Celebrating Faith and Community

Scroll down to read stories from our history.

Happy 10th birthday, Emmanuel Iift! The fruition of an accessible dream

Ribbon cutting for the new church extension, lift, and accessible washroom in 2012.

We at Emmanuel have fulfilled many big, bold dreams over the years, but making the church accessible was one of the biggest and boldest. A huge investment of people, time, energy, and funding. Accessibility dreams had danced in our heads for years; back in 1998, an accessibility committee (Tom Marinelli, Nancy Evans, John Evans, Colleen MacDonald, Wyatt Poser, Barb Rampton, Joyce Biggs, Reah Webb, Lorne Beilhartz, Dan Rae, Allan Toivonen, Betty Pretty) hoped to install a ground-level elevator at the back of the church, but it proved to be too costly.

In 2010, another team formed. Conditions were right and the congregation finally able to transform the dream into reality. Team members Rev. Nancy Ferguson, Bill Biggs, Joyce Biggs, John Evans, Nancy Evans, and Elaine Mallory explored various options, and on Sept. 18, 2011, presented the congregation with three plans. The winner? Installing an enclosed vertical lift plus an addition to the front of the church, automated doors, an accessible washroom, and a new truss roof to replace the flat one. Rev. Nancy said, “We have set ourselves a challenge and we have taken a leap of faith as we seek to continue to live into our mission statement of ‘welcoming all.’”

A stewardship team (Bill Gardner, Leslie Whitehead, Rebecca Thibodeau, and Jolie Thibodeau) helped raise $55,000 to augment funding from loans and grants. By December 2012, the renovations were complete. We had a beautiful lift that could take people from the church entrance up to the sanctuary or down to the hall, Sunday School, and nursery, as well as an accessible washroom. The lift has made a difference to the life of the congregation, allowing us to welcome those with mobility issues to join in worship, outreach, and social event, and to participate as valued members of our church family. Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the Glory of God [Romans 15:7].

Emmanuel’s Speaker Series informed, educated, touched, inspired

Eight Novembers in a row—spanning 2007 to 2014—the Emmanuel Speaker Series brought inspiring people to the church to share their insights into and knowledge of a broad range of fascinating topics.

Some, such as the late Gordon Widgett, speaking about cancer, were well-known to the congregation. Others, such as former MP Tony Martin, speaking about the Soup Kitchen Community Centre, were well-known in the larger community. Still others, such as Theresa Binda, relating her experiences as a First Nations person, were new to most or all of us.

But every speaker taught us and made us think.

We learned what not to say when someone has cancer. How we can make pursuit of peace a Christian imperative. How laughter can help us through troubled times. What it’s like to love someone with dementia. What we Christians share with our Islamic friends and neighbours. The importance of providing spiritual support to incarcerated young people. How to talk to loved ones about end-of-life decisions. And the devastating impacts of residential schools.

These 26 sessions brought us together to learn and grow as a community of faith. May we reflect back on this time and allow it to inspire us to continue building our faith and our congregation even during challenging times.

Emmanuel sprouts from…the suburbs?

A fascinating fact about Emmanuel’s origins is our church came to be because Sault Ste. Marie’s “eastern suburbs” were proclaimed to be in dire need of a United Church house of worship all their own. Who knew that Sault Ste. Marie had suburbs?? 😊 Well, apparently it did…and it would be interesting to know where those suburbs went!

But Emmanuel did not start with a church. The Sunday School came first. It was started by United Church of Canada missionary Ila Brown and several parents at Tarentorus Public School #4 near Queen and Dacey (a different Tarentorus School than the one that exists today). Ms. Brown also founded a United Church Women’s Association for the “eastern suburbs.”

Emmanuel the church was constituted in late March 1952 in a classroom at Tarentorus—a church in name and congregation but without a building of its own yet. Rev. J.R. Morden, chair of the Algoma Presbytery, presided over the service of dedication, with Mrs. L.P. Punkari as organist (her daughter in law Lois is a current member of our congregation).