The seed of First Evangelical Free Church was planted in 1924 by a faithful saint with a burden to teach her neighbourhood’s children about Jesus. With the help of a handful of faithful Christian friends, Mrs. Motter’s Manchester Sunday School Mission was born in a house she rented with her own money on MacLeod Trail. The non-denominational Mission’s Sunday school teachers hailed from various evangelical churches in Calgary; all coming together on Sunday morning to teach the children about salvation through Jesus Christ. The community’s hunger for the gospel was great and by 1936, the Manchester Sunday School Mission was overflowing. Over 150 children showed up each Sunday and more space was desperately needed. God provided a double lot on the corner of MacLeod Trail and 50th Ave SE for the unbelievable sum of $50 and a bigger building was purchased by the Mission for $150. It was moved onto the property and the Mission continued to grow. The new space was quickly filled. Classrooms were divided by homemade curtains, making teaching a noisy challenge. In 1943, a basement was constructed and a new building raised for increased classroom space. Wooden screens replaced curtains and adult classes were introduced for men and women. The Manchester Mission hired its first pastor in 1946, and in 1949 affiliated with the Associated Gospel Mission. God continued to bless the work. Families from the neighbouring community of Windsor Park also attended. The increasing traffic on MacLeod Trail became a concern and the Board of the Mission arranged for a secondary location in Windsor Park as well as carpools to that site.
In 1955, the North Hill Free Church amalgamated with the Manchester Gospel Mission, and First Evangelical Free Church was born. By the late 1950’s, the old Manchester Mission building was bursting at the seams. The decision to construct at our current location was made, and the Manchester property was sold to the City of Calgary Electric Company. Groundbreaking on the new building began in 1962, and as the walls began to rise on the new sanctuary, and the basement classrooms and fellowship hall took shape, First Evangelical Free Church met in Meadowlark Community Hall. The new building was entered with joy; but nevertheless, the new space was again too small for the quickly growing church and a gymnasium and Educational wing were added in 1965. Since then, God has blessed and matured the ministry of First Free, allowing us the honour of praying, encouraging, and contributing financially to the work of Bible translation; the preaching of the gospel; teaching of the Word and equipping Christians in Calgary and all over the world. God has been faithful through growing pains, aging pains, and occasionally, even disagreements with one another. Through it all, our Lord has demonstrated Himself faithful and loving.
In 2015, the Holy Spirit led both First Evangelical Free Church and Calgary Church of the Cross, a young church of Brazilian immigrants, to join together in a larger work. This new bilingual and bi-cultural ministry has seen growth among both new immigrants to Canada and local Calgarians eager to hear the Word of God and experience the fellowship of believers. And once again, our ministry to children is outgrowing our space. Nearly a century after Mrs. Motter’s first prayers for a Sunday school mission for her neighbourhood children, God has blessed the work far beyond what she could have asked or imagined—as He always does.