth Logan organized a choir which was an asset to the church. The first wedding performed in the church was between Miss Mary Brown and Mr. Harry Medin, which was performed by Rev. R.A. Sinclair.
On Sunday, November 24, 1968, the 20th anniversary was celebrated at the church.  In 1972-73 many members had moved away and the attendance became so small that the Church congregation amalgamated with the Eckville church. The building was sold and moved to the Innisfail Museum site, where it still can be viewed as it once was.
The first recorded minutes of the Hespero Ladies’ Aid are dated December 9, 1937. The membership at that date included, Mrs. J. C. Hartley, Mrs. G. H. Macdonnell, Mrs. C. Gant, Mrs. J. Spence, Mrs. D. Snider, Mrs. C. Fletcher, Mrs. W. Edgar, Mrs. W. Whittle, and Mrs. C. Schuneman.  Funds were raised by various entertainments. The first annual supper was held in the fall of 1938 which amounted to $27.25 and was a reasonable sum of money at that time. Gift parcels were mailed to the men and women, in the forces during 1939 to 1946. Donations were also given to help built the Hespero Church and to the upkeep of the church and the manse at Eckville.
The Ladies’ Aid Group was always ready to give to any needy project in the community and their annual suppers were an event supported and enjoyed to the present date. The Hespero Church was closed in 1974 and sold to the town of Innisfail. The congregations amalgamated with St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Eckville. Thus the Hespero Ladies Aid came to an end after many years of friendship, meetings and assistance with many worthwhile causes. The last recorded minutes are dated May 7, 1975.
Homestead and Happiness (1979)
The History after Hespero Joined St. Paul’s
The Central Alberta Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church was established by 1910. Part of the mandate was to provide frequent worship services, communion, and baptisms, in homes or available public buildings, for the people in the “area west of Sylvan Lake,” under the jurisdiction of the Mission Board of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The area was considered a Student Mission Field, with students appointed to the field, usually for the summer months only. Ordained ministers offered worship services, baptisms, and communion frequently through-out the year, and student ministers provided worship services, visitation, Bible studies and headed youth groups. Rev. Edward Grant reported that he offered services twice monthly in 1910 and I9II at 11:30 a.m. at Eckville. In 1920, the Central Alberta Presbytery contacted headquarters in Toronto asking for the establishment of a church in Eckville. Local arrangements were made to purchase the land (where St. Paul’s still stands) and a building (a former school, cost: $200.00) When the requirements had been met and foundation prepared, the building was moved and the Eckville Community Church became a reality. Because there was no resident minister, the daily church concerns were handled by the Ladies’ Aid (organized in 1921) and the Board of .Managers. Records are incomplete, but indicate the student ministers were responsible for the entire area, including Benalto, Evarts, Eckville, Hespero and Condor. Some who served include Mr. Mitchell, summer of 1922, Rev. McKechnie, and Mr. A.V Bentum, who held Sunday school and formed a Boys’ Group, in the summer of 1925. A youth group for girls, C.G.I.T, was begun in 1925. In 1925, after a nation wide vote, the Eckville Community Church under the jurisdiction of the Board of Home Missions of the United Church of Canada, and the name was changed to Eckville United Church. United Church ministers included J. Mayne (1926), Mr. E.R.Wilson, from Toronto, Mr. LaGrow from Newfoundland, and R.L.Bacon . In 1929 a two-room cabin was purchased and moved to the grounds for the student ministers. At this time, and until 1938, the church was rented ($5.00 a month) during the school year. The United Church returned control of the church to the Mission Board of the Presbyterian Church in 1931. The Mission Board of the Presbyterian Church continued to supply student ministers and financial support until 1981. The student ministers who were here in the summers included Harold Corkey (1934,from Ireland), Hartley Casler (1932,0ntario), Mr. Esler (1933), Mr. Forbes, Malcolm McLean (summer 1935 to fall of 1936), Duncan Campbell (1936-1940) By this time, the area seems to have decreased to a three-point charge, Benalto, Eckville and Hespero, with the three areas working closely together sharing meetings, activities and support .The Hespero Ladies’ Aid was formed in 1937, and 1938 the Hespero Church was built on land that had been donated. For the summers of 1940 and 1941. Mr. T.M.Fraser was student minister. By 1940 trees had been planted around the church and the ground was fenced. Deaconess Ruby Walker started a new CGIT group and a junior choir during the summer of 1942. Douglas followed Otis MacGregor, here in the summer of 1943, was followed by Douglas Crocker in 1944. From the fall of 1944 until the spring pf 1945 Mr. Murray Coles served. In February 1946, the first ordained minister, Rev. Fred Howick, was appointed to the area. During the time he was here the title of the church was officially transferred from the United Church to the Presbyterian Church of Canada, a Kirk Session was elected, and the congregation chose the name, St.Paul’s Presbyterian Church. In 1947 a house was purchased to serve as a manse. During this time the Benalto Church was built. Rev. Howick left in March 1948, and Rev. D.L.Crocker, who had been here in 1944, served from 1948-1949· Records are sparse for the 1950,s but we do know that Kingsley King was appointed to the area for the summer of 1950, followed by William Klempa in the summer of 1951. Kenneth Grant came in the fall of 1951, and during his ministry the congregation started to plan for a new church. Rev. A.L.Sutherland, Rev.W.O.Nugent (1955), Rev.WR.Bell (1955) and Rev.P.Walters (1955-1958) chaired session meetings and provided the sacraments during these years. Sheldon McKenzie served the three churches from 1958 to April 1959. Rev Howard Grace then served one year, from 1959 to 1960. Peter Booth was here in the summer of 1960. Benalto joined the Sylvan Lake congregation in 1960. Mr. Hugh Simpson served the Eckville and Hespero churches from 1960-1961. From 1961 until 1980, an Explorers girls’ group was active in the church. Following extensive and imaginative fund raising projects by volunteers, and tremendous community support, the first church was sold and the construction of the present church commenced. The dedication of the new church took place in April of 1962. In the summer of 1962, Deaconess Iris Ford was assigned to our area. Rev. Basil Hartley was here from October 1962 until August 1963. Rev. Kenneth Knight follows and ministered from 1963 until 1968. From 1965 until 1987 CGIT groups were active within the church. The mortgage for the first manse was fully paid in 1965. Kenneth McLeod, student minister, served from May to August 1969. In April 1971 St. Paul’s celebrated the church mortgage burning ceremony and the fiftieth anniversary of the Eckville church. In the fall of 1973, Rev. Sidney Chang was appointed to our area, and served 1975· In 1974 the Hespero and Eckville charges united. Plans were drawn up for a new manse, and a lot was purchased in 1974· In February 1976 Rev. George MacDonald was appointed. He was the first minister to live in the new manse as it was completed in February 1978. Rev. George MacDonald served until December 1978. From September 1979 until 1982, Rev. Ian Victor, a Presbyterian Church appointed minister, served our congregation. After 6o years of extensive financial support from the Mission Board, our church became self-supporting in 1981. In January 1982, we presented our first “call” for a minister to Rev. Kenneth McLeod, who had been here in the summer of 1969. The stained glass window in the foyer was dedicated in November 1982. Rev McLeod was here until June 1984. Rev Andrew Burnand was called and served from September 1985 until February 1993. For 18 months (1987-1988) and again from 1991-1995, Craig and Maxine Taylor volunteered to serve with the United Missions to Nepal. In April 1987 the congregation celebrated the 25th anniversary of the present sanctuary. Under the sponsorship of the presbytery, and with the support of our congregation, Jill Tiihonen attended and graduated from Ewart College as Deaconess. In 1990 a ramp was added to the north side of the church, and in 1992 we purchased the lot west of the church. In 1993 a call was extended to Rev. Dave Crawford. He arrived in July 1993 and stayed until December 1996. We presented a call to our present minister, Rev. Sandra Franklin-Law who arrived in May 1997. An extension above and below the original stained glass window was dedicated in 2000 to commemorate the year 2000 and the 150th anniversary of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. A church is created, lives and grows because of its beliefs, people and ministers. Since the 1920’s the ladies groups and the boards have worked endlessly to finance, build, furnish, equip, and maintain the church, grounds, and manse, to support youth projects, people in need, and Camp Kannawin. Since its inception, other groups within the church have included Session, Sunday school, Choir, and Bible study groups. At the present time, we are considering expanding the sanctuary to better serve our congregation and community. We have always had the strong support and service of ministers from the Presbytery, including Rev. Gordon Cunningham, Rev. John Yoos and Rev. Robert Burton, especially when our pulpit was vacant. Since our establishment in 1920 we have been committed to reaching out to our community and beyond, as well as working to meet immediate and ongoing expenses. Today we support Presbyterian Sharing, Canadian Food Grains, 10,000 Villages, Camp Kannawin, Advent and Lenten projects to assist areas in need, and various community social services, such as the food bank. To help support the church financially, we have garage sales, ham and bean, pancake and turkey suppers, and teas. We offer Vacation Bible School in the summer and have prepared floats for the annual parades. We participate in visitations, conduct services at the Manor House, provide lunch at funerals, and a soup and sandwich lunch regularly. We give Bibles to our young people, Living Faith to grade 12 students, care packages for young adults, and financial support for youth conferences, education or camping. We strive to fulfill St. Paul’s Mission Statement: We nurture faith in the grace of Jesus Christ Our Savior, through living the Word and serving God.
Memories to Millennium (2005)
Church before the ramp was added in.