More than 100 years after a burst of missionary zeal and a commitment to a well-educated clergy led the United Church of Canada’s Presbyterian ancestors to establish a theological college in the heart of the Canadian Prairies, St. Andrew’s College continues to provide justice-seeking education for Christian leadership with faith and vision.
Presbyterian Theological College in Saskatoon was proclaimed by an Act of the Saskatchewan Legislature. The Presbyterian General Assembly of Canada in 1913 appointed Dr. Edmund H. Oliver, professor of history at the University of Saskatchewan, to serve as the first principal of the college.
First located in a large family home on Albert Avenue, the college began its academic training in the fall of 1914 with an enrolment of 37 students. Dr. Oliver and his colleagues held a deep commitment to the integration of theological study with the broader academic disciplines and community of the university. This commitment led them to seek a college home on the campus of the University ofSaskatchewan. Plans were immediately made for the construction of a college building on the university campus. Initial footings were poured on a site some distance from the eventual building location but construction was suspended as the First World War took Dr. Oliver and a considerable portion of the student body into military service.
An offer of donated land providing for a more prominent location on campus at the entrance to the university was gladly accepted by the college. Construction of the current West Wing began in 1922.
The college occupied the building for the first classes in the fall of 1923. The college celebrated the convocation of its first female graduate —Lydia Gruchy — in that same year, but it took another 13 years until Lydia Gruchy at St. Andrew’s Church in Moose Jaw became the first woman ordained by The United Church of Canada.
With the union of the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational churches in Canada and the formation of The United Church of Canada in 1925 the college was renamed St. Andrew’s College to recognize its Presbyterian founders, the discipleship of Andrew and a commitment to the new Canadian church.
As with many communities and congregations across the Prairies, St. Andrew’s struggled to support students and maintain the educational program throughout the years of market collapse, depression and drought of the 1930s. Plans to complete the East Wing of the college building were shelved. The 1930s closed with Canada at war again and many St. Andrew’s students served with the Canadian Armed Forces in Europe.
Following the end of that conflict and through the post-war decade of economic prosperity and church growth in Canada, St. Andrew’s College equally grew and prospered. In 1946, anticipating the growth, the board of governors established an endowment fund to receive the gifts and bequests of friends of the college to place St. Andrew’s on a firmer financial foundation. That endowment fund continues to serve students today providing for faculty resources and tuition relief.
During the 1950s plans were again drafted for the completion of the East Wing of the college building. The expansion was a signal to the wider church about the permanence and future of the college at a time when the need for a theological presence on the Prairies was being debated. In September 1961 the East Wing was completed as were enovations to the West Wing.
Throughout the 1960s the justice-seeking ethos and commitment to social action became even more deeply rooted in the college and St. Andrew’s became known throughoutCanada as one of the country’s most progressive and politically activist theological schools.
In 1969 The United Church reorganized theological education on the Prairies under a tri-college plan. The University of Winnipeg’s Faculty of Theology and St. Stephen’s College in Edmonton were given responsibility for continuing education and post-graduate studies. Theological education leading to ordination was to be concentrated at St. Andrew’s. In the Prairie region the ‘testamur’ for ordination, required by the church,was to be awarded to graduating students by St. Andrew’s College.
Gender balance at St. Andrew’s began to change significantly in the 1970s with a growing number of women within the student body, in graduating classes and receiving testamurfor ordination. During the 1970s ecumenical and co-operative relationships began to take greater shape involving the Anglican College of Emmanuel and St. Chad and the Lutheran Theological Seminary, leading eventually to the creation of the Saskatoon Theological Union.
The exclusively male student residence became co-educational in 1974 with an equal number of rooms allotted to male and female students.
As the decade ofthe 1980s opened a shift occurred in the nature of the college administration. For the first 60 years or so St. Andrew’s administration was largely the responsibility of faculty members with a very small support staff. In 1980 the role of principal or dean was changed to president with greater emphasis placed on administration, development work, promotion of the college, relationships with the three Prairie conferences and program design. Feminist theology and feminist issues grew in emphasis during the 1980s and a Fund to Honour Prairie Church Women was established to provide a faculty resource to feminist issues. Student numbers grew in the 1980s with an increasing number of women and second-career candidates for ministry.
In the mid-1980s the college closed its cafeteria and limited the number of student residence rooms to the top floor of the East Wing. Those changes allowed the college to expand its partnership with the University of Saskatchewan and today the college hosts faculty and graduate students of the College of Nursing alongside the School of Physical Therapy and the St. Andrew’s theological program.
Between 1994 and 1996 St. Andrew’s undertook the challenging task of seeking and earning accreditation from the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. To meet and maintain the requirements of accreditation the college must provide the same quality of education as do the largest and most established theological colleges in North America.
In the decade leading up to the beginning of St. Andrew’s 100th anniversary stability and confidence has returned to the college. A full component of faculty has been restored. New boilers have been installed in the college home and the long-held dream of making the college accessible hass been achieved with the installation of an elevator to provide access to all public areas of both wings.
In 2009 after study and preparation St. Andrew’s College became an Affirming Ministry of The United Church of Canada and warmly welcomes to our community persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
The MDiv program in preparation for ministry has deepened the integration of academic preparation and practical ministry experience through an 18- to 20-month residency and five learning circles.
In 2021, building on its Strategic Plan, the College entered into a Covenant with the other two schools of the Saskatoon Theological Union (the College of Emmanuel & St. Chad and Lutheran Theological Seminary, Saskatoon). This partnership involved the development of a shared curriculum and a shared faculty in its core degree programs, as well as furthering the College’s reach into the world of digital and hybrid theological education. In response to the changing needs of the wider church and world, St. Andrew’s also undertook the development of an extensive Lifelong Learning program.
And for the first time in its history has been accredited to offer a Doctorate in Ministry in Rural Ministry and Community Development to specialize in rural ministry and community development. A partnership with Hanshin University Graduate School of Theology in Seoul, South Korea has opened a new international door for St.Andrew’s and the potential for deeper engagement with Korean-Canadian Christians and United Church congregations.