St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in central Alberta to mark 100th anniversary celebration

Plans are well underway for celebrating the 100th anniversary of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church at Scapa on Aug. 7th

Plans are well underway for celebrating the 100th anniversary of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church at Scapa on Aug. 7.

The organizing committee is planning events marking the occasion starting at 2 p.m.

The unique church, located north east of Drumheller, which has served families from Endiang, Scapa, Dowling and beyond all these years certainly has a fascinating history, explained local resident Les Stulberg, who is also a councillor with the County of Stettler.

“St. Peter’s Lutheran Church was originally built in Wetaskiwin in 1911,” said Stulberg. “Within 10 years, that congregation disbanded as many returned to the United States.

“When the Lutherans from the Dowling Lake area (later known as the Endiang – Scapa – Dowling area after the railway came through) heard the vacant church was available, they thought it would be perfect for them.”

As Stulberg explained, prior to this, they had been worshipping in school houses and pioneer homes – sometimes even in sod houses.

“One such minister was Rev. Julius Zaetschky who had previously served in Wetaskiwin,” said Stulberg, noting that Zaetschky was instrumental in locating the church initially and then organizing and founding St. Peter’s.

“Pastor Zaetschky and other about six other local men travelled to Wetaskiwin in the winter of 1920 to dismantle the church,” said Stulberg.

“They removed the steeple, cut it into eight-foot sections and loaded the pieces on railway flatcars for shipping to Craigmyle. From there they transported the pieces to the present location by team and bobsleigh where it was reconstructed.

“Gust Abram donated the land for the church and adjoining cemetery. Gus Stulberg brought sand and gravel from his nearby homestead for the foundation and all the Lutherans in the area turned out to help,” he said.

“The church that literally came to the people in pieces was ready for services in May of 1921.”

With such an incredible beginning, the church also went on to build quite the community legacy over the decades.

Fittingly, with its unique history, St. Peter’s has also been declared a Historic Site and that in itself is a source of pride for the community, said Stulberg.

“The church is near and dear to the hearts of many in the Endiang, Scapa and Dowling areas as there are many descendants still living in the area of the original pioneers who built the church and worshipped there,” said Stulberg.

“Many too were either baptized, confirmed, married or have family members buried there. It has also brought the community together as volunteers have restored the church to its original condition with the addition of new cedar siding and shingles, windows and most recently in 2020 new metal cladding for the steeple.”

Stulberg said that volunteers continue to maintain the church and care for the cemetery.

Regular services were discontinued in 1978 but since then there have been occasional church picnics and summer services, weddings and funerals, he added.

Which brings us to the exciting plans for next month when the church will mark its 100th anniversary, said Stulberg.

To the locals it is a piece of history – their history – and unlike so many things the pioneers built like schools, railways, the towns with grain elevators and other businesses that are no longer existing – St. Peter’s is still standing as a bold testament to the faith of their forefathers whose blood, sweat and tears built the church and carved communities from the barren land they arrived to, he said.

“The early pioneers faced some daunting hurdles, yet their faith saw them through those tough times. This church has also been an inspiration to many in different ways,” he said.

If you are planning to attend the Aug. 7 celebrations, email Dean Viste at icetime@telusplanet.net, Scott Viste at sviste@netago.ca or Leo Erion at slerion@netago.ca.