Downtown Edmonton church closes doors after 85 years

Dozens of congregation members — many of whom appear in baptism and confirmation photos pasted in the church’s basement — were on hand Sunday to say goodbye to the Augustana Lutheran Church in downtown Edmonton.

Reverend Kathleen Schmitke has spent 14 months preparing her congregation

The pews were packed at Augustana Lutheran Church on Sunday morning as the congregation gathered for a final Sunday service. (CBC)

An Edmonton church with 85 years of history held its final service on Sunday.

Dozens of congregation members many of whom appear in baptism and confirmation photos pasted in the church’s basement were on hand to say goodbye to the Augustana Lutheran Church.

The downtown property has been sold to a local developer, who will likely tear down the old church building to make way for a high-rise condominium.

But while the church itself will soon be gone, parts of it will live on. Some money from the sale of the property will go towards missions, while several of the pews and the pulpit and altar are destined for a church in Manitoba.

The welcome sign will find a new home at the Holy Spirit Lutheran Church in south Edmonton.

“It’s part of what makes them be hopeful and have a sense that the ministry doesn’t end," Reverend Kathleen Schmitke said of the congregation's decision to share what they have with others. "They have always been very generous.” 

Schmitke, who called her time at Augustana “a delight,” is specially trained to do 'transition ministry'  helping members move from one church to another.

She said she has spent the past 14 months preparing the congregation for the coming change.

“In many ways, it has some similarities with other kinds of grief work, in that it’s sort of getting past the denial stage and coming to terms with that.”

“It's home, friends. I was married here,” said a visibly emotional Carl Sorensen on the day of the church's final service. (CBC)
Schmitke said there are several other churches in the surrounding area that will welcome congregation members from Augustana —​ but for some, no church can replace the spot Augustana holds in their hearts and memories.

“It's home, friends. I was married here,” said Carl Sorensen, who joined the Augustana Church in 1965.

“When my wife died 14 years ago, the memorial service was here. Both of my children, who are here today, were baptized and confirmed here.”

Others seemed happy to have been a part of the tight-knit community for as long as they were.

“I am so grateful that I have absorbed everything that a church means to a person attending — the strength, the worship, the fellowship,” said parishioner Jennie Monson.

“I said I wasn’t going to cry, but I think there were two or three tears.”


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