Take a gawk this weekend past the stained glass, story-telling windows of Elim Chapel.

Henry Pauls, who will be leading some of the chapel's tours for Doors Open this Winnipeg, said it was his love of history, particularly towards the church, that drew him to learn more about Elim Chapel.

The church, which now resides across from the University of Winnipeg downtown, originally started at the corner of Beverly Street and Ellice Avenue around 1910.

From there, Elim changed location yet again, moving to what is now the West End Cultural Centre, until it eventually outgrew the building and the chapel found its current home on Portage in the 1920's.

1974, however, was a year of tragedy for the church when an arsonist who, at the time, was targeting churches in Winnipeg's downtown area, made Elim Chapel one of his casualties.

"A young man had come into the church, we had the doors open, and had hid in here and started a fire which totally destroyed the church," Pauls explained. "Of course, it was originally a huge shock to everybody who was a part of the congregation, as well as churches around the area that we were involved with."

The only portion of the original structure remaining following the arson was a portion of the front wall, and two of the building's original stained glass windows. 

With little insurance money available to them at the time, Elim's congregation discussed whether they should rebuild or move once again following the fire. It was the overwhelming response from their church family to rebuild which led to the chapel's reconstruction.

"A number of churches in the area were gracious to accommodate us at the time, during our process of rebuilding," Pauls shared, "we're very grateful to God for that."

Years later, a second fire, this one mistakenly caused by some youth from the neighborhood, led to the destruction of the back portion of Elim Chapel. The building had originally been an army legion hall.

Today, Elim has replaced the loss with a beautiful addition to the back of their building. The area includes space for kids and youth, a foyer area, and a multi-purpose room that is rented out to members of the community for various functions.

This fits perfectly with the church's mission, which has always been to serve its community, according to Pauls. Elim also places a large emphasis on relationships and making disciples.

Pauls shared how tangible this could be seen within the church's congregation. "When the church turned 100 years old a few years ago, there were actually two members of the church older than the church."

Visitors can expect a tour of the chapel's gorgeous stained glass depictions on the sanctuary walls as part of their Doors Open experience this weekend, as well as the rich history of Elim told by Pauls and other congregation members. 

Guided tours of Elim Chapel will be available for groups of 10 people at a time from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 26. Tours will begin on the hour, and run for an hour each.

Elim Chapel can be found at 546 Portage Avenue.

Read more:

Steeples and stained glass: the churches of Doors Open - Holy Trinity Anglican Church

Steeples and stained glass: the churches of Doors Open - The Parish Church of St. Luke

Steeples and stained glass: the churches of Doors Open - St. John's Cathedral