REDVERS - One hundred years ago, on June 10, 1923, a community of Danish people came together in Redvers. They called themselves, as a church body, Dannevirke Lutheran Congregation.
Dannevirke is Danish and means “Danes at work”.
In those first years, before a church building was built, they met together in local schools (mostly Edenvaile) for services. A total of 110 descendants of those original ancestors, as well as people from the community, old and current, all came together on June 11 to celebrate this achievement with a special service and luncheon.
The catered meal of chicken and pork, brought in by Weir’s Catering, was held at the Redvers Royal Canadian Legion Hall. Many previous clergy came back for the celebration, as did local politicians. The program included performances, an open microphone to share memories, and letters were read by people that wished to be a part of it but could not make it themselves.
One part of the program lineup was a hand bell number performed by pastor Ron Vert and Patty Andrews Vert. Ron Vert had been a pastor from 1985 to 1991. Other acts included Lisa Campbell as a vocal soloist, and a choir made of church members who sang You are my Sunshine and This Little Light of Mine, among others, for a sing along.
After there was a Dutch auction where tickets were bought and put in a bag to be drawn, as well as a silent auction that included a Danish oil painting, an air fryer, wood carving and pottery. Then the cake, with a picture of the church on it was cut and eaten, and hot beverages were shared.
At the end, there was an opportunity for everyone to go out and visit the Dannevirke Cemetery 10 kilometres out of town. This land was also the original site of the first church and pastor’s manse. The congregation on Sunday was happy to take people out.
“We made quite a few improvements,” said Laust Lauritsen, who has been an attending member of the church since 1948. “We are quite proud of our cemetery.”
For the original community of Danes, which made up this body of Christ, success can be attributed to one young man named Simon P. Hortness. Hortness donated the original quarter section of land where the cemetery still resides in 1925.
“There were pastors that came up from North Dakota to preach for the first two years,” Lauritsen said.
Hortness had ventured into Canada and started his first homestead by Alida. He worked with the Canadian Pacific Railroad appealing to Danish families and individuals to come out into this unknown land, and come they did until there was enough to make a community.
“They would have landed by ship somewhere like Halifax and then been transported by train to the Prairies,” Lauritsen said.
The Danish traditions held for a while in this new world. Church services where conducted all in Danish. Lauritsen remembers this time. English was only added in the mid ‘50s.
In 1964 the pastoral residence was moved into Redvers and continued as a manse for a time, but is now a private home. The original church had been sold and meant to be moved, but eventually had to be torn down. The new church, where it currently stands was built in town in 1973, 50 years after the start.
However it has been clear from the start that the congregation understood the importance and meaning of the word; people congregating together no matter the building you met in.
“I’ve spent my whole life in this congregation. I was baptized here. I was married here,” Lauritsen said.