CHURCH PRESERVATION: Local residents save historic Pembina (N.D.) church
PEMBINA, N.D. -- Members of the Fort Pembina County Historical Society have rescued St. John's Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church from demolition. The historical society purchased the church three years ago because the non-profit organization wanted...
PEMBINA, N.D. -- Members of the Fort Pembina County Historical Society have rescued St. John's Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church from demolition.
The historical society purchased the church three years ago because the non-profit organization wanted to preserve a piece of area history, says Jim Radig, a member of the society.
"Nobody else wanted to buy it; (we) thought it would be neat to own it," Radig says.
The church, built in 1885, formerly was an Icelandic Lutheran Church. The building is reported to be the second oldest Icelandic church in North America, according to the Pembina County Historical Society. After the number of Icelandic families in the Pembina area declined, the church in 1937 was sold to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of St. John in Pembina for $450, according to the historical society.
In 1957 members of St. Johns added a Byzantine dome and redecorated the church interior. The church held weekly services until about 20 years ago, and except for special services, hasn't been regularly used since then.
The interior of the church was in good condition when the historical society purchased it, but the exterior needed a lot of work, Radig says.
"Outside we scraped and repainted and made replacements on the wood that had been damaged," he says. The exterior of the church, which sits in south Pembina on the "wrong" side of the dike, received water damage during the 1997 flood.
Religious articles in the church, including paintings, wallhangings and priests' vestments, were removed from the church before the flood and stored in the Pembina State Museum until the historical society purchased the church a few years ago.
Now the historic articles again are part of the church's interior.
In the back of the church, which has eight pews and two wooden benches, is a glass case containing several sets of wooden, glass and brass candleholders.
Paintings of Mary and Jesus and gold-edged fabric wallhangings hang on the clapboard walls of St. John's.
In the front of the church the tabernacle is a detailed scale model miniature of the St. Kathernine's Church in Kiev, Ukraine. The tabernacle was hand-made in 1940 by Peter Pastuck, a member of St. John's.
Pastuck also made a large wooden crucifix that stands on the floor just below the left side of the altar. The Ukrainian Greek Orthodox crucifix contains an additional slanted bar at the bottom that is associated with the story of the good thief and the bad thief, according to a plaque by the crucifix.
According to scripture the good thief pleaded for Christ's mercy and was told he would enter heaven, indicated by the upward slant, the plaque says. The bad thief spurned Christ and was sent to hell, according to the information on the plaque.
The wooden altar of the church features a carved cross. The altar is the original that stood at the front of the church when it was Icelandic Lutheran. A cloth, hand-embroidered by women who were members of St. John's Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church, covers the altar.
Members of the Pembina County Historical Society lead tours of the church. The historical society also opens the church during community events, such as Pembina's rodeo days in August.
"We try to have one or two services a year (and a) Christmas program," says David Rector, a member of the Pembina County Historical Society.
Information or for a tour, phone the Pembina State Museum at (701) 825-6840.
Ann Bailey is Recollections editor. Reach her by phone at (701) 787-6753, (800) 477-6572, ext. 753 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org .