Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A shuttered church March 26, 2015

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Church in West Concord, close-up

 

EVERY TIME I SEE an aged church like this shuttered, I am saddened.

Part of that discontent stems from the loss of the old wood-frame church I attended while growing up. It was replaced in the early 1970s by a brick building on the edge of Vesta in southwestern Minnesota.

The “new” church is more practical with no steep steps, everything on one level and more usable space. But it lacks the character of an ornate altar, a balcony, a pulpit looming above the congregation, aged pews, the history of generations worshiping under a roof raised by great grandparents.

Mostly, it lacks memories—of tinseled towering evergreens, singing “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” every Easter, sweeping snow from overboots, men’s hats pegged on hooks in the entry, lining up on the basement steps on Christmas Eve, unwrapping wax paper wrapped sandwiches on the side church steps during Vacation Bible School, kneeling before the congregation in my white dress and white shoes for a blessing on my Confirmation Day…

 

Church in West Concord, minus steeple

 

What memories does this former church in West Concord hold? And why is it no longer a house of worship? Did membership decline/grow to the point that the doors were closed? Did upkeep and maintenance costs become unaffordable?

It appears the church has been repurposed as a home or perhaps apartments. Just like St. John’s Lutheran back in my hometown. That’s a better option than the alternative of a final amen.

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Check back next week for a series of stories about the brick building on the right in these two photos. It’s West Concord’s treasure.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling