Obscure liberal theologians of North America: Eveline Kroetsch

First in a series.

Eveline Kroetsch, second cousin of the respected Canadian poet Robert Kroetsch, was born in Cessford, Alberta, on May 2, 1936. As the flat landscape of Alberta’s prairies shaped her cousin’s poetry, so the landscape shaped Kroetsch’s theology. The town of Cessford had never been very large, but it had thrived in the 1920s. In the 1930s, the Depression, locusts, and dust storms cause almost half the population to leave, and as the town shrank it felt increasingly isolated.

Cessford had been settled by Swedes, and some of the older residents still spoke Swedish when Kroetsch was young. The elderly proprietors of the Chinese restaurant in town (no one knew why they had settled in such an isolated place though perhaps they had been laborers working for the railroad) spoke Chinese. Her mother’s mother was a Metis and could still speak Blackfoot with the occasional Siksika who wandered up from the Siksika Indian Reserve, which had been much reduced in area after the federal government gave reserve land to the Canadian Pacific Railway. Her father’s mother spoke mostly German and a little broken English.

She was confirmed in the Anglican Church, although there wasn’t a regular congregation in Cessford. About once a month, a priest would make the fifty mile trip via rail from the church in Hanna, and offer communion to the handful of Anglicans in Cessford. The lack of regular and consistent pastoral supervision may explain why Kroetsch developed such unorthodox views later in her life. But she also seems to have been prone to vaguely mystical experiences. Later in life, Kroetsch talked about visiting the Red Deer River, south of Cessford, to see the carved badlands around the river, and how the sight made her feel at one with God.

After learning that Lydia Gruchy, who, in 1936, was the first woman to be ordained by the United Church of Canada, had attended St. Andrew’s College in Saskatoon, Kroetsch determined to study there. She was sidetracked by an unhappy marriage, which she remained in until her three children were grown. But in 1976, she was finally able to begin her theological studies at St. Andrews. Continue reading “Obscure liberal theologians of North America: Eveline Kroetsch”