Pulpits of the Past

23 December 2014

Pulpits of the Past: A Record of Closed Lutheran Churches in Saskatchewan – up to 2003
by Lois Knudson Munholland
Published by Three West Two South Books
Review by Keith Foster
$30.00 ISBN 0-9735234-0-9

In Pulpits of the Past, Lois Knudson Munholland shares the joys, sorrows, and hardships of everyday church life in rural Saskatchewan. She covers the full spectrum of births, baptisms, weddings, social events, and deaths as told through the histories of the province’s Lutheran churches that no longer exist.

Compiling and documenting the material for this book was a massive undertaking for Knudson Munholland, one that almost became a lifelong project. She notes that, for most of their young lives, her children couldn’t even remember a time when she wasn’t working on this book.

All the former churches cited in Pulpits of the Past are located in what is now the province of Saskatchewan. Not only have these churches closed, some of the communities are now ghost towns. Garden Valley Lutheran Church at Instow is just one of many examples.

Sometimes services were held in homes until a church could be constructed. Services at Attica were conducted in the school, but only about twice a month. Two pastors had to come from a nearby community, and neither of them had a car. Knudson Munholland doesn’t say how they got there.

Pulpits of the Past shows how, out of necessity, church members found homegrown solutions to their problems. One carpenter in Estevan was called upon to build a church of old lumber and cardboard boxes. The congregation finished the walls with gunny sacks, using the “burlap wall” method they’d learned in Norway, then painting over them.

Members of Scandia Lutheran Church in Henden purchased brand-new lumber from nearby Paswegin and hauled it back by oxen. The wagons frequently got stuck in mud. Drivers had to unload the lumber, push the wagons out of the mud, then reload the lumber and carry on until the next mud hole.

Knudson Munholland takes readers through tough times. The original Trinity Lutheran Church at Esk was destroyed by a prairie fire in 1908. In 1924, when the new church showed a year-end deficit of $26.32, William Braitenbach, who served as treasurer for twenty-nine years, made up the shortfall out of his own pocket.

Aside from Christmas concerts, annual picnics were a highlight of rural congregations. Knudson Munholland describes one at Trinity Lutheran Church at Buchanan. Like “miniature sports days” with races, baseball, and games, these picnics featured five cent ice cream cones. The grand finale was the supper.

While memories of prairie churches may fade away after they shut their doors, the records of Saskatchewan’s closed Lutheran churches are fortunately preserved for posterity in Knudson Munholland’s Pulpits of the Past.


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