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Dave Gillard & Fern Katzberg have summoned visitors to worship for most of the 11 years the annual service at the Norquay Memorial Church has been held.
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Long Conversations on the Hill
The potluck lunch brings people together who may only see one another at this annual service. Clergy from all denominations participate and enjoy a unique ecumenical experience.
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Marking the Passage of Time
Our family tradition includes a picture of our own children and those of much loved friend on the gate to the old church. We've been taking this group shot for almost a decade.
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A group of hearty men and women rescued the church and cemetery from a poplar forest more than 20 years ago. Only two of the dozen or so men who started the project are still present at the annual service. A new generation needs to take the role of preserving this heritage.
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The View from the Hill
Though the church is a humble structure, it takes on a regal stature on its hillside perch. It was first built in 1908 and was rebuilt in an almost exact style to the original.
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Innocent Summer Day
This was the last year that the old gate was able to support the weight of the whole crew.
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Bob and Millie Abbott
Bob and Millie were key partners in the original group that rescued the church. Bob has written the history of the church. My children, with them here, have been blessed to know them since the day they were born.
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A Great Honour
It has been a true honour to have been invited to help organize and frequently play MC for the annual service. There is a deep sense of belonging that comes with mowing lawns, setting up tables, and touching up the weathered gables in the days leading up to the July service.
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It is heartening as a parent to see that our children have roots in the community that surrounds the Memorial Church. They are well-known by the folk who cherish the church and see first hand why heritage matters.
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A New Tradition
In 2013, we started taking a group photo of all who visit the annual service.
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Melody on the Prairie
Make sure you come early to the service! You might hear Lord of the Dance or Amazing Grace. Those are sublime moments.
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On They Go
2014 was the last year that all our kids will be living and going to school in Norquay. How we will get them to the church for the photo is unknown. We'll try to get them home for 2015!
I have a particular relationship with the passage of time because of a place of worship. I suspect that many of us do.
For me, it is the Norquay Memorial Church that sits at the top of a grassy, south-facing hill. I think that my entire life finds its anchor in time there. I arrived at this church and its sloping cemetery newly married and discovering Saskatchewan for the first time. I picked pin cherries with my wife and marveled at the odd coincidence of a graveyard and the overwhelming abundance of bright red fruit. As I recall, I wrote a poem about it that I can no longer find.
I did not know in that moment that Bob Abbott and a collection of his colleagues had restored the church and cemetery from the obliteration of a poplar forest. I did not know that Bob would invite my growing family into the life of this century-old multi-denominational church. That all came later.
What I would discover was that people from a diversity of denominational certitudes could suspend doctrinal differences long enough to serve a common need to worship.
And so it is that once a year, generally in late July, I am privileged to participate in a service that is, I believe, the satisfaction of spiritual desire.
Around this service we, with many friends, perform certain necessary rituals. The rituals have mostly to do with taking pictures. Without fail, a collection of our children hang from the church gate so we can record their lovely faces from year to year to year.
Of course, we photograph the bag pipers who bring the worshippers into the church.
Every year these (now digitally recorded) memories become more precious. They are markers in time.
Find out about the new book "Legacy of Worship" featuring photos and history of Saskatchewan's country churches here.
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