Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

For 52 years: A rural Minnesota church prepares for Holy Week with Last Supper Drama April 11, 2014

FOR CHRISTIANS LIKE MYSELF, Holy Week marks a period of reflection and repentance as we remember the final days in the life of Christ before his crucifixion and resurrection.

St. John's members portray the disciples in this undated vintage photo, the first record of a photograph from The Last Supper Drama. Actors, from left to right, are Luverne Hafemeyere, Earl Meese, Vicgtor Luedke, Howard Meese, Virgil Bosshart, Arnold Keller, P.L. Golden, Alvin bosshart, Paul Bauer, Elmer Covert Sr. and Arnold Bauer. Photo courtesy of St. John's.

St. John’s members portray the disciples in this undated vintage photo, the first record of a photograph from “The Last Supper Drama.” Actors, from left to right, are Luverne Hafemeyere, Earl Meese, Vicgtor Luedke, Howard Meese, Virgil Bosshart, Arnold Keller, P.L. Golden, Alvin bosshart, Paul Bauer, Elmer Covert Sr. and Arnold Bauer. Photo courtesy of St. John’s.

For St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, rural Faribault, a presentation of  “The Last Supper Drama” has been a long-standing Holy Week tradition. For 51 years, 52 this April 13, this congregation has presented the drama written by long ago pastor, the Rev. W. Rasche, and based on Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting. It’s truly remarkable that a tradition like this would continue for more than five decades.

Twice, if not thrice, I’ve lost count, I’ve attended this Palm Sunday evening drama at this country church northeast of Faribault.

St. John's 50th presentation of The Last Supper Drama in the sanctuary.

St. John’s 50th presentation of “The Last Supper Drama” in the sanctuary. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

As darkness falls, voices hush, mood-setting music plays and a spotlight shines upon 12 performers role-playing the disciples.

It is a profound performance which presents a personal perspective on the relationships between Jesus and his followers.

I’d encourage you to attend. It’s worth the drive, worth your time.

There’s something about sitting straight-backed in a pew in the darkness of a Palm Sunday evening within the walls of an aged limestone church in the company of believers that comforts me and puts me in the proper meditative mindset for Holy Week. And that reaction is, I expect, exactly as St. John’s intends.

The parking lot at St. John's United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, is nearly full 20 minutes before the congregation's annual performance of The Last Supper Drama.

The parking lot at St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, is nearly full 20 minutes before the congregation’s annual performance of “The Last Supper Drama”. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

FYI: St. John’s is located 10 miles northeast of Faribault. Take Minnesota State Highway 60 east for eight miles and then turn north onto Rice County 24. Drive two miles to 19086 Jacobs Avenue.

The drama begins at 8 p.m. on Sunday, April 13, and is followed by lunch afterward in the fellowship hall.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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12 Responses to “For 52 years: A rural Minnesota church prepares for Holy Week with Last Supper Drama”

  1. Dan Traun Says:

    What a great and long-standing tradition.

  2. treadlemusic Says:

    A wonderful way to begin the special observance week.

  3. Beth Ann Says:

    Our church does the same thing here and Chris actually was in it when we lived in Pennsylvania. It is a very moving drama and one that really gets you into the real spirit of the Christian season, doesn’t it?

    • That’s great to hear, that this is also a tradition in other churches.What role did Chris play? And I didn’t know you lived in Pennsylvania once.

      • Beth Ann Says:

        Chris played John. He just told me he still has his reviews. 🙂 What a nut. Yep—we lived in Monaca for 3 years —–close to Pittsburgh. We had this awesome house we “renovated” and the boys learned to ride bikes there, played their first league basketball and soccer and we have some great memories of that place. Chris worked for Anchor Hocking at the time. Years and years ago!

      • I still have a lot to learn about you and “John.” What wonderful first memories of the boys.

  4. Mike S. Says:

    Interesting tradition! I’ve never heard of a congregation doing this before.

  5. What a Great Tradition! I have never seen anything like that. I thought it was cool as a kid doing the Stations of the Cross. Happy Weekend – thanks for sharing:)


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