Rev. & Mrs. R. F. Merrill

Dick Merrill was saved in Los Angeles, California after spending several years working with various dance bands. Hearing the call to preach, he became a qualified minister with the Alliance. His ministry at the Saskatoon Alliance Tabernacle began on September 28, 1947.

Rev. Merrill saw himself as a church builder. In his first written report of his ministry in the church, he states, "It is our only purpose to build a house for the Lord: each convert a precious stone in the building, each saint to be edified, strengthened and polished until His own reflection is mirrored in each one."

He encourages the people to protect the time of prayer. "Let us guard zealously this life line of the church. It is here that the enemy will attack first." His desire, he writes, is to be a "praying pastor, a real shepherd to the flock, one to whom all will feel free to come to at all times and one whom the Lord will find useable and be blessed with people who will always pray for their pastor."

Although a man of human weakness, God used Rev. Dick Merrill. During the first four months, nine people were saved, church service attendance increased and twelve new members were received. The pastor rejoiced as the Mid-week Prayer Meeting increased to 55 people in regular attendance. The church had seen 18 young people leave for Bible school or Christian High Schools, indicating the effectiveness of the young people's department (1947 Pastor's Report).

During his second year of ministry, Rev. Merrill instituted the Tabernacle Bible Training School that had 48 students enrolled in the Monday evening classes led by three instructors.

Four young people left for foreign missionary service that year. Muriel Clemenger went to India, Esther Reimer to Colombia, Lydia Krowchenko to Nigeria and George Broughton joined the Scandinavian Alliance Missions group.

Church growth continued in 1948. The active membership increased to 73 with 13 associate members in the church. Twelve young people were studying in Bible school. That summer, they held a Vacation Bible School with an enrolment of 127. A number of children accepted Christ. Some adults also received Christ during 1948.

Several people were physically healed that year, including the pastor. They observed the Alliance procedure of anointing with oil, followed by prayer. A tone of joy emanates from the page as he concludes his Annual Report. "We feel that never was a pastor with so good a people . . . It is our earnest desire to serve you with all that we have and are."

The tone of the ministry changes in 1949. The Merrills both wrote that the year was full of struggles. The Pastor notes, "It has been one of labour, sweat and tears . . of the putting in of the plow and in hard, rugged toil turning back the fallow ground. It has been a year of variation in the spiritual thermometer. There have been the blessed mountain heights of inspiration and there have been the valleys of wonder and despair."

In spite of struggles, the year held good times. The third Annual Deeper Life Conference in February ministered to the Alliance Pastors who attended their Saskatchewan Prayer Retreat as well as the congregation of the church. People accepted Christ as Saviour and Lord, while others accepted the empowering of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Healing of physical bodies also occurred during the eight days.

In the fall, they preceded a series of meetings with Rev. Weston by weeks of prayer guided by Margaret Connor. When the guest speaker arrived, the people were prepared to respond. During the series of meetings, people came to the altar every night.

By November when they held the Foreign Missions convention, the results of renewal were evident. The missionary pledge increased by $1,000. The church also committed itself to provide the full financial support for Esther Reimer as she served full-time in Ecuador.

In the 1950 Annual Report, Rev. Merrill states that "the overall picture of this past year is a pleasant and encouraging one." Spiritual and numerical growth served to warm the heart of the minister and his wife.

Improvements. We would call attention to the improvements that God has enabled us to effect during the year 1950. The addition of a chapel in the basement of the building provides ample and appropriate accommodation for the mid-week meetings and is a great saving of heating fuel during the cold winter months. Other improvements of the past year include the installation of an oil burner, the purchase of 75 chairs for the Chapel, a piano for the Chapel, and benches with a seating capacity of 100 as an addition to the balcony.

The local church has always been God's agency through which He works, and our churches today are suffering from perverted loyalties and divided attentions. Your church can offer you a full scope of ministry and can channel all time, talents and means which you may desire to devote to the cause of Christ. It is our belief that if the time, energy, and monies being expended in other spheres of Christian ministry were all channelled through the local church it would grow in influence and power until it would again be a great force in the salvation of souls. We would ask the question, "Are we not defeating our own purpose in offering our time and means to other agencies when the progress and ministry of our own soulwinning efforts are being curtailed because of lack of workers and sufficient funds?" We feel that it is a great successful strategy of the enemy to thus divide the interest and resources of God's people. -R.F. Merrill, 1950 Report

Visiting the large congregation was becoming a great struggle, and Rev. Merrill had to delineate the priority list he would use for vising in 1951. "Our normal plan of visitation will include primarily those who are sick or shut-in, those who are experiencing special spiritual need, and contacting new friends and adherents of the church. This plan will work, however, only if each and all will feel at perfect liberty to make their special needs known to their pastor."

By 1950, the membership had increased to 113 with 90 active members and 23 associate, including the 24 added during the year. The average Sunday School attendance was now 134, an increase from the 109 recorded the previous year.

Merrill's ministry continued until June 1951 when they moved to Victoria, BC exchanging pulpits permanently with the McIntyres, who had pastored the Alliance church in Victoria, BC.

Rev R.F. Merrill & family

"Perhaps no greater joy could come to the heart of a pastor than that which has come to mine in having three of our young people accepted by Mission Boards for service in the Regions beyond, After almost a year of prayer and consideration, the Tabernacle Bible Training School was inaugurated December 6, 1948, with a teaching staff of three, offering four classes each Monday - 48 enrolled - as God leads the Tabernacle Training School may become a permanent institution"

R.F. Merrill, 1948 Report-

It has been a crisis year, - a year of slowly evolving from what we were to what we are, The Tabernacle has been slowly changing its personality, - taking on a different complexion, whether for the better or not is not my point just now. But 1949 has been a year unique in the history of the work in that it was largely devoted to the effecting of the change from which we are slowly and uncertainly emerging, and to our own surprise are suddently faced with a strange fact: the fact that we are no longer considered a small work that is making good, but are rather now in the category of a large work at the foot of the hill and faced with a colossal struggle to make the grade.

R.F. Merrill 1949 Report


Historical Flashbacks were researched and written by Lorraine Willems. Copyright 2003 and 2013 by copyright holders.