“It was a weekend of remembering and hope, celebrating where we’ve come from, and at the same time recognizing the ups and downs of our church community,” said Carolyn Aarsen. Aarsen was referring to the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Neerlandia (Alta.) Christian Reformed Church.
In the winter of 1914-1915, the Dutch immigrant pioneers who lived in Neerlandia turned their attention to the matter of a church building. Since settling in the area three years earlier, most had been gathering to worship in each other’s homes. Nearly all the men in the community helped with the construction of the 24- by 30-foot log church building with a seating capacity of 150. The total cost was $200 (CDN) with $100 received from the CRC Church Help Fund.
Memberships of 16 families and two individuals were transferred from First CRC in Edmonton to Neerlandia CRC, which was formally established with 35 confirmed members and 46 baptized members. A hundred years later, membership stands around 600.
On the first weekend of August, hundreds of people gathered to celebrate. The celebrations had begun a week earlier with a number of local carpenters and handymen pitching in to build a smaller replica of that first log church. It took a week to do the basic work, but the most dramatic part—raising the roof, putting in the windows and finishing off the gable ends—was done on the Saturday of the anniversary weekend. Many attending the anniversary celebrations came to watch the proceedings over the day.
Penny carnival activities were part of the fun, as was a photo booth set up in front of the church with vintage clothing provided for the occasion. At the cemetery where the first two graves date back to 1915, a trivia game offered the opportunity for sharing family history.
Rounding out the weekend was a Sunday morning worship service that included the participation of several former pastors: Neil Vriend, Jim Mantel, Peter Sluys, Mo Boonstra, and Randy Blacketer. Aarsen said, “In all of the difficulties and triumphs of our church’s history, realizing that God has been and continues to be faithful, our church is still here. It still works.”