Mike Gregory Photo                                The First United Church’s Sharron Onciul and Jim Cram are part of a transition team working to collect the assembly’s history.

Mike Gregory Photo The First United Church’s Sharron Onciul and Jim Cram are part of a transition team working to collect the assembly’s history.

Ladysmith First United Church looks to write history as it loses ‘memory keepers’

The Ladysmith First United Church’s storied history and role in the community is at a risk of being lost but several parishioners are hoping to change that and are inviting the public to share any memories and photos.

Over the past two and a half years no less than 12 elderly members, many well into their 80s but still attending mass regularly, have passed away.

“They were the memory keepers and we’ve lost our memory keepers,” said Sharron Onciul, who is part of the church’s transition team that was formed in July 2016 to help gather the history of the local assembly.

Even at the Ladysmith archives there is only a small file accounting for the church, with a history that dates back to the Presbyterian Church when it was built in Wellington, now present day North Nanaimo, in 1888.

“The history or function of a church can get lost and you usually realize it once it’s too late,” said Jim Cram, who is also part of the team and working on the pre-1960s period.

He’s interested in the written history of the United Church and has visited the archives, both here on the island and Vancouver, to learn more.

“There’s lots of gaps and a lot of misinformation” he said. “We just want to get it written up as correctly as we can.”

The building was dismantled and reassembled in 1901 at its present location on the corner of High Street and Third Avenue in 1901.

As part of the process, they have placed a bristol board for several of the past decades where people can post a sticky note of a particular memory.

“We’re trying to look ahead to what the future of this church might be and in order to do that we need to know the past,” said Onciul.

The Presbyterian High Street United Church and the Methodist Robert Street United Church voted to combine as one on High Street in October 1925 and the original ballot still exists showing the 37-7 vote.

First United is hoping to attract the attention of anyone whose parents attended the church and may have photos or other historical pieces at home that may be relevant in creating a timeline of events and highlights.

“We’re hoping that they’ll come and look at some of the memorabilia we’ve been able to find and share some of their own,” Cram said. “Hopefully it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

The open house starts at 7 p.m. Beverages and snacks will be served.ladysmith first united church