Parish of West Thunder Bay
The Parish of West Thunder Bay is a two-point parish, home to St. Mark’s and St. James’ churches. The parish is located in the Township of Oliver Paipoonge on the western edge of the City of Thunder Bay, in Northwestern Ontario. Oliver Paipoonge is primarily a rural residential area with a population of 6000 and 2065 households. It is the most westerly parish within the Diocese of Algoma.
During the summer months of July and August, we merge our services, alternating locations weekly. The services are well attended by members of both churches and are followed by fellowship gatherings. Any months having five Sundays result again in merged services.
The first service for what is now known as the Parish of West Thunder Bay was held in the home of Isaac Ryde, Oliver Township, by Rev. J. K. McMorine of the Church of St. John the Evangelist, Port Arthur, in 1879.
In 1884 John Baxendale donated five acres of land on which the Church of St. James’ (Oliver Mission) was built and an area cleared for future cemetery use. It was Oliver Township’s first place of worship with the first service being held on October 28th, 1884 by Rev. McMorine.
In September of 1885 Bishop Sullivan accompanied by Reverend J. C. Machin of St. John’s Church, Prince Arthur Landing, visited the mission and consecrated the church.
In 1886, an additional six acres of land east of the church was purchased in hopes that a rectory would eventually be built.
The Rev. M. Kirby served as the first incumbent in 1895 through 1897. Outstations were formed at Slate River and Stanley in 1898 followed by the opening of the Church of the Advent in Hymers, the Church of the Good Shepherd in Slate River Siding (Rosslyn Village) and the Mission of Kakabeka Falls in 1912. A rectory at the church site was constructed in 1904. Services were discontinued and the church closed throughout the war years and was reopened in June 1920.
A catastrophe befell St. James’ Church in 1924, when a fire completely destroyed the building and its contents. The services then continued in the rectory and in the Presbyterian Church in the Village of Murillo. A new church was built in 1926 and consecrated in 1929 by Bishop Roksborough Smith on the same spot where the old church stood.
In 1943 the Rectory adjacent to St. James’ was demolished and a new Rectory was built in the village of Murillo.
Two new churches joined the Parish. First the Church of the Messiah was established in Kakabeka in 1937.
In 1945 a building was acquired to serve as the Church of St. Mary in the community of Vickers Heights.
The 1950’s saw several changes: in 1951, the Church of the Advent (Hymers) was closed; in 1952, Oliver Mission was renamed West Thunder Bay Mission; in 1953, the Church of the Messiah and adjacent parish hall were destroyed by fire and rebuilt.
St. Mark’s Anglican Church, Rosslyn Village, as we know it now, had its beginning at a vestry meeting on January 25, 1953. At that time church services and a Sunday school with 50 children on its roll were held in the Rosslyn Hall. At the 1956 Vestry meeting, a motion was passed stating that a church be built as soon as possible. This motion was put into action with the sod turning ceremony held on the evening of April 16, 1956 at its present location on property donated by Mike Spenchuk. Although an Anglican Church was being built, people generously gave help from near and far, and of various denominations and religious beliefs. The men of the community provided the labour while the women gave financial and moral support to the builders of the new church, raising funds by staging suppers, teas, bazaars and bake sales. The first service held in the new church took place on Christmas Eve, of 1956. The Most Rev. W.L. Wright, Archbishop of Algoma, dedicated St. Mark’s Church, on Sunday, May 26, 1957.
In 1958, the West Thunder Bay Mission became the self-supporting Parish of West Thunder Bay.
In 1966, a new rectory was built in Rosslyn. Because of its location in a hazard area, St. Mary’s, Vickers Heights, was closed in 1982. Several years later, in 1987, the Church of the Messiah closed due to the decline in the number of parishioners. The building was later moved to the Founder’s Museum, a pioneer village.
The revenue for the parish reached a peak in 1991. The diocesan program to raise stipends resulted in the parish operating at a deficit in 1987, 1988, and 1989. It became clear that the parish income could no longer pay the stipend required for a full-time rector. In 1992, the incumbent moved to a new parish and was replaced by a retired minister, who led the parish through to February, 2000. Because no stipend was accepted or paid during this interval, the parish was able to pay back the deficit from previous years and once again became financially solvent and self-supported, even though revenue had declined. In the fall of 2000, a new rector was hired on a half-time basis. Under her leadership, West Thunder Bay experienced strong growth in all aspects of ministry and stewardship and the position of rector returned to full time.
At present, two churches remain within the Parish of West Thunder Bay, St. Mark’s (Rosslyn) and St. James’ (Murillo), with the closing and demolishing of The Church of the Good Shepherd in 2008.