Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Celebrating history and heritage at Christdala Church September 30, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:45 AM
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Christdala's 1880 altar and pulpit join at the front of the Swedish Lutheran church.

THEY COULD NOT HAVE KNOWN, but a hymn they/someone chose for the annual church celebration happened to be my favorite.

Beautiful Savior, King of creation,

Son of God and Son of Man!

Truly I’d love thee, truly I’d serve thee,

Light of my soul, my joy, my crown.

And so I sang, in verse two of fair meadows. Verse three, of bright the sparkling stars on high. And the final verse—glory and honor, praise, adoration.

Only occasionally did I glimpse at the service program, at the words I’d memorized in childhood, sung decades later at my wedding. Beautiful Savior.

Everything about Sunday afternoon at Christdala Evangelical Swedish Lutheran Church in rural Millersburg was beautiful. Sunshine. The pure, clear voice of the soloist singing of saints gathering at the beautiful river. The wisps of steam rising from a percolating coffee pot that I glimpsed through a church window while sitting in a front pew. Art on the lawn by my friend Rhody Yule.

On this September day, descendants of the Gustafsons and other Swedish immigrants who founded this church in 1877 gathered to celebrate their heritage and the 1878 Gothic Revival style wood-frame church that has been preserved.

Voices raised together in song, accompanied by the 1886 pump organ, the church’s second organ. Heads tilted to hear the pastor speak: “Jesus is all about setting us free. Today you are set free.”

The clunk of wood as worshipers settled into pews. Bread dipped into wine. Bowed heads and box elder bugs.

And outside, on the lawn, ham sandwiches and lefse and cake in a lunch spread out on tables, in an open stretch of grass between gravestones.

Hugs exchanged. Here, atop a hill, they gathered—friends and family—to worship, to honor the Swedish immigrants who established this congregation, Christdala, Christ’s Valley.

Communion ware at Christdala and a memorial inscription on the altar cross.

Christdala's baptismal font

Numbers on the hymn board mark the celebration date, September 26, 2010.

Hymn board numbers are worn from years of use, reflecting the long history of this church.

Restoration and preservation of Christdala was detailed, right down to matching the replacement carpet, left in photo, to the original framed carpet sample at the right.

Reminders of the Swedish heritage rest atop a cupboard in a corner of the sanctuary.

All of the windows in Christdala are tipped in blue and yellow, the colors of the Swedish flag. This shows the front door opening south to an archway that frames the valley below.

Inside the entry of Christdala, fresh fall flowers sit next to a print of Christ, the Good Shepherd.

The front doors of Christdala open to reveal a painting of the church hanging inside the entry.

Christdala Swedish Lutheran Church sits atop a hill along Rice County Road 1 west of Millersburg.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


6 Responses to “Celebrating history and heritage at Christdala Church”

  1. sartenada Says:

    Hi Audrey.

    That is very beautiful church. I love Your photos and most of all I like that one showing altar and pulpit.

    Thank Your for Your post.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Sartenada, thanks for visiting Minnesota Prairie Roots from Finland and for your comments re. my Christdala post. I find the pulpit, located behind the altar at this church, quite interesting. Several steps wind up to the altar. Certainly, this design saves space in a rather small church. But I’m wondering, is this a common design in Swedish churches?

      • sartenada Says:

        Thank You Audray.

        I have to confess, that am not the one to answer to Your question. I have visited in my life only in few Swedish churches. All being beautiful. Finland and Sweden are neighbors and having long same history, so there is not so much differences between our churches and from Sweden.

        Sweden is more wealthy than Finland and that is why our churches are more “poor looking”. By now I have photographed about 380 churches in Finland and I like most of all old wooden churches. Of course we have medieval stone churches, but they are not so cozy and warm than old wooden churches.

        If You are interested to see some of our wooden churches, then look at my posts (6 photos), check my blog:


      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Readers, you must check out Sartenada’s church photos. These are simply so well-done. I am especially struck by the starkness of the walls and pews balanced by items like a gilded mirror, ornate altars, chandeliers and suspended boat models. So interesting and different from the country churches I’ve toured in Minnesota.

        Thank you for sharing. I could have a heyday in Finland photographing churches. Sartenada, that you’ve photographed hundreds is beyond impressive.

  2. Susan Says:


    These photos are beautiful. Thank you for posting them. My great great grandfather built this church. He was one of the 13 founders, AP Johnson. My mother and I were planning a trip to Millersburg this fall to see the old homestead. Do you happen to know if they still hold regular services, or was this a special occasion?

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Susan, thank you. I enjoy photographing old country churches, so you will find many of them featured on Minnesota Prairie Roots.

      As far as Christdala, it is open for an annual September church service, which, I believe, will be this year on Sunday, September 25. But please confirm that via the website at christdala.com. The service date is not yet listed there, but you will find a contact source. Otherwise the church is open only for special occasions, like a wedding. However, I bet you could find a willing preservation society member who would unlock the door if you and your mother want to get inside. The former Millersburg School is also open following the annual worship service. I’m sure you would be interested in seeing that, too, since it’s not a museum with photos and items of interest from the area.

      I published a number of posts about Christdala, so if you have not read all of them, return to my archives and type Christdala church into the search engine. Enjoy. Your great great grandfather did a fine job of helping to build this lovely little church.

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