Red Deer's Sikh community transforms old church into new temple

Red Deer’s Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara has been in the works for the past two decades, according to community leaders. (Dan McGarvey/CBC - image credit)
Red Deer’s Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara has been in the works for the past two decades, according to community leaders. (Dan McGarvey/CBC - image credit)

Red Deer's growing Sikh community finally has a new place of worship after many years of trying to establish a Gurudwara in the city.

A former church at 5911 63rd St. is now the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara.

The new temple will serve around 150 families, 250 international students and temporary foreign workers from India.

The community had been gathering once a month at the Bower Community Centre before the building purchase.

Now the Gurudwara will be open seven days a week, thanks to a fundraising push that raised $450,000 and allowed the community to buy the building with no mortgage.

Dan McGarvey/CBC
Dan McGarvey/CBC

The community received donations from neighbouring Sikh communities in Calgary, Edmonton and Surrey, B.C., along with private donations.

"The community is growing every day. So many people are moving here from B.C., Calgary and Ontario," said Nishan Singh Sandhu, the Gurudwara's president.

"It's very important, otherwise we don't have a place to get together. We struggled for the last 20 years to build a Gurudwara," said Sandhu. "They helped us lots and that's how we got our goal here."

Dan McGarvey/CBC
Dan McGarvey/CBC

The community took over the building on Dec. 21, 2022. It includes a main floor with a large basement area and kitchen.

As well as a gathering place for Sikhs to pray and mark key religious dates on the Sikh calendar, it's hoped the Gurudwara will also help build bridges and relationships with the wider community in Red Deer.

"People don't know about the turban, people don't know about Sikhism, now at least they know who we are," said Gurcharan Singh Gill, the Gurudwara's vice-president.

Dan McGarvey/CBC
Dan McGarvey/CBC

"After the Gurudwara, they know who we are and what's our religion. That's going to make a big difference."

Gill says the community hopes to hold its own Nagar Kirtan parade this year and grow the community and its presence in the city.

The centre's kitchen will also provide langar, a free, volunteer-run kitchen that provides vegetarian food to anyone who needs it.

The next goals for the community are a major kitchen upgrade, the construction of a perimeter fence and the addition of a large flag pole and the installation of the Sikh flag, known as the Nishan Sahib.