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The arched beams of the interior of the Maxwell Memorial Tabernacle at Three
Hills are like those of another meeting place set in a prairie landscape- the
hockey arena. The ambient noise in the "Tab," however, is not slapping sticks
and the thud of pucks, but the rustling pages of marked and well-read bibles.
Here, those who come on Sundays for the pulpit message or
arrive each autumn for the missions conference, have entered what might be called
by anthropologists "rhetorical territory." There is a commonly shared and
understood language that works as a centripetal force among those who gather.
For many Albertans, and others throughout Canada and around the world,
the tabernacle at Prairie Bible Institute is a place where people hear the call
to a particular vocation. It is here where the Great Commission in the Gospel of
St. Matthew is preached, pondered and embraced: "Go ye therefore, and teach all
nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the
Words emblazoned on the Tabernacle's walls proclaim the evangelical vision of
the gathered: Is there a soul who died, who died because of me, forever shut
away from heaven and from Thee; because I tightly clutched my little earthly
store nor sent Thy messengers unto some distant shore? The space serves as a
tent of witness, where the worshippers present themselves to concentrate and
sharpen the faculties, preparing to receive God's revelation.
Buildings speak and the Tab is no exception. Its interior is relatively
unadorned. This austerity is generally the rule for meeting places linked to the
evangelical renewal from the Great Awakening to the forums that shaped the
Keswick movement. The functional simplicity and plainness speak of the concern
for present use and stands in contrast to the "for all time" grandeur of
cathedrals and temples. It affirms the pilgrim nature of God's people, that
there is no permanent place here on earth and one awaits the heavenly city
founded on God and illuminated for humankind in the birth, crucifixion,
resurrection and anticipated second coming of Jesus.
There is not a bad seat in the house. The clear lines to the pulpit are
surely a practical consideration, but it reinforces the teaching at PBI of the
need for a personal and unmediated encounter between the believer and the Word,
based on the Protestant ideal of solo scriptura.
In this age, most of us do not participate directly in construction of our
homes, nor places where we gather and meet. The Tab is an oddity. Its very
construction was an act of the community, a form of liturgy, public worship,
resulting in a form in which to rekindle and refine the vision of the community.
The following excerpts and photographs recount this enactment, in the words
of PBI's publication of the day, The Prairie Overcomer.
The new Tabernacle... is becoming the talk of the campus, and it is a welcome
subject to both students and visitors. The noble old [tabernacle] is due for
retirement- ask the unfortunates in the balcony who crane their necks to catch
a glimpse of the speaker. We have all shivered at times, for the present
tabernacle is not built to facilitate proper heating. So we are happy about the
prospects of a new building and would appreciate your praying with us about it.
FRIENDS FEEL THE NEED OF NEW PRAIRIE TABERNACLE
180 feet by 100 feet
Some 3,200- without balconies
To world missions- till He comes
To student-- year round;
To crowds- each Conference