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Lutherans gifting local properties to Baptists

The Jasper Lutheran Church board has decided to gift its iconic church and manse to the Jasper Baptist Church and a non-profit affiliate, Kurios. | J.Stockfish photo

Jason Stockfish | advertising@fitzhugh.ca

After receiving numerous proposals from non-profit organizations, the Jasper Lutheran Church (JLC) has chosen to gift its iconic church and manse to the Jasper Baptist Church and Kurios.

In late March 2022, it was announced that due to dwindling attendance numbers (a problem exacerbated by the pandemic) the JLC would be closing its doors and accepting proposals from charitable organizations in Jasper of which they would choose one to hand over the buildings free of charge.

The JLC board received five proposals from organizations in the community, but in the end, they chose the local Baptist Church and Kurios – a non-profit organization that works in conjunction with the congregation to offer students a gap-year program – as the beneficiary of the properties.

“We are blessed to have had so many proposals submitted for our church,” said Henry Beckmann, chairman for the JLC board for the last 30 years and a member of the church since the Lutherans took it over from the Catholic Church 56 years ago.

“A unanimous decision was reached to uphold the cross and provide the property for the vision of the Baptist/Kurios group.”

The decision to choose the Baptist Church and Kurios was in line with the Lutheran’s intentions from the beginning of the process.

“The goal of JLC membership is to see the property turned over to a charitable organization that will value the Christian heritage of this historic site,” Beckmann told the Fitzhugh in March.

As Christians, the Lutheran board felt fortunate that in the end a Christian church will be located in the iconic building.

Spearheading the proposal by the Jasper Baptist Church was Adam Parsons, who moved to town in 2021.

“I had the idea that a gap year program would be really good for the Jasper community and the Jasper Christian community back in the fall when I moved to town and then I heard quite separately that the Lutheran Church was closing down and connected the dots.”

Parsons explained that the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada denomination, a group of 170 churches, restarted the gap year program in 2020 and it has been operating in Gull Lake, Alta. since then.

The Kurios program focuses on Christian identity development.

“The program is focused on establishing the idea that Jesus Christ should be lord of all of a Christian’s life, in young people who are already growing up in the church, helping them to apply that to this new stage of life after high school,” Parsons said.

“The idea is more and more students are graduating high school and they aren’t sure who they are. They aren’t sure what they want to do with their life. Maybe they don’t have money to start university right away, so more and more people are taking a year or two, travelling…doing some sort of identity searching.”

Parsons noted how university can be a challenging time for young people, emotionally and mentally.

“Especially those who are leaving home for the first time so in some ways a gap year program like this can act as almost a halfway house, where they still have a lot more support than they would living in a dorm or renting a basement suite downtown Toronto.”

He explained that community service and volunteering in the community is also an integral part of the Kurios program and every student will be expected to work part time.

“The idea being to integrate what they’re learning in their classes into real life.”

After the 2022/2023 program wraps up, Kurios will relocate from Gull Lake to Jasper, making the program a lot more attractive to prospective attendees, Parsons noted.

“Jasper is a comfortable, welcoming community,” Parsons said.

“It’s not too intimidating and (the students will) have direct supervision from the directors on the ground, really helping them with the day to day of life.”

The Baptist congregation intends to sell their existing property and use the proceeds to build a new facility for the program where the manse is currently located.

Parsons noted that the new building will add more housing than the program requires, as well as bring in workers and volunteers to the community.

For more than five decades, the JLC was the only Lutheran house of God in a national park in North America.

The final Lutheran service held in Jasper will be at 2 p.m. on Sept. 11. 

“We are looking forward to our last service, which will be led by our past and present bishops, leading us into our service,” Beckmann said.

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