MHSS Historian Review - Legacy of Worship

Reviewed by: Jake Buhler

Margaret Hyriniuk and Frank Korvemaker. Legacy of Worship:(Regina: Coteau Books, 2014) 252 pages. Hard cover.


If your question is what kind of buildings do Saskatchewan's people worship in, Legacy of Worship: Sacred Places in Saskatchewan, will answer that. Award-winning photographer, Larry Easton, photographed more than a hundred churches, and the authors describe how they worshipped, and continue to worship.

This is Hyriniuk and Korvemaker's second book, the first being Legacy of Stone: Saskatchewan's Stone Buildings. In their just-completed project, the authors and photographer scoured the province in search of a variety of sacred places to include in their book. From the far north, at Stanley Mission, the book describes and depicts Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Saskatchewan's oldest church. From the south at Wilcox is Bethseda Lutheran Church. From Gouldtown is the Sommerfeld Mennonite Church, now part of the museum in Swift Current. From the  southeast corner is the Carnduff Baptist Church. And  at Delmas in the west is St. Jean-Baptiste Catholic Church. In all a hundred churches belonging to 18 denominations.

The authors and photographer travelled many thousands of kilometers and took 20,000 photographs in rain, wind, and heat. They had to learn theological, ethnic, geographical, historical and architectural language to describe churches and the denominations they came from. For each church building there is a specific backgrounder that tells the story of each place. That is one of the strengths of the book -  a narrative of the founding mothers and fathers, and the early struggles they encountered. But the book is not only a serious study. It includes stories of intrigue and humor. At Stockholm, spinster Britta Siverston from Norway was denied land in 1886. Not to become discouraged, she boarded the train with some Swedes to Whitewood where she disembarked and walked 20 kilometers north to start her own place. In Grenfell, the authors learned that the United Church had 391 visible pipes that may have been counted more than once during long sermons!

The Mennonite section describes the Arlee Mennonite Brethren Church, Bethany Mennonite Church at Lost River, Eigenheim Mennonite Church, Laird Mennonite Church, Pleasant Point Mennonite Church at Clavet, Horse Lake Mennonite Church near Duck Lake, Sommerfeld Mennonite Church near Swift Current, and Tiefengrund Mennonite Church near Laird. To describe the various kinds of Mennonites is nigh to impossible. Not only did the authors get most of it right, but they captured the essence of the history, the theology and the various architectural styles.

For the serious students of architecture, the authors identified 51 architectural features, photographed each one and described its function.

The book devoted a section to First Nations sacred places and described little known traditions of scaffolded burials.

If you enjoy sacred places, architecture, history and brilliant photography, this book is a bargain from MHSS at $32.00.

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