Fort McMurray First United Church Welcomes You

Fort McMurray First United Church Welcomes You!

We are a community of faith seeking to live out our calling to witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and be open to where God's Spirit is leading us -- we are this now, more than ever.

You are Welcome!


 Join us for worship at 10:30 on Sunday mornings with Sunday School during the service.




 Thanks to all who attended our 50th Anniversary Weekend!


  We had a scrumptious feast on Saturday night!











On the left is our Isabelle Doblanko, then special guests, The Right Reverend Jordan Cantwell, Moderator of The United Church of Canada, Rev. Shannon McCarthy, co-Executive Secretary of Alberta and Northwest Conference, and Rev. Cecile Fausak, from Athabasca, and longtime friend of First United Church. 


 We made a banner!







Below are Rev. Shannon, Rev, Donalee and Moderator Jordan!



Our next Messy Church will be on Wednesday, May 10, from 5:30 to 7pm. Thanks to everyone at Rotary House for joining our April 5 Messy Church! 

 In December our Messy Church gathering wondered about local animals that would have gathered around the manger in Fort McMurray! And now they are gracing the front of the church! Come and see! 




Check out these creations from our Creative Mindfulness session

in March.




 Check out these highlights from our Pet Blessing Sunday from the fall of 2016! 




 The Messy Church Olympics on Wednesday, August 25 2016, was fun for all! We began with a picnic in the church (because it started to rain!) 

Then the weather cleared and we went outside for games, including Pass the Water! 


 And everyone received a medal!



Enjoy this photo from Sunday, August 7 2016, when we dedicated our new Phoenix Banner, a gift from Mountainview United Church in St. Catherines, Ontario.







July 21, 2016

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ: 

It is good to be back after a couple of weeks of holiday that included a visit back to Ontario to see family and friends. Perhaps some of you are in the midst of a time away or preparing for a journey. It was interesting to experience being away from home as a person on vacation as opposed to an evacuee; on reflection I think I took much greater pleasure in the ordinary things such as cooking a meal or watching birds at the bird-feeder. I wonder about your experience.

I also want to remind you of our special service this Sunday when we will welcome Rev. Lynn Make, our Conference Executive Secretary, and Rev. Paul Walfall, our Conference President. Robbie the Dragon has also returned and has some interesting photos to share. 

The church Narthex has undergone a bit of a makeover. We have ended our "Rainbow of Blessings" fundraiser early -- and thanks to all who supported this. And in its place of the bulletin board is a map showing the many, many places from which we have received support since the wildfire. Thanks to Isabelle, Alistair, Alison and Patricia!

 And finally, did you know that Fort McMurray First United Church is a PokeStop? If you don't know what this means, ask someone who plays Pokemon Go -- and that includes me! So if you see people walking by the church waving their smart phones, say hi and welcome them! 


 May we embrace God's gift of delight this day!


Rev. Donalee 








July 2, 2016


Dear sisters and brothers in Christ:

It seems amazing that ‘the return’ started a month ago, and it seems that time has become a different and more elastic thing since the evacuation. May seems like it happened in a different universe, and June has flown by in a flurry of cleaning and fog of fatigue.  

And now it’s July, and I will be taking the next two weeks off. And things are of course, a little different! As I mentioned in a previous email, we will be having worship every Sunday this summer, and Rev. Lloyd Lovett will be leading worship on July 10th and 17th. I will be back from holiday on July 19th, and our Conference President Paul Douglas Walfall and Executive Secretary Lynn Maki will be joining us for worship on July 24th.

While we were planning to have a Messy Church on July 20, that will no longer be happening, but we will hold a gathering in August.

As well, please consider an offer from Camp Whitney (near Elk Point) which is offering 25 camp spaces, free of charge, to children from Fort McMurray, ages 6 to 15. You can find information about ages and dates on their website:   If your child or children are interested, choose the option to “pay by cheque” and email your names to so I can inform the camp registrar.

I know some of you have not yet returned and please let us know about your circumstances. I know some of us have lost their homes or are as yet unable to live in them, and we as a church family want to be there for one another. We can keep one another in prayer and work to help one another when we return.

Be assured that we are all being held in prayer by so many, including our big and little sisters and brothers in this United Church of ours.


Rev. Donalee Williams



June 24,2016

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ: As the return continues, I invite those of you who are back in Fort McMurray to join us around the table this Sunday. We will celebrate with joy the Sacrament of Communion, sharing loaf and cup in the name of the Risen Christ. And our community will continue as we gather around the table in the board room for a Pot Luck Lunch! So bring something delicious to share!

As well, during the service we will have a time of telling stories and even to share some photos to help tell the story if you are comfortable doing that. I believe it is so important to share our stories about how we have been, how things are different, and how things are the same.

Also know that we are continually being held in prayer by so many and being supported in so many ways. Our deep thanks goes to all in the assurance that we are connected and united!


Rev. Donalee Williams


P.S. Greetings from our Worship on Sunday, June 19!  





  June 15 2016

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ:

Where ever you are – whether you are back in Fort McMurray or still away – know that your church is here for you.

Regular Sunday morning worship services have resumed and will continue into the summer. I invite you to let us know how you are doing, when you plan to return, the state of your home, and anything you would like lifted up in prayer in our worship.

I also want to pass on an offer made by a man from Slave Lake, who attends St. Peter’s Ecumenical Church – a partnership of The United Church of Canada with the Anglican and Lutheran churches. He would like to come with some other people from his town to help any here in Fort McMurray who need help in cleaning or lawn care, for example. He would like to come for a week or so. When he spoke to me on the phone he said as someone who has experienced the devastation of a wildfire, he knows something of what we are going through, especially for people who don’t have insurance. So please respond to this email as soon as possible if you would like help. He has also extended his offer of help to the Anglican and Lutheran congregations here and will be available to come after June 20th.

I also ask you to pray for one another and for our city, for those who have lost their homes or cannot live in them because of damage, and for those who have no insurance, for those who are suffering emotional or spiritual distress.

I also ask you to pray for the victims of the shooting in Orlando, and for all LGBTQ friends and allies. Pour out lament and grief over this act of hatred knowing that God also laments and grieves. Perhaps like me you are shaken to the core by this terrible act and any act or statement that attacks or shames people -- children of God -- because of whom or how they love. Perhaps like me you were profoundly moved by these words from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s sonnet which he read Sunday evening while accepting one of the many Tony awards for his play “Hamilton”:

"And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love,
cannot be killed or swept aside."

It is also important to take a stand against any blaming of our Muslim sisters and brothers. And I want to share part what United Church of Canada Moderator Jordan Cantwell has written on the UCC website: "As the LGBTQ communities mark this month’s Pride celebrations and Muslim neighbours observe Ramadan, may the God we worship—each in our own way—inspire us to build bridges of hope and love rather than walls of hatred and fear."

May the love of God inspire and inhabit you this day and everyday.


Rev. Donalee



Dear sisters and brothers in Christ:

The homecoming continues! More of us are back in Fort McMurray and we will be gathering for worship tomorrow at 10:30. We will have a chance to tell more of our stories, to sing and pray together and hear  what Robbie the Dragon has to say! We are also planning to have a pot luck lunch at the end of the month on Sunday, June 25! And if you won`t be back by then, do not fear: we will continue to celebrate as we all return and there will be more marvelous pot lucks!

Our church basement has been a busy place for the past few weeks – some relief volunteers with Canadian Global Response and their American partner agency from Oklahoma (the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief), have been sleeping there. They are very grateful for the space and some of them refer to our basement as the Taj Mahal because it is so wonderful to sleep in a cool and dark place!

Some of our space-sharing partners have also returned - including the Church of Christ and AA -- and we are so thankful for that.

Our summer schedule will be a little different than usual. Normally we close down for the month of July but we are definitely in a new normal, so stay tuned for news about summer worship and activities.

I know the work that faces us in the days and months and years to come can be pretty overwhelming, but I also know that in the gratitude and the fatigue and the mourning and the celebrating – in all of it – God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God.


Rev. Donalee Williams



Dear sisters and brothers in Christ:

The homecoming journey has begun. Some of us are already back and cleaning or tossing the fridge. Some of us will be doing a one-day check and then returning later. Some of us may have a longer wait, with damage or even loss of a home facing us. And know that your church family is here for you, and that your church home is ready for worship.

This Sunday, June 5, at 10:30am Isabelle Doblanko will lead a gathering with some hymns, some prayers, some scripture, affirming that God has been with us while we have been away, and most definitely is with us back in Fort McMurray. You are welcome to come and invite anyone who would like to share in the fellowship.

Like some of you, I am not back yet. I am attending the Celebration of Ministries at McDougall United Church in Edmonton this weekend and Ian and I will return on Tuesday. My prayers are with you who will gather once again this Sunday, and I will be leading worship the following week, June 12th.

With gratitude and blessings,

Rev. Donalee Williams

 Yesterday, May 30, I traveled to Fort McMurray for a day and I am overjoyed to share this photo of our building. There was a little bit of a smoky smell but all seems to be in good shape (although, disclaimer: the insurance adjuster hasn't yet inspected the building. There is electricity and ATCO has restored the gas. At the moment we are partnering with a relief agency, Canadian Global Response, and their American partner agency, so that some volunteers can sleep in our basement. It is a blessing that very different groups and churches can  work together. 

This is Mickey Caison, who has traveled all the way from Atlanta!

As you can see, our sanctuary is waiting for our return ... 


... Robbie the Dragon, who was safe in Rev. Donalee's office, is ready and waiting for us and has some stories to share..
and the flower garden has lovely blooms to greet us.







On Monday, May 23, a group of us met for a potluck at St. Paul's United Church in Edmonton. We shared not only food but hugs, stories and prayers. Those of us who were not able to attend were definitely there in spirit. Thanks to St. Paul's for their hospitality and to so many people who have been praying for us and who have generously donated directly to our congregation, the United Church of Canada and other organizations including the Red Cross who are helping our community. 

 Among the many prayers and concerns directed our way is a package of wonderful hand-made cards from the Church School of Knox-Met United Church in Alberta. Thank you to everyone who made these beautiful cards! It is so good to know that our young sisters and brothers in Christ care about us!





To the scattered but united congregation of Fort McMurray First United Church:

Greetings sisters and brothers in Christ:
I hope this email finds you as settled as you can be in this waiting time. I am organizing an opportunity to get together at St. Paul's United Church in Edmonton this holiday Monday. I regret that this will not be possible for those of you who are scattered even further away; i know some of us are in Calgary, Medicine Hat, Saskatoon, and even further away including Ontario and Newfoundland.
Nonetheless, before we return home I think it would be wonderful to be together in the flesh, gathering around a table, to tell stories and even offer a prayer or too. Perhaps if you are not able to attend you could send a greeting and/or a story.
So - I invite all who can come to gather at St. Paul's United Church, located at 11526 76 Ave NW, Edmonton, between 5 and 8pm on Monday, May 23rd. It is not far from the University of Alberta. And if you need transportation let me know. I anticipate a gathering time for an hour or so and eating around 6-ish and then take it from there.
I offer gratitude to Rev. Catherine Faith MacLean and her congregation for making the space available to us.
So ... as for food - not everyone has access to a full kitchen so bring whatever you would like for a 'true' pot luck - we don't know what we will eat but I guarantee there will be more than enough food and, I trust, fun, for everyone.
I hope to see you for supper on Monday!
Rev. Donalee Williams



Here is a letter from Friends in Beaconsfield United Church in Montreal:


May 11, 2016

 Rev. Donalee Williams

First United Church

Fort McMurray, Alberta

 Dear Donalee,

 This past Sunday during our church service, Beaconsfield United Church took the time to reflect on the lesson from Acts of the Apostles Chapter 16:  16-34 which is the story of the public flogging and the imprisonment and eventual freedom of Paul and Silas.  There is a little tagline, that says as Paul and Silas were singing hymns and praying in the midst of adversity and tribulation “the other prisoners were listening”.  As the events have been unfolding in Fort McMurray, we like those prisoners, have been caught up in a common situation and as we were singing hymns and praying on Sunday morning, we took the time to hear from individual members of the congregation about what helped them through difficult and challenging times.  The following in no particular order attempt to capture some of our thoughts and sentiments and we send them to you hoping that you will know that you are not alone.

·         We are listening, and the church that listens and hears works together to bring about new and wonderful things.

·         Remember the resurrection after the terrible crucifixion, the presence of Christ came to us in new ways.

·         Out of difficult and adversity we find strengths that we never knew we had.

·         During tough times you find out about your friends and total strangers become new friends and friendships deepen and expand and our lives are enriched because of it.

·         Out of our experience of Lac Megantic and the paralyzing ice storm people came together to help each other and it and your experience is an example of how we build our country together.

·         The capacity for admiration for the many heroes and first responders and of people assisting each other in extremely dangerous situations.

·         There are two things to do:  pray but also act.  Those two things will pull you through this ordeal.

·         Being in a position of having to live in crowded quarters or with family has provided an excellent opportunity for bonding.

·         It’s good to be with people during stressful situations.                                                   

 ·         Things do get better.  Stay positive.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help and keep hope alive.

·         In the bulb there is a flower and the forest and the earth will renew itself just like Fort McMurray.

·         To the Minister:  Thank you for all your work in teaching others to care for one another.

We often talk about sending our thoughts and our prayers.  These are some of our thoughts.  We wish you every comfort and peace.  If there is anything we can do to specifically meet your needs, please do not hesitate to contact us.

 In Christ,

Rev. Shaun Fryday


 To all who are worried and praying for us because of the wildfires:

Thanks to all who are holding us in prayer. Wildfires and evacuations are very real and so is God's love and care. We have left our homes for safety and refuge in so many scattered places and have been received so generously. Right now many of us do not know the state of our homes; some may know their home is gone; and we do not know the state of our church building. So many have offered  help. In time to come, the ways that help can be offered and received will become clear.

But as Christ's scattered body we continue to be one in Spirit and deeply grateful for the grace being poured on us.

May God strengthen all who are fighting the fires and for all coming to Fort McMurray to lend their help.

We do not know when we will return and when we will once again worship on Sunday morning or gather for our Messy Church which was to be this week. But we know we will gather again in Jesus' name. Amen. 

And here is a special letter from our Conference President:


An Open Letter to the Members of
Fort McMurray First United Church

 From Rev. Paul Walfall, Conference President
My dear friends in Christ,
Peace to you in the name of Jesus our Lord!
     Given all that has happened in the past few days, I write to offer to you the support and care of the Alberta and Northwest Conference family as you face this difficult time.  Within a few hours your lives were turned upside down and inside out. No doubt for many of you there are concerns for what was left behind.  For some of you the news you have heard may not be good and still for others the ‘not knowing’ is painful.  There are no words I can offer which will salve or remove the anxiety and pain that you may now be feeling.  I, however, wish to assure you that your church family (the Alberta and Northwest Conference of The United Church of Canada) is even now surrounding you with our love and our prayers. You are not alone!
    We rejoice that you are alive. As you look ahead there will be times to grieve.  At the same time, I pray that you will also be able to see opportunities for thanksgiving even in the midst of uncertainty and sadness.  We appreciate that the past few months have not been easy for you.  The current situation may suggest that we lose faith. But it is in circumstances like this that I ask you to remember that God is with you, your neighbors and friends in Fort McMurray.
You are indeed not alone! 
    I know that through your industry and hard work Fort McMurray will be rebuilt.  As a Church family we stand ready to support you in this effort when the time comes. We in this Conference stand with you. I believe I can speak for the whole United Church of Canada in saying that from coast to coast to coast we stand with you to support and strengthen you through this experience. When the time comes to move forward to rebuild we will be there with you.                   
In the words of The New Creed
“In life, in death, in life beyond death,
We are not alone.  God is with us.
Thanks be to God!”
   You continue to be in our prayers and thoughts.
   I am your servant for Christ’s sake,
                                                              Paul Douglas Walfall (Rev’d.)
                                                              Alberta and Northwest Conference
                                                              The United Church of Canada

Two ways we can stand in faith
with the Fort McMurray people
1. Continued prayers for the residents of Fort McMurray and the fire fighters and emergency workers. Alberta
2. Donations towards the future.
Alberta and Northwest Conference is receiving donations to assist.
     Donations can be made online at: or by cheque to: Alberta and Northwest Conference and mailed to the Conference office at 9911-48 Avenue NW, EDMONTON, AB T6E 5V6.  Please note that donation is for Fort McMurray.



 We are a community of faith seeking to live out our calling to witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and be open to where God's Spirit is leading us.

 We seek to be a welcoming presence in a community where so many people come from far away and are putting down roots and looking for connection.We are girls and boys and women and men who enjoy worship that is creative and energetic in a relaxed atmosphere, so come as you are!


Our regular worship begins at 10:30am with Sunday school during the service. 

Robbie the Dragon will continue to worship with us (when he is not visiting friends in Athabasca or having the moat cleaned) .


We celebrated Easter with an early service by the Snye River and our traditional selfie! Then we enjoyed a delicious "Bunny Breakfast" and finally celebrated the amazing good news of Jesus' resurrection at our 10:30 service. It was our joy to hold our joint Holy Week and Easter services with Faith Presbyterian Church.


 Fort McMurray First United Church is part of the United Church of Canada, and we are the only United Church congregation in Fort McMurray.


We are located at 10003 Gordon avenue, at the corner of Gordon Avenue and Main Street.





General Council 42 has come and gone - but you can get details of what happened online at

 This lovely little codfish was crafted by Isabelle Doblanko and Alison Mackay and went to General Council 42 in Cornerbrook Newfoundland.



 Fort McMurray was part of the journey for 13 Youth Pilgrims and 2 leaders traveling across Canada to General Council in Newfoundland. The group stayed with us July 8-10 to learn about our congregation, our community and the oil sands from a variety of perspectives.


 They enjoyed delicious home-cooked food and comfy air matresses in the church basement! Part of the journey included a site tour courtesy of Suncor and a visit to Fort Mackay First Nation. Thanks to all who provided wonderful support and hospitality to our visitors!


Thank you to our special guest, Dr. Joy-sephine (aka Sharon Budgell) who came to church on June 7 to show us what happens when you combine joy and faith!



Heart rocks rock! 



  On Sunday, December 14, 2014, we held our annual Christmas Pageant! Enjoy these photos! 






 On Sunday, October 26, some people from our congregation participated in the Fort McMurray Unity Walk, which was held in the wake of the events on Parliament Hill. We joined a diverse group of people from our city, gathering downtown and walking to the Legion where we laid flowers, had a minute of silence and sang Oh Canada followed by refreshments graciously provided by the Legion. 




We also have special services throughout the year. This is a selfie from the 2014 Early Easter Service by the Snye. It was a joint service of First United Church and Faith Presbyterian Church.