By Les Stulberg
Special to the Independent
Late this summer volunteers undertook a project to upgrade the condition of the steeple on St. Peter’s Lutheran Church at Scapa that would make the founders of the church proud.
The church, which was declared a provincial historic site, is located approximately nine miles southeast of Endiang.
Weather and time had taken their toll on the century-old historic church’s steeple. Its poor condition was causing rain to leak down the bell tower and into the front entry of the church.
The cross that was mounted atop the steeple was leaning southward from enduring many years of stormy weather and its mounting too had weathered and weakened.
The volunteer committee that maintains the church decided it was time to repair the steeple but with the height involved it would not be an easy task. A lift picker was brought in from Hanna to lift the steeple off the church and place it on a flat deck to be transported to the neighbouring farm shop of Donald Viste where the repair work took place.
Removing the steeple from the crown of the tower had its challenges as well as men had to work inside the extremely close quarters of the tower to free the steeple.
Once the steeple was removed, the crown of the tower was temporarily boarded shut to prevent rain damage. The sight of the church minus its steeple would have been an unusual view to travellers by.
The old tin was removed from the steeple only to reveal the shiplap boards the steeple was made of were in much deteriorated condition.
One side at a time, the boards were removed and replaced with plywood to give added strength to the structure. This reconstruction work was under the expertise of Brian Gutsche.
A Hanna firm was hired to clad the steeple with new metal. Once that was completed the steeple was lifted back to its original resting stop on top of the bell tower where volunteers once again gathered to secure it back into place.
The straightened cross was added to the top of the shiny steeple as the final touch.
Team organizer of the project Dean Viste stated, “Looking back at our pioneer congregation members that built the structure back in May 1921 off of constructed wooden scaffolds, roping the material up board by board to assemble, technology has come a long ways and we were happy to be able use a lift machine and a picker.
“It is the first time I ever remember the cross standing straight in the air,” added Viste.
Now, passers-by will see the efforts of these tireless volunteers gleaming in the sunlight atop the little country church with its unique history.
The steeple should be able to endure the harsh prairie weather for decades to come.
The generous spirit of these volunteers is reminiscent of the founding fathers of the church who gave of themselves to bring this historic church to the area in 1921.
Prior to securing the church the Lutherans of the area gathered in school houses and pioneers’ homes for worship. When they heard of a church available at Wetaskiwin whose congregation had disbanded they decided to relocate that church. The church had been built there in 1911.
Men of the area went to Wetaskiwin in the winter of 1921 and cut the church into eight-foot sections and shipped it by railway flat car to Craigmyle, the nearest railway station at the time.
From there, they brought the pieces by team and sleigh to its present site where it was reconstructed in less than six weeks. The foundation cornerstone was laid on April 5th, 1921 and the official dedication followed on May 15th.
Original services were conducted in German with English services added in 1937.
When the church was relocated it was minus its bell. The bell tower sat empty until 1996 when the original bell was located at Wetaskiwin. It was re-installed in the bell tower it had originally been in and a special dedication service took place in August in conjunction with the 75th anniversary celebrations.
Plans are underway to mark the 100th anniversary of the church at its present site in the summer of 2021.
The church committee feels the timing of the steeple repairs is fitting to have the quaint little church looking its best for the upcoming celebration.