By Mike Rainone
For the News
The Baptist Church originated in England many centuries ago, and then quickly spread the good word to thousands of Christian families throughout the world. For Ponoka, the humble beginnings of the local Baptist congregation actually began with a quiet meeting in the original village log school on August 18, 1901, which was led by the Reverend F. W. Paterson.
Enthusiasm grew quickly throughout the town and surrounding districts, and under the leadership of Charter members C.D. Algar, Mr. and Mrs. R. K. Allan Mr. and Mrs. J.W. Tulk, Mrs. W. A. Snider, Mrs. W. K. Spackman, Mrs. N.E. Ledgerwood, Mrs. Greffen and Mrs. Holliffkiff, the first services were celebrated in the tiny town school or at settlers’ homes. The first Sunday school sessions were held at the new Canadian Pacific Railway Siding #14 station.
During the early establishment of our community many church denominations faithfully shared the first log church located just west of Chipman Avenue for their services and activities. With a great deal of hard work, prayers and joy the initial First Baptist Church of Ponoka was finally completed in 1903 at 5112-50th Avenue. Reverend J. E. Pengelly was called to be the regular Pastor and the first Mission Circle was soon organized.
In 1904 the Brooks congregation became a Baptist point, and the great singers from that area added much to the enthusiasm and growth of the church. In 1908 Mr. Fred E. Algar became superintendent of the first and very busy Sunday School, then in 1914 Concord became a point, and brought in many fine Welsh voices to an already very musical First Baptist Church. Over those years the growth of the church was slow, and it was not until 1943 that it became self-supporting. During the early years the Pastors at the Ponoka Church also ministered in three other rural congregations, and in 1955 Ponoka was the only four-point field in the Union.
The ongoing and long-standing vision and goals of the First Baptist Church were and will always be to invite families from the community and districts to grow together with love and integrity, while striving to develop closer personal and spiritual friendships. With this in mind, by 1950 a strong need was felt for more room in the very busy church, which resulted in the additions of a kitchen and S.S. rooms, that could also be opened to provide more seating space in the sanctuary. The gala 50th Anniversary of the Church was celebrated in 1954, and everyone in the congregation took great pride in their steady growth and successes in all of their ministeries, as well as being blessed with the fact that more than $2000 had been sent to support vital Mission work.
In the exciting ‘50s Mr. Charles Segerstrome graciously left a legacy of a sum of money to the church and Mrs. Annie Wing donated her home, which was used for quite some time as the Church Manse. The “Dorothy Franklin” Mission Circle was later formed, and with the advent of better roads, the arrival of cars and more room the Ponoka First Baptist Church warmly welcomed into their Fellowship the Point Churches of Brooks-Dennis in 1961 and then Concord in 1969.
Once again the Baptist Church congregation had outgrown its facilities, and in the early sixties property was purchased on 57th Avenue and a handsome brick edifice was designed and constructed by Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Dickau. An original Baptismal font built into the floor of the new facility was all that survived from the original facility, which had now been transformed into Michie’s Flowers and Children’s Wear. Mrs. Fred Dickau, a valued member of the church for many years was honoured by having the Mission Circle re-named “The Louise Dickau” Mission Circle. Ongoing additions have been made at the Church, the latest being new offices and a gymnasium in 2000, and everyone is welcome and encouraged to visit the 5109-57th Avenue facility or Phone (403) 783-5533 to learn more about the Ministry and fellowship that is offered for all families and age groups.
The names of the dedicated ministers who have served the congregations of the First Ponoka Baptist Church over the years have included: Pengelly, Guyette, Brough, Habershon, John Bracken, John Milton, R. Edwards, E. Turner, Dickerson, Leeman. S. Waterman, G. Ashdown, Mr. Ralston, R. Darling, Donald Miller and George Sears. In November 1984 Paul Spate arrived at the Ponoka Baptist Church and served as a part time Youth Pastor and Summer Camp Director while completing his seminary training. Following the departure of Senior Pastor Sears, Paul Spate agreed to take the position of Interim Pastor, and a year later was appointed Senior Pastor. Reverend Spate has now proudly achieved the distinction of being the longest serving Pastor of the Ponoka Church, having diligently and faithfully led the Prayer Ministry, teaching, and leadership of the very active family congregation for the past 24 years. Reverend Joshua Goetz has served as the Associate Pastor and Minister of Youth since May 2002.
It has been 107 years since a handful of local Baptists first met and later extended a warm invitation to the new settlers and their families in Ponoka and districts to share their spiritual growth, worship, and friendship together in that little log school. Over all those cherished years at our First Baptist Church there has and always will be a long list of dedicated pastors, elders, staff members and keen volunteers, who have maintained that special tradition and have continued to share their faith and support with their growing congregation and their community.