The history of Emmanuel Church dates back to the year 1975. There were efforts and labours in the valley before this time, but the beginning of what is today known as Emmanuel had its seed first sown by Reverend Bill Heywood. He first held services on the Indian Council Reservation, bringing the message of Jesus Christ to the native village. The work in Westbank began on February 16, 1975, under the ministry of Brother Heywood. Services were held in the United Church.
From May of 1976 until September of that same year, Mr. Allan Smith of Peachland, with others helping him, made arrangements for speakers, musicians and mid-week services. In September of 1976, Reverend and Mrs. Holmquist assumed the duties and responsibilities of leadership. There was a three-man board and a congregation of approximately thirty adherents. Because of scheduling difficulties with the United Church, a new place of worship was sought.
On September 19, 1976, the Sunday School followed by a morning service was held in the Charles Howey home. Attendance reached a peak of seventy-eight. Neighbours complained of cars blocking the cul-de-sac, so once more the search for a home for the growing congregation became necessary. Mr. and Mrs. Holmquist opened the basement of their home and services were held during the spring and summer of 1977. An acre of land was purchased on Glencoe Road, and in November a structure comprised of four portable trailers was used as a temporary church. God blessed in the new place of worship and numbers continued to increase.
Because of a growing congregation and an enlarged vision, the Board decided to purchase seven acres on Highway 97 in Westbank. This was a step of faith, and God honoured that faith. In December of 1978, the portables were moved to this property and on December 24, the first service was held. On November 4, of the following year, a sod turning ceremony was held, marking the beginning of a new building program.
Actual construction began on November 19, 1979 under the supervision of Michael Kutney. The building was constructed mainly with volunteer labour, and the first service was held on May 4, 1980. The church was officially dedicated on Sunday, May 11 with Dr. David Lim as the guest speaker.
This building consisted of a gymnasium, two floors of Sunday School rooms and offices, and a kitchen. Future plans encompassed the building of a main sanctuary to seat 600. Much improvement has been done to the gym to make it a more comfortable sanctuary, as it is today.
This is the history of the building, but any account of Emmanuel would be remiss if some of the "founding saints" were not mentioned. Without them, their vision, their prayers, and their labours, Emmanuel would not be. Some of the names that come to mind are:Mr. and Mrs. Allan Smith, Mr. and Mrs. Wade Manning, Mr. and Mrs. Bill Sharp, Mr. and Mrs. Russ Powers, Mr. and Mrs. Sig Mellerstig, Mr. and Mrs. Conrad Kaiser, Mr. and Mrs. Jake Voth, Mr. and Mrs. Arnie Peters, and Mr. and Mrs. Charles Howey.
There were many, many more who contributed much, especially in the actual building of the church. Men such as Clarence Linenko, Cliff McKibbon and Clarence Tingstad. We cannot mention them all, but God knows them by name.
Various pastors served and ministered in the Assembly. Pastor Holmquist was followed in 1983 by Pastor Randy Brant. He concentrated on reducing the mortgage and indebtness of the church. Under his leadership, a mortgage of approximately $250,000 was reduced to about $25,000. Under Pastor Lyle Horrill (Nov. 1988- April 1990) a mortgage burning ceremony was held. Pastor Terry Lige came on September of 1990 and served until January of 1993. Pastor Jeff Johnson came in June of 1993 and ministered until the arrival of Pastor Derrick Hamre in June, 1997.
Evangel Church contributed much to the growth and development of Emmanuel. Pastor Arnold Kalamen gave needed counsel and wisdom. The congregation of Evangel contributed much financially, and its prayers and support were greatly appreciated.
As with all growth and development, Emmanuel experienced growing pains. Not always was it easy sailing; mistakes were made, but God was faithful; seeming defeats were turned into victory; tears were followed with sunshine; lessons were learned, and God's program moved forward. "Some planted, others watered, but God gave the increase".