Abbotsford Baptist Church is celebrating its 110th anniversary with a weekend of activities from March 13 to 15.
The celebration kicks off on Friday, March 13 at 7 p.m. with a worship event at the church, located at 33651 Busby Rd.
The following day, an open house runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be an informal meet-and-greet with former pastors, Mayor Henry Braun and other leaders, as well as historical displays, snacks and a guided walking tour of Matsqui.
The celebration concludes on Sunday, March 15 with prayer at 9:30 a.m. and a worship service at 10:30 with guest speaker Dr. Bernard Mukwavi.
Abbotsford Baptist Church met for its first service on March 16, 1910, as a Swedish Baptist Church in the village of Matsqui.
With encouragement from the First Swedish Baptist Church in Bellingham, Wash., 18 Swedish immigrants met to establish what is today the Abbotsford Baptist Church.
A fire in 1934 burned the original building to the ground, but the congregation rebuilt on the same site. That building still exists at the corner of Riverside and Harris roads.
The great flood of 1948 saw the building submerged in water to the eaves. Concerned members who came by in a boat saw the wooden pews floating at the ceiling.
With commitment and help from the community and the Kinsmen’s Club, the building was cleaned and restored.
By the 1960s, attendance dropped to the point where closing the church was being debated.
A new teacher in the community, Sheila Trotter, and Dr. H.H. Janson, a teacher at the Vancouver Bible Institute who was asked to bring the sermons, breathed new life into the discouraged group, and attendance grew once again.
Bill Funk became the pastor, and a small addition was made to the front of the building.
When the building could no longer contain the growing attendance, the church bought the current building on Busby Road in 1972 and moved the congregation there.
The church continued to grow, with more than 225 in attendance with a large Sunday school and youth program.
Pastor Bill Funk left in the early 1980s to serve a new church in Vernon.
Attendance began to decline again, but a young pastoral couple, Roger and Vicki McClelland, joined the church and, under their ministry over 18 years, they helped stabilize the membership.
One highlight was the 75 youth and children who met on Tuesday nights, and a monthly Sunday afternoon hymn sing filled the church.
After Pastor Roger’s retirement in 2004, Dr. Curtis Congo, a professor at Trinity Western University, served as transitional pastor until Pastor Murray Archibald and Marta arrived in 2006 after serving on Salt Spring Island.
A Korean congregation under Pastor David Kim and Sylvia held services on Sunday afternoons, with some of their members also participating in the services on Sunday morning.
The Sunday school took on some new life, and men’s and women’s ministries grew.
Once again, attendance declined to the point that closing the church was a possibility. With the help of the BC Baptist Conference and executive minister Bernard Mukwavi, who had a strong vision for revitalization, Pastor John and Sue Wyness were asked to begin another transitional ministry in 2014.
After one year of transition, Pastor John was invited to stay on as the permanent pastor.
While attendance has leveled off the last few years, the church is looking with vision to the future for a strong ministry in Abbotsford.