Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In celebration of country churches June 26, 2013

Fine craftsmanship defines the sanctuary.

Fine craftsmanship defines the sanctuary.

STEP INSIDE AN AGED COUNTRY CHURCH anywhere and you will be drawn in by the history, the craftsmanship, the holiness of a house dedicated to God and the fellowship of the faithful.

A poster board with photos and well wishes stands in the church entry.

A poster board with photos and well wishes stands in the Moland Lutheran Church entry.

You need only pause and look, really look, to see the care, the love, the devotion, which fill such a sacred place.

Moland features architecture common in country churches.

Moland features architecture common in country churches.

Join me on a photographic tour of Moland Lutheran Church, 7618 Northeast 84th Avenue, rural Kenyon, Minnesota. The church, built by Norwegians in 1884, still holds Sunday morning worship services, currently led by the Rev. Nancy Edwardson.

Worship service is at 9 a.m. on Sunday.

Worship service is at 9 a.m. on Sunday. These photos were taken during the congregation’s June 23 strawberry festival.

From 25-30 worshipers fill the pews each week. And if that number seems too few to keep these doors open, do not underestimate the strength of a congregation rooted deep in this place, connected to this church building, this spot of land in rural Minnesota.

A verse from Matthew graces the altar.

A verse from Matthew graces the altar.

A full view of the altar painting done by A. Pederson and based on Matthew 28 - 30.

A full view of the altar painting done by A. Pederson and based on Matthew 28 – 30.

One can only imagine how many faithful kneeled at this altar railing.

One can only imagine how many faithful have knelt at this altar railing.

Or how many pastors have occupied this chair.

Or how many pastors have occupied this chair.

Stunning stained glass windows grace the sanctuary.

Stunning stained glass windows grace the sanctuary.

Suspended from the ceiling is this incredible historic light fixture.

Suspended from the ceiling is this incredible historic light fixture.

Stats, posted in a corner behind the organ at the front of the church.

Stats, posted in a corner behind the organ at the front of the church.

And more stats posted on paper just outside the sanctuary.

And more stats posted on paper just outside the sanctuary.

And, on the edge of the church property, this sense of community.

And, on the edge of the church property, this sense of community.

TO VIEW A PREVIOUS post about Moland Lutheran, click here. And then click here for another post.

To view my post about the Moland Lutheran Strawberry Festival, click here.

Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

27 Responses to “In celebration of country churches”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Ah….how often have I seen those Register of Attendance and Offering boards in my lifetime! My dad always felt called to be in the rural churches because he believed that they often got ignored by pastors who were on the “move up” in the church structure. I grew up in those small churches and felt the love and family feel from many who were very influential in childhood. My dad even had a charge with 5 churches at one time!!! Now that is a lot of responsibility and work! I always loved that about my dad that he felt called to be in ministry with those who often got ignored by others. Lovely photos of Moland Lutheran!!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      What a blessed child you were to grow up in country parishes.

      I cannot imagine your dad pastoring five churches. That is a lot for one man. Hopefully they were not too far apart and shared services.

      • Beth Ann Says:

        It was a pretty great childhood with a lot of love, that is for sure. That is why going to Lakeside every year is so important to me. Although many of his colleagues that I knew growing up are in ill health or in the church triumphant now it still is a place of great reunion and family. The churches alternated services many times and they were fairly close in country terms. 🙂

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        So blessed. And I’m sure the congregants felt equally blessed by your family if the rest of your family is/was anything like you.

  2. Amy Says:

    I love country churches. I have to admit to disliking most of the churches in my suburb–they’re big warehouse-y contemporary structures with little beauty. Give me a traditional church building any day.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I am totally with you on that, Amy. Fortunatelyn when the church I attend built a new church, they incorporated a lot of “stuff” (stained glass windows, baptismal font, etc.) into the new construction. Even so, the new and much larger church does not have the same intimate and historical feel as the old one.

      Readers, check out Amy’s “church project,” in which she photographs Minnesota churches, at this link: http://knitthink.typepad.com/flyoverland/church-project/

  3. This is very similar to the church my brother-in-law and his wife got married in. I can’t remember the name of it, but it was a tiny church in rural Wisconsin, near Oconomowoc where my husband’s family lives. Having grown up Catholic in the Twin Cities, that was my first time inside a rural Lutheran church. I do remember thinking it was absolutely beautiful. During the ceremony, my daughter Abby (who was only a year-and-a-half old) decided to sing along with the soloist.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I have found that most country churches tend to be Lutheran and I really don’t know why. There’s something about their simple style, though, that so appeals to me.

      At least Abby wasn’t crying.

  4. Loving your captures – thanks so much for sharing too:) I still reflect back on the Catholic church in Veseli, MN with its hand craved wood alter – just breathtaking. There is just something about an older church for me that calls to me and invites me in to sit and reflect. The church my grandfather built where he renewed his vows to the one he loves at 65 years married and where both of them had their funerals no longer exists – makes me a little sad. I just felt the love in that church, the family and most of all the memories. Have a Great Day!

  5. treadlemusic Says:

    That light fixture is magnificent! Looking at the photos got me to wondering about all the people who’s lives centered on that little structure, the sacrifices made to build it, those who sought solace in life’s severe trials and the sounds of joy at the marriage celebrations. If only the walls could speak………I am in love with this series!

  6. Jackie Says:

    I simply love old country churches, they are always so beautiful with actual wood pews and stain glass windows and real hymnals. Rick and occasionally stop at the old churches when we are gone on our overnight road trips, I’m always pleased with the reception we get from the members of these small congregations. The last one we attended we counted 30.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Ditto: Love old country churches.

      What a great idea to attend worship services in these small churches whenever you’re traveling.

  7. hotlyspiced Says:

    I love old churches too and whenever we go to country towns we always have a look at the local church. The stained glass window of the ascension is stunning as is the unusual but very special light fitting. It’s a shame more people don’t attend the services xx

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I expect at one time these pews were full. But, like nearly everywhere, fewer people are attending church.

      This entire building is simply stunning. There’even an overflow wing to the side of the sanctuary.

  8. For a few years after he was retired, my dad pastored at a tiny country church in WI. And yes, attendance levels were similar to those you photographed! It’s a situation where the denomination wants the church to close but the old people in it want to die and be buried there – which I can understand. it’s a hard call, though…


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