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Holy historical day

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (Dec 23/05) - Christmas Day means something extra special for the parishioners of St. David's Anglican church this year.

When the congregation gathers on Sunday morning they will be marking the 75th anniversary of the church.

NNSL Photo/graphic

Flora, left, and Jane Grossetete will be helping to celebrate St. David's Anglican church, which turns 75 on Christmas Day. - Roxanna Thompson/NNSL photo

Little has changed inside the building on the main street in Fort Simpson.

"It still looks the same," said Jane Grossetete who's been a lifelong member.

Grossetete can remember when the church used a wood stove for heat and a piano for music. She also recalls the church's original location.

Today's familiar cream coloured, picturesque church is the second to bear the name St. David.

The first church was built near the river by Rev. William West Kirkby who arrived in Fort Simpson in June 1859. The log church was finished and opened for worship by Easter 1861, said Stephen Rowan, a local historian who's researched the church's story.

Time took it's toll on the building.

"It was drafty and cold and hard to keep warm," said Rowan.

The current church dates to 1930 and was built close the original. It was started by Rev. Franklin Clarke and a British student from Emmanuel College in Saskatoon who was referred to only as Mr. Martyn, Rowan said.

Construction didn't always go smoothly. Clarke's journals have a number of references about Martyn's carpentry skills. At one point he built the door two feet too tall.

Bishop Geddes helped finish the church when he arrived by plane from Fort Smith in October and it opened on Christmas Day, 1930.

"After 75 years they must have put the nails in the right place," said Rowan.

In 1986 the church was put on log rollers and a tractor pulled it to it's present location. The move took about a week.

There will soon be even more reason to celebrate.

Dates are being double checked, but in five years the parish will turn 150 making it the oldest parish west of Winnipeg, said Rev. Larry Robertson, the regional bishop for the Mackenzie and Kitikmeot regions of the Diocese of the Arctic.

"This is a church of faith and the people hang onto their tradition and it speaks highly of them," said Robertson during a visit to the parish on Dec. 18.

Despite not having a priest for the past year, Robertson noted that the church is fuller than ever.

"The ministers come and go, but the people stay, that says something," said Robertson.

The anniversary will be celebrated during the pageant service at the church on Dec. 24 at 8 p.m.