Pentecostal Tabernacle celebrates 100 years
PARRY SOUND - One hundred years and four buildings later, the Parry Sound Pentecostal Tabernacle (PSPT) and its congregation are bigger and stronger in their faith.
To celebrate this monumental accomplishment, events will be hosted all weekend long, starting this evening, with a youth concert. Saturday afternoon the church hosts an old-fashioned Sunday school picnic and barbecue at the YMCA, followed by a banquet dinner and concluding with a celebration service Sunday morning.
What sets his church apart from others, is the congregation’s personal history is part of the church history, and vice versa, said Pastor David Slauenwhite.
“It’s interesting to observe the history of a church and hear the stories of it, when it still has within it, people who were here from childhood who are now seniors,” said Slauenwhite. “We have so many people here with roots. We have people here who are fifth generation members of this church - I even think it might be more. People whose grandparents were part of the original days. You hear an ongoing story of both family and church and the inter-mix with the history of the community. It’s all their story, as much as a church story. You hear very interesting side stories that bring it all alive.”
Sisters-in-law Florence Mortson and Geraldine Langford are long-time members of the church and have fond memories of its earlier days at its Church Street location next to the CNR tracks.
They laughed, recalling the service pausing as a train would rumble by.
The women say the welcoming atmosphere at their church is what sets them apart from others.
Additionally, Slauenwhite says the church is well known nationally within its denomination as having strong missionary roots.
In 1911, Sarah Weller was the church’s first member to be sent overseas on a mission to India, where she died from malaria several years later.
Her sister, Marion, took up the mission a few years following her sister’s departure to work in East Africa.
“This church is known, from its earliest days, as sending out missionaries and it has never lost that vision,” Slauenwhite said. “Even today, the giving overseas from this church to outreach and humanitarian ministry missionary would be over $100,000 a year. That’s consistent and that’s not pushing it, we just simply say we’re supporting this number of missionaries and it comes in.”
Most recently, the church supports longtime members Rev. Gaye and Elizabeth Norrie, founders and directors of the Village of Hope in Zimbabwe.
In its anniversary year, the church committed to raising an additional $40,000 for the project, called Building Hope, to build a classroom block at the Village of Hope that serves more than 500 children and orphans from the AIDS epidemic in Africa.
“A lot happens in this little church that people don’t know. The church is in the top 10 in the nation for all the Pentecostal Churches for giving to mission,” he said.
Each Sunday, Slauenwhite says between 200 and 240 people attend services inside its current location on Parry Sound Drive, but it wasn’t always situated there.
Around 1909, meetings were held in a number of places, including an old barn. The first permanent building, in 1912, was started by Frederick and Daniel Michaelis, who owned a sawmill and cut and prepared the logs for the structure. Property for the building was donated on Church Street, next to the railway.
By 1945, a larger church was needed. Perry’s Store, on James Street, was purchased and renovated.
Further growth in 1962, saw the construction of a new church back on Church Street.
In 1993, its present church was constructed, with seating for more than 500. The church is served by four, full-time staff with a summer ministry intern as well, and runs programs for children and youth.