After many dedicated years as chair of the board with St. Andrew's United Church in Creelman, John Horner is stepping down, while still remaining an active member of the church.
"I can't say exactly how long I've been chair through this term, but it's probably been 15 or 16 years. We had a pretty stable board, I took over from another member that was on the board and he stayed on the board and so it was continuity, we just carried on, really."
To go back to the start, Horner said that he and his wife Pat were married in 1970 and spent the winter in Weyburn. "Then we moved to Creelman in 1971. In 1973 I joined the board, and at that time it was the board of elders and the board of stewards. I was on the stewards for a few years and then I was on the board of elders and became clerk of session."
Horner carried on through those positions over the years. In a small town, he said, everyone steps up and everyone has their interests, and one of his interests was the church.
"A lot of people were interested in the rink, and the fair, and later the Creelman plays, and I was interested in keeping the church going."
Horner explained that the position of chair of the church in later years involved finding people to sit on the board, and keeping the lines of communication open, "making sure that the people that were on the board were comfortable with what they were doing and a lot of moral support and leading by example."
When he was first on the board, Horner said they were in charge of three points: Griffin, Froude, and Creelman.
"Lois Morton was a push with the Griffin board and Min Bossenberry was very solid with the Froude board. I learned a lot from those people, and that was the other thing, you learned a lot from the people on those boards."
"We had an old Irishman by the name of Bill McNeese and he was on the board of stewards, which was the financial end of the church for a number of years. I learned a great deal from Bill McNeese, and one of them was you don't spend money unnecessarily," Horner chuckled.
That's a big difference between then and now, Horner reflected. "We had lots of people then, but we were financially strapped and especially when Froude dropped off and then it was Griffin and Creelman and then Griffin dropped off and for a few years, we paid a minister one charge, one point, and that was tough."
"Those were hard days financially."
To cope with financial hardships, their church joined with Fillmore, which was two points, in 1995.
"The percentage of the expenditures went on your congregation, the size of your church. Fillmore was bigger, and they took about two-thirds of the expenses, and Creelman took one-third. That helped considerably."
Since then, Fillmore has dissolved, he said, and so they've gone to what is called 'pulpit supply.' "We just pay someone to do the Sunday service every Sunday, and they get paid every Sunday, but we don't have to worry about housing or benefits, it's just a straight salary plus mileage."
They have three people that are very dedicated, he said, so it's really working out well for them.
"Creelman is very fortunate. We have what I call our 'internet members,' that are very good financially and they don't feel the need to go to church every Sunday, and that's fine. I'm good with that, but financially they do very well by us."
Horner said they have 'Sundae Sundays.' "Every once in a while on Sunday's after church, we'll have ice cream sundaes. That's a good deal, everybody stays for the sundaes. We do have coffee all through the service, we put it on before the service."
"That's different. I'm sure we wouldn't have gotten away with that 30 or 40 years ago," Horner chuckled. "You wouldn't have dared have anything interrupt the service, no."
Horner reflected on other changes throughout the years, noting that they are now far more open to diversity and inclusion, which wouldn't have happened 50 years ago.
"The Creelman-Fillmore charge, I believe, was one of the first, if not the first charge in Canada to hire an openly gay minister. That was a highlight, we were very proud of that. The fellow came from Vancouver, and he was ordained in British Columbia charge, but he couldn't find a pulpit, so he came to Creelman."
"Something that has been hard on the rural churches," Horner said, was, "The United Church of Canada have their Saint Andrew's United College in Saskatoon. It used to be, when a student graduated and became a full-fledged minister, they were assigned to a church for three years."
He estimated that about 10 or 12 years ago, they quit that program, and they had to start hiring their own ministers, "and of course, then you're going up against all the city churches and the more affluent churches. In a small town church with limited resources, we were having a tough time finding ministers."
That's where the 'pulpit supply' came in and was the best solution financially for them.
"It works for the pulpit supply person as well, because they don't have to be in the community all week. We have a retired minister from Regina coming out, and we have a lady from the Corning area coming out. She's in the process of becoming a lay minister, so we're helping her out with her education and she's filling in for pulpit supply."
Horner said that something else that stood out to him during his time as board chairperson, was in 2011, they had a flood, and they had to re-do the church basement, which cost about $100,000.
"Scott Lawrence remediated it because of course there was asbestos in the old basement, so it all had to be remediated. He fixed up the floor of the basement so it wouldn't flood again, and we got $50,000 from the Provincial Disaster Assistance Program (PDAP) from the Government of Saskatchewan. In five years, we'd paid off the other $50,000 through donations."
Other changes throughout the years included doing away with Sunday School in the 1980's due to attrition, which Horner said was one of his toughest assignments.
Horner added that Viola Carnegie was appointed as their organist in 1955, and her musical contribution is much appreciated.
"We are very fortunate, we have a very good community that supports and wants the church to be a part of the community."