Faith of our forebears: Saskatoon churches plan celebration of centennial

 — Apr. 2, 20052 avril 2005

Faith played a vital role in the lives of our forebears. As villages were established across Saskatchewan, various denominations sprang up with them.

It is this aspect of the province’s centennial that Christian church leaders want to celebrate. Rev. Allan Grundahl is head of a committee planning a Celebration of Christian Faith in Saskatoon.

“This service was initiated by the heads of denominations who have been getting together since the early 1990s,” Grundahl says. The group meets every couple of months at the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism “to talk about matters common to all of us and to be aware of what is happening in each other’s jurisdiction.”

Grundahl, who served nine years as bishop of the Saskatchewan Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, confesses a long- established interest in things ecumenical.

“I came Zion Lutheran Church in 1978 as parish pastor and served there as senior pastor for 16 years. During that time, I got to know most of the clergy in town and attended the general ministerial meetings of what is referred to as the mainline denominations. But I was always concerned that the evangelical churches needed to be in contact, too. So I went to the evangelical ministerial meetings, as well, and developed friendships in both streams of the Christian church.”

Also on the committee are Don Balzer, a lay person representing evangelical churches; retired United Church minister Rev. Margaret Crawford; Kay Fey, an Anglican layperson; Rev. Donna Hagen, a Presbyterian; and Mike Paynter from the Roman Catholic church.

“All are interested in ecumenism,” says Grundahl. “The Christian church has come a long way in that regard; 25 years ago, there was very little co-operation among denominations. We in the Lutheran Church were even suspicious of other Lutherans … we didn’t think they had it quite right. Today, there is a delightful and marked change. I have changed, too. I was just as narrow-minded as everyone else.”

So what is being celebrated? “The Christian faith, how it became a major factor in the building of our province and especially our city of Saskatoon, and how it has grown.

“This celebration is important because we share a common faith,” Grundahl says. “We talk about our differences, but the centre for all of us is Jesus Christ and our faith in Him. That is the heart of all Christian churches and what we can rejoice in and celebrate together.”

The first thing the committee decided was not to have a major speaker. “To satisfy everyone,” Grundahl quips, “we would have to have Billy Graham or Jesus Christ.”

Instead, the story of churches in Saskatoon will be presented through a storytelling format interspersed with familiar hymns and music appropriate for each item. There will be a slideshow.

“We will hear the story of how Rev. John Lake, the head of the Temperance Colonization Society, gathered the original settlers of Saskatoon together for an outdoor service on the riverbank. We’ll tell a little about that and then sing Shall We Gather at the River and All Hail the Power of Jesus Name, a hymn they might have sung.”

Another story will highlight the beginnings of the Catholic Church in Saskatoon and how the land where St. Paul’s Cathedral sits was purchased. “In the spring of 1901, Fr. Emard was out shooting gophers on a site overlooking the river. That very evening, he spoke to Karl Kusch, the pioneer who owned the land, and arranged to buy the piece from him to build a church and a house. That land became the site of St. Paul’s Cathedral.”

“We also want to focus on what the Church has done and is doing to benefit the community,” says Grundahl. “We’ll tell of refugees sponsored, and how, 40 years ago, Saskatoon churches worked together to start the Friendship Inn. It seems fitting that the offering, after expenses, will be divided between the Friendship Inn and the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism, the strongest expression in the past 20 years of the church working together. We are also inviting people to bring a non-perishable item to the service for the Saskatoon Food Bank.”

Wes Froese is co-ordinating music for the service and will conduct a massed choir.

The Celebration of Christian Faith in Saskatoon will be held at Circle Drive Alliance Church, south of Circle Drive South at Preston, at 2:30 p.m. on May 15.

That particular Sunday,” says Grundahl, “is Pentecost Sunday, which celebrates the initiation and birth of the Christian Church. How fitting that we should be celebrating the beginnings of the Christian faith community in Saskatoon on that day as well.”

Posted: Apr. 2, 2005 • Permanent link:
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