Great Is Thy Faithfulness

(All of the information used below was gleaned from those who spoke during the celebration service. If you would like to listen to the whole service, please click here.)

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On Sunday, July 5, we celebrated the 110th anniversary of Summerland Baptist Church. It was a time of celebrating God’s continued faithfulness over the years and a special time of reflecting on the things SBC was founded on.

The theme of the morning caught everyone’s attention as Del walked into the sanctuary and down the aisle singing The Steadfast Love of the Lord Never Changes. The worship team and congregation joined in as we focused on God’s great mercies and faithfulness.

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Pastor Larry began by sharing some of the history of Summerland Baptist Church:

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In 1905, Summerland was a village of 1500 people. In the Meadow Valley area there was a small group of 7 people who felt a stirring and began to pray about whether Summerland needed a Baptist church. At that time, Pastor Ritchie from Peachland would ride his horse out to Meadow Valley once a month to meet with them. This small group began to pray about whether more than this was needed. In early 1905, the mill where they met burnt to the ground and these people all moved to town... to Prairie Valley. This group of 7 grew to 17 and they began to dream and to pray that God would do something powerful in their midst. They prayed and they listened. And in July 1905, they heard the voice of Jesus speaking and they said ‘yes’ to creating a Baptist church in Summerland.

The first thing they did was to appoint Deacons. They understood that people are incredibly important and they wanted to make sure there were Deacons to take care of the souls of the people who would be part of their church. Second, they appointed a finance committee because they knew that the greatest reputation a church has in the community was to pay it’s bills on time and to be transparent with their money. The third thing that they did was to deliberately and intentionally celebrate the Lord’s Supper once a month and remember Jesus Christ. If those 17 people were here today, they may be shocked (and scandalized!) by what we are wearing and what we are singing...  but they would also see that those values that led them to say ‘yes’ to Jesus back then are still here today. We still want to hear what Jesus has to say. We still believe people really matter and we appoint deacons to care for them. We still have a finance board so that we do things in a way that brings glory to God. And we still remember Jesus as our Lord and Saviour as we take the Lord ’s Supper.

Larry then called up Al Warkentin, who was SBC’s song leader for many years, to lead us in worship. Seeing his passion and enthusiasm as he led the congregation in It Is Well With My Soul and Great Is Thy Faithfulness brought a tear to many eyes. Joining him was Rita Sundvick on the pump organ (and Serena who assisted Rita with pumping the organ!). 

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Next Stephanie had the children come up to open the time capsule that had been prepared by the Sunday School kids of 2005. Before opening it, however, she brought out a special chair that has been sat on by pretty much every child that has ever passed through our Sunday morning preschool program. Stephanie told how Lorne Bloomfield had also sat on that chair back when he was in Sunday school in the old church building. When he was young it was the only chair in the Sunday school, and each week the kids took turns sitting on it. 

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In the time capsule was a small lighthouse (because at that time we were called Lighthouse Kids), a tape cassette of the kids singing the Romans 19 song (a favourite at that time!), photos of the Preschool and Elementary Sunday School classes from 10 years ago, a little booklet of The Story (what the kids were learning at the time), and personal fact sheets that the kids had filled out and included. Several of these ‘kids’ came up to the stage and shared what they had written about themselves 10 years ago (apparently the answers were pretty funny!). Stephanie finished by telling the children at the front how much kids matter to God and how much kids matter to SBC and that they are very special.

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Welwood Sharp (aka Pastor Del) came to the stage to share how music and outreach has always been a part of Summerland Baptist. Some examples of this were:

  • the Okanagan Baptist College built on the slopes of Giant’s Head mountain
  • Pastor and Mrs. Ritchie who would put a portable organ on a wagon and take the boys choir that Mrs. Ritchie had put together and go out to the Kettle Valley Railway camp to hold a service for the men working on the railway. Today, inspired by this railway ministry, SBC has its own wagon which is used to take the love of Jesus to others. 
  • Reverend John Scott, the pastor from 1930-39, had a passion for kids and was one of the first to spearhead the first Baptist Camp near Trout Creek, Camp Sorec.
  • Mrs. Howard Milne started a Daily Vacation Bible School that had up to 80 kids attend daily. 
  • Sunday school picnics that were held at up at the Ornamental Gardens. Can you spot Lorne Bloomfield and Irma Barg in the group of youth?

Lorne Irma Youth Group 

Summerland Baptist never lost its vision and passion for God and for the people of this community. From outreach to railway workers, to loving children and youth, to a commitment to music... God was faithful then and He is faithful now. 

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Pastor Jack tackled what was going on in the 1950’s and 60’s. We saw the invention of the Diners Club Card (which led to Visa and Mastercard), deodorant (thank goodness!), Swanson TV Dinners, colour tv, microwaves, Velcro, seatbelts, ultrasound, and bubble wrap. In Summerland at that time we saw the start of the Summerland Curling Club (of which Dave Gartrell has been a long-standing member and has been teaching young people to curl for years); the invention of a low volume concentrate sprayer by Dr. Marshall for the Pacific Pipe and Flume Company; and a community ice rink in Memorial Park that was tended to by Mr. Wharton. Lorne Bloomfield and Irma Barg, two people instrumental in the heritage of our church, attended SBC during this time. Irma’s father bought a grain truck, loaded up his family of 13, and travelled from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Summerland. It was a treacherous road and on the way  they hit a snow storm and ended up in the ditch. The all were ok and in fact when they arrived in Summerland they had increased to 14 in the grain truck, as one of Irma’s aunts had miscalculated her due date. Sundays looked very different back then...  after Sunday morning service, their family would travel with the Sunday School to Peachland to lead a service there. They then stopped by the McKenzie’s home for a sing-song around a piano and would arrive back in Summerland on time for the Sunday evening service! At one point a contest was held at SBC to see how many they could bring in for Sunday School. They had a goal of 200 people (children and adults) and came just short of that. Jack finished his reminiscing with a video clip from Irma herself.

Pastor Matt took a look at the 80’s: computers were slowly making their presence known but were still too expensive to buy; a 10 MB hard disk cost more than $3000; we listened to music on cassettes... on a  Walkman. Popular movies were Return of the Jedi, Back to the Future, and Top gun. Popular bands were Duran Duran, Tears for fears, Run DMC, and Cyndi Lauper. And let’s not forget Amy grant, Petra, Degarmo and Key, Whiteheart, and Randy Stonehill. Favourite TV shows were Cheers, Family Ties, and The Cosby Show. You could buy a home for $72,000 but you may have been paying 20% interest! Terry Fox started his journey in the Marathon of Hope. If you were a kid you walked everywhere (parents didn’t drive you) and you taped hockey cards to the spokes of your bike. There were no cell phones, text messages or facebook... you had to talk to your friends. 

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Matt called on Larissa Kuechle who attended SBC during the 80s to share some of her memories. Larissa moved to Penticton in grade 6. It took half an hour to drive to Summerland from Penticton at that time. Their church in Penticton didn’t have any youth group activities, and when Larissa’s mom, Angie, saw an ad in the newspaper for a Halloween Party at Summerland Baptist Church she made sure Larissa attended. Larissa remembers going to the party with a friend and they dressed as Raggedy Ann and Andy. She vividly remembers Jamie Borchert, 3 months old at the time, dressed as a pumpkin. She loved it and continued to go every week. As there was no youth pastor at that time, the youth activities were run by Pastor Jack and his wife, Pam, along with parent volunteers (the Juliens, Suttons, Johnstons, and Parkers). Larissa’s parents brought the whole family out for a Sunday morning service and there was no turning back. SBC became their church home. Other memories included the ‘penalty box’ (where you had to sit if you were late), the Crossleys and Juliens starting a second service that sang praise choruses instead of hymns, Percy Miller doing sound with a tape cassette player, Dorothy Miller and her characteristic hats, learning what a Chinese fire drill was from the Johnston boys, clipboards on the benches as a means of taking attendance... What Larissa hopes for her boys when they are older is that they will be able to experience all the things the Kuechle family has experienced over the last 10 year that they’ve been back at SBC... the pastors, the children’s ministry, the worship, the fellowship, the relationships and she hopes that when they are old enough to understand, they will get to hear Pastor Larry’s sermons and glean from them.

Pastor Gary Swabey kicked off our look at the present day (the year 2000 on) with a video message:


Pastor Matt then called several young adults to come forward: Lisa Isaak, Karalyn Friesen, Owen Walker, Haley Petkau, Mikaela Peters, and Nathan Barg. They were asked the question, “In 10-20 years, what do you think will be the same?” The replies included: our core values, that we love our community and reach out to people, that we accept everyone who comes in, that we value relationships, that we reach out to others rather than expect them to come through our doors, the importance of children, that we will continue to be a generous, hospitable and welcoming community, not just a church but a family.

anniversary young adults

Responses to the question, “What things might change?” included: that denominational walls might come down so that we can intermingle, more intergenerational stuff with youth and seniors mingling, people walking more in their identity as sons and daughters of the king, recognizing the power of the Holy Spirit and operating in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, recognizing all the gifts including prophecy, tongues, and deliverance ministries and delving into the power of God, that we will grow and expand to different towns and even countries.

We closed the service singing together The Steadfast Love of the Lord Never Changes and thanking God for His never ending mercies and His faithfulness. 

And in good Baptist fashion we capped off the morning with a tailgate party!

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Photo Credit: Erna Schram (Thanks once again, Erna, for using your gift to bless the rest of us... especially in such lighting-challenged areas like our sanctuary!)

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