Although the history of St. Columba covers only forty-five years, we think you will find it interesting.
The Church has come a long way since 1970 when the Rev. Denis Mahood saw the property, made a down payment, and persuaded the Board of Missions that a congregation was waiting. It became an extension of St. Andrew's Nanaimo, and was the first new congregation on Vancouver Island since Church Union in 1925.
The 23 declared Presbyterians had an interesting beginning when they held services in the newly built Catholic Church of the Ascension. Growing attendance made a church home necessary and a large trailer was borrowed from the Mission Board. It had served a mission in Northern Ontario and needed lots of refurbishing. By the time it was dedicated on April 30th 1971, it was an immaculate and fully furnished mobile chapel thanks to the volunteer help of the congregation and gifts from the Presbytery. Its presence on the highway quickly made it a landmark, the only chapel of its kind in British Columbia.
In three short years the trailer proved too small for the rapidly growing congregation of St. Columba and it was passed along to a Sunday School in Langley. The congregation then met in a funeral chapel while it planned a building and began fundraising. A call went out for a full time minister and Rev. Tony Boonstra accepted and helped move St. Columba toward a sod turning ceremony on May 25th 1980. On March 1st 1981 the building opened on schedule and on budget thanks to the enormous effort of the whole congregation. They numbered 51 by then and growth was rapid because the area was a destination for retirees looking for a new community of faith and friendship.
Rev. Tony Boonstra left St. Columba in April 1986. He was succeeded by the Rev. John B.Taylor and by our present Minister Rev. Robert H. Kerr, who arrived in the Spring of 1989. Rev. David Robertson was Interim Minister in 1988 and often returns to grace the pulpit. Denis Mahood retired and returned to St. Columba as a member.
In October 1989 the building committee proposed a "Miracle Sunday" when people could put money torward reducing the mortgage. To everyone's delighted surprise 114 people pledged the entire amount of $20,000. It was a great way to begin the 20th year and on September 15th 1990, a dinner and mortgage burning ceremony was held. On September 16th the guests included four former ministers of St. Columba, Marjorie Currier, the first Clerk of Session, and Marjorie Litchfield, the first organist. The guest speaker was the Rev. Glenn Davis who, at that time, was General Secretary of the Life & Mission Agency of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The Moderator of the 1990 General Assembly, the Rev. Dr. John Allan was also present.
New vistas opened as St. Columba began a new decade. On April 12th 1992, the Rev. Robert H. Kerr was formally inducted as Minister of St. Columba. In November of that year a congregational meeting decided in principle to expand the church building and planning began. On Jan 16th 1994, a service of thanksgiving was held to mark St. Columba's new status as a self supporting church after 23 years as a Mission charge. As a result, the congregation felt strong enough to host the 103rd Synod of the B.C. Presbyterian Church, a meeting attended by over 100 Ministers and elders from 60 congregations.
The twenty-fifth year was one of consolidation. Over 200 persons belonged to the congregation and various plans were contemplated for expansion. Money was trickling into a Building Fund and paving and maintenance was done. The commitment to mission was greater than ever and the congregation had a strong community involvement. Once again space was binding and direction was needed.
A "Vision" process was begun in1997, involving a series of meetings over a year, to profile the congregation and list needs and wishes. The facilitators' report was made on October 5th 1997 and, as a result, St. Columba's footprint on the rock of Vancouver Island again grew. Building expansion began in November 1998 and finished scant days before the Re-dedication service on May 16th 1999. The son of the original contractor built the addition. The congregation spent countless hours moving furniture and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning during this time, so we could continue with "business as usual".
The Building Fund this time had been substantially enhanced by a legacy from the estate of Denis Mahood to continue his work. In honour of that missionary vision the congregation gave a portion of the legacy to the Comox Valley Church for their new beginnings. The speaker at the Re-dedication, Rev. Dr. Brian Fraser of the Vancouver School of Theology, challenged us to use all the gifts and strengths we now possess.
In her report of the opening of our Church building in May 1981, Phyllis James of the Times Colonist wrote the following:
"As one comes out in the sunshine to look back on the glistening newness of the building, one thinks of the old churches steeped in history and tradition. These new ones will some day become old, but now in place of history they are forming tradition with their energy and co-operation for service to the community"
We like to think we are making her words come true.
Prayer of St. Columba of Iona
Be Thou a bright flame before me,
Be Thou a guiding star above me,
Be Thou a smooth path below me,
Be Thou a kindly shepherd behind me,
Today, tonight, and forever. Amen