Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

“…take this house into your protection” July 5, 2012

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IT HAD BEEN AWHILE, I suppose, since they needed extra hymnbooks at a Sunday morning worship service.

But this past Sunday at my home congregation, St. John’s Lutheran in Vesta, the ushers and elders pulled out and dusted off surplus hymnals before distributing them to worshipers seated in the social hall overflow section.

The last time I saw those hymnbooks, they were stacked on counters in the church kitchen. And the fellowship hall, where I was sitting on a folding chair, was crammed with pews and pew cushions, banners, a dismantled statue of Jesus, and an assortment of items moved there from the sanctuary following a damaging summer storm.

Hymnals were stacked on the kitchen counter after the storm.

The pews and other items from the church were moved into the undamaged social hall.

St. John’s, hours after a July 1, 2011, storm. Photo courtesy of Brian Kletscher.

A year ago, a storm packing 90 – 100 mph winds ripped half the roof from St. John’s sanctuary, leaving the congregation without a permanent home for 10 months. Members worshiped at their sister congregation, Peace Lutheran in nearby Echo, before returning on May 6 to their church in Vesta.

St. John’s, one year after the storm with a new roof and an addition.

However, the dedication of the addition—which includes an office, storage space, handicapped accessible bathroom and enlarged narthex—and rededication of the repaired sanctuary were delayed two months to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the July 1 storm.

Standing inside St. John’s sanctuary in September 2011, I listened to the wind flap the tarp that covered the damaged roof.

A view of the same ceiling/roof area a year later.

On Sunday, I attended the service of prayer and thanksgiving, of dedicating the addition and rededicating the sanctuary “to the glory and the service of the Lord,” according to the Rev. Dale Schliewe.

Worshipers gathered July 1, 2012, in the repaired sanctuary with overflow into the social hall.

Singing words like “Christ is our cornerstone, on him alone we build…built on the rock secure…here is the day’s dedication…,” we celebrated.

It felt good to be there, in my home church, the building in which I was married, the place where I have mourned the deaths of loved ones, the sanctuary where I have celebrated confirmations and baptisms and weddings and many Christmases and Easters.

It was good to be home, to bow my head and fold my hands and pray: “…contine to take this house into your protection… Be with us always to bless, to keep and to save.”


The southern half of the roof was ripped off by high winds and toppled onto the bell tower, which was removed. It was attached to the sides of the entry, as seen in this image from September 2011

Here you see the addition to the south side of the church. Worshipers now enter through south-facing doors.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling