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The Missionary

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Mission to
Immigrants

Bissell Centre

SCM

The growth of urban centres brought new social challenges. Immigrants arrived while in transit to a place in the country, young men came to the city to earn money in order to support the voyage of their family, and many returned from the country side to find work during winter, hoping to supplement their meager farm income.

In 1910 an urban mission was established in Edmonton by the Methodist minister William Pike and his wife, Florence. The mission was located on the North-west corner of 96th Street and 103A Avenue, where the present Police Station now stands. The mission offered language programs, a place to socialize and religious services. Some years later, the Presbyterian Church also built a mission in the vicinity. The logical direction—joint programs and services—was taken in 1919. The McQueen Institute came into being, later, after the 1925 formation of the United Church of Canada, known as the All People's Mission. (In Winnipeg, nine "All Peoples Missions" operated through out the city since 1907, under the leadership of the Rev. J.S. Woodsworth). The mission grew and expanded programs for new mothers, children and youth, and during the 1930s added services for those on low income: a place to sleep, meals and clothing.

With the help of a legacy from Torrence E. Bissell new premises were prepared. Saturday night concerts were held every week. The old blacksmith's shop was demolished to make way for a new brick building, officially named The Bissell Institute. Church services were held every Sunday. During the war the Japanese congregation found a home here. This was made up of people who had been forced to leave their homes on the West coast.

As the city of Edmonton grew, the need for the programs offered at the Bissell Centre increased as well. More people on low income were living in poor housing than ever before. By the 1980's Bissell had once more outgrown its facility. In 1989 the Centre moved to a renovated warehouse a few blocks north.

Today, nearing a century of missionary service, the vision of the Bissell Centre is to make Edmonton a city in which neighbour helps neighbour to find wholeness.
 

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