“They were truly salt and light,” says Blaine Lake (Sask.) Gospel Fellowship treasurer Terry Rapsey. “Gerry and Eleanor set the example as individuals, as a couple, as a family; they walk the talk.” On Aug. 15, the congregation held a special service and afternoon open house for members of the congregation, community, and sister church Waldheim MB to say farewell to Gerald and Eleanor Epp who would end their 26-year ministry in the town at the end of August.
It has always been necessary for the pastor to be bivocational at the church, which now sees regular attendance of 40 to 60. Though Epp’s position was quarter-time and he worked three-quarter time at Waldheim’s Menno Industries, the congregation felt they had his heart full-time. Eleanor also served in the church, planning and executing regular music and special events like Christmas pageants, and coordinating children’s ministry activities.
As the town’s only resident pastor, Epp was the first one to be called on to officiate at weddings and funerals, offer prayers at community events – and help put a new roof on the community rink, or serve a community association. Epp values his many years in one place: “I think every pastor should do that,” he chuckles. Following Epp’s retirement, the couple is moving to Justice, Man., to settle on his wife’s family farm.
“We have good memories of God working through us,” he said, “and the church is a testimony of that.”
“Gerry and Eleanor set a wonderful foundation for us,” says Rapsey. “Now we’re looking for someone to build on that foundation.”