History of St. Paul Lutheran Church



The Early Years of St. Paul Lutheran Church


The times were hard in Saskatchewan. There had been no rain; there was no
crop. So some of the Lutheran people on the prairies hopefully raised their eyes to the West. It had been said that in British Columbia one could find a beautiful home and a new opportunity to make a living. Three families decided to follow this vision. They were the families of George Kilbach, Adam Nunweiler and Gottlieb Radies. They came to Oliver B.C. in 1927, which was an area that John Oliver, the Premier of British Columbia did not like what was happening to B.C.’s returned soldiers. He believed that these soldiers had fought hard for their country and should be rewarded for such when they returned home. In order to prove
that B.C. was proud of its young men, Premier John Oliver campaigned for the Soldier Land Act, which the B.C. Legislature passed in 1918. The new Act enabled the Provincial Government to purchase some 22,000 acres of land extending from McIntyre Bluff to the United States boundary, from the Southern Okanagan Lands Company, the sum of $350,000. Of these 22,000 acres, the government hoped to put 8,000 acres under irrigation. The project was given the name Southern Okanagan Lands Project. This could be opened up for fruit or ranching with the installation of an irrigation system.


While there was no Lutheran Church in this young village, they discovered that there was a Lutheran pastor 100 miles to the north. They established contact with Rev. Carl Pfotenhauser of Vernon. He gladly came
and conducted services in the homes of these people aforementioned settlers. As the little congregation out
grew the small quarters of these families, services were held in the Testalinda school where Lutherans both from Oliver and Osoyoos could gather in a more centrally located place for worship.


The influx of additional Lutherans forced the thought upon this group of Lutheran Christians that they should organize themselves into a congregation. Pastor Pfotenhauser no longer served them, but Student Poehler had supplied them with the Word of God; and now a permanent Pastor at Kelowna was able to serve them and Pastor Zersen of sainted memory entered the field. It was under his guidance that our Lutheran Christians in Oliver were organized into St. Paul Ev. Lutheran Church.


It may be interesting to read of this momentous event in the words and handwriting of Pastor L. Zersen himself. Under dates of March 30th and April 13, 1930, he made these entries into the official minute book of the congregation: “After having served the Lutherans in Oliver for two years with Word and Sacrament, he called a meeting for the purpose of discussing the organization of a Lutheran church in Oliver. Thirteen men were present when this meeting took place in the home of George Kilbach. The meeting opened with
the reading of Psalm 1 and prayer. Those present agreed that the organization into a congregation should be considered and undertaken. At the next service, April 13, 1930 (Palm Sunday), which was held in the jome of Adam Nunweiler, a constitution was discussed and adopted and signed by the following men: Pastor Wm. L. Zersen, Jacob Bitterman, Gottlieb Radies, Samuel Klettke, Franz Hapke, George Kilbach, Adam Nunweiler,
Jacob Knodel, Erich Seeger and Guenther Strom.”


Some Highlights from St. Paul’s History


First St. Paul’s Lutheran Church 1934


As the church records unfold before us, we find that the congregation made its first step toward acquiring a house of worship when it bought Lot No. 104 in the Southern Okanagan Lands Project for $186.00. On January 5, 1934 the members broke ground on the new site. March 11, 1934 it was already possible to dedicate the first St. Paul Lutheran Church.


In the middle of 1936 the congregation experienced an “invasion” which drew away some of its members, but by the grace of God those who remained continued steadfast in their faith and in loyalty to their church. The growth of the congregation was so steady that it outgrew its first house of worship. It was resolved to build a 12 foot extension onto the first building and so made room for additional worshippers. The new addition was dedicated in May 1945.


Enlarged St. Paul 1945


The blessings of God continued to descend upon the congregation. The number of worshippers again began exceeding seating capacity of the enlarged church and so in January 1958 a meeting of the Voter’s Assembly of St. Paul Lutheran Church designated the Board of Elders as the body that should investigate and plan the building of a new church. Augmented by additional men from the congregation, ideas and plans were submitted to the congregation calling for a new church 80 feet long and 32 feet wide to seat 210 worshippers. This beautiful new building, erected largely with the voluntary labor of the hands of the members, was dedicated to the glory of the Triune God and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on June 12, 1960.


First Parsonage 1936


Other matters of history of historical interest include the building of the new parsonage. The first parsonage was neither spacious nor elegant, but it served the bachelor candidate Albert Krahenbil for a year and then also his bride as a home until a better home could be built. The parsonage was occupied in 1938.


Present Parsonage 1938


The present parsonage, originally not quite completed, needed to be improved and enlarged as the time elapsed. A bedroom and a back porch were added in 1963. Considerable improvements to the basement, including a furnace and installation of city water, had been previously been implemented.


Need for Larger Sunday School


The need for larger Sunday School quarters and a general meeting place for the congregation brought about the building of the parish hall. This project was dedicated on April 19th 1950. The hall was regularly used for Sunday School, Saturday School, Confirmation Classes, Young People, Ladies Aid, Choir and Voters assemblies. During the construction of the new church it also served as a worship facility. The hall was dismantled after the basement of the new church became available for all such meetings.


Building the New Church


While a Building Fund had been started some years before, the resolution to “rise up and build” did not come until January 1958 when the Board of Elders, consisting of Mr. Carl Seibert, Mr. W. Mayer, Mr. T. Hintz,
Mr. A. Wagner, Mr. A. Goltz, Mr. S. Wichman was asked to study plans for a new church. Added to the board were Mr. E. Hapke, Mr. Geo. Kilbach, Mr. J. Mattes and Mr. H. Magus. These gentlemen drew up various plans. A model of the projected church was built: and finally Mr. Fred Klingbell, a Lutheran architect from Calgary was asked to draw up the specifications for the building. These plans with some exceptions, were the blueprints according to which the new church was built. One unusual feature about the building is that the arches and beams are steel and concrete instead of laminated wood. The new church measures 80 feet in length, 32 feet in width; the tip of the cross on the tower is 64 feet from the ground.


Pastors Who Have Served the Congregation


Rev. Carl Pfotenhauer                                   1927 – 1928


Rev. W. Poehler (student)                             1927 – 1928


Rev. Wm. L. Zersen                                      1928 – 1936


Rev H. W. Schaan                                         1945 – 1951


Rev. W. M. Frick                                           1949 – 1951


Rev. A. F. Reiner                                           1952 – 1956


Rev. A. Krahenbil                                          1950 – 1980


Rev. D. Tonack                                             1980 – 1986


Vicar D. Faeber                                             1984 – 1986


Rev. L. Carlson                                              1986 – 1993


Rev. T. Roth                                                  1993 – 2005


Pastor J. Schultz                                            2006 – 2007


Pastor C. Cooley                                            2007 – 2010


Pastor D. Siegle                                             2010 - present