. arrata opera centre

Repurposed church remembers past


A hundred years ago the Wesley Methodist Church was built and over the past century, numerous changes have repurposed and given new meaning to the historical landmark.

The lives of countless numbers of people have been intertwined within the walls of the church. 

With July marking its centennial year, the building (now known as the Arrata Opera Centre) is opening its doors and asking all community members with any personal experiences associated with the church to share their story for generations to come.  

The Wesley Methodist Church was initially built in 1906; however, the first plans were too small for the growing congregation. 

Donations from Senator James A. Loughheed and future Prime Minister R.B. Bennett saw the completion of the church in 1912.  Membership with the church fluctuated and eventually declined over the years, causing a closure in 2003.

In 2005, the Calgary Opera took occupancy in the old church and converted it to the Arrata Opera Centre with the help of a sizable donation from Said Arrata, a supporter of the arts within the city.

The not-for-profit organization utilized the 29,000 square foot building for rehearsal rooms, a main stage, several offices, and a costume outfitting shop. 

The Arrata Opera Centre continues to unite the community members by offering a space for various arts groups to use for festivals, rehearsals, and performances. 

opera centre

The Arrata Opera Centre

Alex Bonyun, publicist for the Arrata Opera Centre, is humbled by the vast history the church boasts and the amount of people whose lives have revolved around the space.

“When you really think about how many people walked through these rooms and went about their daily lives over the past hundred years- it’s a bit staggering.”

The opera centre has even hosted a ghost walk through the archaic church where participants were met with an unusual abundance of paranormal activity.

Unexplained crashes, flashes of light, and the appearance of shadowy figures terrified those on the midnight tour.

“There are two identified spirits here- one’s a young girl and the other is an older man. Luckily, they are not malicious,” explains Larry Lefebrve, the box office assistant.

Historic Arrata

With the church’s colourful history, the appearance of ghosts or other presences are not unlikely.

Haunted spirits usually choose a place that they feel a close connection with to reside in the afterlife said Bonyun.

Over the past few decades, a soup kitchen, thrift shop, and a youth centre have all taken residence within the walls of the historic building, providing a communal place where residents can turn to in times of need and relief. “We know there are a lot of people in the community who have history with the church. So we really want people to come back and see it as it is now and share their stories with us,” said Bonyun.The up-coming centennial in July is a celebration of the heritage and the lives that have been shaped and the public is invited to take a tour of the building and regale any memories made within the walls.