Pipestone United Church celebrated 125 years of serving the community on Sunday, October 28 with Jean Dickson leading the service, Laurie Campion was organist and the choir welcomed visitors from the Reston United Church. The opening prayer was used at the 90th anniversary: We celebrate our heritage. We rejoice in our heritage of Presbyterian churches: a high regard for the Church as the Body of Christ, a concern for the right ordering of the church’s life and for the educating of her members a sense of awe in the presence of God that produced a service of worship that was dignified and meaningful: and always the return to Scripture as a test of the church’s worship, teaching and practice.
Marilyn Flannery tested the congregation’s knowledge of the Pipestone United Church and Jean Dickson read the following history of the church: Although services had been held since 1884 in the community, the church building was erected by the Presbyterians in 1893. The architect and builder was Mr. Dunham. The first elders were: James Lothian, George Forke, Sr. and David Forsyth. A student minister in the field was Mr. Gunn who was an ambitious young man and a driving force in getting the church built. Soon ordained ministers came, with Rev. McQuarrie being the first followed by Rev. Spear.
A few years later, the Methodists were strong enough to become organized with Rev. Oaks presiding. The first stewarts in the Methodist church were: Mr. Crawford, Mr. Dunham and Mr. Davis. Both churches used the same building with the Presbyterians holding services in the afternoon and the Methodists in the evening. As this demonstrates from the beginning both denominations were harmonious. Mr. Mitchell was organist for both denominations, receiving no renumeration, but happy to share his talents with the church he loved. Mr. Dunham organized the first choir.
In 1913, on the 20th anniversary of the church, Rev. Gunn who we had referred to as being instrumental in the building of the church and now an ordained minister led Sunday service and was guest speaker at the fowl supper held on Monday night.
Union was consummated in 1920 although Dominion wide union did not take place until 1925. In 1920, Rev Royle took charge of the union church followed by Rev. Carlin who was the first minister after the formation of the United Church of Canada in 1925. That was no small feat as those were tough days in the church.
In 1929, the basement was enlarged to full size, and a choir loft was built on the north side of the church with a basement under it. In 1955, a boys group under the direction of Mr. Clarkson finished the basement covering the walls and ceiling, painting and building a cupboard for choir gowns and library books. In later years, the basement was panelled and in 1982, a washroom with running water, was installed.
In 1937, pews were purchased to replace the chairs used up until that time. In 1992, with the financial help of the Pipestone Guild these pews were refinished. The floor was also refinished at that time.
Little information was found from the 1930s and 40s as the country was preoccupied with the depression and WW11 leaving little time or money for church renovations.
As a note of interest in 1955 there were 18 baptisms in the church, 50 regular services as well as special services. Sunday school had an enrolment of 117 with the average attendance of 90. There was also an active W.A., Y.W.A. as well as CGIT, boys group and vacation schools.
It is also interesting to note that for many years church was also held in Findlay and Charlie Elliott mentioned that the Pipestone minister also came to Belses, and Huston doing morning services in Belses, having dinner with a local family and doing afternoon at Huston and evening in Pipestone.
In 1956, things were changing however and a special meeting chaired by Rev. Sparling of Virden discussed the need for amalgamation. This is an exert from that meeting, “The winds of change began to blow in our church, due to several factors: 1. A changing population; 2. Fewer families on larger farms; 3. A growing scarcity of ordained ministers; 4. The decision of Rev. Widden to leave Reston/Hillview charge; 5. The urging by presbytery for amalgamation of smaller congregations.” How many of these things sound familiar 60 years later. In January of 1957, the amalgamation of Reston/Hillview and Pipestone was approved the new charge being named Reston/Pipestone Charge. Rev Ross came to a very challenging situation.
In addition to maintaining the church monetarily, many families made donations in memory of loved ones. This is still visible as we look around the church today. The church was given various Hymn books, planters, baptismal font, bible stand, clock, communion clothes, speakers, piano and organ in lower level, pulpit, memoriam book, pictures and many more items. A new electric organ was purchased in 1960 to replace the pump organ and that one was replaced with the present one in the early 1980s. A new door was installed in 1987 and a project whereby a family or group could purchase a window. This was a great success with all new windows being installed in 2001.
As we all know, the ladies keep things running and this was so true of the United Church. The first ladies group was the ladies aid formed in 1898 with 6 charter members but membership soon increased. Despite no modern conveniences and many demands on their time with home and family these ladies managed to cook and sew to raise money for worthwhile projects by holding parlour socials in members homes, teas, many suppers, bazaars, concerts and much more. One of the first projects was the painting of the church and there is a motion to ask the gentlemen to help paint the church to save expenses. In December of that year 1898, 5-dozen cups and saucers and 6 dozen plates were purchased for $9.00. Imagine how much food they sold to raise that money. A few years later in 1906, the ladies aid purchased 2 lots and helped finance the building of the manse and barn. This served as a home to many clergy over the years. Its sale was finalized in 1970, although there hadn’t been a minister living in Pipestone for several years.
This group and those that followed contributed to the church with many purchases as well as monetary donations. In 1925, their name changed to the Women’s Association WA and the younger women and young mothers belonged to the YWA. In 1957 the name changed again to Women’s Federation and in 1962 became the UCW. In the past 30 years the Guild has also contributed to many projects in the church from painting to carpet and refinishing pews and floors as well as monetary donations. Without their hard work and dedication keeping the church running over the past 125 years would have been much more difficult.
Many other volunteers helped out with teaching Sunday school, CGIT, vacation bible school, junior and senior choir, playing music and much more.
The church was very proud of its roots and special services and celebrations were held for the 20th, 50th, 70th, 75th, 80th, 100th, 110th and now 125th anniversary.
Reflections and memories were heard from the Zarn, Atchison, Elliott, Forsyth, Campion families. Many of theses names have been mentioned from the beginning of the church’s formation.
Lunch with a 125th Anniversary cake was served in the basement to round out a wonderful service.