St. Michael and All Angels’ Anglican Church
Located in the heart of old Balfour, St. Michael and All Angels’ Anglican Church stands on the site selected in 1892 by the first Bishop of New Westminster, the Right Reverend Acton W. Sillitoe. The land was donated by the original owner of the townsite, Charles W. Busk. It is believed that he personally contributed some monies for its construction, although his Aunt in England donated most of the funds to build and furnish it. She also donated the original bell to the church. Later, in his will, Busk bequeathed a small sum that was used to purchase new pews, altar hangings, a lectern, and a prayer-desk. The first service held in the church was on December 26, 1892. In 1903, St. Michael was included in the newly created Diocese of Kootenay.
In terms of its heritage, St. Micheal is not only one of the oldest churches in the Kootenays, it is also one of the oldest wood frame structures still in use between Nelson and Kaslo. The quaint church, with its steeple and the distinctive circular, stain-glass window over the entrance, has stood quietly as the backdrop for many local events over the years. It has always been a community church. The first wedding took place there in 1910. From 1917 to 1921, the Vicar was on hand to aid the invalid soldiers at the nearby military Sanatorium that used to be the CPR’s Kootenay Lake Hotel. Even the Ktunaxa people were allowed to lodge there when they were in the area during their annual fishing trips. It also withstood the record high water flood of 1894, when the water was said to have lapped at the foot of the church steps.
Years later, when the Anglican churches in adjoining parishes of Procter and Longbeach were closed, their Rolls of Honour and some of the furnishings were brought to St. Michael. One touching item transferred from the Longbeach church was the intricately-carved, First World War Baptismal Font in memory of a local resident, Captain Lenox McClure John, 3rd Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment, who died in France on September 24, 1916.
St. Michael’s long survival is due entirely to stalwart community volunteerism and the strong sense of commitment from its members. Throughout the decades, the Ladies’ Guild has hosted countless fundraisers, raffles, and even “fancy dress balls,” to raise funds for repairs and improvements to the building. Parishioners have also played their part in painstakingly maintaining this community symbol. They’ve handled big jobs, like painting the exterior, repairing the steeple and replacing the roof – not once but 5 times – to innumerable small jobs that are necessity when it came to battling the ravages of time.
The structure of St. Michael has seen many changes over the years. A small room for the Vicar was added on the south wall. In 1936, the original, rough-cut ceiling trusses had iron strapping and U-Bolts added to reinforce the ones that had cracked. Beneath the floor, the old log supports were renewed. The church’s simple interior has been changed and restyled over time. The original wood-burning stove is long gone and replaced with a natural gas furnace. The walls have been partially panelled, parts of the ceiling enclosed, carpeting installed and the electric wiring is hardly noticeable. The tall, narrow, lancet windows behind the altar are still the original ones, as are the small side windows.
The last Anglican service held in the church was on December 24, 2019. and the old church was acquired by the Balfour and District Business and Historical Association (BDBHA) in August, 2021. Throughout its 128-year existence, the doors of St. Michael and All Angels’ have never been locked, welcoming all comers.
On June 6, 2022 Archbishop Lynne McNaughton of the Diocese of Kootenay, Anglican Church of Canada, deconsecrated the historic Church. The service of secularizing St. Michael’s started at 10:00 a.m., with Archbishop McNaughton first visiting various points inside the church and then inviting parishioners to recall memories of the church and services past. Afterwards, she preceded outside, where the service came to a close.
There is always a sense of sadness in saying farewell to a beloved structure, especially a church like St. Michael’s, with all the years and generations of memories it carries. But, along with all the fond memories there is also a sense of enthusiasm within the community that the old Church’s legacy will continue to positively impact Balfour and the Outlet communities in its new secular role as St. Michael and All Angels’ Chapel and Performance Center. The Balfour and District Business and Historical Association (BDBHA), purchased the heritage building with the hope of regenerating it into a self-sufficient, vibrant community hub that will stand for many years to come. The Association believes this can be accomplished without materially altering the Chapel’s historical character.
Archbishop McNaughton (Left) looks on while Josh Smienk, Chairman of the Historic
Committee of the BDBHA, rings the St. Michael’s bell for the last time at the end of the
deconsecration service. Standing in the center is the Archbishop’s assistant, Reverend Susan
Basek, holding the procession cross.
Archbishop Lynne McNaughton and her assistant, Reverend Susan Basek, greet parishioners after the deconsecration service had finished