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Tiny rural church has moving history

More than 50 worshippers from the surrounding area filled Sandwith Community Hall for a special service to recognize the 100th year of the tiny Sandwith St. Philip's Church Sept. 26. Popular Rev.
St. Philip's Church, which underwent extensive renovations in 1972, was the subject of a special centennial celebration service Sept. 26.

More than 50 worshippers from the surrounding area filled Sandwith Community Hall for a special service to recognize the 100th year of the tiny Sandwith St. Philip's Church Sept. 26.

Popular Rev. Malcolm Muth, who served the area for 21 years as Presbyterian Missionary to Northwest Saskatchewan, came from retirement in Ontario to lead the worship. He was assisted by Rev. Walter Donovan who is also fondly remembered for his service to this area for many years while being the Presbyterian minister of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in North Battleford. The choir from St. Andrew's Church added two special numbers.

The St. Philip's Church building has an interesting and "moving" history.

It was built in 1910 in the Hyde Park settlement as a typical Anglican "bishop Lloyd" style structure with a tall square tower in front. It's location on the northwest corner of NE 20-48-14-W3rd is now known as Hyde Park Cemetery and is two miles north and one half mile west of Sandwith.

In 1928 the Anglican Diocese had St. Philip's Church moved to Medstead where the railway's arrival had created a larger community.

But the 16 by 20 foot structure was soon too small for growing Medstead and, in 1937, a new, much larger St. Philip's Church was consecrated in Medstead. The old building, less its tower, was moved back of the lot where, for many years, it found some use as a church hall, a meeting place for Boy Scouts and even, for a short time, as a classroom for some Medstead High School students.

In 1952, with permission from the Diocese, and with funds from Sandwith's community and Loyal Orange Lodge, Gust Egeland was hired to move what was left of the original St. Philip's Church to Sandwith. With horses and sleighs, Egeland transported the building to a spot between the Sandwith Community Hall and the curling rink and was paid $75 for his trouble.

The Anglican Diocese gave $200 to help with costs for a foundation, moving the building onto it and building an entry room and chimney. William (Bill) Sankey was hired as carpenter. The diocese also donated pews from the unused Norbury Church, which was southwest of Shell Lake. A wood heater, later replaced by an oil space heater, made the building somewhat useable.

For 20 years little more was done to improve the uninsulated structure with interior wallboard buckled, exterior siding poor and roof shingles in disrepair. There was no electrical wiring in the building. For more comfort and convenience, services by the Anglican ministers from Medstead were usually held in the community hall or the school.

In 1972, Rev. Muth happened into the area and things changed. He not only started holding services, on alternate Sundays with the Anglican minister, he challenged and inspired the community to fix up the old church building.

Money would be needed and title to the property, before a loan from the Presbyterian Church in Canada Chisolm Fund would be available. Title was obtained after Herman Klassen donated land across the road from the unsurveyed space the church was on. The loan was made, a full basement foundation completed and the building moved for the fifth time.

The roof was reshingled, the exterior walls stuccoed, the building wired for heat and light and electric power connected. Wood trim was painted. Then a federal government local initiatives program was utilized to provide labour and financial help to insulate, drywall and paint the interior.

In 1978, Rev. Harry Reichelt, minister at St. Andrew's, joined Rev. Muth in dedicating the renovated building as Christ Church Presbyterian, a name the Presbytery agreed to change back to the original St. Philip's some time later.

When the Presbyterian Church in Canada decided to close out his position in Saskatchewan, Rev. Malcolm and Marie Muth and family moved to where he would serve a congregation in Ontario. Rev. Reichelt and subsequent ministers to the congregation of St. Andrew's ensured St. Philip's stayed alive even though the rural population was rapidly shrinking.

In his message Sept. 26, Rev. Muth noted that in our affluent society, in both Europe and North America, church attendance has dropped severely and many churches are having to close. He commended the people of Sandwith for keeping the witness of a church presence in their community.

- submitted by F. Grant