By Thomas Mahan
One-hundred years ago, Victoria was growing rapidly. In 1909, a trolley line extension (along Cook Street, May Street and Fairfield Road to Foul Bay Road) brought new development to an area that had been rural pasturage.
By Jan. 1, 1915, the church known as St. Matthias Mission was opened and consecrated at 311 Richmond Ave., near Lillian Road, in Fairfield.
St. Matthias had begun as a mission from downtown Christ Church Cathedral. As early as 1911 an Anglican home worship group had been organized at 1587 Fairfield Rd. A year later, the house was found to be not large enough.
As the Cathedral wanted to establish a larger presence in the Ross Bay and Foul Bay area, funds were raised for what became St. Matthias Mission.
The new building on Richmond Avenue had about 1,100 square feet, accommodating both Sunday school and church services. It had seven pews, to seat 72 people. The Cathedral’s St. Agnes Guild provided a pedal organ, which is believed to be the same one in St. Matthias’ chapel today. Subsequent additions included a belfry, with its former Yates Street Fire Hall bell (1919), and a hall (1928).
The congregation grew steadily, but like so many organizations it struggled financially during the Depression.
The subsequent war years provided their own challenges. Nonetheless, by 1947 St. Matthias was formally separated from the Cathedral, being now financially self-sufficient and no longer a “mission.”
By the mid-1950s, the congregation had outgrown the facility near Lillian Road. It was sold and since then has been home to St. Jean Baptiste, Victoria’s Francophone Roman Catholic parish.
Meanwhile, St. Matthias moved to 600 Richmond Ave., at the corner of Richardson Street, where a new, much larger church and parish hall were dedicated on Jan. 6, 1957. Four years later, planning started for a new rectory, which was finished by early 1963.
In 1969 the idea of building a non-profit rental complex on the church property was first suggested. In late 1971 construction began, replacing what had been a rose garden. Comprising twenty-four low-income rental suites, Rogers Court was named for the retiring incumbent Canon Rogers.
Over the next decades, the congregation continued its many activities within the church, out in the surrounding community, and abroad – including supporting church and social justice activities in Eastern Europe and Nicaragua,
In 2009, there was a severe bump in the road – the rector and a large majority of St. Matthias parishioners left the Anglican Church of Canada. The remaining, much-reduced, congregation reorganized and started rebuilding itself.
Led by The Rev. Canon Bruce Bryant-Scott, St. Matthias proceeds with confidence and enthusiasm into its second century.
On June 28, at 10 a.m., the Parish of St. Matthias will celebrate its centennial year with a Morning Prayer service, using the old Book of Common Prayer. A lunch and musical entertainment will follow in the Parish Hall. All are welcome.
Thomas Mahan is a parishioner of St. Matthias Anglican Church.