When Gerald asked me to say a few things as to the history of the church, he said that I was probably one of the "old-timers" here. I was somewhat hesitant at first. I knew I would have to do a lot of it from memory. My good friend Albert tells me when you become an "old-timer" the first thing that goes is your memory and the rest you can't remember. So, if I have forgotten some things, it is probably because my memory is failing. Anyway, here is what I do remember.
In 1949 some members of the Christian Reformed Church moved into the Peers area. Their strong faith and dedication to God led them to organize a church in 1950. The first place of worship was the present day United Church in Peers. As more immigrants settled in the area, it soon became to small and the congregation rented the school that used to stand 1 mile north of Peers.
In 1952, a church building was built in Peers. In those days money was not easy to come by. Most of the people had large families and had just immigrated from Holland. They came with lots of determination but not much money. It was decided to use free labor for as much of the construction as possible. I recall that the basement was poured in 1 day by free labor. The men started at 4 in the morning and were done at about 11 or 12 that night. The ladies were kept busy preparing and bringing meals and drinks throughout the day. There was no ready-mix cement in those days so the gravel and cement was all shoveled into cement mixers and then wheelbarrowed up ramps to wherever it was needed. I also recall that Herman Molenkamp (whom some of you "old-timers" will remember) and I helped my uncle Nick Vriend haul water from January Creek in Peers for the cement. If we helped good we got to take turns driving his Farman A tractor through Peers. We sure did pail a lot of water that day just so we could drive the tractor. When you're 8 years old that's a pretty big thing. Winson Jr., when you helped pour cement in this new building, you got a paycheck at the end of the day, while my reward was that I got to drive a tractor.
Money was very scarce so the congregations worshipped in the basement for many years.
Most of the roads at that time were dirt roads when dry and mud when it rained. Some of us went to church with the tractor and wagon picking up neighbours along the way. The Elzingas, VanderVeens and Molenkamps often went in one wagon. It must have been quite a load since they all had large families. Some people came to church by car and in the rainy season pushed or pulled their cars through the mud holes. Some of the people living in Edson came to church by bus or train and then taxi from highway 16 to Peers. Everyone stayed for lunch since it was impossible to go back and forth for two services.
Around 1953 more and more people began living in Edson. For them, coming all the way to Peers for worship services was always lengthy if not an all day trip. This difficulty and poor road conditions led the people of Edson to begin discussing the possibility of forming their own congregation in Edson. The first worship service was held in the Anglican church on May 23, 1954. Eighteen months later on November 8, 1955, the Edson Christian Reformed Church was officially instituted. During this time Rev. Hanenburg served our churches as a Counseling Pastor. I believe he was employed by Home Missions to serve newly established churches in Northern Alberta that did not have a pastor.
In the fall of 1956, the Edson CRC decided to build a church building. Not wanting to worship in the basement of a building as the Peers congregation was doing, they decided there would not be a basement. A one level building was built. They hired Mr. Spronk to design a building that would be adequate and stay within their $10,000.00 budget. A lot of volunteer hours by the congregation went into the construction of this building also. I understand that Mr. John DePee was one of the many workers that helped and this past April it was some of his grandsons that helped in the demolition of that building, making room for the present one.
The two churches operated very independently from one another until 1975. It was in 1959 that Peers had their first full time pastor — Rev. John Kruis. He was followed by Rev. Peter Hogeterp, Rev. Jim Meidema, The first pastor of the Edson CRC was Rev. L. VanStaalduinen, followed by Rev. A. Verburgh, Rev. J. Van Hemert and Rev. J. Huizenga.
Pastors DeMoor and VanderWoude were shared by the two congregations. One Sunday the minister would preach twice in Edson and once in Peers and the following Sunday it would be reversed. During this time too, Cadets, Calvinettes, Young Peoples', and catechism classes started being combined. During those years active discussions and deliberations began concerning the possibility of becoming one congregation. No doubt the smallness of numbers in both congregations was the initial factor for this cooperation. Discussions centered on how to work this all out to the satisfaction of both congregations. For some people it seemed that the distance from Edson to Peers was much further than the distance from Peers to Edson. The spirit of cooperation prevailed and in 1983 the Edson-Peers Christian Reformed Church was born. We continued worshipping in both localities: morning services in Edson and afternoon/evening services in Peers and special services being alternated between the two.
During the time that Rev. Andrew VanderLeek was pastor here, talks began about the need for a new building. The present building did not have adequate classrooms or nursery facilities. Various plans and ideas were tossed about over the years but none ever came to fruition. In 1997 the building in Peers was sold to Carrot Creek Christian Fellowship. We rented the building from them until the present time.
After much discussion and planning and many meetings by many people the present building plans were presented and the building proposal was accepted by the congregation. Many people were very excited that the new building was finally going to become a reality. Our new building would have a basement and a sanctuary that was ready at the same time. We have learned from both. There has been much dedication and much hard work by a lot of people from the initial planners, to the final cleaners and everyone in between.
I would just like to mention at this point that we have one charter member from Peers with us yet, Mrs. Dina Van Dyk and two charter members from the Edson – Mr. and Mrs. Anno Knoop. I am grateful for their answers to some of my questions.
Above and through all of this history of our church we can see God's faithfulness. We are certainly thankful to our God for blessing us so richly with material goods enabling us to build this new facility. We thank Him also for a spirit of unity and helpfulness in the volunteering that took place. It is our pray and desire that this building maybe used for the expansion of God's Kingdom. Let us continue to strive to be a shining light in our community. Our church has had many good times and some hard times. A lot of the hard times were probably self-inflicted. We acknowledge his faithfulness through all these times and thank Him for His constant love and care. In all humility we acknowledge that there is much to give thanks to God for and pray for His guidance in the work that lies before us.
As one of the so-called "old-timers" here who has children and grandchildren in this church, I would like to impress upon all the younger generation to keep the ways of the Lord. As Exodus 20:6 says, God will "show his love to thousands of generations of those who love me and keep my commandments".
A meditation in the Today booklet was entitled "Marks of Maturity" and I would like to quote a few lines from it. "The members of a mature church work to enrich the whole spiritual community. Many cross-connections of prayer, care, sharing and instruction go on. And the members of this body love to be together in Christ." It is my hope and prayer that this will be evident in our church for many, many years.
Written by Winson Elzinga