The heritage began with clergy from Victoria holding services in the four schools – North End, Central, Burgoyne Valley, and Beaver Point – between 1884 and 1891. In 1891, the first resident minister, Rev. Belton Haslam, was appointed. A church had been started in 1889, named St. Mark’s, and was completed in 1892 on land given by H. Stevens out of his farm, now the Cunningham property and still known as Church Hill Farm. Two years later, St. Mary’s at Fulford was finished, built in a cemetery donated by Mr. Sparrow, whose son had been killed in a hunting accident.
In 1894, Rev. Edward Wilson followed Rev. Haslam. As a former missionary to Ontario natives and founder of the Shingwauk Indian residential school near Sault Ste. Marie, he lived in his own house, Barnsbury, on the site of the present Salt Spring Island golf club house. Here all the activities of the church and rectory took place, other than actual services. These included nursing sick members of the congregation from time to time, and even being used as an operating theatre for one of Wilson’s sons; Wilson assisted the surgeon.
When his son Norman took over Barnsbury in 1909, a new rectory was needed. Churchwarden and active parishioner Harry Bullock provided the land, opposite the golf course, from Baker Road to Vesuvius Bay Road, and built the house. It was later sold when Archdeacon Holmes wanted to live closer to the new St. George’s in 1941; it has been a turkey farm, private home, youth centre, and bed-and-breakfast since then.
In 1913, St. Paul’s, a shingled structure with a rounded sanctuary and windows of yellow honeycomb glass so that inside it seemed the sun was always shining, was built on the corner of Dean Road and Fulford Ganges Road. A suspicious fire destroyed St. Paul’s on December 27, 1939.
Gavin Mouat gave the land on Church Road (now Park Drive) on which St. George’s was built in 1940. He also gave land for a Sunday School hall in the 1950s, on Vesuvius Bay Road at Chu-an Drive, which became St. Nicholas’ Church. When attendance dropped to an average of six persons in 1977, the church was sold as a residence to the poet Phyllis Webb.
In more recent history …
St. George’s Church underwent a remarkable transformation during 1993 and 1994. It was bodily moved across the road and expanded into the new facilities that became “All Saints by-the-Sea” with its blessing amid a month of joyous celebrations in October 1994. These were two intensive years which saw scores of parishioners involved in all phases of the project from planning to committee meetings, to fundraising to actual construction work by volunteers (well over 20,000 hours’ worth). In July 1993, St. George’s Church was cut loose from its hall, moved across Park Drive to the parking lot, and set on its new foundation. Construction then began, which doubled the size of the nave and added an upper and lower hall, and offices. This new Anglican Centre was virtually completed by September 1994 and the church blessed “All Saints by-the-Sea” by Bishop Barry Jenks on October 9th.
St. Mark’s became 100 years old in 1992, and on the weekend of May 15th-17th, parishioners from all three churches gathered together, many in turn-of-the-century garb, to mark the occasion with a garden party under marquee and a church service taken from the prayer book of the day. In the spring of 2022, when services were no longer offered because of poor attendance, St. Mark’s Church was deconsecrated at a quiet service led by Bishop Anna Greenwood-Lee.
In May 1994, it was St. Mary’s turn when our vital little church at Fulford celebrated its centenary. Like St. Mark’s, many parishioners took on the look of the 1890s. A sold-out dinner/dance at Fulford Hall, a strawberry tea and open house, Friday Evensong, and special Sunday Eucharist was celebrated by Bishop Barry Jenks. The weekend was a glorious occasion.
The Anglican Parish of Salt Spring Island became a “busy, vibrant parish of committed Christians”, perhaps made even more so by the newly expanded facilities which allowed us to reach out even more to the community and has enabled the community to know us better. An indication of this was the very noticeable increase in the daily activity in and around the parish office.
Since 1995, the parish had grown in faith and in serving the outer community with various outreach programs such as Soup’s On and Music and Munch. Every year there was a Salmon Barbecue, two garage sales, and a very successful Christmas Bazaar. Community groups have used the halls extensively and many musical concerts given in our nave.
In 2020, the church and halls were closed suddenly with the onset of the COVID19 pandemic. Online YouTube services were offered weekly via our website, with great success, up until Easter of 2022. With the return of in-person services, attendance has been slowly returning.