A fire that burned down the Beiseker Level-Land Seventh-Day Adventist Church in the early morning hours of Dec. 20 has since been deemed arson.
"RCMP are working with fire to determine the cause of the fire and any criminality," stated Cpl. James McConnell with Airdrie RCMP.
The church hall was spared, according to the Alberta Conference of the church, which will become a temporary worship centre once gas and electricity is restored.
"It's a big loss to the community and many church members are recalling the good memories they have of worshipping and fellowship together at the church building over the years," stated the Alberta Conference website. "A special thank you goes to all the fire and emergency crews who responded to the call."
Unfortunately, this fire isn't the only one in recent weeks to have burned down a church, but when asked if this is becoming a trend, McConnell couldn't comment on any of the other fires.
Two historic Barrhead-area churches were also victims of arson.
Late in the evening on Dec. 7, St. Aidan's Church in Glenreagh and the St. Mary Abbots Anglican, better known as the Pioneer Memorial Church, were set on fire by a suspected arsonist. Police in the area reportedly believed the two fires were most likely connected due to the proximity and the timing.
The Pioneer Memorial Church, near the Hamlet of Thunder Lake, was destroyed; St. Aidan's Church, while suffering extensive damage, is believed to be repairable. The St. Aidan's/Glenreagh/Bloomsbury Community Church group is hopeful they will be able to restore the church to its former condition.
On Dec. 15, Wood Buffalo RCMP responded to a call just before 10:30 p.m. of a structure fire of the Janvier Church.
RCMP reported that a silver sedan was witnessed driving away from the church around the time it went up in flames. The matter is currently under investigation.
The original name of the Beiseker Level-Land Seventh-Day Adventist Church was the Rosebud Seventh-day Adventist Church, according to The Journal of Seventh-day Adventist History.
The founders of the church were a group of hardy individuals who moved to the Alberta prairies in the year 1908 from various parts of the Dakotas.
They founded the Rosebud Church 10 miles east and one mile south of the present site of Beiseker, a then non-existent town.
"The founding of the Rosebud church truly exemplifies Adventist pioneering in Alberta," states the Journal of Seventh-day Adventist History.
The "Beiseker's Golden Heritage" book stated that upon their arrival, the winter snow began to fall, and on the first Saturday of Oct. 31, 1908, the settlers gathered under the tent of Samuel Leiske, Sr. on the Andrew Tetz property for their first worship service.
Roughly 115 years later, Airdrie Integrated Rural RCMP received the call of a structure fire at approximately 6:24 a.m. on Dec. 20 at the Beiseker church located on Range Road 242 in Wheatland County.
When fire crews arrived, the Church was fully engulfed in flames, according to the RCMP.
A fire investigator was called to assist, and later that day, the fire was deemed to be an arson.
The RCMP are now investigating and are seeking public assistance.
If anyone has any information regarding the arson of the Beiseker Seventh Day Adventist Church, please contact the Airdrie RCMP at 403‐ 945‐7200, or your local police.
If you wish to remain anonymous, you can contact Crime Stoppers at 1‐800‐222‐8477 (TIPS), online at www. P3Tips.com or by using the “P3 Tips” app available through the Apple App or Google Play Store.
To report crime online, or for access to RCMP news and information, download the Alberta RCMP app through Apple or Google Play.
With notes from Barry Kerton - Lakeland Today