Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A family of the faithful at Moland Lutheran Church July 11, 2010

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Moland Lutheran Church, rural Kenyon, Steele County, Minnesota.

IF YOU LOOK BEYOND the pews, the altar, and the stained glass windows, if you listen beyond the music and the sermon and the scripture readings, you will find, within a church, a family.

Here’s what I mean. Recently while photographing an old country church in southeastern Minnesota, I began to notice the personal touches that made me feel welcome, like I had stepped inside someone’s home.

Yes, women greeted me at Moland Lutheran Church during the congregation’s annual Strawberry Festival. But no one showed me around. I simply meandered on my own, with my camera, absorbing my surroundings. And that’s what I prefer.

Perhaps because I’m a writer and a photographer, I take note of my environment more than an ordinary person. I am drawn to that which others might simply pass by.

But rather than try to explain all of this to you, I’ll show you the discoveries I made inside and outside this 1884 Norwegian Lutheran church, the discoveries that led me to a family of the faithful.

I photographed a section of a long photo showing Moland church members gathered for the congregation's 50th anniversary celebration in 1930. The image hangs just outside the nave.

The Henry Underdahl family gifted a memorial stained glass window to the Moland Lutheran Church. Such memorials are a common way to honor family members and their legacy of faith.

I discovered this service roll in the narthex listing congregational members called to serve their country. I found this especially touching. Perhaps congregations should revive this public way of honoring those in the military.

Even after family members have departed this life, their memories are as close as the graves that surround Moland Lutheran. I imagine that many of the early members who filled the pews here also worked the land.

FOR MORE INFORMATION and photos of Moland Lutheran Church, please check my previous posts, “They serve the best food in Minnesota church basements” (posted July 1) and “In praise of preserving country churches” (posted July 7).

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling