OUR BUILDING



A REMARKABLE HISTORIC BUILDING


The building was constructed in the years 1906-07 and was built originally as Zion Methodist Church (prior to the formation of the United Church in 1925). The building was patterned after Zion Methodist Church in Winnipeg which has since been destroyed by fire leaving Zion the only remaining church of this particular design in Western Canada. The building overall is Romanesque in style with the dominant features of pillars and dome reminiscent of the Pantheon in Rome. The original building cost $65,000.00 in 1906/07 plus $6,000.00 for the Casavant Organ and additional funds for the pews.


THE PILLARS

If you entered through Zion’s main doors you will have passed through the five pillars which have become landmarks on Moose Jaw’s Main Street. These stone columns are Doric in design and are integral parts of the building’s construction. Between the pillars are the four wide entrances (equipped with a ramp) and the pillars are flanked to the north and south by the stairway towers.


THE NARTHEX

Of particular note are the wide stairways leading to the narthex and balcony and the beautiful handcrafted oak woodwork which carries on throughout the sanctuary. The cut-glass windows between the narthex and sanctuary may be opened in over-flow situations.


THE SANCTUARY

Originally Zion’s Sanctuary would seat 1,000 worshippers. Now, after the removal of several rows of pews, 800-850 may be seated. The Sanctuary forms an almost perfect square (75’ X 75’) and is therefore of the ‘centralized’ design. This shape combined with the domed ceiling symbolized the Easter tomb and the resurrection of our Lord. The effect of this architecture is to lift one’s line of vision vertically thus also symbolizing our approach to God. The sloped floor, curved pews, wrap-around balcony, central pulpit and table, combined with the oak woodwork and colour scheme, unite to give the sanctuary its warmth and worshippers a sense of togetherness.


RESTORATION

In 1975 structural defects were discovered in the attic (southwest corner) and the building was declared unsafe for occupancy – so the church services were held in the C.E. Auditorium while the future of the church and a solution to the problem associated with a crack in a major beam in cantilever (bridging like structure) was found. A major program of restoration was undertaken to save this historic building. The four massive pillars in the sanctuary were installed to stabilize the dome and preserve this house of worship for future generations. The cost of the project was some $200,000.00, plus $35,000.00 for the elevator and additional funds for painting and decorating.


THE STAINED GLASS

Zion is blessed with a treasure in turn-of-the-century stained glass. The stained glass of the dome is of intricate design reminiscent of a Rose Window and the colours and patterns of the dome are repeated in the tall windows of the nave with the addition of an ancient Christian symbol in each one. The following symbols are noteworthy in the nave windows:

The Anchor – symbol of the “Anchor of our souls” (Heb. 6:19) and of the cross;
The Crown – symbol of Christ as Lord and King;
The IHS – the monogram of Jesus, IHS being the first three letters of Jesus in the Greek spelling; These are also the first three letters of the Greek phrase, “Jesus, Son of God, Saviour,” or in English, “In His Service”.
The Cross – the Latin or the Roman Cross, central symbol of Christianity.


The designs and symbols are repeated in the narthex windows with the addition of one other symbol, that being The Star symbolic of Jesus the “Bright Morning Star”. Zion’s theme windows are to be found in the landings of the stairwells – on the south-upper landing the Good Samaritan Window; on the north-upper landing the Bible Window; on the south-lower landing the Boy Shepherd Window; and on the north-lower landing the Cross and Crown Window. (Both lower windows relate to Herbie Bellamy, a handicapped child from Zion who earned national attention in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s). One other theme window may be found in Zion’s Chapel (at the Social Hall level) and it is of Christ standing at the door and knocking. Portions of the stained glass windows were re-leaded in 1980 and the inside windows of the archives room (west wall/balcony level) were installed in memory of Eric Chappell. It may be interesting to note that the glass used came from the same area as the glass originally used 90 years before.


THE DOME

The crown of the building and sanctuary is of course the dome. In Western Canada Zion’s dome is fairly unique both for its size (measuring 38’ in diameter and rising approx. 44’ from floor level) and for its stained glass centre (measuring 16’ in diameter). The circular shape is an ancient Christian symbol of eternal life and the eternal nature of God. (Note also the circular motifs in the plasterwork and woodwork).


THE ORGAN

Zion’s three-manual Casavant Organ was the first fully installed pipe organ in Saskatchewan. The visible pipes are voiced to play and are backed by approximately 1,800 other pipes in the organ chamber behind. The organ console, rebuilt in 1955, is located at the centre of the choir loft. The console was replaced by Casavant in 1993 at a cost of some $90,000.00.


THE FURNISHINGS

Near the very centre of Zion’s Sanctuary stands the oak Communion Table, centre of worship, and to its north the grey marble baptism font. To the south of the Table is the Young Chang Grand Piano. On the upper platform stands the pulpit and seating for worship leaders and behind and above, the central choir loft. A graded brass cross, symbol of Christianity, stands on the Communion Table. The pews which fill the Sanctuary are noteworthy for their curvature and the manner they accommodate the sloping floor. (On the main floor level hearing aid stations are provided in the pews).


THE BALCONY

The spacious tiered balcony which surrounds the Sanctuary may itself accommodate hundred of worshippers. Of note here are the stairwells leading into the choir loft and decorative brass railing. The room found at the west end of the balcony now houses the Archives of Zion Church.


OVERVIEW / GENERAL COMMENTS

You may be interested to know that this massive structure, with its field stone foundation (which is at least three feet wide at the base) which has no structural steel in the original church, seems to move a bit depending on the temperature and amount of rain that falls during the year. In any event it creates some real maintenance problems in many areas as well as the roof. A new basement floor may soon be needed as the building sits in alkali soil.


“Enter expectantly,
Breath prayerfully,
Worship reverently,
Relax restfully,
Greet others cordially,
Leave thoughtfully,
Come again soon!”

To arrange tours of Zion United Church
please contact the Church Office
Phone: 692-3842, Monday through Thursday
9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
423 Main Street North,
Moose Jaw, Sask.
S6H 0W5