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100-year-old Alberta church still serving community of 100 people

The Dalemead Church, northeast of Calgary, serving a population of 100, is a small church with a big heart. 

The Dalemead Church located in the hamlet of Dalemead, Alberta, population 100, is a small church with a big heart. 

Begun in 1904 by a student minister named Fraser, the Dalemead Church was originally held in a log home between the kitchen and dining room before a school, which is now the church, was constructed in 1908. 

Current minister Wes Thiessen said the location of the church, southeast of Calgary along the traditional railway line, provided a link between major cities where people would depart from and arrive at Dalemead.

“This is one of the main reasons why the church has had such an active past and history,” said Thiessen, “it's a significant place on a significant transport link between two major cities in Canada.”

The church became an active spot for settlers, travellers, and citizens alike as they trekked across Alberta, but Thiessen said the minister at the time, Reverend Barry, would travel by horseback from Langdon the day before service, and then stay overnight with a family from the church. 

Responsible for two to three other church services in Rocky View County, Rev. Barry had his hands full each week, but the small community of Dalemead would welcome him with open arms even when his arrival time was unknown.

Except for one night, explains Thiessen with a chuckle.

The Whissens, a new family to the hamlet in 1909, were unaware of the hospitable customs for the nomadic reverend knocking at their door on a late Saturday evening. Barry met Mrs. Whissen, and then met the slamming door in his face. 

She was understandably quite embarrassed at church on Sunday morning, says Thiessen. 

The Dalemead cemetery established in 1919, and revitalized in 1986, was also a place of great importance for families residing in the hamlet, Theissen says. Normally with the minister, they would travel from the church to the cemetery by horse-drawn buggies to share their sorrows with those held dearest. 

Now non-denominational, the Dalemead Church was once part of the United Methodist Church denomination for decades before the mid-1970’s, but, says Theissen, despite the change, there has always been an importance to staying connected. 

“I have ongoing contact with people during the week, we are concerned about what is important to people, and we pray for things as they come up,” said Thiessen. 

The Dalemead Church has been a big part of Thiessen and his wife’s life since 2019 when he took over as pastor, and the small congregation of rural people have been extremely appreciative of his knowledge from the moment he arrived.

“You will find that people will welcome you,” says Thiessen, “they will engage with you, chat with you, and you will become a part of the family.”

Thiessen said the spring of 2020 was a massive challenge for the church as they dealt with the insecurities of the COVID-19 pandemic, but a new method of virtual congregation born from difficult times has proven to be a staple at the Dalemead Church. 

Some attendees returned to physically being present at the church, but Thiessen said a hybrid  virtual/ in-person congregation has enabled a way for everyone to stay connected even if they cannot attend – a testament to the strong bonds the Dalemead congregation has. 

Dalemead Church will be having its annual spring breakfast on June 23, which is free for all to attend.

It is advised to email [email protected] if you, family, or friends will be attending to ensure numbers are accounted for. 


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