A Brief History of the Diocese of Qu’Appelle

In 1883, the Synod of the Ecclesiastical Province of Rupert’s Land approved the creation of the prairie Diocese of Assiniboia (later changed to Qu’Appelle) whose boundaries were co-terminous with those of the civil district. An Anglican presence had been present for some time with native catechists and priests ministering to their people at Touchwood Hills and Qu’Appelle Lakes. With the advent of the railway, itinerant clergy held services in settlements along the CPR main line. St. Peter’s, Qu’Appelle was the pro-cathedral until St. Paul’s, Regina assumed that mantle in 1944 and full cathedral status in 1973.

The appointment of bishops chiefly of the Catholic tradition set the overall tone for worship, mission and ministry in the diocese. As far as possible, the authority and claims of the Church as the one Body of Christ were boldly set before the newcomer. Greater emphasis on sacramental worship manifested itself in ornaments and ceremonial such as cross and candles on the altar, eastward position, mixed chalice, surplice choirs, liturgical colours, and so on. These expressions of traditional Catholic worship to varying degrees were to be found in most parishes throughout the diocese.

Qu’Appelle has always been on the cutting edge of mission and ministry. While parish development was the chief means of carrying out its mission, successive bishops looked to more innovative ways of reaching the large influx of immigrants, both English-speaking and non English-speaking, pouring into southern Saskatchewan after the turn of the 20th century. The English Church Railway Mission, the Shropshire Mission to North-West Canada, the Caron-Herbert Mission and the Canadian Sunday School Caravan Mission were some of the major initiatives undertaken by clergy and laity. On a smaller scale, community life offered by the Prairie Brotherhood, the Bishop’s Messengers, the Brotherhood of St. Francis, the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine, to name a few, provided men and women with the opportunity to advance the work of the Church. 

The Church is very much a part of the world in which it ministers. Major trends and events such as drought, immigration and settlement, war, the Great Depression and rural depopulation have had a significant impact on the life of this diocese and its people. At the same time, many bishops, clergy and laity from this diocese have left their mark on the Church at the provincial, national and international levels. Important societal issues of the day such as moral and social reform, prohibition and changing values in an increasingly secular society have galvanized Anglicans into action. At the same time, internal issues such as churchmanship, ordination of women to the priesthood and liturgical reform have created tensions within its ranks. In spite of these upheavals and changes over the past 125 years, the Church in this Diocese of Qu’Appelle has and is continuing to renew itself, tackling problems and turning challenges into opportunities. While there have been church closures, declining attendance and fewer professional clergy, the use of a locally-ordained ministry, consolidation of parishes, shared ministry with other denominations and service to the needy and vulnerable in our larger cities, is creating a more committed and vibrant membership. Vision, innovation and leadership at the diocesan and parish levels - so much a part of the past - will shape the future.

by Trevor Powell, Diocesan Archivist