Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Blooming on the prairie March 25, 2012

The former Immanuel church, front, was moved and connected to the Bethel church, back in 1951. The original parish was established in 1857. This photo was taken in the summer of 2011.

WHEN I FIRST SAW this country church last summer south of Morristown, I did a double take. It’s not often you spot two churches merged as one. At least not in the way Bethel and Immanuel became Blooming Grove United Methodist Church in 1951.

Rather than close one church and worship in a single facility, the Methodists opted to actually move one building, Immanuel, nearly four miles east to the Bethel site.

That was quite an event and quite a feat. Maurice Becht remembers in the parish newspaper, The Blooming Grove Methodist Visitor:

I had been helping off and on to get the church ready to move. When it was ready, I was standing off to the side looking when, all of a sudden, the front end of the church went down and the bell tower began to swing like a pendulum. Luckily, they had put a cable from the tower to the other end of the church so it didn’t break off. The front wheels had pulled out from under the church when the bolster slipped. We put it back on wheels and were going around the west side of Wilbert Remund’s buildings when we ran into a soft spot that had to be planked…

Wilbert and Marcella Remund recall:

Lloyd Zerck said that when he got the church moving, it had to be kept going, so Willie put his tractor on. That was just enough to keep it moving…

Eventually Immanuel reached its destination and work then continued to physically join the two buildings. Total project cost was around $16,000 with more than 7,000 hours in donated labor.

Blooming Grove United Methodist Church is located in northeastern Waseca County just off county road 10.

In a poem, “Historic Church in Action,” published in the March 1954 parish newspaper, Albert C. Reineke writes in the fourth verse:

In this alluring and peaceful countryside

Stands “God’s Temple” with towers high,

Two houses of worship now unified.

Sweet memories linger of years gone by.

I have no connection to Blooming Grove United Methodist Church. But I certainly do appreciate country churches and their rich and interesting histories.

"This church with its two steeples is a physical symbol of cooperation, compromise and trust," according to the church website. I photographed the church Saturday afternoon. Even on a hazy March day, Blooming Grove blooms on the prairie. My goal now is to get inside and photograph this church.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling