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Congregants celebrate 120 years of St. Peters Church near Bashaw

Nestled between Ponoka and Bashaw St. Peters Church sees 120 years of service
This image was taken from the southwest corner of the cemetery after the 120th celebration service of the St. Peter’s Lutheran Church. Photo submitted

It was fitting that 120 people came to celebrate 120 years of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church land recently, which sits between Ponoka and Bashaw.

Set up along Highway 53, the land was found on July 22, 1897 by then Pastor F. Bredlow. Since then, the church and land has seen congregants come full circle with folks baptized, confirmed, married and then buried at the church cemetery, explained Leanne Walton, who organized the big celebration.

“We had about 120 people join us for the communion service at the church and then moved across the highway to the Schultz Hall for lunch, visiting and reminiscing with family, friends and neighbours,” she explained in an email.

The building itself is 114 years old, said Walton, adding that in the early days before the church was built, folks would hold services at different homes. “From 1897 to 1903, services were held in the homes when the travelling pastor happened to be coming through.”

“The official name is St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church. We belong to the Synod of Alberta and the Territories which is part of the ELCIC (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada) and Rev. Dr. Larry Kochendorfer is the Bishop for the Alberta Synod.”

One of the special parts of the church is how it was put together; it was built by German immigrants to Canada.

“From reading or listening to the early pioneer stories when times were tough for whatever reason, faith was important in moving forward. To give thanks to God was more than just saying a prayer at home but to worship with others who believed in God, too,” said Walton.

While there were not as many people attending this celebration as the 100th anniversary, Walton felt it was important to have. There are many congregants who have since passed away or moved, so the chances of getting folks together is even more challenging.

“Many individuals have gone elsewhere to work and raise their family, then opted to come home for their eternal rest in the cemetery,” explained Walton.

“Even though they work and live in other urban or rural areas, many young people will bring their babies back to St. Peter’s to be baptized, likely because it is small and feels like home to them.”

Sunday services are a small affair, but for Walton, the memories that fill the halls of the church are worth remembering.

“When the farming community was more inhabited, it was often a full house for the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service. Now, we are at about 60 to 75 per cent full on Christmas Eve. Besides worshipping together, volunteering and working together has made us a stronger church family community,” explained Walton.

The church has recently become a backdrop for photographers looking to capture the northern lights with a visual backdrop, plus the cemetery holds a wealth of names and history from the area.

There have been countless experiences and memories developed in the hall, which hosted 154 marriages, 830 baptisms, 222 burials, 453 confirmations as well as countless annual activities for family and friends from near and far, and will surely continue to do so into the future.

This photo shows the St. Peter’s Lutheran Church covered in snow during a funeral. Photos submitted
Congregants of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, between Ponoka and Bashaw, recently celebrated 120 years that the congregation has been around. This archived photo shows the church before the basement was developed. Photo submitted