HISTORY OF THE WARBURG SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH - by Ida Knopp
(From the beginning of the founding members to the dedication of the Warburg SDA Church)
It all began way back in 1929, when the very first two Seventh-day Adventist families moved west and settled in the Sunnybrook district. Mr. and Mrs. Edward Remfert and their little daughter, Ida arrived late in the fall on November 10, at their homestead just two miles north of Sunnybrook.
In the spring of 1931 the Guide family joined them along with their little girl, Gertie. At that time the West was still young, very new, and sparsely populated. The entire area was covered with heavy bush, timber etc. There was very little land under cultivation, roads were very poor, mostly hacked out bush trails. But all these hardships did not discourage these young ambitious pioneers. They had a "vision" and a "dream" to strive for by working and building to make this great west country their home, for themselves and their children. And this they accomplished. They often felt very lonely, so far away from relatives and friends.
There was no church they could attend. So they met in their homes on weekends, often traveling many miles to assemble themselves for worship. This was usually in a small log cottage, a typical home for that time. Occasionally a Minister would call on them but not very often; he had a long way to travel. Things were soon to change.
A few years later, in 1932 Pastor John D. Neufeld from Waldheim, Saskatchewan held a series of Evangelistic meetings at Thorsby, on the farm of the late Andrew and Christina Knopp, parents and grandparents of all the Knopp families in the area.
A large tent was erected on the Knopp yard under the tall green spruce beside a fast flowing creek which was almost overflowing its banks at that time. The cool comfort in the out of doors, plus the scent of freshly cut spruce boughs provided an inspiring setting for quiet meditation. People gathered from near and far, arriving in cars, with team, on horseback, even on foot to hear the Gospel and join the group in singing the old fashioned hymns. The tent seated approximately three hundred. But there were usually more people standing outside than possibly could crowd in.
It was truly a real old fashioned camp-meeting. As a result of these efforts, quite a number were converted, and joined the church, and were baptized right there in that beautiful winding creek, with hundreds of spectators standing on the banks. Following the baptismal service the members were organized with John D. Neufeld as their pastor. Edward Remfert was the elder, Hugo Guide the first deacon: their wives served both as church clerk and treasurer.
Now there was quite a sizeable group that met regularly every Sabbath in various homes. The distance never seemed too far or the weather too cold for these dear faithful believers to assemble themselves for worship. Very often stones or bricks were heated, wrapped in blankets to keep the feet warm while traveling, and quilts and comforters were used to tuck the children in on cold winter's nights to keep them snug and warm. Sometimes you could hear them singing hymns, while sleigh bells were ringing as the horses chugged merrily along the winding country road mile after mile in the clear crisp moonlight. Pastor Neufeld made numerous house calls in those days, visiting isolated members and often drove long distances doing so. Andrew Knopp usually volunteered to provide transportation. He owned a pair of high-spirited, light-footed ponies who were more than willing to embark on a new adventure.
In one of these occasions Tom and Prince were hitched to a sleigh filled with several couples who joined the pastor on his weekly rounds. This particular time they were on their way to Telfordville. Having quite a distance to travel the team was let run at a faster pace than usual. While turning a sharp corner a bit too fast, the sleigh upset dumping its passengers, including the pastor, into the deep snow. Fortunately the horses obeyed their master's command and stopped abruptly. Luckily no-one was injured. After viewing the hilarious situation the group burst out in hearty laughter. After picking themselves up out of the snow, they uprighted the sleigh and box, climbed in and continued on their way regarding the whole incident as a normal everyday occurrence. But the experience was often related with a chuckle and a smile.
The summers proved just as adventurous as the winter. We often had long rainy spells which made traveling all the more complicated. Roads were muddy, soft, and treacherous. The horses would get stuck in the swamps and had to be unhooked and the wagon pulled out piece by piece and reassembled after they hit drier ground. Many times they decided to walk instead, taking short-cuts through the bush, missing the creeks and mud holes on fallen logs, finally reaching their destination very tired but happy. They often recall those days, comparing them with our roads and modern transportation of today.
Quite a number of years went by and in the summer of 1937 we rented the United Church which stood on the old Calaway farm on the road which was then known as the townline. Our group had grown much larger by now so we found ourselves overcrowded in the home, especially if we had any number of visitors. So we appreciated the privilege of using this church, which served its purpose very well for a couple of years.
This church leaves many precious memories with us. Pastor Neufeld was not only a great evangelist; he was also a great friend of the youth in the church. He took time to teach, sing and play musical instruments developing all the talent he could find. Scores of young and old alike would gather in the church, often filling it to overcapacity. At one time due to the crowd the floor collapsed. A terrific bang was heard and down went the floor. One of the joists had broken and sagged the center. During the following week it was repaired and the services were continued.
In 1939 plans were made to build a church of our own, approximately half-way between Sunnybrook and Thorsby, on the farm of Mrs. Elizabeth Sulz right in the woods on a corner lot. Everyone was willing to help. However meager the finances, pledges were made to donate the proceeds of one acre of wheat, some lumber, and fifteen dollars in cash per family. This was sufficient to construct the building and put it under a roof. An old fashioned round heater was set up in the center. Stoked with wood and coal, it kept us quite comfortably warm. How happy we were to finally have a place of our own to worship. Visitors would come for miles around, filling the small sanctuary to capacity. How they would sing-almost making the rafters ring.
A few months later, on December 5, 1940, the first wedding ceremony was performed. Irene Knopp and August Comm of the Leduc Church were united in marriage, Pastor C. C. Voth officiating. Some years later the Sulz farm changed owners. The little church had to be raised up and moved to a new location half a mile west across the road on the late Fink farm. It was set on a new foundation. A few years later the tiny church received its finishing touches, inside as well as outside; stuccoed and painted, it was finally completed. On June 22, 1947 it was dedicated for the service of God. Pastor Oswald, president of the Alberta Conference of Seventh-day Adventists spoke the dedication service.
Many years have gone by since then. Numerous wedding ceremonies were performed in that little sanctuary. Many of our dear old members have passed away and were laid to rest in the cemetery in the church yard. Their children have since grown up and have families of their own, and the membership has greatly increased by now. We found that we had outgrown our little country church.
In 1965, once again plans were made to build a new and much larger sanctuary. A new location was found. With the encouragement and guidance of our new minister, Pastor and Mrs. Ben Kuhn, we proceeded with our plans, After much thought and consideration was given, it was decided to build our new church right here in the quiet and friendly little town of Warburg, since the majority of our members live in the surrounding area. It seemed the most suitable and centralized spot. A building Committee was chosen – Erwin Zotzman, August Comm, John Knopp and Pastor Kuhn. They were the masterminds of the project, drawing the sketches, getting the blueprints, securing the necessary material and supplies and collecting the necessary funds.
On July 7, 1965 the first shovel of sod was turned over at the ground-breaking ceremony. Pastor Moors of Calgary, the Alberta Seventh-day Adventist president officiated along with Pastor and Mrs. Ben Kuhn, town officials and church members present. Soon block by block the walls were being erected. Everyone took part and helped. Even the ladies of the congregation shoveled sand and gravel and mixed cement. They even dared climb on the roof to assist in the shingling.
We share many fond and wonderful memories working together especially watching Mrs. Herta Kuhn, the pastor's wife, paint that beautiful scenic picture which covers the entire east wall. It took many a day, climbing up and down the step-ladder, and countless hours of work with a tiny paint brush, to complete it. It is truly a magnificent masterpiece of art, for which we have received overwhelming compliments. It has attracted scores of visitors from various parts of the province and the United States just to come and view the beautiful display of mountains, water and trees. It provides its audience with a quiet, serene and peaceful atmosphere while they worship their God and Creator.
The pews were designed by the pastor himself and upholstered by the ladies of the congregation, while Mrs. Kuhn designed and made all the light fixtures. These, plus the beautiful picture, were a gift to the church by the Pastor and his wife. The big bell which is perched on the trellis adjoining the church was presented to us by the Canadian Pacific Railway Co. It arrived in immaculate condition, completely polished and bronzed over.
On January 1, 1966 we had our first service in the new building; however the official opening was not until March 5 of that same year. Three years later the sanctuary was finally completed. On September 27, 1969 it was dedicated for the service of God. The dedication service was given by Pastor J. W. Bothe, president of the Canadian Union of Seventh-day Adventists, along with Pastors A. W. Kaytor, John S. Pershing and Ben Kuhn, with guest speaker the Honorable J. D. Henderson, Minister of Health of the Province of Alberta, also Mayor Sam Ruff of Warburg. There was a capacity-filled church of over four hundred.