Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In Lenora, Minnesota: An historic stone church October 10, 2013

STUDYING THE BOOK OF PROVERBS the other evening with my bible study group, the discussion turned to the value of wisdom over silver, gold and rubies.

We all agreed that we’d rather have godly wisdom than wealth.

And then the talk somehow sidetracked to churches and whether monies spent to build ornate structures would better be used to serve the missions of the church. Eventually we concurred that, when done for the right reasons—to honor God, a physically beautiful sanctuary is God-pleasing.

The Cathedral of Saint Paul. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

The Cathedral of Saint Paul. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

The exterior of the 1865 Lenora United Methodist Church. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo from October 2012.

The exterior of the 1865 Lenora United Methodist Church. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo from October 2012.

I’ve been inside both, from the sprawling and ornate Cathedral of Saint Paul in St. Paul to the simple plainness of a country church with handcrafted pews.

Jeremiah Fowler Stevens built and donated the pews.

Jeremiah Fowler Stevens built and donated the pews in the Lenora church.

Like the pews in the Lenora United Methodist Church, the oldest church in Fillmore County in southeastern Minnesota. The congregation was established in 1856 by a pioneer circuit rider who led camp meetings there boasting attendance of 2,000 plus souls. The church closed in the late 1920s (as Lenora was bypassed by the railroad and dwindled in population) and today is open for special events and concerts and the occasional worship service.

Looking from the front toward the back of the church.

Looking from the front toward the back of the church.

The bible study exchange and the mention of the historic Lenora church by bible study member Jeff, who recently visited this church with wife Mandy, reminded me of my visit there a year ago and that I needed to share those photos here.

When I went online to research the church in preparing this post, I discovered that Brad Boice, an award-winning Elvis impersonator, will present inspirational and uplifting music along with his wife, JulAnn, from 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. this Sunday, October 13, at the Lenora church.

A simple touch of lanterns upon windowsills of the church.

A simple touch of lanterns upon windowsills of the church.

Now if there’s anyone who’s glitzy silver and gold and rubies rhinestones, it would be Elvis.

Brad Boice may be all that when impersonating the famous 50s singer. But he’s also a man of faith as evidenced in this online quote:

I thank Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, for my family, friends and the talents that He has given me. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that God would take me to the places that He has.

Another view of the historic church.

Another view of the historic Lenora church.

Sunday afternoon that place will be inside the Lenora church along Fillmore County Road 23 in Lenora (near Canton).

Don’t expect silver or gold, rubies or rhinestones. Instead, expect inspirational spiritual songs within the confines of a simplistic house of worship on the National Register of Historic Buildings.

The rustic Lenora church doors.

The rustic Lenora church doors.

FYI: Click here to learn more about Lenora United Methodist Church.

And click here to learn more about Elvis impersonator Brad Boice.

Watch for a post tomorrow from Lenora, in which I introduce you to Fannie Miller.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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24 Responses to “In Lenora, Minnesota: An historic stone church”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Love the rustic old country church as much as the ornate “downtown” church. They both have their charm, don’t they? Have you ever been to The Little Brown Church in the Vale? That would be another fun place for you to go. We stopped there a few years back and it was a really sweet place. I wrote about it on my blog (it doesn’t come up too well since the format got all wacky when we changed from Blogger to WordPress but the pics and words are still there) and even got a comment at the time from the pastor who was currently assigned there. We have friends whose son got married there. It is a pretty neat place with so much history. Thanks for sharing your pics today !

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      You’re right. Both styles of churches possess their own appeal and I’ve enjoyed visiting both types.

      No, I’ve never seen The Little Brown Church in the Vale, but am certainly familiar with it. I think we need to explore our neighboring state to the south more.

  2. Mere Frost Says:

    Beautiful! However…in my mind….you can worship anywhere. In a garden, in the fields, on the water, or in your own home. God is everywhere and all he wants is to hear from you! Honoring the lord is the key. In our hearts!
    I do love historical architecture and cannot deny how extraodinary the two styles are! I love simplicity personally. So the rustic old country church is more to my liking.

    One of my favorite quotes –

    The best place to find God is in a garden. You can dig for him there.
    George Bernard Shaw

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      You are right. We can worship God anywhere. And we should.

      I am more of an historic country church kind of girl, too, but do enjoy viewing the more ornate houses of worship also.

      • Mere Frost Says:

        I enjoy them all for their architectural significance as well. Amazing works of design and structure!

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        I know. You wonder sometimes how these great cathedral type churches were ever built.

  3. John Says:

    Audrey,
    An inspirational post in the midst of all this political bickering.

    In response to your Bible Study discussion of whether churches should spend money on ornate structures or missions for the poor, in spiritual matters the answer isn’t usually ” either-or”, it is ” yes and…” The church does need to help the poor and we also need to nourish and feed our own. While it is true we have built churches and peristyles without number, we have also built a lot of schools and hospitals all over the world.

    Yes, you should visit the Little Brown Church in the Vale at Nashau, Iowa, it is open every day and has a website, there are many others in northeast Iowa you should visit also.

    I wish I lived closer to Fillmore County, MN as I’d love to see the church and attend the concert.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Those are some good insights into our discussion. We did talk about how these congregations, which build ornate structures, also serve the poor in ways like you mentioned. A balance is needed with the proper focus.

  4. The only time I was in the cathedral in St. Paul we had to high tail it out in a hurry. Turns out there was a funeral going on. Now every time we see the cathedral (or think of it), Colin and I say, “They have funerals in that church.” We were newly weds, and the memory is a fun one. Hopefully we didn’t interrupt the funeral too badly – though the entrance is at the side of the FRONT of the cathedral!

  5. Jackie Says:

    I Love the Lenora church and have been there many times, but never for the occasional service that may be held there. I would love to go to one of there services closer to Thanksgiving/Christmas, and some day I shall! We will have the Grands this Sunday but i think it would have been fun to go see Brad.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I thought of you when I wrote this post, Jackie, remembering your visit to Lenora with your dad. It would be a beautiful time of year to visit the church with the fall colors.

  6. What a Beautiful Church – loving your captures!!!

  7. Thread crazy Says:

    Yes, I’ll have to agree that there are churches across the country where more money has been spent on architectural effects and one can only imagine what that money could have done for the homeless and poor. Then I think ok, maybe it takes both types of churches to reach different types of folks…only God knows. Love the old churches as they have such a special feeling.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I think it does take both types of churches… Thanks for stopping by to comment. I always love the insight my readers give.

  8. Bill and Kathy Raine Says:

    My wife and I “stumbled” onto the Lenora Church one day while “cruising” Amish country. We fell in love with the church and have visited many times. Our favorite time was a Christmas service – the ground was covered with freshly fallen snow, the wood stove was cranking out heat, the oil lanterns gave just the right light, there was frost on the windows, and the service wonderful – – it was like living a fairy tale!

  9. Pat Says:

    In your research did you find anything about the gathering of all the residents there in 1862 when the Dakota were attacking towns and farms in the area? One of the most noted attacks was on New Ulm, a neighboring town.

    • It’s interesting that you should mention this, Pat. On Sunday a friend, who has visited the Lenora church, told me the exact same thing you wrote here, that settlers sought shelter from the Dakota within the walls of this church. New Ulm is actually quite a ways from Lenora.


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