Yesterday I attended All Saints Anglican church at the corner of Broadway and Osborne in Winnipeg. I had heard the music at the services was excellent as indeed it was, led by Dietrich Bartel the Dean of Music at my alma mater Canadian Mennonite University (CMU). Dr. Bartel conducted the choir and played the church’s grand pipe organ with masterful flair.
I recognized a couple Mennonite singers in the choir, one a former CMU classmate of mine. The choir members nearly outnumbered the congregation. About 50 people were in attendance, and they seemed lost in the grand sanctuary with its high ceilings and endless rows of polished dark hard-backed wood pews. When it was time for the children’s story three young girls came forward. To celebrate the lovely spring weather in Winnipeg this weekend, the trio of smiling young ladies handed out colorful tulips to all the women in the congregation. One girl was from a Chinese family, a nice reminder of my six years living in Hong Kong.
The service at All Saints was led by pastor Edmund Laldin. Later talking to some of the congregants they told me he was fairly new to the church. Rev. Laldin is from Pakistan and is a former pastor of a Lutheran church which is perhaps why some of the liturgy choices he made sounded familiar to me, since we attended a Lutheran church when we lived in Hong Kong.
This old car was parked just outside the church, a fitting reminder of just how old All Saints actually is. According to an article by James Hartman called The Churches of Early Winnipeg All Saints was founded in 1883 by Winnipeg residents who were looking for a more ritualistic service than was available in other churches. They wanted a greater emphasis on good quality music. The church was at the centre of a scandal almost immediately as the writer of a letter to the editor of a Winnipeg newspaper accused the church of immoral behavior. They had apparently conducted a raffle for a quilt to raise money for their pipe organ. The writer said this was illegal gambling and the church should be called All Sinners Church not All Saints.
Here’s how All Saints looked in 1886. The wood frame building in English Gothic style could seat 450 people.
Dozens of plaques like this one in the church indicate the congregation’s strong link to the military community. All Saints was initially nicknamed the Garrison Church because the barracks for the Royal Canadian Dragoons was just across the street and the soldiers stationed there often marched in parade to services at All Saints on Sunday mornings.
There are many beautiful stained glass windows in the church, like this one of the Last Supper. A number of these have been donated to All Saints in memory of fallen soldiers.
I was surprised to look up and see this flag with Chinese lettering saying Hong Kong Veterans hanging from the church’s ceiling. I knew there was a regiment from Manitoba The Winnipeg Grenadiers who had served in Hong Kong and that many Manitobans had been killed there when Japan attacked Hong Kong the same day they attacked Pearl Harbor. I also knew many more Winnipeg soldiers had died in Japanese prisoner of war camps.
I wrote an article for the Winnipeg Free Press about visiting the Sai Wan War cemetery where these Winnipeg soldiers are buried in Hong Kong.
I also had a Sai Wan piece in Imprint a magazine project of the Hong Kong Women in Publishing group of which I was a member.
Later when an All Saints congregation member saw me examining a plaque that paid tribute to the Hong Kong Veterans he said the survivors of the Winnipeg Grenadiers had met annually in their church for many years, holding a memorial service and meal. Of course by now virtually all of the Winnipeg Grenadiers who served in Hong Kong will have passed away.
All Saints was a very friendly congregation to visit. Before the service a woman helped me find the right liturgical book and hymn book I would need. During the ‘passing of the peace’ many people shook hands with me. After the service quite a number of smiling congregation members introduced themselves and invited me to stay for coffee.
The All Saints Church is steeped in history, has beautiful art, a welcoming congregation and more personal Winnipeg and Hong Kong connections for me than I realized.
You might want to check out this Free Press article about the stained glass art at All Saints Anglican.