Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:01 AM
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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


10 Responses to ““…take this house into your protection””

  1. ljhlaura Says:

    How lovely to see the building restored … and to read the highly appropriate and reassuring words you sang at its rededication.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Yes, the words we sang were so fitting. And I’m so thankful the storm did not cause even more damage.

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    Love the picture of the hymnals. It is wonderful how all the hard work and prayers made this day possible! Order full when a church family can come together in times of crisis and rebuild!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      These small congregations really do have a way of coming together at a time like this. St. John’s was blessed to have its sister church only eight miles away and the Vesta Community Hall available for Sunday School classes and church meetings.

  3. Jackie Says:

    What a lovely service for you to be able to attend. The church looks great….God is good!

  4. hotlyspiced Says:

    Wow! So you were married there. That’s a long time to be worshiping in the same building. That must have been quite a storm to cause all that damage. Fantastic the building was able to be repaired and you are back worshiping again. The new building looks great. Oh, the church I was married in is a beautiful old Church of England church. It has stained glass windows and a long wide aisle with red carpet. It had beautiful old wooden pews that were ornately carved. Can you believe they recently voted to remove the pews so the building could become more versatile with collapsible chairs that could be removed if necessary. I was furious. What a scandalous and tragic thing to do do a beautiful old building. I’ve had to cross that building off my list for Arabella’s wedding xx

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Yes, I was married in this church, which was built in 1974. Prior to that, while growing up, my family worshiped in an old woodframe church on the other side of town. This current church replaces that one. I miss the old building with its lovely, ornate altar, old pews, etc. My great grandfather was among the founding fathers of St. John’s having held church services in his home before a house of worship was built.

      Trinity Lutheran in Faribault, where I worship now, built a new church, but incorporated many of the beautiful stained glass windows into the new sanctuary.

      The church where you were married sounds absolutely lovely. I totally understand why you are upset by the removal of pews from that church. It will change the entire visual appearance and feel of the sanctuary. It is a tragic change. What is happening with the pews? Don’t tell me they are being junked or auctioned off one-by-one.

      • hotlyspiced Says:

        They were all sold Audrey and for a bargain price too. We wanted to buy some just to have as a memory but they were so long we just couldn’t fit them in our home. Like you say, it’s a real shame because now they’re gone, if there’s ever a change of heart there’s no way they church would ever be able to afford to replace them. And yes, the church has lost all its charm and character and historical significance. Who are these idiots who get such mad ideas in their heads and then end up getting their way! Oh, and the sold the beautiful old manse that was next door to the church and that’s now become a day care centre. I can’t bear to go down that street and look at all the horrific things that have been done in the name of progress xx

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        I was afraid you would tell me that about the pews. I don’t understand it either, this dismissing the historic and calling it progress.

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