The Church Will Live On In The Pews

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A pew they plan to use on their deck will be a warm reminder of the church family for Kevin and Vicki Haberl.

By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: April 27, 2015

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Long time Squamish United Church member Grace Halvorson is coordinating the sale of the pews.

When Marilyn Masterton talks about going to the Squamish United Church as a child, the child takes over. The memories come and with them come the choir songs, the sermons and the tears.
Masterton pauses, remembers and sings: “Come to the church in the wild woods, no lovelier place in the dale; no spot is dear to my childhood, as the little brown church in the vale.”
Masterton sings over the phone from Ft. Langley, and it brings her back to the Squamish of the 1950s when she sat on the wooden benches at Sunday school and dreamt about growing fast enough to sit on the church pews. Her parents, Bill and Ruth Smith, moved to Squamish in 1954. She was nine years old and going to the church was a part of life; her mother was the daughter of a Baptist minister and they were people of faith. She had never seen herself as a Christian, but she remembers the feeling the church and singing in the choir and the Sunday sermon evoked in her: a joy and peace that is indescribable.  It helped that she loved singing and she remembers the songs and the people who helped her sing them: Mrs. Seymour, Grace Halvorson, Jackey Buffrey, Barbara Seymour, Diane Slack and Kat Vickers.
Sin and salvation were profound concepts for a young girl but she remembers how peace and tears washed over her and tears came when the pastor spoke the benediction. Over 40 years later, she still remembers it and tears well up: “May the peace of God…”
Masterton’s parents have passed way and it’s been years since she prayed at the Squamish United Church. But now a small fragment of the church will find a place in her home in Ft. Langley.
Masterton is one of the people who have bought pews from the Squamish United Church as it prepares to dismantle the old church for a Centrepoint project. The pew will sit in her home and remind her of the choir, her parents and the faith and love the church instilled in her. “When Grace called for the pew, I didn’t give it a moment’s thought,” she says.
When church member Grace Halvorson called up Karen Siggers to tell her about the pews, she didn’t give it much thought either. When the church sanctuary was built in 1963, Karen’s father, Martin Halvorson, was the contractor. They lived right across from the church and she remembers how intertwined their life was with it. She got married there and so did her brother and it was their church for funerals and her first two sons were christened there.
“It was just a big part of our life,” Siggers says. Her son, Kevin Siggers, is a carpenter and said he shared the same interest as his grandfather. They have bought two pews and he plans to make a table out of one of them.
“The pew is important to my mom and it’s a nice sentiment that I share,” he says.
Located at Fourth Ave and Victoria Street, the Centrepoint building will have 32 affordable suits, a community rooms, meeting rooms, preschool and various counselling and community support programs. Squamish United Church has donated its present sanctuary, valued at $1 million, to the project, which is a joint partnership between the church and the Sea to Sky Community Services. The church is selling the pews to replace them with new chairs in the new prayer sanctuary. Those who bought them have carried a piece of the church along with the town’s history to their homes. Church member coordinating the sale of the pews is Grace Halvorson, who said the pews being sold were bought by the church from the Britannia Beach church which closed down after a thriving mining community dispersed as the Britannia mine closed down.
“It’s the legacy of sharing that people will bring to their home,” Halvorson said. Her own family has deep connections to the church: She has been attending the church since she was kid with her parents, Ellen and Jimmy Harley. She remembers the growing church when her father-in-law and Karen Siggers’s father, Martin Halvorson, built the church in 1963. Grace was married in the church and says at least 15 other Halvorson weddings had taken place there. Several family members were baptized in the church while many were bid adieu from there.
Cory Balano doesn’t go the Squamish United Church but he saw the solid Douglas fir pews,and he knew it would cost far more to purchase or build similar high quality furniture. Balano has bought four pews, two of which he plans to refurnish and keep at his home and the rest of the two will serve as customer seating in the Cloudburst Café on Mamquam Road he owns. “This is solid fir in good condition and it’s just not something you can buy at the store,” he says.
A pew they plan to use on their deck will be a warm reminder of the church family for Kevin and Vicki Haberl.
The church has raised $5,000 from the sale of the pews so far and 25 out of 30 have been sold. Contact Grace Halvorson at hghalv@me.com to enquire.

Comments

  1. Grace Halvorson says:

    Thanks Gagandeep for featuring the church and the pews! Thanks to the article we have sold all of the pews and I have heard some very heartwarming stories about people’s links to the church.