Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The sacred art of Holy Week & of Easter April 21, 2019

Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane shortly before his crucifixion. I photographed this window at Vang Lutheran Church, rural Dennison. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

IN MY YEARS of photographing churches, most in rural Minnesota, I’ve grown to appreciate stained glass windows. They prevail in country churches.

 

Jesus’ crucifixion as depicted in a stained glass window inside Holden Lutheran Church, rural Kenyon, Minnesota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

All tell stories, most biblical. I admire this visual art, this way of sharing scripture and faith that connects beyond words.

 

The beautiful sanctuary of Holden Lutheran Church, filled with stained glass windows. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

As sunlight streams through the colored pieces of glass, that bold beauty causes eyes to land on the art, to focus on whatever the artist has chosen to depict. Holiness. Reverence. Hope. Eternal life.

 

The women and angel outside the empty tomb on the risen Lord as interpreted on a stained glass window in Holden Lutheran Church, rural Kenyon. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I sorted through my photo files selecting specific stained glass window images that portray today. Easter.

 

This shows a snippet of the center stained glass window in a trio above the altar at Trinity Lutheran Church, Wanamingo, Minnesota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

May you see in these stained glass art photos the story of Holy Week and the reason I celebrate Easter—the resurrection of Christ.

 

A photo of Christ’s face from a stained glass window in my church, Trinity Lutheran, Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

A most blessed and happy Easter to each of you, dear friends.

 

NOTE: As I wrote this post Monday afternoon, I heard breaking news of the devastating fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral. While I’ve never been there, my heart breaks for this loss of a house of worship, for the works of art and history and heritage therein. Such a loss causes me to value even more the stained glass windows of the churches I’ve photographed. 

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Holy Week reflections April 19, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

A crown of thorns (similar to that worn by Jesus on the cross) used in a Stations of the Cross event at my church, Trinity Lutheran, Faribault.

 

FOR CHRISTIANS LIKE ME, Holy Week presents a time of deep reflection as I consider the betrayal, suffering, death by crucifixion, burial and then resurrection of Jesus.

Rather than rewrite what I’ve already written on the topic, I direct you to my post, “Reflecting on Holy Week,” published Tuesday on the Warner Press blog. I work as the blog coordinator and a blogger for this Indiana-based Christian publishing company.

As you read my words, may you, too, reflect on the significance of Holy Week. Sadness mingles with joy as I consider all Christ has done for me.

Click here to read my thoughts as published on the Warner Press blog.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A Holy Week tradition at a rural Minnesota church April 12, 2019

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 NEARLY 60 YEARS NOW, a small country church in southern Minnesota has started Holy Week with a drama centered on Jesus’ disciples and their relationship with him. It is a powerful presentation that never fails to move me, although I’ve seen The Last Supper Drama multiple times.

 

Craig Keller has been the long-time drama organist, playing the same music every year. The script and music remain unchanged in nearly 60 years. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

The original script and music remain unchanged through the decades. Only the actors change, often alternating performance years.

 

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

 

In the darkness of St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, rural Faribault, the 12 disciples seat themselves at a long table fronting the altar. The scene replicates Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper painting, minus Jesus. An empty chair draped in white cloth represents Jesus in the St. John’s version.

 

Judas grips the bag of silver, his reward for betraying Christ. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

The annual Palm Sunday evening event begins Holy Week in a reverent, reflective and worshipful way.

 

 

I am grateful to this rural congregation for this faith gift. This drama focuses my thoughts on Christ as I remember his betrayal, suffering, death, burial and resurrection. Through the voices of those role-playing disciples, I connect on a personal level to these followers of Christ. That makes this drama especially powerful and effective.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Promo from St. John’s Facebook page

 

Rural Faribault church continues 55-year tradition with The Last Supper Drama April 7, 2017

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.

 

AS A WOMAN OF FAITH, I appreciate the opportunity to begin Holy Week in a visually memorable and contemplative way by attending “The Last Supper Drama” at St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township. The drama begins at 8 p.m. on Palm Sunday, April 9, as darkness falls.

For 55 years now, parishioners past and present, playing the roles of Jesus’ disciples, have presented this interpretation of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper painting. Each disciple actor stands and speaks of his personal relationship with Christ. It is moving, powerful and emotional to hear these monologues in the darkness of an aged limestone country church.

 

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

 

While the actors alternate from year to year, the script and music remain unchanged from the original of 1963. There is comfort in that, in tradition, in the unchanging story, in the reverent respect and in the focused spotlight on Christ.

It’s an inspirational way to start Holy Week, in a mindset of contemplation.

 

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.

 

FYI: Click here to see photos and stories from past performances of this drama.

St. John’s UCC is located east of Faribault at 19086 Jacobs Avenue, a county road off Minnesota State Highway 60.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A close-up Journey to the Cross March 29, 2015

Palm branches.

Palm branches.

PALM BRANCHES AND HOSANNAS. For the Christian church, both mark Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week.

Small groups participated in 45-minute tours on "Journey to the Cross."

Small groups participated in 45-minute tours on “Journey to the Cross.”

This morning at the church I attend, Trinity Lutheran in Faribault, Holy Week also began with a “Journey to the Cross” event. I was blessed to be a volunteer in this journey which led attendees through Christ’s final days to his glorious resurrection on Easter.

Participating kids (and some adults) carried passports. At nearly every station, stickers were distributed to place in the passports.

Participating kids (and some adults) carried passports. At nearly every station, stickers were distributed to place in the passports.

With passports in hand, kids and adults traveled from station to station, listening to performers role-play the parts of towns’ people, a temple worker, soldiers, an angel and others.

Participants had their hands washed by volunteers just as Christ washed his disciples' feet .

Participants had their hands washed by volunteers, following the example of Christ washing his disciples’ feet.

But this was about much more than sharing biblical history. This was about hands-on activities that reinforced the spoken word. This was about engaging the senses and experiencing Holy Week.

Matzo, unleavened bread from Jerusalem, was served as reprsentative of food from Jesus' time period.

Matzo, unleavened bread from Jerusalem, was served as representative of food from Jesus’ time period.

And therein lies the strength of “Journey to the Cross.” Participants received palm branches, felt the weight of the 30 silver coins Judas received for betraying Jesus, heard the crack of the whip against Jesus’ back, pounded nails into wood, tasted vinegar like that offered to Christ suffering on the cross, raised their voices in “He is risen!” at the vacant tomb and more.

A volunteer crafted this crow of thorns similar to the one Christ wore on the cross.

A volunteer crafted this crown of thorns similar to the one Christ wore on the cross. Tour participants saw it close up and could touch the crown.

I left with a deeper connection and understanding of what Christ endured. I could hear, see, feel, taste and smell the events of that final week. It was a memorable morning and the perfect contemplative beginning to Holy Week.

THE JOURNEY IN MORE PHOTOS:

Stop #1, Jerusalem on Palm Sunday:

Volunteer Theresa speaks to participants about Jesus' ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

Volunteer Theresa speaks to participants about Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

Stop #2, Judas betrays Jesus for 30 pieces of silver:

Randy, role-playing a temple worker.

Randy, role-playing a temple worker, tells how Judas betrayed Jesus.

Making coin rubbings in passports to remember how Judas betrayed Jesus with 30 pieces of silver.

Making coin rubbings in passports to remember how Judas betrayed Jesus with 30 pieces of silver.

Stop #3, Before the Passover meal on the Thursday of Holy Week, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet:

Actress Diane talks about Jesus gathering with his disciples and washing their feet.

Actress Diane talks about Jesus gathering with his disciples and washing their feet.

Rather than washing feet, hands were washed.

Rather than washing feet, hands were washed.

Stickers were handed out for placement in the passport after hands were washed.

Stickers were distributed for placement in the passport after the hand washing.

Stop #4, Remembering the Passover meal, Jesus’ last meal with his disciples:

Sings marked each station.

Signs marked each station.

Participants could sample various foods such as horseradish, matzo, grape juice and more.

Participants could sample various foods such as horseradish, matzo, grape juice and more.

Grape juice ready to be served.

Grape juice ready to be served.

Stop #5, Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane:

A sign marks the station focusing on prayer.

A sign marks the station focusing on prayer.

Stop #6, Jesus was whipped, beaten and teased:

Volunteer Leann talks about the torture Jesus suffered even prior to his crucifixion.

Volunteer Leann talks about the torture Jesus suffered even prior to his crucifixion.

Wayne played perhaps the most memorable role, that of a soldier whipping Jesus.

Wayne played perhaps the most memorable role, that of a soldier whipping Jesus.

The whip cracked across the floor, toward the mannequin representing Jesus.

The whip cracks across the mannequin representing Jesus.

Stop #7, Christ is crucified on the cross:

The stage was set with a cross, hammer and nails. Participants pounded nails into wood. Christ was nailed to the cross.

The stage was set with a cross, hammer and nails. Participants pounded nails into wood to remember how Christ was nailed to the cross.

This artwork and nails were placed at the base of the cross.

This artwork and nails were placed at the base of the cross.

Stop #8: As Jesus died on the cross, he said he was thirsty. He was given vinegar to drink.  (I don’t have any photos from this station.) Participants could taste vinegar.

A photo of Christ's face from a stained glass window in my church, Trinity Lutheran, Faribault.

A photo of Christ’s face from a stained glass window in Trinity Lutheran, Faribault. This depicts Him after His resurrection.

Stop #9: Jesus’ tomb is found empty on Easter. (I don’t have any photos from this station.) Those on the tour joined the angel and the woman at the gravesite in celebrating Jesus resurrection with these words: He is risen!

Stop #10, The final check-in station allowed participants to talk and write about their experiences:

What a young girl, Jennifer, wrote.

What a young girl, Jennifer, wrote.

FYI: “Journey to the Cross” is available for purchase through Concordia Publishing House. Click here for more information.

It’s described as “an outreach and educational event for your congregation and community. Through activities based on Scripture, participants experience the joy of Palm Sunday, the disappointment of Judas’ betrayal, the devastation of the crucifixion, the jubilation of the resurrection, and so much more. This family program invites children and adults to walk the path that Jesus walked.”

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Minnesota Faces: “The disciples” March 27, 2015

Portraits # 14 & 15: The cast from The Last Supper Drama

The cast of the 2012 The Last Supper Drama poses like the Leonardo da Vinci painting.

The cast of the 2012 The Last Supper Drama poses like the Leonardo da Vinci painting.

For 53 years, St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, rural Faribault, has presented The Last Supper Drama.

It’s a remarkable way to begin Holy Week in the darkness of this aged country church. Here actors portraying Jesus’ disciples gather for the final meal with their Lord in a scene straight from Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of The Last Supper. Only Christ is missing, replaced by an empty chair.

Judas, in the foreground, is about to betray Jesus with 30 pieces of silver. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

Judas, in the foreground, is about to betray Jesus with 30 pieces of silver. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

The drama was penned by long ago pastor, the Rev. Walter Rasche. Only the actors change in the performance that features each disciple speaking about his relationship with Christ.

It is powerful and moving, and a tribute to a congregation which has sustained this Holy Week tradition for more than five decades.

This year’s 53rd drama will be presented at 8 p.m. Sunday, March 29, in the church located at 19086 Jacobs Avenue, which is east of Faribault along Rice County Road 24. Food and fellowship follow.

#

This is part of a series, Minnesota Faces, featured every Friday on Minnesota Prairie Roots.

© Copyright 2015 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