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Gold and silver bonanzas created Idaho Territory ... but the merchants found real gold in them-thar hills. They all came during the 1860’s because Elias D. Pierce discovered gold on Oro-fino Creek. And there was an inland waterway on the Snake River for transportation..


The prospectors were looking for a bonanza and the merchants found one. The Gold Rush petered out, but the merchants stayed on to found Ragtown, later to be named Lewiston—after Meriwether Lewis-- not the GOLD.

Idaho Territory was created on March 4, 1863 and Lewiston became the territorial capitol.


So the story goes, one of the first Episcopal missionaries to the Northwest, visited the site in 1864 and held services under a tree at 2nd and D Streets—legend has it that the fishing was good! So the Episcopal Church of the Nativity has been worshipping in Lewiston for 150 years—this year.



The church met in Red Cross Hall, Masonic Hall and other sites until 1881 when Bishop Tuttle from Walla Walla invited Rev. j. D. McConkey, an Irish priest, to move to Lewiston and serve the mission down on 4th street.


At that time, parishioners John P. and Sarah Vollmer stepped in and helped secure a lot at 11th and F Streets—far from the raucous Ragtown center. Here Vollmers, McConkeys, and parishioners built the church—the American Gothic structure that moved up the hill in 1920 to 8th Street and 8th Ave.


1864 - 2014

John P. Vollmer, as well as J.D. McConkey, came to Lewiston via the isthmus of Panama. In Idaho the Vollmers shared the bounteous millions they made with the community - Lewiston State Normal School — with the whole community — there was no organization they did not touch.

Sarah bore seven children; the Evangeline window at Nativity honors the loss of their eight year old girl, Evangeline. The yellow horn tree was moved to Nativity from their mansion.

Nativity moved into the 20th century with Rev. Dr. D.J.Sommerville and into 21st with Rev. Dr. GretchenRehberg.  

All are welcome in this place.


1864 - 1880s

As we approach 150 years of feeding body, mind, and soul at the Church of the Nativity, we start a monthly series of Nativity stories. Historical documents give us a choice between celebrating 150 years from 1864, the initial gatherings for worship for Episcopalians in the Lewis Clark Valley, or from 1873, the beginning of regular worship services in the Valley. Today’s committee and vestry have chosen to celebrate 150 years from the initial 1864 gatherings of Episcopalians in Lewiston.


The Centennial Vestry and Centennial Committee chose 1973 as the Centennial date. Here are their written words: 

“Tradition, backed by a few skimpy records, says that the initial meeting that would eventually lead to the founding of the Church of the Nativity, was held under a tree, near what is now 2nd St. between C and D streets. (1)


“The year 1973 was selected as a centennial year, not a 100 anniversary of the Church of the Nativity. Because of incomplete records, it is impossible to categorically state that the first service was held on some specific date in 1873, for there are accounts of visits by Episcopal priests as early as 1864-1865. And undoubtedly there were services, limited as they might have been, between then and 1873. ...But 1973 was picked as a centennial date because it appeared to be the year in which a decision was made to place Lewiston on the list scheduled for “regular” visitations by priests of the Missionary District of Montana, Utah and Idaho.” (2)


Based on best evidence, contemporary Lewiston historian Stephen Branting writes that:

“North Idaho’s first Episcopalian service occurred in Lewiston on Christmas Day, 1864. Presumably under the direction of Reverend J. Michael Fackler, director of the Missionary District of Idaho.” (3)

And what did the Episcopalians encounter in Lewiston in the 1860s: the gold rush in Pierce and Orofino , creation of Idaho’s territorial capitol, and the beginning of “Rag Town” as Lewiston was known. Our Centennial Booklet explained :

“The earliest serving church history, composed by the Rev. Everett P. Smith, indicates that the congregation progressed by degrees from underneath the tree to the Red Cross Hall . ... This would indicate that early-day Episcopalians worshipped in a variety of structures during the interim. Speculation is that a majority of these structures were log cabins, although Lewiston at that time had its share of large tents. ...during 1879-80 when the church was in the Red Cross Hall, 50 boys and 10 girls regularly attended Sunday school. There were only five adult communicants.” (4)


According to historian Margaret Allen:


“Downtown...consisted of ten short streets—the east-west A through E and north-south First through Fifth. ...The Clearwater River gradually washed A street away . ... Later, Rev. J. D. McConkey, the first resident priest, in a letter, wrote: “Here will be found a free and easy people. They are perfectly indifferent in the matter of religion and religious teaching. If there be preaching or religious teaching, well and good. They will not seek it but when it comes they will not directly oppose it. They regard religion as a good thing in its place but not indispensable, for they live by the theory that they can subsist without it, although when they come to die or be buried they cannot do without its consolation. (5)


One hundred and fifty years later, The Episcopal Church of the Nativity is still feeding body, mind, and soul and still burying and consoling latter day parishioners.

- Deloris Jungert Davisson and Margaret Cole, November 15, 2014


  1. The reader will find a complete discussion of the choice dates between initial gatherings and the start of “regular”

    worship services for the Church of the Nativity in The Centennial Booklet printed for the 1973 celebration. P. 3

  2. Ibid.

  3. Branting, S. D. “1864: North Idaho’s First Episcopalian Congregation.” Historic Firsts of Lewiston Idaho. Charleston, SC 29403 The History Press p. 55.

  4. Boren and Campbell, The Centennial Booklet, p. 7

  5. Allen, M.A. Lewiston Country Nezperce County Historical Society, Inc. 1990 p. 188


Works cited:

Allen, M.A. Lewiston Country Nezperce County Historical Society, Inc. 1990
Branting, S. D. Historic Firstsf Lewiston Idaho. Charleston, SC 29403 The History Press (2013) Boren, Charles P. and Thomas W. Campbell. “The Mists of History.” The Centennial Booklet (1983):

Screen Shot 2021-02-15 at 12.16.48


1873 - 1973

The Centennial Vestry and Centennial Committee Charles P. Boren and
Thomas W. Campbell.

How many of these parishioners do you recognize?


Through the Decades - 1870s - 1880s

This year, a CHRISTMAS TREE graces our sanctuary at 8th Street and 8th Avenue, and we begin the year-long 150th celebration of Nativity’s ministry to body, mind and soul. Back in 1864, the tree at 2nd Street between C and D Streets provided a site for the Episcopalian Christmas service—according to best sources! It must have been an unusually warm December that Christmas when Rev. J. Michael Fackler, director of the Southern Idaho Missionary District, gathered those 19th Century Episcopalians,



There are two trees extant at Nativity’s legendary “Christmas” tree site; neither tree can be the original tree, as neither tree is an indigenous Idaho tree. Oaks aren’t native here. Nobody documented or photographed that 19th century tree, but we do have documents and photographs of many 19th Century Episcopalians in the Valley. Our story is about who they were and why they came to the Lewis Clark Valley—remember, history is written by the winners.


Our available sources, mostly church centennial pamphlets and writings by local historians, offer quite different stories about

(2) All sources do find that the first Episcopal priests were missionaries. And all the sources portray the first people as 1) miners passing through on their way to the gold fields, or 2) merchants supplying miners on the way to the gold fields.


Lineage of those first white people extends down the decades. Some stayed to participate in Episcopal worship at a series of locations. In 1879 church services were held at the Red Cross Hall. In 1880, they were at the Masonic Hall. But after Rev.
John D McConkey became the first resident pastor, Lewiston Episcopalians finally worshipped in a genuine church, the Universalist Church! “It was in September of 1881 that the church acquired its first real estate, a log cabin on D St. between 4th and 5th St. ...But parishioners objected to a church at this location [near the hotels and saloons] and arrangements were made for a trade of property with John P. Vollmer, Lewiston merchant and communicant of the Church of the Nativity.” (3) Vollmer took the downtown lot in exchange for a lot at 11th and F Street where a real church was built. Its interior redwood paneling graced the church built there. Then in 1920 the church was pulled on skids up the hill to our present location at 8th and 8th. See photo below.

Today’s Nativity has a visible connection to one of those first merchant families—the Vollmers. Author Steve Branting tells the story of the first child born to Sarah and John Vollmer on Tuesday, November 19, 1872. Her father was an entrepreneur who would by most accounts, eventually become Idaho’s first millionaire [a prominent early merchant , banker, and Idaho benefactor.] In early September 1881, Evangeline became ill...and died. Reverend McConkey held the service in the Universalist Church where the Episcopalians met. The Nativity Window, moved from downtown to its present location, was given by John and Sarah Vollmer in memory of Evangeline. (4) The window is the oldest relic of the church. (5) There are more

window stories coming soon.


This Christmas season we decorated our indoor Christmas Tree below Evangeline’s magnificent stained glass window . The window still glows brightly and will all year for the 150th Celebration of The Episcopal Church of the Nativity. And we are grateful for that first nativity worship—”Sheltered by a Tree.”

End Notes:

  1. Oren and Campbell, The Centennial Booklet, p. 7

  2. Earlier churches in Lewiston included the following: “This raw and boisterous mining town was much too preoccupied by other things to spend much time in prayer and contemplation. There was no regular house of worship at Lewiston until 1867, when the Rev. Joseph Cataldo built the first Catholic church. Some Presbyterians were holding meeting this time but the first Protestant church, the Universalist, didn’t go up until 1869. The Rev. J. D. McConkey...arrived a Lewiston in 1881 as the first resident pastor of the Episcopal Church. “ Allen, Margaret Day, Lewiston Country Historical Society, Inc. 1990 p. 187-8

  3. Oren and Campbell, The Centennial Booklet, p. 7-8

  4. Branting, S. D. Hidden History of Lewiston, Idaho. Charleston, SC 29403 The History Press (2013) p. 55-63

  5. Oren and Campbell, The Centennial Booklet, p. 25


Works cited:
Branting, S. D. Hidden History of Lewiston, Idaho. Charleston, SC 29403 The History Press (2013) Oren, Charles P. and Thomas W. Campbell. “The Mists of History.” The Centennial Booklet (1983):


- Deloris Jungert Davisson and Margaret Cole

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The church as it appeared when it stood at 11th and F Streets.

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Check out the inscription in the lowers panel of the window.


The turn of the century witnessed Lewiston growing, despite the fact that the Territorial capitol had been moved (some say

“stolen”) south to Boise. By 1890 Idaho Territory had become the State of Idaho. The city of Lewiston was expanding eastward -- John Vollmer had helped Nativity to build out at 11th and F Streets instead of down town between 4th/5th and D streets. Then, in 1919-20, the sanctuary was moved up to Normal Hill. Nativity’s priest Rev. David J. W. Somerville, 1904—1929, born in Ireland, taught at the Normal School, on Normal Hill, during his tenure at Nativity.

The national economic Panic of 1893, caused in part by the shaky financing of the railroads, affected banking and the money supply nationally. In Lewiston, Nativity parishioners, John Vollmer, William F Kettenbach, J. D. Kester, among other entrepreneurs, saw an opportunity to speculate on land locally and on the Camas Prairie (1), Transportation limited commerce.

Lewiston remained a mining and commercial center and became a farming and logging center after the opening of the NezPerces’ Reservation land for settlement. For Lewiston to develop, there was a need for improved transportation to get timber and agricultural commodities to market. In the 1890’s, Lewiston began building a railroad depot, but when it was completed in 1895, there was still no train servicing the town. The depot was referred as, “...the only railroad station in the country without a railroad.” The Camas Prairie Rail Road finally came into the city in 1898 and the line to Grangeville was completed in 1910.

John Vollmer took advantage of the train going up to the Prairie. He platted a town (Ilo Vollmer) and named it after himself (today’s Craigmont.) He speculated on prairie and timber lands between Mason and Cottonwood Buttes. My father, Elmer Jungert, bought his farm and timber near Cottonwood Butte from John Vollmer in the second decade of the century.

On a personal level, Lewiston families suffered from the rampant diseases of the late 19th and early 20th century. Many of the gifts to Nativity Episcopal Church were given in memory of young children who died of these diseases. Mrs. Henriette Gustafson compiled a catalog of gifts. The list appears on pages 25 – 28 in the Centennial Booklet. (2) Last month we cited the Nativity Window, the Kester windows, and the McConkey window. In addition, there is the Ann D. Jacobs window. Ann was the mother of Maj. Adolph Kroutinger, a soldier who fought in the Nez Perce Indian War. The Wiggin Window was given in memory of two young sons, Albert and Charles. Lott Wiggin was one of Lewiston’s pioneers. The Butler window was given later.

Nativity literally grew along with Lewiston in the 20th century, from that Sheltered by a Tree site near the Clearwater, to 4th5th Street, and finally building at 11th and F street, to our present site at 8th and 8th. Nativity parishioners carried our symbolic Celtic cross along to its several locations. Note the cross in the Vollmer drawing below—photos and drawings shown from left to right:

1894 (photograph—shows no cross), but the 1894, (drawing by Norman Vollmer) shows a cross on the bell tower, the Centennial photo of 1973 shows the cross as it is today, and today’s cross is visible from the street and from our secret garden. What is our Celtic Cross’ significance for us today? Legend tells us that the Celtic cross represents a circle (the sun) imposed on a Latin cross. The Celtic tradition is one of the three foundations of our Episcopal Church—the others, Roman Catholicism and the Reformation. Both John D. McConkey (serving from 1881 to 1899) and D.W. J. Somerville (serving from 1904 to 1929) came to the United Statesfrom Ireland with Anglican backgrounds. “Celtic spirituality is deeply incarnational.”(3) Both priests served here on the edge of the world, just as 5th century St. Patrick brought an incarnational Christianity to Ireland. (4) Reverends McConkey and Sommerville must have seen Lewiston, Warren, and Mount Idaho as the edge of the world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Screen Shot 2021-02-15 at 12.52.49

End notes:

  1. Branting, Steven D. Lost Lewiston pp 76-78 There is an interesting story about land speculation by Kettenbach and Kester in Branting’s chapter titled ‘The Forest for the Trees.’

  2. Boren, Charles P. and Campbell, Thomas The Centennial Booklet pp. 25—28

  3. DeWaal, Esther Every Earthly Blessing p. 15 Praying is not separated from singing or working or any other aspect of life.

    Because of the way in which they saw their world they were ready to accept, enoy, transform whatever lay at hand.

  4. Cahill, Thomas. “Good News from Far Off “The First Missionary” How the Irish Saved Civilization Chapter IV. pp 101-119


Works cited.

Boren, Charles P. and Thomas W. Campbell. “The Mists of History.” The Centennial Booklet 1983
Branting, Steven Lost Lewiston Idaho History Press Charleston, SC 2014
Cahill, Thomas How The Irish Saved Civilization Anchor Doubleday New York 1995
DeWaal Esther Every Earthly Blessing: Rediscovering the Celtic Tradition Morehouse Publishing reprinted 1999.


- Deloris Jungert Davisson and Margaret Cole 2015


A church for all seasons up Normal Hill

As we approached Easter, Nativity’s liturgy, its vestments, and altar hues change with the season. There has been a rhythm of the day with morning prayers, mid-day prayers, evening prayers and Compline on Sundays. “The pattern of the day, of the year, and of the whole of life itself, was [is] lived out totally in the presence of God...Every moment of the day, every activity becomes a way to God....Life lived at two levels—the practical tasks of daily life done for their own sake carefully and competently, but simultaneously they become signs of god’s all-encompassing love...our spirituality is deeply incarnational. (1)

The Irish grounding of Rev. David J. W. Somerville, who served the parish from 1904 to 1924, surely embodied such a way of life. He was called, “A Man for All Seasons.” It was under the direction of Rev. Somerville that the first rectory, just east of the present church building was constructed and plans were made to move the beautiful sanctuary up to Normal Hill. A foundation and basement were built to receive the building when it was moved to our present location. As tractors were no-where on the scene yet, the building was pulled up the hill by horses or mules in 1920.

The church sanctuary’s interior is cladded in a beautiful and acoustical redwood. It’s materials and construction reveal a strong respect for their aesthetic qualities. Architecturally the church building can be called American or Carpenter Gothic, a style appropriate for a parish church built in the late 19th century. The building’s plan is the shape of a cross with a long nave and cross transept arms. Windows have Gothic pointed arches with stained-glass lites. The top lites of Nativity’s north and south windows image a Celtic cross--depending how one looks at them.

Rev. Dr. John H. Westerhoff, in A people called Episcopalians, states that “While some traditions emphasize truth or goodness, Anglicans have made beauty the doorway into truth and goodness. We have a strong respect for the belief in the beauty of holiness and righteousness. Money spent on beauty, priestly and prophetic, is justified insofar as it is our way of revealing and advocating truth and goodness. Our churches are intended to be works of art and we make every effort to ensure that the arts used in our churches are of high quality. Artists have always been at home in our congregations and played a significant role in our worship and common life “ (2)

When Rev. Somerville and parishioners moved the sanctuary to its 8th and 8 location, there were scarcely any trees in the Normal Hill area with the exception of a few indigenous pine trees, hackberry trees in the ravines, or bank willows in riparian areas. None of the many trees on the church campus today were there: the linden trees along 8th Avenue, the beech tree on the east, the pin oak and red maple on the south east, the dogwood, the flowering plums on the east (by Somerville Hall) and west on 8th street. Church records show that in 1968 money was allocated for trees, with no mention of their species.

Trees feed body, mind, and spirit, give shade and several kinds of food. Even the gingkoes that have recently been replaced, produced food for humans--and squirrels. The Tuesday Morning Tree Hugging Committee is compiling a folder describing our food trees and their fruit: edible beech nuts, plums, gingko, linden nuts, acorns, Chinese Flowering Chestnuts or Yellow Horn nuts and maple syrup. "For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands." Isaiah 55:12

The story of the site would not be complete without mentioning the Mystery of the Flowering Ash, Fraxinus ornus, the Manna Ash, recorded by the Idaho Champion Big Tree List as an Idaho Big Tree. The story excited the Committee. The “Big Tree” was the South European Flowering Ash, indigenous along the Mediterranean. Symbolically, its bark yields a sugary sap called “Manna.” The name Manna, as applied to the same tree found in the Scriptures and was thought to be the source for the Manna which fed the Israelites in the desert. Later research discovered another Manna source. The Manna tree was fabled to be the only tree in the garden of Eden that the serpent would not go near, for even if the shadow of the tree fell upon a serpent, it would die. In folklore ash staves were thought to protect walkers from snake infested places.

Well, our Manna ash proved to be a mystery. We couldn’t locate it on the campus. Had we cut down a designated Idaho Big Tree? When we found a Lewiston Morning Tribune news article from 1996, it proved that the tree was a mystery because Nativity campus never did have a Flowering Ash. You see, the tree given by Sarah and John Vollmer was mis-identified when the Idaho Big Tree designation was awarded. The tree species in question was later keyed out by Professor Richard Naskali and again by Phil Shinn, certified arborist, as a Yellow Horn (Xanthocerus sorbifolia). That is a story we will tell when we do our tree walk on April 26, 2015. You can locate the tree in the corner by the bell tower in the photo in the 1973 centennial booklet.3 Also notice the Yellow Horn as it appears in a Google image. (4)

Today we celebrate our beautiful sanctuary and liturgy, our campus with its trees, plantings, changing seasons, our clergy and our people worshiping together for 150 years--feeding body, mind and spirit. And, welcome to the Meditation Garden for quiet time alfresco.

End notes:

  1. DeWaal Esther Every Earthly Blessing: Rediscovering the Celtic Tradition page15

  2. Westerhoff, Rev. Dr. John H. A People Called Episcopalians page 23

  3. Boren and Campbell, The Centennial Booklet, back cover

  4. Google Earth image 2013


Works cited:

Boren, Charles P. and Thomas W. Campbell. The Centennial Booklet (1983):
DeWaal, Esther Every Earthly Blessing: Rediscovering the Celtic Tradition Morehouse Publishing reprinted 1999. Google Earth image from World Wide Web
Westerhoff, Rev. Dr. John H. A People Called Episcopalians Morehouse Publishing 1998

- Deloris Jungert Davisson and Margaret Cole 2015

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1973 photo on back cover of the Centennial booklet.  Notice size of the Yellow Horn behind the bell tower.

Screen Shot 2021-02-15 at 1.10.07 PM.png

Contemporary Google Earth image.  Notice the size of the Yellow Horn Today.


19th and 21st century women embodying their spiritual gifts.

In the early years of Nativity, women played their societal roles and also found their prophetic voices in the church and in the society as a whole. While bearing a child every two years was the norm, Nativity women embodied their spiritual gifts, critiqued the system and engaged in changing the wider community.

Today we lift up our pioneering women and their spiritual gifts: Meet Sarah Vollmer with one of her spiritual gifts-- administration. The spiritual gift of administration is defined by Episcopal sources as helping a body function smoothly, choosing goals. Dear reader, you have already met Sarah Vollmer, mother of Evangeline Vollmer and wife of John Vollmer. The story goes that when the territorial legislature chartered Lewiston’s school district, the bill called for an elected board of five school commissioners. (As early as 1870 women could run for and vote in school elections nationally.) Sarah Vollmer filed for one of the seats, but lost in the May 18, 1881 election. More men than women supported the female candidates. “The Lewiston Teller reported, “ A goodly number of our people could not be made to see the propriety of placing women upon the ticket as candidates to decide relation to finances. Women were acceptable for ‘their softening and healthyinfluence’ on children, but they were not fit, so many thought to be judges of how public money should be spent.” Further, “... people were aroused at some degree at least to the importance of having good schools, even if the women question did rouse them.” (1) Sarah Vollmer had long been identified with the education of Lewiston’s children and, among other things, had raised money for a new schoolhouse. (2)

As we have been celebrating the history of our church windows, you may recognize Lillie Kester, a mother who, with her husband J.D. Kester, lost children to the raging childhood diseases of the time. Women were eligible to serve on juries in Idaho in 1896, when they were granted the right to vote. Lillie Kester served in 1897 on the first all-female jury. “In the 1920’s, prosecutors preferred having female jurors on cases involving prohibition violations. However, when an all-female jury convicted a man for unlawful possession of alcohol, he appealed his case on grounds that women were ineligible to serve. The Idaho Supreme Court upheld his appeal...It was not legal for women to serve on juries in Idaho until 1943. (3) Lilly and the women on the jury critiqued the system and it eventually was changed.

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention Anna Joslin McConkey, you will recall, wife of John Douglas McConkey. One of her spiritual gifts was teaching and, no doubt, hospitality. Anna had enjoyed a good education and received this hand- written recommendation from her school superintendent in Massachusetts: “Miss Anna M. Joslin under my supervision, has taught in one of our public schools...and has met with a commendable degree of success...she adds firmness and self-reliance, and I think would be likely to succeed in any school which, she would be willing to undertake.” (4) Reading, writing, and arithmetic?

After Anna married John McConkey in 1877. John received the call to Washington Territory and left for the west on February 1878. Anna, heavy with child, endured all the hardships of their more than 16,000 mile voyage “around the Horn” with her husband. Writing in his book about the ocean voyage around the Horn, he has only one passing mention of Anna. (5) It is not hard to imagine the spiritual gifts embodied in these pioneering women of the church, even when they are scarcely acknowledged.


In the 19th century, Nativity had a solid start feeding mind, body and spirit. Our heritage began with those early women and men and continues on into the 21st Century with our beloved, Rev. Gretchen Rehberg, priest, teacher, mentor. This year, we celebrate 150 years of Nativity life, and we celebrate 50 years of Reverend Doctor, Doctor Rehberg’s life. She leads us on to question and critique our mission as a parish, practicing her many spiritual gifts at Nativity.


So Happy Birthday Nativity through the 19th, 20th and in to the 21st Century. And Happy Birthday to our gifted priest. Thanks be to God. Alleluia, alleluia.


End notes:

  1. Branting, Steven Historic Firsts of Lewiston Idaho pp 72, 75-6,

  2. Ibid pp 76

  3. Ibid pp 95-96

  4. Branting, Steven Lost Lewiston pp 70-71

  5. McConkey, J. D. New York to Portland p 39


Works cited.
Branting, Steven Historic Firsts of Lewiston Idaho History Press Charleston, SC 2013
Branting, Steven Lost Lewiston Idaho History Press Charleston, SC 2014
McConkey, J. D. New York to Portland Oregon with a History of the Voyage, Scene, Places, Incidents and Notes of the

Journey “Statesman” Book and Job Printing Office, Walla Walla, W.T. 1879


-Deloris Jungert Davisson and Margaret Cole March 2016


Sarah Vollmer, circa 1885. Courtesy of the John P. Vollmer Family Archives.

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Rev Dr. Dr. Gretchen Rehberg 2015

A Thin Time During The Great Depression.

The Rev. David J. W. Somerville, The “Man For All Seasons” our rector since 1904, had seen the congregation double when his career ended tragically in 1929. The Reverend Theodore M. Burleson succeeded Rev. Somerville and served as rector until January 15, 1936--during the worst of the Great Depression.

Call it synchronicity or the hand of God or whatever, Nativity experienced a connection to its living history last Sunday June 28, 2015. Rev. Burleson’s son and daughter-in-law , Forrest and Rose Burleson appeared out of the blue in morning worship. They had visited with Gretchen on Saturday and stayed for the Sunday morning service. Forrest told of his pilgrimage to visit all the churches his father had served.


I asked him about what he recalled about his early years at Nativity. He spoke with admiration of the beautiful sanctuary—it made an impression on a ten-year old.


Then I asked him what had changed.


His bright eyes lit up—and he laughed at the obvious. Then, he spoke of his father. who had compiled the first history of the church. Much of the early data in later reports was due Rev. Burleson’s diligent labor, as he wrote the first history of Nativity.

Gretchen told us in the last Messenger of some of the “simple marks of the change that is real and constant...‘challenging’...everything which we do is done because at one time it served a valuable purpose, a problem arises

when the action remains long after the purpose has changed or been forgotten.“


History addresses CHANGE: Forrest and Rose have changed—all of us born in the 1930s saw great

changes in our communities, but miraculously, Nativity’s sanctuary has received only minor changes since

it was hauled up the hill from 11th and 17th Street in 1920. The church was moved from approximately

where the present rectory is to a point closer to the corner of 8 and 8 . The new basement was dug for

Sunday school use and included a guild room, also a kitchen and a new furnace was installed. The Chancel has been widdened [sic] ten feet, and its height increased to add solemn atmosphere to the church, increasing the Narthex in size.“ (3)


Its like a story from the a 1921 cook book: How to cook a ham. Take the ham and cut off an inch on each end. When asked why one should cut off the ends of the ham, the reply was that Mother had to cut off the ham to fit in her roasting pan.

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Rev. Theodore Burleson

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Forrest and Rose Burleson

I asked several parishioners to write down a change experience they have experienced or observed. Maxine Hubbel relayed this change story about a former unnamed Episcopalian parishioner who could no longer worship as an Episcopalian because he was alienated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer . He could only worship with the 1928 Book of Common prayer. The pan wasn’t big enough for the ham.


In 2000, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church issued an apology to those "offended or alienated during the time of liturgical transition to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer." Use of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer is currently discouraged. Article X of the Canons of the Episcopal Church provides that "[t]he Book of Common Prayer, as now established or hereafter amended by the authority of this Church, shall be in use in all the Dioceses of this Church," which, of course, is a reference to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, but some parishes[still use the 1928 book either regularly or occasionally, for pastoral sensitivity, for doctrinal reasons and for the beauty of its language.


The controversies surrounding the Book of Common Prayer contrasts with the Episcopal Church’s description of it as “the primary symbol of our unity.” Diverse members “come together” through “our common prayer." (4) 

Change is ‘challenging’...everything which we do is done because at one time it served a valuable purpose. On the Sunday Forum, and in the small groups we are learning about change—sharing our faith. Tyler _____ and Liz ____, our summer clergy interns, have been modeling for us-- telling our stories, deepening our prayer lives and helping us become comfortable with unbinding [our] hearts. Here is a story about change from Tyler ______.:

More change stories to come—we are telling stories of 150 years of change and 150 years of diverse members coming together through our common prayer and liturgy..


End notes:

  1.   Jennings, John Richard, A Brief History of THE CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY: Lewiston, Idaho p 7. 

  2.   Ibid.

  3.   Church of the Nativity “THE MESSENGER” Volume 2015 Issue 7 p1

  4.  “The Book of Common Prayer” at

  5.    Jennings, J. R. A Brief history of THE CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY P8.


Works Cited
Church of the Nativity “THE MESSENGER” Volume 2015 Issue 7 p1
Jennings, John Richard, A Brief History of THE CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY: Lewiston, Idaho p 7. Editorial Contributors, McCurdy, Bayne and Campbell, Thomas, Supervisor The Rev. Peter Stretch

undated [ Stretch was ordained in 1958, and in 1959 Mr. Stretch was elected as Rector.] “The Book of Common Prayer” at


-Deloris Jungert Davisson and Margaret Cole 2016


Nativity's Mission Across the Snake River

Since the time of early rectors Rev. J. D. McConkey and Rev. D.J. Somerville, Nativity has been involved in missionary outreach. Among other missions, St. Paul’s Mission Church in Clarkston, WA was established across the Snake River in 1901. Ferry boats had been the only means of crossing the river to Washington until the Lewiston Concord Bridge Company built a toll bridge for foot and wagon traffic.

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Rev. David James Somerville

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St. Pauls Mission Church, Clarkston, WA. 1901-1929

Since the time of early rectors Rev. J. D. McConkey and Rev. D.J. Somerville, Nativity has been involved in missionary outreach. Among other missions, St. Paul’s Mission Church in Clarkston, WA was established across the Snake River in 1901. Ferry boats had been the only means of crossing the river to Washington until the Lewiston Concord Bridge Company built a toll bridge for foot and wagon traffic.


There is a distinction between a parish and a mission.

“A parish exists when the congregation is self-supporting and contributes proportionally to the ministry of the diocese. A congregation that receives financial aid from the diocese is an aided parish, sometimes called a mission. Their clergy leader is appointed by the bishop and called a vicar...(from the Latin for ‘substitute’)”1 Episcopalians parishes have rectors (from the Latin ‘to rule’), “who are called by the vestry of a parish and approved by the bishop.” (2)


We can speculate on why St. Paul’s Mission Church, across the River in a different state, came into being and why
the Vicarage and the church building were sold in 1929. The town, later called Clarkston, had not been easily

accessible or a very desirable place to live, for in the 19th century it was referred to as “... a desert waste, the range of the coyote and jack rabbits and disrespectfully known as Jawbone Flat.” (4)


A mission effort had been begun by Nativity’s rector, Rev. J. D. McConkey (1881-1899.) Later Rev. Somerville (1908-1929) served the mission congregation named St. Paul’s Mission Church as there was no appointed vicar or “substitute.” After Rev. Somerville’s death, Nativity assumed St. Paul’s congregation.


Several factors influenced the combination of the two congregations. In early years, churches, like schools,

served people within walking distance. Lewiston and Clarkston, separated by the Snake River, are in two different

states and weren’t within walking distance. In the 19th century, ferries were the only way to get to Lewiston, Idaho
from Clarkston. (5) Thus, a mission. After Edgar H. Libby received the original franchise to build a cantilever bridge

over the Snake River (later to be replaced with today’s Blue Bridge) people could more easily take their families and their business back and forth across the Snake River. As for the diocese, new parish boundaries were established when Bishop Lemuel H. Wells oversaw boundary changes for the two different states. Considering transportation before the bridges, automobiles and trains, imagine the difficulties Rev. McConkey had in visiting Mt. Idaho and the Warren gold fields and the difficulties that Rev. Somerville had in visiting Orofino and Grangeville Missions!!!

Clarkston would probably have remained Jawbone Flat, but for the irrigation water brought from Asotin Creek.
By 1899, Clarkston’s 25 homes were served by the water from an open ditch—to be replaced by a new well at 15th Street and 16th Avenue in the first decade of the 20th century. So Clarkston grew and the orchards grew. The bridges provided a way to get (walk) to church in Lewiston, and the new Camas Prairie Rail Road provided a way to ship the burgeoning fruit production to almost anywhere in the United States.


Today, there is an old Irish blessing appropriate for our mission for the next 150 years:

May the road rise to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,

And the rain fall soft upon your fields...

May you be held in the palm of God’s hand.

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Late 19th century Ferry owned by John W. Smith. A ferry was the only way to get to Lewiston, Idaho until the bridges crossed the River in the 20th century.

--McGuire p. 11.

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Clarkston’s canneries were located at Dustin’s Orchard on First Street. Nativity member, Mrs. Cliff Wasem, was a Dustin daughter.

–McGuire p. 43

End Notes:

  1. Westerhoff, John H. A People Called Episcopalians p. 34-35. 

  2. Ibid.

  3. Nativity archives The vicars of St. Paul’s Mission Church, Clarkston pamphlet Undated.

  4. From Nativity’s archives we trace the following missionaries serving St. Paul’s: 1901 to 1903, Rev. Charles Horne; Rev. Francis Vinton Baer, 1903-06; and Rev. Thornton T. Denhardt, 1906 t0 1908, who transferred to the Missionary District of Utah. From 1908 there was no appointed vicar. Services were taken by the Rev. David James Somerville, the Rector of Lewiston, although the two churches were in different jurisdictions at that time. Rev. Somerville held services at St. Paul’s until he was killed in an automobile accident and services ended at St. Paul’s Mission Church, Clarkston, Washington.

  5. McGuire, Jeri Jackson Images of America Clarkston p. 9. 

  6. McGuire, Jeri Jackson Images of America Clarkston p. 11.


Works Cited:

McGuire, Jeri Jackson Images of America Clarkston Arcadia Publishing, Charleston South Carolina 2015 p. 9. Nativity Archives THE VICARS OF ST. PAUL’S MISSION CHURCH, CLARKSTON pamphlet undated.
Westerhoff, John H. A People Called Episcopalians Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, PA and New York 1994.


-Deloris Jungert Davisson and Margaret Cole 2015


The Nativity Story: 150 Years of Loaves and Fishes

In our archives we have five cookbooks published over the last century. The first cookbook is titled: Kirk Kookery Kinks:

Containing Tried Recipes. Now, there must be a story behind that name!!! The cookbook was compiled and published in 1921 by the Chancel Committee of the Episcopal Church. You will recall that Nativity was served by Rev. D. J. W. Somerville in the years 1904 to 1924. What did Mrs. D. J. W. Somerville cook to feed body, mind and soul?


Mrs.D.J.W.Somerville’s recipe is the first recipe listed in the1921book. (1) It is for vegetable soup. (Everyone raised a garden.) She had recipes for “French Beets” which combined vinegar, beets, beet broth, sugar, butter, corn starch, salt and pepper. Then she submitted a very British/Irish Sunday recipe for Yorkshire pudding, a side dish made from a batter of eggs, flour and milk poured cold into very hot baking cups and cooked at a high heat. (Looks a lot like popovers. This Sunday dinner staple was served with beef and gravy. Also, she submitted a Russian Salad dressing recipe where peppers, pimentos, onions, vinegar, olive oil, sugar, salt, Worcestershire sauce and red peppers are put through a meat grinder and then served on salad. (2)


Kirk Kookery Kinks cookbook, published by The Morning Tribune in 1921 had commercial sponsors. From the Tribune advertising, one finds the following: “The Tribune is food for thought. Make it a part of your meal (3) We old-timer valley folks recognize some of the sponsors: Whites Hospital, Lee Morris Company, and Echternachs, among others.


Our second cook book from 1948 is titled: Cooking Round the World and at Home. The choice of a title reflects the different ethnicities represented in our parish families. One recipe that many of us remember from our grandmother’s table is “Wilted Lettuce,” from NORTHERN RECIPES. It included fried bacon (retaining the fat), vinegar, and onions, all seasoned to taste and poured hot over lettuce leaves—thus wilting them. (4) Another favorite was Sauerbraten, “Famous German Dish.” The recipe instructs: “Have your meat larded with larding pork, it is called spick in German. Your butcher will know. The larding is put through the meat with a spicking needle by the butcher. (5) Could a butcher still do it?

This book has a ham loaf. Was it the one served for years at the Christmas Bazaars? We have found at least three other ham loaf recipes—Barb Campbell, Mary Lou Gregory and Pat Johnson have others. There is even one using SPAM. The 1948 recipe book prints ham loaf ingredients: lemon Jell-O, vinegar, Worcestershire, mustard, ground ham, mayonnaise, horseradish, pimento, onion cayenne, cloves, and nutmeg. (6) We understand that there was a committee of four ladies who always made the Christmas ham loaf. Which ham loaf do you remember? Who would like to make one for our coming history lecture dinner—just for history’s sake?


The 1948 book has a Miscellaneous section which includes “Beauty Hints for Madam”: Removal of Warts, Smelling Salts, Removal of Freckles, etc. Did you know that “Strong tea drunk regularly, will, after a while, give the skin the appearance ofleather.” Or “A pinch of salt, an egg broken in two, or a raw prune will add to the flavor of coffee.” Further, “A bottle of pennyroyal left uncorked in your bedroom at night will keep the room free of mosquitos and other insects. (7) Book priced at $1.00.

The 1965 book, Episcopal Cook Book has a “Caloric and Diet Section.” It suggests an eighteen day reducing diet and a “SODA FOUNTAIN OR RESTAURANT REDUCING DIET: FOR THE BENEFIT OF THOSE WHO ARE UNABLE TO EAT AT HOME.” The 1965 book has recipes for the ubiquitous Jell-O salad—be it made with lemon Jell-O or lime
Jell-O. (8) During those years, were any of us ever at a Sunday buffet, a family picnic or a church potluck where we didn’t find a bowl of Jell-O salad with fruit cocktail, pineapple, cottage cheese and little baby marshmallows, topped with heavy whipping cream?

The 1965 book has a section called “Food Quantities for Serving 25, 50, and 100 Persons.” Be it known that for 100 people one needs the following quantities: Ham: 55 pounds, Potato salad, 4 1⁄2 gallons; Spaghetti, 5 gallons; Watermelon, 150 pounds. (9)


Then came the 1980 cook book, Favorite Recipes: Chancel Guild and Women of the Episcopal Church of the Nativity.
The preface to the volume tells the reader that “The years from 1920 “Kirk Kookery Kinks” to this edition cover a great change in our life styles, from preparing everything “from scratch”, to “thrusting one’s hand in the gas or wood stove oven to test the temperature.” From take “five cents worth of beef, to boxed beef, microwave ovens and measurements in grams and centiliters.” (10)


Things have changed, but Episcopal cooks DO still make things from scratch. Potlucks and Saturday night suppers attest to that.

Since most of us were alive in 1980, this story will report only one use mentioned in the MICROWAVE COOKING APPLICATION SECTION: “ #15 Dry girdle or panty hose in the microwave.” The fifth cook book, compiled in 1990, has stories for another day.


To close, dear reader, please reflect on Nativity’s version of the Loaves and Fishes: our Food Pantry, Saturday Supper, Clinic meals, Family Promise, Tuesday video study soup, our weekly Eucharist, and coffee hour. Our chef hats are off to cooks, Maxine, Rose, Rosemary, Pat, Anita, Gretchen, all the other cooks and bottle-washers and especially to “Knock-out- Turkey-Dinner Chef” Harold Crook for the Saturday Supper meals. Thanks be to God.

This 150-year-old feeding story needs to end with a blessing:


Bless the fruits of the earth. Bless the hands of farmers. Bless the hands of workers. Bless the texture and colors of my food. Bless those who gather. Bless the breaking of bread. Blessed Be! Blessed Be! Blessed be!
Christ at every table, Christ beside me, Christ behind me, Christ around me, In the breaking of the bread. (11)


End notes:

  1. Chancel Committee of the Episcopal Church, Kirk Kookery Kinks p.7

  2. Ibid, p. 16 This recipe was reprinted in the 1980 cookbook on page 5

  3. Ibid, p. 79

  4. Chancel Guild, Church of the Nativity Episcopal, Cooking Around the World and at Home

  5. Ibid, p. 30p. 9

  6. Ibid, p. 62-19

  7. Ibid, p. 58-61

  8. Women of the Church of the Nativity, Episcopal Cook Book, un-paginated section following p. 66

  9. Ibid, p 34

  10. Chancel Guild and Women of the Episcopal Church of the Nativity Lewiston, Idaho 1980, Favorite Recipes appendix Fitzgerald, William John A Contemporary Celtic Prayer Book ACTA Publications Chicago, IL 60640 1998

Works cited:

Chancel Committee of the Episcopal Church, Kirk Kookery Kinks 1921 The Chancel Committee included Mesdames: Hoyt, Harris, Murray, Pauley, Eaves, Dick, Thompson, Baskett, McCormack, Madison, Kennedy, Eaves and Morton

Chancel Guild, Cooking Around the World and at Home 1948 The Chancel Guild included Mesdames: Lipps, McGregor, Brill, Lorenz, White, Madison, Modie, Bratton and Clements

Chancel Guild and Women of the Episcopal Church of the Nativity Lewiston, Idaho 1980 Favorite Recipes Women’s Clubs Publishing Co., Inc. Chicago, Illinois 60606 Fitzgerald, William John A Contemporary Celtic Prayer Book ACTA Publications Chicago, IL 60640 1998
Women of the Church of the NATIVITY Episcopal Cook Book Bev-Ron Publishing Company Kansas City, Missouri 1965


- Deloris Jungert Davisson and Margaret Cole 2015


The thin years of the Depression, to the War years.

Through all the years Nativity has worshipped in the Lewis Clark Valley, we have prayed together, accepted our differences (albeit with effort) and focused on our similarities: loving God and loving our neighbor.


As the thin times of the Depression abated in the later 1930’s, Rev. Calvin Barkow served Nativity as rector (1936- 1941) with his “activist” wife, Caroline Barkow. It was a growth time for Nativity.

Caroline Barkow was instrumental in doing a little “evangelism” of her own persuasion by forming St. Alban’s Guild. It was originally conceived to attract young couples to the church by hosting monthly dinners and card parties at the rectory east of the church on 8th Avenue. It worked and the church grew! (1)

The Guild grew into a service organization which utilized social occasions to further its work. “As St. Alban’s women looked about for projects, the number of “feeds” husbands could expect declined from once a month to once a year. But at the same time the gustatory occasions were going down, fund raising projects were going up..." (2)


“Mr. Barkow’s tenure sparked another period of growth in the church and there were many regrets when he [the Barkows] left the parish to serve a larger one at Everett, Washington in August, 1941." (3)

Thin times turned into WAR TIME. “The Rev. William Gilbert came to Lewiston from CleElum, Washington, in November, 1941 and served the parish during the trying years of World War II. A man of spirit and vigorous attitude, his leadership was very evident during his years as rector. Mr. Gilbert went to Walla Walla in 1945. (4)

The Rev. Frederick Belton came to Nativity in 1946 and Nativity experienced the second major construction project of the 20th century. The church building was moved to the corner of 8th and 8th, a new basement made room for much activity, and the Chancel, the ceiling and the Narthex were increased in size. Our present rectory was constructed! (5)

[WOW!!! Response here: Thanks be to God!]


So from 1864 to until 1973, seventeen men served the Church of the Nativity.
“For some, their service has been over a period of years, for others only a brief while.

Being mortal, they have been subject to the vagaries and uncertainties which afflict all men. As all men [and all women], they have known exaltation and they have known despair. But something sets them apart:

A total, not partial, dedication of their lives to Christianity. They have placed themselves in the hands of God and gone where He has directed them. Something most ordinary men –entangled as they are in worldliness --- are not willing to do.” (6)

Time takes time...olden times, our time, prayer time, good times, bad times, story time, trying times, the herb Thyme, it’s about time...150 years of TIME...KAIROS time—CHRONOS time. The story continues...

For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to break down and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones and a time to gather stones together...a time for war, and a time for peace. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

End notes:

  1. Boren, Charles P. and Campbell, Thomas W. The Centennial Booklet p 23.

  2. Ibid p 23.

  3. Jennings, John Richard The History of the Episcopal Church of the Nativity p 8. The booklet history is

  4. an outgrowth of Mr. Jennings’ work toward the “God and Country” award given by the Boy Scouts of

  5. America. J. R. Jennings is Nancy Rosch’s cousin.

  6. Ibid p 7-8.

  7. Ibid p 8.

  8. Boren and Campbell p 29.


Works cited:
Boren, Charles P. and Campbell, Thomas W. The Centennial Booklet, Episcopal Church of the Nativity

Lewiston, Idaho 1873 1973
Jennings, John Richard The History of the Episcopal Church of the Nativity Editorial contributors Mr.

Bayne McCurdy and Thomas Campbell, Supervisor The Rev Peter Stretch
O’Day, R. and Petersen, David, General Editors The Access Bible New Revised Standard Version New

York Oxford Oxford University Press 1999.


- Deloris Jungert Davisson and Margaret Cole 2015

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Nativity Church 


With Dogwood Tree

in Bloom.


Hospitality in Sommerville Hall

In September, we gathered in Sommerville Hall to hear Idaho Historian, Steve Branting, tell stories of the people who built and sustained our parish down through the years. Parishioner Marsha Creason pronounced Steven Branting’s illustrated and well researched presentation, a great evening well spent at the church. We agree with Marsha about Steve’s stories of Missionary Michael Facker, Tuttle’s church, Sommerville Home, the Vollmers and Kettenbachs and the McConkeys—as well as the research into maps of our peripatetic church coming up the hill by steam and horses in 1920. Then we enjoyed loaves of bread, hunks of cheese and fruit, thanks to our Hospitality Chair Maxine Hubbel.

Our church archives tell of the official naming of Sommerville Hall—the site of much of our hospitality and celebration over the years. You will recognize and many remember Rev. Dr. Larry E. Harrelson whose photo hangs in our hallway. He was pastor on April 26, 1989 when our parish hall was officially named Sommerville Hall for the Rev. David and Dora Somerville.

Father Larry Harrelson came to Lewiston from Wallace, Idaho in 1984 to fill the position left open by the resignation of the Rev. Charles May. Rev. Charles Fox had served as interim rector until October 1983. Rev. Harrelson, a native of Illinois, was a chaplain in the U.S. Army and pastored churches in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri before coming to Idaho. Mary Lou Gregory remembers Father Harrelson telling of his army reserve units, “trouble” they had with God, their family problems, and the losses with which the troops had to deal. In 1991, he became a counselor for the State of Idaho, Department of Health and Welfare.

Those of you who were here in the 1990’s will remember the singing of the Mass by Father John “Jack” Dempsey. He brought a special gift to Nativity-- his wife Rose Dempsey, a professional organist. Both Father Jack and Rose were musicians. Rose had a talent for doing computer programs with her songs. Longtime choir member, Mary Lou Gregory, recalls that “One time I heard a popular song that sounded like an old tune, ‘Cielgon’, which Rose played on her French horn. She checked the chords and told me ‘Cielgon’ was the same tune as Melissa Manchester’s ‘Higher Ground’”. It is not surprising that a new organ was installed during the Dempsey’s years at Nativity. And you might check out Father Dempsey’s doctoral dissertation Original Anglican Missions in the Inland Northwest—a copy exists in the church library.

In the 1990’s, the Normal Hill Apartments were built as retirement apartments on 8th Street and the columbarium with vaults for urns and an outdoor altar was constructed near the bell tower. In a Tribune article on the columbarium, Father Dempsey was quoted as saying, “People are dying to get there. “

Mary Lou tells of Father Mark Butler starting Compline services on Saturday evenings. “The group
met in the choir pews and sang old hymns, praise music, songs from camp and retreats, and even Christian hard rock accompanied by guitar as well as piano. We ended each session praying for a peaceful night...” You see, this was in 2003 when the space ship Columbia was destroyed with all its astronauts.

Today’s Father Bill Caradine, now retired, but not retiring, served as interim during the search for our current priest. Father Bill continues to grace our parish and occasionally brings us the Sunday sermon. He served in parish ministry in Alabama for over 20 years, after which he was the Executive of the Presiding Bishop’s Fund for World Relief of the Episcopal Church at the Episcopal Church Center, New York, New York. He and Fran participate regularly in parish life and celebrations. Yes, we are in the middle of a big one— the 150th year finale. We hear there is a commerative song in the cradle—that is, a Christmas song being written by the congregation with the guidance of Sara and Anna Marie. So we look forward to continuing the year of celebration. Happy Birthday Nativity—born under a tree on Christmas in 1864.

There are no footnotes this month. All materials can be found in Nativity archives.


- Deloris Jungert Davisson and Margaret Cole 2015


More on Father William A. Gilbert, 1941-45

Digging through archives, a story of Father Gilbert’s retirement in Ventura, California at age 65, came to light. Before coming to Nativity, William A. “Hap” Gilbert had quite a career: Shakespearean actor in 1929 at the Boston Shakespearean Repertory Theatre, played on stage from Toronto to London to Montreal. In the 1930’s he went to Hollywood, a venture that lasted only two months: “I took in the situation...I can take wine, women and song but I couldn’t take Hollywood.” So he entered Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto to study theology and did missionary work in the lumber camps during this time. (1)

In 1933 he was a track star and Canadian fashion model. Then he went on to become a “bush” preacher north of the 53rd parallel in Manitoba. “It was “Hap” Gilbert’s first stage in a new career; he played it for nearly four years and had about 2,000 whites, mostly prospectors and trappers and many Indians as his ”audience.” (2) After being offered a chaplaincy on the RMS Franconia, he spent five months sailing around the world—he spent his 33rd birthday in Peking, China.

From China, Gilbert was accepted to the post of canon in Charge of Christian Education at the Cathedral of St. John, Spokane. From Spokane, he came to Nativity. He served at Nativity until 1945 then on to Walla Walla where he “came face–to–face with what was to become his life-long concern, ministry to the incarcerated and penal reform—a ministry that absorbed him for 19 years. He retired at 65 after 36 years in full time ministry. The newspaper, Ventura County Star-Free Press, reported the following on his retirement: “Besides, the stereotyped characteristics of a retiree just wouldn’t fit Bill Gilbert: one-time stage and motion picture actor, world traveler, outstanding collegiate athlete and class leader, budding journalist, ranch hand, lumberman, the city fashion model –and priest. (3)

A man of many talents, relationships evidently came easy, maybe THAT was why he graced our wild-west town of Lewiston so easily—Father Gilbert, we salute you!

Then there was Rev. Frederick Belton from 1946 to 1951. We discussed his building program earlier. Recall, he oversaw building expansion for basement areas useful for education and hospitality. It was under his direction that a new rectory was built. Do all of you parishioners know about all the many rooms in our church? Downstairs, library, kitchen, food pantry distribution, rummage and “history” room?

I haven’t run across any “stories” like “Hap” Gilbert’s in the archives about Fr. Belton, and I HAVE asked several parishioners for stories--know that history is from the bottom up, not just from the top down.

Stories tell us about relationship we have with each other and with parish leadership. This summer, with our Forum leaders, Tyler Richards and Liz Embler, we have been telling our stories, building relationships with those in our parish, and improving our prayer life. My request (dare I say prayer?) for historical stories was answered by Mary Lou Gregory. She wrote down several stories of former priests. Here is her first story about answers to prayer. (She has more.)

Mary Lou’s story concerns Rev. Charles May, our ”Centennial priest.” (Today’s history is indebted to the Centennial Committee for much of our history.) Father May relayed a story about answers to prayers. “ He said he wasn’t much of a cat lover, but he had neighbor children who were very fond of their pet kitten. One day they knocked on his door and asked him if he’d seen their kitten. They asked him to pray that they would find it. Fr. May recounted that he prayed for the children’s faith not to be harmed, because he knew sometimes a missing pet episode can end sadly...Later that day there was another knock on the door. “Fr. May”, the children exclaimed excitedly, “we found our kitten in YOUR TREE.” More coming from Mary Lou’s treasure trove.

There must be more of YOUR stories about our parish life? We have lists of our “historical” rectors: Rev. Dean served from 1951 through 1956 when he was transferred to Ritzville. Mr. H.E. Caudell, locum tenums, served from 1956-59 with Rev. William Greenfield, 1956-59—who, history tells us, found the church in financial trouble in 1956—to be rescued by an unnamed commercial firm. (4) Then there was Fr. Stretch, R. Scott Dills 1968-70, and Charles W. May, 1970—the Centennial priest!

Be sure to come hear Lewiston’s acclaimed historian, Steven Branting, on Tuesday September 29, 2015 at 7:00 for our second history lecture celebrating Nativity’s 150 years in Lewiston. He will tell stories about early Lewiston and relate that to the early churches in Lewiston—highlighting history through Rev. Dr. Sommerville’s tenure. I guess we will call it: “Celebrating Early Lewiston—Early Nativity”. Steve’s new book about Lewiston may be here from the publishers for the presentation. His books are collectables.

To quote Tyler Richards: “Idaho is a place that is more than potatoes.”

Below: Father William A. “Hap” Gilbert Summer Forum with Mary Lou Gregory’s family Tyler Richards and Liz Embler

End Notes:


  1. The Ventura County Star-Free Press Sunday, September 21, 1969.

  2. Ibid.

  3. Ibid.

  4. Jennings, John Richard The History of the Episcopal Church of the Nativity p 9 undated. 5 Richards, Tyler and Embler, Liz “Parish Profile” Nativity archives 2015

Works cited:

Jennings, John Richard The History of the Episcopal Church of the Nativity p 9 undated. Richards, Tyler and Embler, Liz “Parish Profile” church archives 2015.
The Ventura County Star-Free Press Sunday, September 21, 1969.


- Deloris Jungert Davisson and Margaret Cole 2015


Answering the Call, 150 Years and Counting...

150 years ago, Nativity was born to answer the call for an Episcopal presence in the 19th century RAG TOWN called Lewiston, Idaho. One hundred years later our priest, Gretchen M. Rehberg, was born-- a cradle Episcopalian. From the beginning, she knew she would answer the “call” to be a priest, but first, she had to fill her plate with life experience. Many references to Gretchen M. Rehberg in Google attest to the beginning of that life experience. Check it out—be sure there is an “M.” as middle initial.

Growing up on the rural Palouse, one day Gretchen and her father were tearing the shingles off a barn. Gretchen expressed fear in the endeavor. “Deal with it,” her father instructed. That model served her well, when later she was an EMT, a fire-fighter, and in triage during the 9-11 crisis at the World Trade Center.

Life experience included getting doctorates in chemistry—and theology, teaching at Bucknell University, living and teaching abroad, serving in New York and finally answering the call to come to Lewiston —a latter-day Rag Town that was in need of some “dealing with it”—and there has been a lot to deal with!

The last ten years, under Gretchen’s passion for Christian formation and teaching, she had led the parish to encounter God in worship and in community service. She has experienced a life-threatening wound to her breath, but not to her spirit. Today Nativity offers two Sunday morning services, one Wednesday morning and often Compline service. Nativity feeds body, mind and spirit, Salvation Army lunches, Snake River Clinic (where Gretchen sits on the Board,) six or seven days a month distributes Idaho Food Pantry to area people. Nativity works with Family Promise, planning for housing the homeless, and feeding over 60 persons at each Saturday Supper, twice a month. Nativity hosts Lenten noon luncheon and study for the community prior to Easter. Gretchen leads a regular Tuesday evening supper and video discussion. Nativity hosts an ecumenical Tuesday Book Study group, knitting on Thursday, Bible study and Sunday book study and has excellent musical events and choir, as well as an occasional afternoon of movies and popcorn!

Nativity’s face to the world is open, loving, and caring—all are welcome in this place. We come in to study, pray, worship, meditate, walk the Labyrinth, drink coffee and sometimes horse around. We celebrate the three legs of the Episcopal Church and our Christian roots: Roman Catholicism, our heritage from the Protestant Reformation and yes, the Celtic connectedness to creation. We seek deep relationship to all life; one doesn’t have to go to a different religion to find God, the Episcopal Church celebrates all paths to God. The liturgy literally feeds body, mind and spirit—every Sunday we take in Christ, share the bread and the wine to experience at-one-ness, atonement. We practice in-reach as well as out-reach--with intentionality.

We are all members of the body of Christ, sometimes fearing, sometimes serving, sometimes receiving. The parish, as well as our beloved priest, becomes pallet carriers; and sometimes we accept that we are beingcarriedonthepallet. AsinLuke:“Andwhentheycouldnotfindbywhatwaytheymightbringhimin because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus.” --Luke 5: 19 KJV

So as this last month of our 150 years of celebration closes with lights, music and the incarnation of Jesus in the manger – under a Christmas tree, we hear the words of the angels: “On the night of the Lord's birth, when the angel appeared to the shepherds, they were "sore afraid." And the angel said unto them: "Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:10-11 KJV “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10. KJV

We celebrate yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And here’s to the next 150 years and to our beloved priest, Gretchen and her ten years and counting...

--Deloris Jungert Davisson and Margaret Cole 2015

Screen Shot 2021-02-19 at 11.56.13

Dr. Gretchen M. Rehberg

and Lena

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Episcopal Church of the Nativity

150 Years in Lewiston 2015


An Outstanding Landmark in Lewiston, ID

Lewiston Idaho: 1890’s – Lewiston Idaho 2016


In 1860, Elias D. Pierce discovered gold on Oro-fino Creek. The Rush that followed helped create Idaho Territory in 1863 with Lewiston becoming the first Territorial Capital.

On the banks of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers a motley “Rag Town” grew up, a new treaty had to be constructed as it was on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation under the Treaty of 1855. The miners prospected for gold and the merchants who followed found gold in supplying miners, later the mills, and the farmers.

As the miners and merchants came to Lewiston, missionaries followed—not like the early groups of missionaries to the Nez Perce, but missions serving the people in the newly established town, among them the Episcopalians.

The congregation, established in 1864 has lasted for over 150 years. In 1881, the church acquired building property at 411 D Street, but the parishioners objected to the downtown location. John Vollmer, merchant and communicant of the Church of the Nativity took the downtown lot in exchange for a lot he owned at 11th and F Street. On that lot, a lovely Carpenter Gothic structure was built. That church, pictured below, is the same church that was built in 1890 and moved up Normal Hill in 1919--1920. There was a Celtic cross atop the bell tower.

A comparison between views of the original church structure and today’s structure, shows several modifications:

Notice: the bell tower which was taken off for transporting the structure up Normal Hill.

Notice: Addition of transepts and entrances on south.

Notice: Bell tower replaced in columbarium below.

Notice: Celtic cross placement below.

Notice: change in roofing materials from 1990’s to today.

The original stained-glass windows today commemorate the early parishioners.


Feeding Body, Mind, and Spirit