September 12, 2003 at 9:37 a.m.
Congregation came together 150 years ago
Sunrise Church has changed with the times and celebrates its longevity Sept. 14, public welcome
The event will include greetings from elected officials and former pastors. Keynote speaker will be former Pastor James Rockensock, who pastored the church during the 1980s and 1990s and spearheaded the building program. Everyone is invited to the service and to the dinner which will be served at noon. A praise service with guest musicians will follow at 1 p.m.
The Sunrise Church began in 1853, about the time that the first settlers began arriving in the area. A circuit-riding missionary preacher from the Episcopal denomination began holding services in the frontier village. Soon an Episcopal congregation was established.
Land for a church building was donated by Gardner Colwell, a farmer who, like most Sunrise pioneers, migrated here from New York state in the 1850s. Funds for construction came largely from John S. Van Renesselaer, who was one of the first white men to settle in the Chisago Lakes area. Later in life Van Renesselaer moved to Sunrise, where he resided until his death. In his last will and testament in 1894, Van Renesselaer bequeathed 75 percent of his estate to the Sunrise Church, “to be used in the support and maintenance of the preaching of the Holy Gospel of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, wholly and entirely to the inhabitants of the village of Sunrise … according to the faith, dogma or spirit of the Holy Scripture of truth, rules and regulations of the Protestant Episcopal Church,” the will says.
The original structure was replaced in the late 1800s with a small church building that remains in use until this day. It was extensively remodeled and enlarged in the late 1940s, and served the church until 2000 when a new auditorium and other rooms were added. The older structure now serves as the church fellowship hall.
After the turn of the 20th century the church joined the Congregational denomination, but its constituency remained the same. Many pastors faithfully served the congregation over the years. Some were “pulpit supply” who traveled to Sunrise to conduct services on a rotation basis. Among these were Victor and Herbert Caneday, the son and grandson of an early Taylors Falls pioneer. Victor Caneday held services in Sunrise during the 1920s and Herbert Caneday in the 1940s and 1950s. Other pastors resided in the village and held services on a regular basis. One of these was Pastor Fred Julius, who came to Sunrise in 1935. He is the church’s oldest pastor emeritus and currently resides in Chisago City.
Under the ministry of the late Pastor Herbert Caneday, the church became affiliated with the Independent Fundamental Churches of America. The church then became a Baptist church in 1973 under the leadership of Pastor Scott Forsberg. Pastor James Rockensock came to pastor the church in 1980 and stayed for 21 years, leading the congregation through the latest building program.
In 2001, Dr. George Cable, of Lindstrom, came out of retirement to accept the call to Sunrise, where he remains the pastor.
The member of the church with the most longevity is Alice Wilcox, who has been a member of Sunrise Church for 56 years. The Wilcox family is the only remaining Sunrise family that has been part of the church for its entire 150 years.
The public is welcome to attend any of the activities on Sunday. Call Pastor Cable at (651) 257-1033 for directions or additional information.