THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY SPIRIT – Sutherlin
The Rev Alfred S. Tyson
St. George’s Church was established in Roseburg in 1860 where it is now located. At some time later – perhaps around the turn of the century, St. Clement”s Church was established in Oakland and the Church of the Holy Spirit in Sutherlin. I do not know if they all three were served by the resident priest at St. George’s, or just what the arrangement was. Parish registers for both congregations (Oakland and Sutherlin) were at St. George’s when I came as rector in 1949. During the 29 years I was there, they were kept in the parish office. Later, perhaps in the closet off the former office (now the library) or perhaps in the old classroom above that room. It is quite possible they were sent to the Diocesan office for “safe keeping” after I retired; but they may still be at St. George’s. At any rate, they recorded the presence of Episcopal congregations with church buildings in both Oakland and Sutherlin. Just when they were closed, and why, I never could find out. But I did located where the Oakland church was, and the old Church of the Holy Spirit was still standing in Sutherlin for a number of years after I came to Roseburg.
Bishop Dagwell became Bishop of the Diocese of Oregon in 1936, during the latter part of the Depression. About this time, the local bank,in Sutherlin failed, and the manager, who was also an Episcopalian, committed suicide. The Diocese thought the mortgage on the Church of the Holy Spirit had been paid off years before, but there seemed to be no record of it. The bank examiners declared the entire sum due and payable, but the Diocese had no funds to pay it off, so the mortgage was foreclosed and the property sold to the Sutherlin school district, as it was located close to the high school and was then used for the manual arts building. It was still there and being so used in the 1950s, eventually being torn down. I know nothing about what became of St. Clement’s Church in Oakland.
When I came to Roseburg as rector of St. George’s, Bishop Dagwell said he would give me an ‘extra $25 a month if I would take services Sunday evenings at the Church of the Ascermsion in Riddle as Fr. Blaker had done before me. This was a “going” mission, although in need of much encouragement having only one building as church and parish hall. A young school teacher at Glide High School, Bob Burton, was interested in helping. As a licensed Lay Reader he took many services in Riddle until he left for seminary. In due time, we made plans to build a separate parish hall and fix up the existing building as church. A number of the parishioners were from Myrtle Creek, so the next step seemed to be to start a congregation there, which we did, using a theater owned by Marian Doris Gosline’s mother. After a year or so of this, the congregation there wanted their own building, which was accomplished with the help of the Gonyea mill there. We not only built a fine church building, but secured a vicarage and got the first resident vicar for the two missions: the Rev. Lauren McReynolds.
Having accomplished a great deal in both Riddle and Myrtle Creek, with two very healthy mission congregations thriving, Fred and Shirley Bernau came to me and suggested the next step was to do something about Sutherlin. Fred was both an attorney and an active communicant of St.George’s. If not a member of the vestry at that point, he was later. He and Shirley agreed to start the ball rolling and to make calls in Sutherlin to see if we could drum up any interest. The former congregation there had been defunct now for twenty years or more. At any rate, Fred and Shirley began making calls in Sutherlin on January 28, 1954, getting names from former members of our congregation there, and also finding others who were interested. By the last Sunday in March of that same year, we held Evening Prayer in the American Legion Hall with an attendance of 52! Two of our main backers were Bill Mardin, grandfather of Patsy Peeler, and Edna Adams from Oakland, whose daugher “Stormy” Starmer played the piano and organ for us. Gail Groshong also played for us, and her family were very active. Also, Herb and Vi Hubbell – Herb was the first licensed Lay Reader for the revived Church of the Holy Spirit. There were many others: Ray and Charlotte Parker and Charlie Wilson and his father and mother. Fred and Nancy Diedrich played an active part, as did Ralph and Eleanor Anderson. And others whose names don’t come to mind just now. At the end of 1954, I recorded that the Holy Spirit averaged 40 in attendance, with 28 at Riddle and 24 in Myrtle Creek.
The next step was a church building. We bought a lot next to the Methodist church, but they didn’t seem to want us that close to them, so they bought it from us and we purchaed the property we now have across the street from the city park. Don Stetson, a young architect in Roseburg, who later moved to Medford, was engaged to draw up plans for the Church, with the idea that much of it would be built using volunteer labor. Much material was donated. And we started building. A number of money-raising concerts and affairs were held in the former Rebekah Hall (now the Senior Center, I believe), which were usually filled to capacity. Nancy Diedrich, an English war bride, did much of the planning. Later, George Pearce, an English war veteran and a marvellous amateur magician, added to the affairs with his magic acts. These annual money-raising affairs continued for several years, and the congregation was never seriously in debt. Charles Clarke, a member of the congregation and a contractor, put up the laminated arches that form the skeleton of the church on May 26, 1956. On June 10 a work party of men and a few women nailed the 2×4 roof structure on top of the trusses, forming both the inner ceiling and the base for the outer roofing. The first service in the new building was held that same evening with 37 in attendance, even though the building was not finished. The old two manual Estey reed organ was moved from St. George’s later, but a small organ was used at the beginning. On October 28, 1956 the newly built Church of the Holy Spirit was dedicated by Bishop Dagwell, assisted by six priests and a congregation of about 200. Milo Bullock served as treasuer and Charlie Wilson had done all the wiring. Herb Hubbell recorded the whole service, and I believe the tapes are still extant.
It was planned to add a parish hall on the adjoining lot east of the church, but as that did not materialize, a wall was erected at the end of the nave and a small addition was added, forming the present room used as parish hall. The sort of “lean-to” structure housing the kitchen was intended to be temporary with the kitchen to be in the proposed parish hall building that has never been erected. The vacant lot is still there awaiting development!.
In 1956, Fr. Blaker retired as vicar of Christ Church,St. Helens, and moved back to Roseburg. He had been rector of St. George’s before I was, and we traded cures. On his return, he began filling in by taking services in Sutherlin. Doug Fenley was treasurer, then. And while Fr. Blaker was willing to help, he was several years past retirement age and did not want full time work. So with the Diocese, it was arranged for Fr. Albert Render to move to Sutherlin as the first resident vicar. A vicarage was purchased and the Render family moved to Sutherlin. I think this was in the latter part of 1957. In 1958 there were 21 confirmed at the Holy Spirit, and it is recorded that there was a full house at Rebekah Hall to hear Dorothy French of St. George’s and others for the annual musical. Unfortunately, Bill Mardin died in 1959, and we lost one of our staunchest members; he, in addition to other things, had personally built the altar now in use in the Church. The next year, Fr. Render had a heart attack in January (1960). After seeming to have recovered he died suddenly during the dedication service for the new part of the parish hall for St. George’s, while singing in the choir and starding next to Dr. Jim Harris. Bishop Carman carried on the with dedication, but it took away the pleasure of our accomplishment. Fr. Render’s ashes are buried under one of the trees hy the street at the west end of the parking area on the south-side of the church.
So in July or August of 1960, Fr. John Welch with his wife Alberta and two daughters moved into the vicarage and served as vicar for about two years, moving to Seattle in 1962. Ray Parker was senior warden at that time, and Fr. George Ziegler was archdeacon of the Diocese. The next move was to combine Sutherlin with Myrtle Creek and Riddle, moving Fr. Bob Bunnage from the house in Myrtle Creek to a new vicarage we bought on Maple Street in Roseburg, selling the house in Sutherlin. Fr. Bunnage took care of all three missions, two to the south and Sutherlin to the north. This arrangement continued unitl Bishop Carman closed St. Anne’s. (I don’t remember what year that occurred.) The Bunnages moved to Rose- burg in 1963, and St. George’s bought another house on Madrone Street for the curates of the parish. We had four priests resident in Roseburg!
Fr. Bunnage left to become rector of our church in Seaside in 1969, and Fr. Dick Littlehales succeeded him as vicar of Sutherlin and Riddle. staying there until 1971, I believe. I believe Fr. Earl Anderson, who served as curate at St. George’s, may have taken services in Sutherlin after this for a year or so. Unfortunately, I do not have a record of who the clergy were at Sutherlin unitl Robert Lonergan was ordained deacon and later priest, and has been serving both Riddle and Sutherlin as a “local” (non-stipendiary) priest for several years now (1997).
This concludes my tale of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Sutherlin. There have been many wonderful people and saints there, and I regret I cannot mention them all. My hope and prayer is that God’s Holy Spirit may once again fill the hearts of the members of the Holy Spirit congregation and give them new life. I know little of what took place during the time Fr. Chet Falbe was rector. I hope and pray that under the guidance of Fr. Sherman Hesselgrave there will be a new and better chapter added to the story of the Episcopal Church in Sutherlin.
PS: Records of clergy serving at the Holy Spirit between Fr. Littlehales (ca 1971) to Fr. Robert Lonergan (present vicar) should be available in the parish service registers at the church.