The St. John’s Anglican Church in Wadena celebrates its centennial this fall, with its longtime house of worship still in use. Some changes have been made, of course, but the church retains its charm and mellow atmosphere, whether for a church service or a small concert.
The Anglican Church in Wadena began its long life in 1904 with services held in various places, such as the CNR station and the old town hall. In July of 1914, three members of the congregation – Dr. L. T. Ainley, Mr. R. C. Arnold, and Mr. H. W. Brice – signed a note for the money required to build a church, and carpenter Ole Stuvrud, assisted by Joseph and Frank Roberts, began construction.
On August 31, 1914, the cornerstone was laid and the church was dedicated by the Reverend Humphreys. On Sept. 13 that year the first service was held in the new church.
This was surely an early service in the St. John’s Anglican Church. Note the wood stove, winter coats and hats!
The chancel was added in 1915 in time for a military church parade. The altar screen was also built in 1923 by Mr. Munroe. In 1953 an addition was made to the front of the church, allowing an oil heating unit, a vestry and a vestibule. The bell tower was also added. In 1970, a full basement was built under the church.
The vicarage was added in 1922, and a lean-to addition was built in 1923. More additions were made in 1936, and in 1943 the church was renovated. In 1963 it was modernized and in 1970 the rectory was sold and moved off the property. A new rectory was built then.
The original organ was purchased with donations from the congregation and the Women’s Auxiliary, and served the church for many years. The first organist was Professor Bell, with Harold Lane and George Brice taking turns pumping the bellows. In 1970 when a new organ was purchased, the old organ was presented to Mrs. Helena Brice, who served as organist for many years at the church. That organ can still be seen in the Brice House at the Wadena and District Museum (but please don’t try to play it!).
The church continues to be used for its original function, but in recent years it has also proved a perfect location for ‘”house concerts.” Musicians and audiences alike appreciate the acoustics and the ambience of this little church.
To quote an early member of the congregation, Walter Ellis, “St. John’s here on the corner in Wadena is just as important as St. Paul’s in London.” Many happy returns to the St. John’s Anglican Church and congregation; may there be many more celebrations.
By Charlene Wirtz