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Religious Services

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In the Montreal River camp, however, ministers were not always available. Noah Bearinger recalls that this was not a stumbling block for the devoted COs.


“On Sundays we had church services in the morning and again in the evening, in the frame building which was known as the recreation hall. We had no resident minister so some boys from different church groups took turns bringing the message. Quite a few were from the immigrant Mennonite groups, and they were gifted speakers. Their beliefs and way of thinking were much the same as ours, so our spiritual needs were well supplied. A few songs were sung, then somebody was asked to lead in prayer. A portion of scripture was read, usually by the boy who brought the message.” [ASM, 94-106]


Unlike COs in work camps, men performing agricultural service had the opportunity to attend local church services. It would not have been practical for ministers to visit each one. Often there was only one per farm, so there would have been thousands of farms to visit. On the farm, then, each man's spiritual development was in his own hands.


One remarkable story comes from Norman H. Fehr, who worked in the small town of Govan, Saskatchewan for an elderly man whose son was in the air force. It was hard work, Fehr remembers.


“Summer or winter it was always a sixteen hour work day. Sundays were special only because I did get a few undisturbed hours to myself. It was a tremendous plus to have my own bedroom. So the few hours that were mine were spent reading my Bible, praying, and writing a few letters.”


More than a few hours must have been spent reading the Bible, because by the time Fehr was released from alternative service, he had accomplished an amazing feat.


“By the time I left this farm I had read through the Bible twenty-two times, and the Word remained fresh and meaningful each time.”   [ASM, 261]

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