Our Swedish Family

Over the years, we have been blessed by our relationship with our Swedish brothers and sisters in Christ overseas. We of Wilhelmina, Hay Lakes Canada have often hosted visitors and received gifts from friends and family travelling from Vilhelmina Lutheran Church, in Vilhelmina, Sweden. A few of these occasions are highlighted below.

In June of 1984, a delegation from Vilhelmina, Sweden arrived at the church visiting relatives and friends of our founding fathers who left their country three quarters of a century before. Katarina Johansson, Curator Vilhelmina Museum, Per-Uno Hagren, Curator Vastorbotten Museum, Sume Jonsson, Umea Museum relived the past as they were entertained and educated by stories of Wilhelmina’s history and heritage. A “ Vilhelmina, Sweden to Wilhelmina, Canada” display of photographs and artifacts were on view at the Provincial Museum in Edmonton, Alberta from June 2 to July 11,1984. On July 15 David Goa from the museum and Algot Person arranged a program and artifact display including a film presentation of the Vilhelmina district at the church. Patrick Sehlin of Vilhelmina, Sweden, an exchange student who was working in forestry at Rocky Mountain House, Alberta was a special guest. The artifacts and films were a great success and enjoyed by all.

In 1985, a gift of silver candle holders was made to the congregation from the Vilhelmina congregation in Sweden.

1990 Summerfest Celebration – June 24, 1990
Wilhelmina Church hosts 600 as Swedish Choir performs

The bonds between Sweden and Canada were strengthened when a tour of 183 visitors from Northern Sweden attended a traditional Mid- Summer Festival on June 24th. Although there are now many nationalities enriching our worship at Wilhelmina, there are still strong ties with the mother church in Sweden. Out of this group a total of 60 visitors formed part of a Swedish choral group called the Lappland choir. Alver Person, one of tour organizers reported most of the visitors live in the cities of Vilhelmina and Storuman, Sweden. Many of the visitors have descendants in the area. For many it was their first visit to Canada. In anticipation of the visit, members of the church made great preparations, including the erection of two large tents that were filled to overflowing with 550 to 600 people in attendance.

Greetings and gifts between the two congregations were exchanged prior to the 10 A.M. worship service. Pastor Ronny Thellbro from the Vilhelmina Lutheran Church in Sweden led the Holy Communion Worship Service in the Swedish language. Pastor Paul Roellchen-Pfohl of Wilhelmina Church performed two baptisms, Ryan James, infant son of Nancy and Richard Clark and Brittany Jean, infant daughter of Bonnie and Eugene Galenza. The Swedish Mixed Choir sang hymns and the choir of the Wilhelmina Church sang during communion. Following the service, a beef dinner was served outdoors under bright sunny skies and all enjoyed fellowship.

At 2.30 p.m. the tents were again filled as the crowd enjoyed a fine concert performed by the Lappland Choir. Further presentations were made and the Willing Workers raffled off a quilt depicting the Wilhelmina Church. Winner of the beautiful quilt was Ernest Hunt of Granum, Alberta. The afternoon concluded with a bountiful lunch served and further fellowship was enjoyed.

– Marg Arnston, The Camrose Canadian

Arrangements for summerfest included catering, tents, benches & tables, PA system, shuttle buses, nametags, flags, guest books, and plates for sale.

A reindeer bone Cross fashioned by Sven-Åke Risfjell, which now adorns the altar, was also received as a gift from Sweden in the summer of 1990.

On October 31, 1993 over 100 people attended services dedicating the new steeple cross and the redecorated altar painting at the church. Congregational member, Algot Person, crafted the new cross for the steeple. With a new backing in place, restoration of the altar painting was undertaken by an Edmonton artist, Michael Lee, son-in-law of Judith (Person) Swanlund who is a former resident of the Wilhelmina area. The present altar painting is exactly the same as the original one that was completed in 1917 by Olaf Wallin of Czar, Alberta with the assistance of John Person. The redecorated altar and large plaque was dedicated to the Glory of God and in memory of the pioneer members and Pastors who founded the Wilhelmina Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1908. Part of the cost for the projects came from a donation from our sister church in Sweden, as well as donations from present and former congregation members. Pastor James Kruger conducted the service.

On July 24, 1994, the church hosted a 27 member youth group led by Pastor Ronny Thellbro from Vilhelmina, Sweden who conducted a special Swedish service with communion. The youth group sang two hymns and two fine selections on the flute were played by a member of the group. Prior to the service, a presentation was made to Algot Person in observation of his 80th birthday and in appreciation of his dedicated service to the church. At the close of the service Pastor Thellbro presented a Swedish Church flag for use of the Wilhelmina Church. This was “for us to remember, when we look at it, that Jesus Christ is the King”.

To celebrate our 100th Anniversary in 2008, approximately 20 members of the Vilhelmina Parish traveled to Canada. An impromptu invitation to sing during the service was extended, and they sang a verse from “Children of the Heavenly Father” in Swedish. Several individuals also joined our choir to sing a special song written by Alan and Annalise Welde to commemorate the occasion. Pastor Ronny Thellbro extended an invitation to those present to come and celebrate the 200th anniversary of their parish in Sweden which would take place in 2012. A painting of our church was presented to Pastor Ronny to take back to Sweden. They asked for and received special permission to hang it in their sanctuary (changes to their building must be approved by higher authorities). We were given a special “kollekthäv” hand-crafted by Sevn-Åke Risfjell, an embroidered pillow and a pastor’s stole.

In 2012, Dale and Deanna Margel traveled to Vilhelmina, Sweden to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Parish. It was a very enlightening experience. Vilhelmina Sweden is very far north – just below the arctic circle. In mid-June that means it is light almost 24 hours a day. The landscape is similar, seeming very familiar, so it’s not hard to understand how our early pioneers would have felt comfortable settling down near Miquelon Lake, Alberta. It feels very “north” but also very lush. Weeping Birch trees are very common, as are myriads of lakes and rivers. Some areas are quite rocky, a bit reminiscant of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories (except with more trees). There are 5 churches in the Vilhelmina Parish. Ronny Thellbro was still the head pastor, but there were several other ministers also serving the church along with many, many employees. It is a very big operation – with churches, church residences, office buildings, dining halls, funeral chapels, cemeteries and all manner of other out-buildings. Very different from our one small church building and attached cemetery. The people were very friendly and Dale and Deanna recieved more than a warm welcome. The Vilhelmina Anniversary was celebrated throughout 2012 with many events – the main celebration taking place June 16-17,2012. It was an honor and privilege to send delegates to represent us. Lillian Nordin made a banner to present as a gift to their congregation. Their congregation presented Dale and Deanna with a $1,000 gift to use to improve the sanctuary in our church. In 2013, memorial contributions from the previous year were added to this gift and 4 stained glass windows were installed in our building.

Being part of a long-standing and long-lasting connection to our overseas beginnings is an important part of our heritage. In 2012, Deanna Margel thanked the Vilhelmina congregation for the important part they have and continue to play in the life of our church. The sentiment was returned.

A link from from Museum in Vilhelmina – mentioning the destination of emigrants from the Vilhelmina district in Sweden: The emigration from Vilhelmina, Sweden 1867-1915. There is lots of good information about the history of Vilhelmina, Sweden to be found on this site. Enjoy!