“People would arrive by streetcar with a lunch and leave late into the night singing hymns on the way home.”
The year was 1917. Edmonton was a rapidly growing prairie city of 54,000 citizens. The High Level Bridge and the Hotel MacDonald had recently opened, and the dismantling of Fort Edmonton had just been completed. The First World War was still raging in Europe. Many young Edmontonians had lost their lives at the Battle of Passchendaele and at Vimy Ridge.
That same year, Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Taylor invited interested friends to their home at 11816 79th Street in Edmonton to pray for revival. The Taylors attended the Methodist Church but were looking to experience more of God. A nucleus of six couples gathered in the Taylor’s living room to pray about the infilling of the Holy Spirit—an experience not looked upon with favour by Methodists and mainline churches.
Birthed in Azuza Street, Los Angeles, in 1906, the Pentecostal movement first caught the attention of Canadian Christians in Ontario. “Be filled with the Holy Spirit” was the rallying cry as the wave rolled west and eventually arrived in the living room of the Taylor’s home in 1917. Each person in that prayer group was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues.
Soon, the crowds that came outgrew the house, so they moved to a rented a facility and asked Rev. John McAlister, a member of the group, to be their pastor. Between 1917 and 1932, Bethel Pentecostal Assembly, as it was known, was led by seven different pastors and worshipped in five different locations.
Many evangelistic meetings were held over those years in the old Edmonton Gardens. Dr. Charles Price’s healing services in 1925 drew huge crowds and saw many notable miracles. People would arrive by streetcar with a lunch and leave late into the night singing hymns on the way home. John McLeod, for example, was healed and converted. His daughter, Sadie, became an influential missionary to Hong Kong, initiating innovative outreaches to children through rooftop Sunday schools.
In 1933, the growing congregation of Bethel Pentecostal Assembly built the largest depression-era facility in Edmonton. John McLeod led the construction using borrowed equipment and a team of horses to dig the basement. Pentecostal pioneer, Rev. Donald Gee, came from England to dedicate the facility. The name of the church was changed to Edmonton Pentecostal Tabernacle and the congregation rapidly filled up with young families.
Rev. Tom Johnstone, Rev. A. Mallory and Rev. Willard Pierce served as pastors at “The Tabernacle” during the war years of 1940-45 and in 1945 D. N. Buntain became the senior pastor. His guiding conviction was that God looks after any church that puts missions first. In 1950 an addition was built, bringing the church’s seating capacity to 750. When Pastor Buntain passed away in 1955, Robert Taitinger became the senior pastor. He had been in the initial class of 50 devoted students at Canadian Northwest Bible Institute, started by Pastor Buntain in 1946.
Under Pastor Taitinger’s leadership, the growing church was renamed Edmonton Central Pentecostal Tabernacle. Three churches were planted in the mid-1950s—one in southeast Edmonton, one in St. Albert, and one in south Edmonton. Pastor Taitinger led a relocation process in 1964 that moved the church closer to the growing outskirts of Edmonton.
In 1968, after a total of 22 years of ministry at Central, Pastor Taitinger was elected general superintendent of the PAOC. Rev. George Smith, a previous associate of Pastor Taitinger, accepted the congregation’s invitation to be their next pastor.
The 60s and 70s were times of entrepreneurial expansion. Birch Bay Ranch was established, Central Village provided housing for seniors, and a radio and television program were produced in-house and aired weekly. Wee College, a Bible-based ministry that teaches pre-schoolers the fundamentals of the faith, gained national recognition and is still used by Canadian churches 50 years later.
In 1967, The Singing Christmas Tree—featuring real spruce branches and lighted candles—debuted. Hundreds of thousands of people have attended this Christmas presentation over its 50-year history. Today, under the leadership of John Cameron, a former music director at Central, the event is hosted at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium.
Under Pastor George Smith’s leadership, the growing congregation acquired additional property for expansion. In 1972 the “Pyramid” building, with seating for 1,800, was completed. Rev. James MacKnight became senior pastor in 1978 and served until 1982 when he was elected as the PAOC’s general superintendent. Rev. Bob Johnson accepted the call to be Central’s next senior pastor.
In 1988, after being a strong and prevailing part of God’s kingdom in Edmonton, the congregation experienced internal conflict. A catastrophic split started a decline that lasted nearly 15 years. Rev. Roy Upton took over as senior pastor in 1988, followed by Rev. Bruce Fisher in 1990, and Rev. Bob Jones in 1994.
In May of 2000, the congregation took a leap of faith and decided to relocate from downtown to the least churched area on the frontier of Edmonton. Thirty-eight acres of farmland were purchased in April 2003. Three years later, Central was renamed North Pointe Community Church and opened its doors on Sunday July 16, 2006.
North Pointe now offers three Sunday morning services and two services at an on-site south campus. The church family consists of 85 different nationalities. North Pointe is known as the “come as you are” church where people are real, relationships are valued, faith is authentic, and purpose can be discovered.
The consistent passion over the past 100 years has been to see people grow in a personal relationship with Jesus every day through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Rev. David Wells, present General Superintendent of the PAOC, tells how he was an eight-year-old “un-churched, red-headed kid” when he was first sent on a bus to a branch Sunday school of Central in 1963. David accepted Jesus as his Saviour. His parents decided to stop sending him and started going with him to Central. They started following Jesus. The rest is history—God’s history.
We are 100 years young and hungry for revival in our generation. Wherever you are in your journey with the Holy Spirit, seeking His love and power means your best days are ahead of you.
Rev. Bob Jones is the senior pastor of North Pointe Community Church in Edmonton Alta. You can read his blog at http://blog.northpointechurch.ca.
Image ©North Pointe Community Church. This article appeared in the January/February 2018 issue of testimony, the bimonthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.