News Story

Latter-day Saints Donate Historic Chapel to Taber Arts Community

Church of Jesus Christ hands off keys to building for new arts facility

For 20 years, leaders in the arts community in Taber, Alberta, struggled unsuccessfully to find a permanent home for a music and arts facility. Their dreams came true when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints decided to donate one of its historic buildings to the Taber Assisting Nations through Global Outreach (TANGO) Foundation. TANGO will collaborate with the Society for Taber Arts and Recreation (STAR) to operate the facility.

On November 29, 2022, a key handover ceremony took place in the century-old building. It was attended by local Church members and government officials, including Town of Taber Mayor Andrew Prokop, town councilmembers, Municipal District of Taber Reeve Merrill Harris, Deputy Reeve Tamara Miyanaga and municipal district councilmembers. Don Hubble represented Minister Grant Hunter of the legislative assembly of Alberta for the newly formed riding of Taber–Warner.

A Building With Many Memories

“Many fond memories have been created within the walls of this building,” said Bishop Sam Bennett of the Taber 2nd Ward. “Many Taber Saints were baptized or attended their first dance here. There have been countless marriages and wedding receptions, and nervous teenagers who gave their first talk in sacrament meeting or learned to play basketball, badminton and many other sports. Most important, those who worshipped within these walls increased in their knowledge and faith of our Father in Heaven and our Saviour Jesus Christ through many hours of prayer, fasting, gospel study and learning.”

“The donation of this building to the TANGO Foundation and the people of Taber isn’t just a donation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; it’s a donation from local Church members and our ancestors who sacrificed so much to create this beautiful edifice,” Bennett continued. “Whether it was cash, building supplies or labour, the early Saints truly gave all they had for the construction of this chapel. We will forever be grateful for the great cost they paid.”

Bennett explained that, typically, when a new Church building is constructed today, Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, either pays for the building or for the building supplies for local members to provide the labour. However, in 1929, the 54th Street chapel was built and funded 100 per cent by Church members in the Taber area. The building was a labour of love by Latter-day Saints who continue to be an integral part of the Taber community.

Church and Building Have Deep Roots in Taber

The Church has played an important role in Taber since its first services were held March 13, 1904, in Thomas Hull’s tent hall. The first chapel was constructed in 1905, east of the current W.R. Myers and D.A. Ferguson schoolyards. A year later, the building burned down due to a lantern left unextinguished after a Halloween party. A new chapel was built on the same plot of land, but in December 1924, it also burned down.

“To be a good citizen means to contribute to the well-being of our communities,” said Bennett. “Latter-day Saints see themselves as part of a larger society and strive to make it better. Many volunteer at charities, schools, associations and clubs. They serve the needy in shelters, soup kitchens and hospitals. They also perform many unseen acts of service to those around them. The Church contributes millions of dollars to disaster relief efforts around the world with funds generated from member donations.”

New Centre for Art, Music and Sports in Historic Church

At the key handover event, Ryan Torrie, president of TANGO and STAR, expressed excitement and appreciation for the building and said it will be put to good use. It will be a venue for live theatre, musical performances, poetry readings and karaoke. The gymnasium and board rooms will be used for meetings, events, fitness classes and practice space for athletic teams.

According to Torrie, the Town of Taber and the Municipal District of Taber have been very supportive about transforming the 27,000-square-foot building into an arts facility. The town committed to donate $250,000 as an interest-free loan for 10 years, and the municipal district agreed to a $200,000 grant. STAR raised $250,000 to receive the grants. The town will help with utilities for the first year, and since the facility is a charitable organization, there will be property tax concessions.

Torrie added that almost $800,000 was raised in a few weeks. Some donors gave as much as $50,000. “This is an amazing community, and we so appreciate these generous donations,” Torrie said. “This will be quite an amazing facility, with state-of-the-art projectors, stage, curtains, theatre seating and more.”

According to Church President Russell M. Nelson, “Regardless of where we call home, members of the Church feel passionately about the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. Thus, our greatest joy comes as we help our brothers and sisters, no matter where we live in this wonderful world” (“The Second Great Commandment,” October 2019 general conference).

Contributed by Gail Newbold, Canada Communication Council

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