A Short History of Southminster-Steinhauer United Church
It was 1967, Canada’s centennial year. For one group of United Church people it was a time of beginnings as they established a new faith community in the Westbrook area of south Edmonton. Their vision called for a church without walls, a church that sought to follow the example of Jesus by reaching into and beyond the local community in a commitment to seek justice and to serve others. From the start, Southminster United Church was instrumental in founding and/or supporting a variety of outreach ministries. Southern Homes, begun as a haven for young women new to the city, now serves family groupings in foster care. Operation Friendship has expanded from an inner-city seniors drop in to include a housing facility. Support for the Bissell Center and many other projects is ongoing.
Outreach took a different form in 1977 when a second community of faith was established and named for native missionary Henry Bird Steinhauer. For 16 years the Steinhauer and Southminster congregations shared ministers and office space. In 1993 they amalgamated to become a single congregation, Southminster-Steinhauer United Church, worshiping in the Erminskin Community Centre. With the changing needs and a growing city, a vision of the amalgamation was to establish a visible multi-purpose physical presence in south Edmonton. 1998 saw the purchase of land at the current Yellowbird location. The first service was held in December 2000 and the official opening followed in March 2001.
Members have been sustained by a tradition of meaningful worship and strong education programs for all ages in a process that ensures life-long learning and spiritual growth. Throughout, the congregation’s vision has been shared by a number of dedicated ministers – Frank Samis, Don Hamilton, Mary Thomas, Dorothy Mundle, Claire Woodbury, Charles Hickman, Ross Smillie, Lynda Gow, Bob Hetherington, Marg Archibald, Heather Koots, Nancy Steeves, and Christopher New.
The congregation has historically been willing to struggle and grow in understanding many difficult issues that have faced the church and society. In 1999, Southminster-Steinhauer United Church declared itself to be an Affirming Congregation. In recent years the commitment to live faith through action has included refugee sponsorship, education on global cooperation through the Mission and Service Fund, and an appreciation of our responsibilities for the stewardship of creation’s resources.
Grounded in faith that offers hope to the world, a variety of spiritual traditions and practices are expressed and explored by all ages in our diverse spiritual gatherings.
Within our front garden stands a sculpture entitled Thunderbird/Eagle. Stewart Steinhauer is the son of the late Margaret Steinhauer of our congregation and Herb Steinhauer, and a Treaty Indian of mixed racial heritage. Born in the Saddle Lake area, he began carving in 1973 and by 1990 had decided to become a full time Cree artist. His sculptures in granite as well as his soapstone carvings have been exhibited in the West End Gallery in Edmonton, along the Sturgeon River in St. Albert, Canada House Gallery in Banff as well as in galleries in Victoria, Calgary, Stratford in Ontario and at his home studio in Saddle Lake. His work speaks of respect for the natural world and his commitment to his spiritual understanding of “the rock of the earth”, the Great Mystery.
The Thunderbird/Eagle was created by Stewart Steinhauer and gifted to Southminster-Steinhauer United Church by his mother, Margaret Steinhauer, in August 2003.
The following is the sculptor’s description of the Thunderbird/Eagle.
“This is a fitting image to honour my noble ancestor, Henry Bird Steinhauer, who was born a member of the Bird Clan, in southern Ontario. This clan name was considered so sacred that people would not speak it out loud, but rather would leave an appropriate silence in the middle of a sentence to indicate just whom they were speaking about. Indigenous knowledge is deeply linked to the immediate environment, and travels from the Great Mystery to the humble learner along what, in modern times, is called a spiritual pathway. Powerful forces, dimly understood, surround us, now as much so as ever, in our brief history on this fragile, lovely planet.
Over millennia, Indigenous knowledge-seekers found translation, and explanation for these forces, in the natural world all around them. Following the spiritual pathway step by step, in the present moment, they were able to maintain a harmony and balance that we in the modern world can only wonder at.”