The Blaine Lake Gospel Chapel celebrated its 100th anniversary April 29 with over 150 in attendance.
Wayne King opened the service with prayer and welcome. It was noted that the offering of the day would go towards the purchase of a new sign for the front of the chapel.
The centennial choir led the congregation in the singing of two favourite hymns followed by Camellea Konkin and Barb Woytiuk performing solos. Camellea sang Love of God. Woytiuk sang two songs Jesus Take my Hand and Because Mama Prayed.
“Our church’s history begins a number of years prior to the completion of a church building in 1912,” began Pastor Kevin Koop addressing the congregation.
In 1906, Mennonite missionary, Herman Fast came to Petrofka School to teach the Russian language, and at the same time he conducted gospel services in the school and in homes. As the good news grew, the need for a place to gather was presented, so neighbours Wasyl Wasilenko and Nicholas Boulanoff donated two acres of adjacent farmland. It was here, in the Harmonia district, that a building was constructed with the financial assistance of Mennonite Brethren Mission in Saskatchewan and volunteer labour. The building was completed in 1912 and given the official name of The Mennonite Brethren Church at Petrofka. Wasyl Wasilenko serves as the congregation’s first official pastor until 1924.
The local Mennonite and Russian Baptist congregations held choir practices and youth events together resulting in the marriage of youth from both congregations, so to avoid conflict as to which church the couples would attend, the two churches joined in 1924. Russian minister George Buzowetsky served as pastor and Paul Makaroff served as deacon. The church adopted the name Baptist Mennonite Union Church of Blaine Lake.
Later Reverend Nestor Nesdoly would serve as pastor at the Baptist MB congregation. In the 1930s, John Koval served within the Blaine Lake congregation and it was at this time that the family of Katie Funk Wiebe moved to Blaine Lake. Services were held in the Koval, Nesdoly or Wiebe households during the winter as travel to the Baptist church was often difficult.
When a local lumberyard was razed in a fire, three lots remained vacant, so after much persuasion, Wiebe convinced the Western Children’s Mission to purchase the lots for $25 per lot. The Western Children’s Mission conducted Vacation Bible School (VBS) for the community’s children.
In the 1940s the MB church was moved from the country to the town to occupy one of the three lots. That portion of the building is the present day church. John Koval provided leadership in the church from 1944-46. An addition to the sanctuary and a manse were completed in the 1950s.
From the 1950s through ‘70s a number of pastors and their families served the congregation including Pastor Peter Esau 1954-59, Pastor Abe Dueck 1959-64, Pastor George Reimer 1964-68, Pastor Irvin Penner 1968-72 and Pastor David Wootton 1973-77. From 1977-82 there was no serving pastor but Bill Bolan was moderator to seek out guest speakers for the services. In 1982, Pastor Frank Froese served the church for 14 months. In 1984, Gerald Epp and family moved to Blaine Lake as pastoral family and served 26 years with the Blaine Lake church.
In 2006 a building expansion occurred to the Blaine Lake Gospel Chapel with completion in 2009. The expansion featured a new kitchen and wheelchair accessible washrooms.
In 2010, the Epps moved to Manitoba leaving the church to search for a new pastor. The church was blessed to have Kevin and Emily Koop accept the call to serve as pastoral couple in the fall of 2010.
Ralph Gliege, Saskatchewan Mennonite Brethren Conference director, congratulated the congregation on the historic moment. He acknowledged the collaborative efforts and partnerships that were developed over the years while striving to fulfill the spiritual needs of its congregation.
He praised the Blaine Lake Gospel Chapel’s intimate relationship and involvement with Redberry Lake Bible Camp and Bethany College as ways of continued growth and outreach.
Gliege mentioned that Bertha Froese, wife of a former pastor, is 101 years young. It was interesting to note that she was born before the establishment of the church.
Tanys Sherstobetoff and Heather (Epp ) Sparrow sang a duet while accompanied by Eleanor Epp on piano.
Gerald and Eleanor Epp travelled from Manitoba to partake in the celebration.
“One hundred years is a worthy milestone. It made the groundwork for the present and future,” commented Gerry Epp, former pastor of Blaine Lake Gospel Chapel for 26 years.
“We are here on the shoulders, prayers and faith of those before us and now we stand in the open door looking ahead into the next 100 years.”
Epp emphasized the two pillars of Christians as faith and obedience. He made reference to five points: “be strong and courageous as there will be insurmountable obstacles in life but we need to just go and do it,” said Epp.
The second was to be careful and obey. The third is to read the Bible as it is the promise of success. Fourth is God promises you success if you follow His word.
Epp said maybe now is the time to check and re-evaluate the church’s mission statement, and lastly to remember that God is with you where ever you go, now is the time to move ahead into unchartered territory.
The centennial choir sang two more songs before the closing prayer was given and grace was pronounced.
The entire congregation was invited to stay and enjoy the potluck lunch and fellowship. The morning service was a look back of thanksgiving but also a look forward with commitment. The pioneers did not build in vain but rather for a flourishing congregation in the years to come.