Exploring the Ruins of Bethlehem Lutheran Church

Exploring the Ruins of Bethlehem Lutheran Church

May 29, 2021 · 7 min. readThis article may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

The old ruins emerged from the grass like a forgotten obelisk. The walls stood tall and proud, yet crooked from time, buckling in on themselves. The only sound was the wind whistling between the empty sepulchre's shattered stones.

"Don't get too close", Jessica gestured to a nearby sign. "It's private property".

Although I doubt the owners of Wheatwyn-Bethlehem Care Corporation would care if I went inside the old church, it was probably for my own safety to stay outside. The stone window arches had begun to buckle, and any unnecessary strain could lead to collapse, and possibly death.

Bethlehem Lutheran Church Windows arches of Bethlehem Lutheran Church Broken window arches of Bethlehem Lutheran Church Stable window arches of Bethlehem Lutheran Church

I never ventured into the building, but I did walk around the grounds and peer through the windows.

The former Bethlehem Lutheran Church was constructed in 1906, approximately 9km southeast of Southey or 6km southwest of Markinch, Saskatchewan.

Online sources say the first burial in the adjacent cemetery occurred in 1901, but the earliest date I can find online is of Alma A. Krienke, who was born and died on a very cold January 16, 1908.

Bethlehem Lutheran Church in the early 1910s Bethlehem Lutheran Church in the 2021

As with any church, the former Bethlehem Lutheran Church was created to be a hub for the community. It would fulfill that role, bringing together farmers and nearby community members when the distance to Southey or Markinch proved too great. Reverend F. Brockmann held the first service there on April 22, 1906. The congregation changed pastors throughout the next decade four times, with Reverend Arthur Preisinger arriving in 1916. He would then move to Chicago in 1918 and succumb to the Spanish Influenza pandemic. It would change pastors three more times after that, ending with Reverend A. H. Fellwock.

Behind Bethlehem Lutheran Church In front of Bethlehem Lutheran Church

However, the church could not stand the progress of time. Following The Great War, automobiles made transportation easier, and more and more people left the church to attend services in nearby towns. By the 1930s, the once prosperous life of a farmer in Saskatchewan had dried up and blown away in the wind. With it, many church members moved to the towns, and it was decided to disband the Bethlehem congregation. The church pews and other church articles were divided between Emmanuel Southey and St. Mark's Church in Markinch. The church property was also turned over to St. Mark's as they had no cemetery of their own. Because of this, the cemetery is still in active use today.

A child's grave at the nearby cemetery A broken grave at the nearby cemetery An angel at the nearby cemetery

Here is when two stories diverge. According to one source, it was at this time a decision was made to destroy the church. The source says that the former congregation did not want to see their beautiful church fall into ruin from vandals, so they took its fate into their own hands. They torched the building to the ground, with the stone frame acting like an oven, incinerating everything and anything left inside.

Inside Bethlehem Lutheran Church Inside Bethlehem Lutheran Church

The other story is less dramatic but still ended with a fire. Following the gutting of the church, the building fell into ruin. Vandals broke the windows, water seeped into the roof, and pigeons took roost inside its hallowed shell. By the late 1960s, Bethlehem Lutheran Church had become "more like a chicken coop than a church", and it was decided to salvage what they could of it. They removed any remaining wood, retrieved a Bible from the cornerstone – which explains why the cornerstone is missing – and decided to tear the roof down and light the remains on fire. It was too expensive to save Bethlehem Lutheran Church, impossible to move it and it was too sad to see it fall to ruin.

Whatever the story, a fire was set, and the church burned, leaving a ghostly stone ruin behind.

Bethlehem Lutheran Church from above

Today Bethlehem Lutheran Church is maintained by Wheatwyn-Bethlehem Care Corporation and the grass is cut by local volunteer community members. The plan of the WBCC is to maintain the property and take care of the church perpetually.

The ruins of Bethlehem Lutheran Church are one of many that dot the prairies. It is an artifact of a different time, a different place, and a different world. In a sense, the abandoned stone and overgrown brush are retribution from the old gods, who were removed and replaced when the building was erected. Now, with men gone, there is nobody left to worship them, and the old ways return once more.

I apologize if my article about the Bethlehem Lutheran Church was not as historically precise as my other ones. In fact, there was very little information online for me to reference for this article. Any information I got was from third-party sources on Old Saskatchewan or from Pioneers and Progress: The History of Southey and District by the Southey History Committee. Unfortunately, that book doesn't say what fate befell this once beautiful building. In a sense, the church has been forgotten, not only due to the passage of time, but also from the lack of record-keeping.

If anybody has any additional information about Bethlehem Lutheran Church, please let me know in the comments below or contact me directly, and I will add it to this article.

Have you ever visited Bethlehem Lutheran Church? Would you? Let me know in the comments below.

Don't forget to pin it!

Exploring the Ruins of Bethlehem Lutheran Church Exploring the Ruins of Bethlehem Lutheran Church

And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.

Sharing this article helps the blog grow!

Get Your Complete List of What to See & Do in Regina!

Others are reading...

Exploring the Ruins of Bethlehem Lutheran Church

The old ruins emerged from the grass like a forgotten obelisk. The walls stood tall and proud, yet crooked from time, buckling in on themselves. The only sound was the wind whistling between the empty sepulchre's shattered stones.

"Don't get too close", Jessica gestured to a nearby sign. "It's private property".

Although I doubt the owners of Wheatwyn-Bethlehem Care Corporation would care if I went inside the old church, it was probably for my own safety to stay outside. The stone window arches had begun to buckle, and any unnecessary strain could lead to collapse, and possibly death.

Read More

10 Tips for Exploring Abandoned Places

When I visited Chernobyl last year I ran into a young woman from Wales that had been planning the trip for years. While chatting with her, she kept throwing around the word "urbexing". For those unfamiliar with the term, urbexing, or "urban exploring", is the act of going into abandoned locations and taking pictures inside them.

And apparently there's a whole subculture based around it.

For years I have had an interest in abandoned locations, even before I went looking for the old smallpox hospital in New York. As early as my teens I have been going into abandoned locations, and I got caught a few times. Because of this, my mom has plenty of stories about the phone calls she got following these misadventures, and I don't blame them for calling her.

Read More

Top 10 ½ Tallest Statues in Saskatchewan – Second Edition

We all make mistakes, and Norway's crossing of Moose Jaw won't be forgotten anytime soon. With a lasting Moose Truce nowhere in sight, tensions between The Land of the Living Skies and the Land of the Midnight Sun have never been more antler-raising. Moose Jaw is holding a summit of Norwegian politicians the next few days to find a moos-lution and Justin and Greg have opted to flee the country all together (or maybe they went to a hockey game in Vegas… tough to tell what those two are up to sometimes!).

In the meantime, unlike Norway, I can admit when I made a mistake. A few weeks past I wrote "The Top 10 ½ Tallest Statues in Saskatchewan" following countless hours of research… and within 30 minutes of hitting "publish", I received a correction. As the days rolled by more and more corrections came in, I decided a whole new list would be needed.

When creating this revised list, I had to make one rule: vehicles on top of stilts or on tall platforms do not count as statues. I didn't think I would have to make parameters around what a "statue" is, but I had to enforce this one or else I would be calling farms all around the province. So, sorry, Craik's Motorcycle Tower! Your farm owner didn't call me back and now he ruined it for everybody!

Read More