Museum Coffee and Conversation discusses hidden gems of rural churches

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Garry Prokop speaks at the Coffee and Conversation on Rural Churches of the Prince Albert Area in Pictures on Sunday, Feb. 18 at the Prince Albert Historical Museum.

If you are driving backroads in the Prince Albert area there are many churches from different denominations either easily accessible or hidden from view.

These churches were the topic of the Prince Albert Historical Museum’s Coffee and Conversation on Sunday, Feb. 18. Longtime Historical Society member Garry Prokop led the discussion on ‘Rural Churches of the Prince Albert Area in Pictures’.

Prokop said he is not a religious person but has always enjoyed driving the backroads in RMs like Garden River, Buckland, and Prince Albert to photograph churches.

“I don’t go to church or anything, but just from driving over the country, you see these churches on the horizon,” he explained.

“I don’t have any expertise in this. It’s more just a bunch of photos I have taken over the years, different churches around the area, and how it just shows how people back then went to church a lot because there are churches everywhere.”

Along with these churches there are often adjacent cemeteries. Like the churches, Prokop said, they are hidden away, and sometimes it’s difficult to find out who even accesses them anymore.

“I just found it very interesting that there is all this out just around Prince Albert,” Prokop said. “It’s a lot of history.”

Prokop came up with the idea for a discussion about rural churches six year ago. He made a short presentation to the Historical Society, and they’ve asked him to do other presentations since then. Sunday’s Coffee and Conversation talk was the latest.

“I just got a bunch of pictures together again and was just going to show everybody pictures,” he said. “Hopefully people will have some input because I don’t know everything.”

Prokop said that he needed the conversation part of the afternoon as much as anything to fill gaps in his knowledge. The large crowd in attendance for the event gave Prokop hope he could fill these gaps.

“I just don’t want to be sitting here talking to everybody, I want to have a conversation going,” he said.

Prokop and his wife go for Sunday drives in the country and one particular church in the RM of Garden River captured his attention. It was across the river, with the roof just barely visible above the trees.

During the introduction to his talk, Prokop discussed that church and other churches nearby.

“My wife and I went for a drive and we thought, ‘we have got to go check that out and see what’s out there,’ he said. “Then it just kind of went from there.”

Prokop is originally from Saskatoon but has lived in Prince Albert since 1995. He said that the real draw of these buildings is the history behind them.

“Almost every year my wife’s family, my family from Saskatoon we go for drives in the country and we noticed especially West of Saskatoon there are no churches around,” he said. “It used to be but everything’s been either torn down on bulldozed to make room for crops and stuff like that. Whereas out in RM’s here around Prince Albert, there’s lots of churches around.

“They’re just so majestic,” he added. “There are so many different styles of churches too for the different denominations as well, like different styles, different sizes, some are in really good shape, some are not so good shape and some are right in between.”

He added that some RMs take really good care of the grass in the cemeteries.

“Some of the cemeteries we found around the province that are like overgrown, you can’t even almost see them, but those other ones are well looked after, like the grass is cut all summer,” Prokop said.

Before the presentation Prokop was hopeful for lots of feedback to build his knowledge base.

“I just hope people find it interesting. I find it interesting because it’s history,” he said.