Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A creative contest to celebrate a church anniversary June 21, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:10 AM
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EVERY YEAR FOR AS LONG as I can remember, the Faribault Daily News has sponsored a “Lord of the Things” contest during our community’s annual Heritage Days celebration. A photographer photographs snippets of items—maybe a sign, a decorative cornice on an old building—to be published in the newspaper. Entrants then identify the objects and their public locations.

Recently I adapted that idea for a 140th anniversary celebration at my church, Trinity Lutheran in Faribault. Wanting a scriptural theme, I pegged the contest “SEEK & FIND,” based on Matthew 7:7: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

I photographed half of Jesus' face in a stained glass window as a focal point for a posterboard displaying 4 x 6-inch contest photos.

I aimed to provide a fun family activity, to increase worshipers’ awareness of their church surroundings, to focus on church history and to get people to our 140th anniversary reception. All of those goals were achieved in a process that began months ago.

Back in April, before anyone knew I was planning this activity, I roamed the church campus photographing perhaps two dozen items, which I narrowed down to 14. I discovered, then, that I’ve not even noticed some of what surrounds me.

How long has that painting of Christ, gazing at a baby, hung above the drinking fountain?

How long has “Trinity Lutheran School” been chiseled in granite?

Why have I not seen that angel in the stained glass window until today?

This contest, I determined, could present a challenge to those who entered. I was right.

Dennis, one of the contest winners, shares with me on Sunday—the day SEEK & FIND winners’ names were posted at the anniversary reception—that he puzzled over a single photo. “I thought it was a window,” Dennis tells me, explaining how he searched for 45 minutes. But his story takes a humorous twist. After informing his wife, Pat, that he can’t identify the geometric pattern, she instructs him to look down. Dennis is standing on the elusive tile floor in the photograph.

That entertaining story makes all of the time and energy I invested in this contest worth the effort. But so does the story from Marilyn, who brought her three grandchildren to church—twice—to ferret out the photographed objects. The first time, a carpet cleaning crew kept the group from entering the sanctuary. The second time, they tread quietly within the church as a musician tuned a piano.

Then you have Lee and Laurel, who began hunting for the photographed items after the late church service one Sunday. With the clock ticking toward noon and morning worship volunteers wanting to go home, the couple finally had to give up and leave, or be locked inside the church.

Such stories amuse, and please, me.

I would have been even more pleased had more people entered the contest. Only 31 entries in the two divisions—adult and youth—were submitted. I expected three times that many, especially after publicizing the competition in church newsletters and bulletins, via word-of-mouth, by e-mail, via announcements and by handing entry sheets directly to church members.

But…, I tried. And I am confident that the 17 entrants who won are quite pleased with prizes that included homemade pies from the Trinity Pie-makers, gorgeous lily bouquets from Virgil and Jane’s garden, Ryan and Sara’s homemade maple syrup, Roy’s handcrafted fretwork cross, gift certificates to local businesses, and more.

I’m not discouraged by the lack of response, only disappointed.

But I’m also encouraged. Already, one contestant has asked: “Are you going to do this again next year?”

Uh, no, but maybe in 10 years, when Trinity celebrates its 150th anniversary.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling