Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Minnesota Faces: A church basement gentleman June 26, 2015

Portrait #29: George Derscheid

As a life-long Minnesotan, I appreciate the church basement ladies. You know, the women who labor in service to the Lord by brewing coffee, buttering buns for ham sandwiches, stirring together a hamburger-noodle-cream soup based hotdish for a funeral and more to feed the hungry.

These women are held in such high esteem in our state that musical comedies have been performed about them at the noted Plymouth Playhouse. Devoted followers have delighted in plays such as “The Church Basement Ladies in A Mighty Fortress Is Our Basement” and “The Church Basement Ladies in The Last (Potluck) Supper.”

But what about the men?

They, too, hold roles of importance in Lutheran and other church basements. I’ve attended a lot of church dinners in southeastern Minnesota in recent years and noticed many a man quietly volunteering his time in service to the Lord.

 

Portrait 29, George Derscheid, Moland Lutheran Strawberry Fest 2013

 

Take George Derscheid. I photographed the retired Kenyon area farmer two years ago as he tallied the number of people attending the annual Moland Lutheran Church Strawberry Festival. While on the surface his job may not seem as important as working in the kitchen, it certainly is. Numbers are necessary in food planning. Plus, Lutherans like their stats and reports.

George was more than the numbers guy, though. He was also a smiling face, an unofficial greeter, an engaging man whose whole persona exudes optimism. He simply looks happy. And every Lutheran church basement needs a Lutheran who breaks the mold of stoic and unemotional.

FYI: Moland Lutheran Church, 7618 N.E. 84th Ave., rural Kenyon, celebrates its annual Strawberry Festival from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. this Sunday, June 28. It’s a must-attend event with the following foods available for purchase: pulled pork sandwiches, potato salad, chocolate cake, angel food cake and fresh strawberries, ice cream, coffee and fruit flavored drinks. There’s also a bake sale.

The country church is located southwest of Kenyon or east of Medford or northeast of Owatonna.

Click here to read my June 2013 post about the Strawberry Festival. I highly recommend it for the food, the people and the beautiful old church in a rural setting.

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

© Copyright 2015 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

 

Why I love church festivals like the one at Moland Lutheran June 25, 2013

Diners flocked to Moland Lutheran Church on Sunday for the congregation's annual strawberry festival in the church basement.

Diners flocked to Moland Lutheran Church on Sunday for the congregation’s annual strawberry festival in the church basement.

OH, THE PEOPLE you meet in church basements…

Moland Lutheran Church southwest of Kenyon.

Moland Lutheran Church southwest of Kenyon.

Like 90-year-old Georgia Vincent, nee Aase, who was born a mile south of Moland Lutheran Church, was baptized in this rural Kenyon parish and today drives 25 miles from Steele Center every Sunday morning for worship services.

She’ll tell you that her great grandparents came from Norway and that her father wanted a boy, whom he would name George. He didn’t get his boy.

Georgia eventually moved away to the Twin Cities and married. Her husband died on her 48th birthday, so, after 35 years she returned to the area, settling in Steele Center to raise her young daughter.

Georgia Vincent wipes down trays.

Georgia Vincent wipes down trays.

On this Sunday afternoon, Georgia was stationed in a corner of the church basement, washing trays during Moland’s annual strawberry festival. She did so with a smile, happy to contribute to an event where she once served food to diners. At age 90, she leaves that task to the younger folks.

Georgia, at work.

Georgia, at work.

Next year Georgia claims she will retire from helping at the festival.

I don’t believe her.

AND NOW, ON TO MORE PHOTOS from that strawberry festival:

Volunteers guide motorists into parking spaces outside the country church.

Volunteers guide motorists into parking spaces outside the country church.

First stop: the bake sale inside the church entry. My husband purchased caramel rolls.

First stop: the bake sale inside the church entry. My husband purchased caramel rolls.

Shopping at the bake sale.

Shopping at the bake sale.

Routing past retired farmer and head counter George Derscheid, stationed near Georgia.

Routing past retired farmer and head counter George Derscheid, stationed near Georgia in the church basement.

George's tally sheet. George pointed out a spot of skin cancer on his hand, said, he's dealt with bone cancer and now skin cancer. He's the most optimistic and cheerful person.

George’s tally sheet. He wondered why I wanted to photograph his hands. Because, I said, I like hands and the stories they tell. And then George pointed out a spot of skin cancer on his hand, said he’s dealt with bone cancer and now skin cancer. He’s the most optimistic and friendly person, just like Georgia.

Volunteers dish up hot pork sandwiches from Nerstrand Meats, homemade potato salad, ice cream, angel food cake, strawberries and chocolate cake, whatever you choose.

Volunteers dish up pulled pork sandwiches from Nerstrand Meats, homemade potato salad, ice cream, angel food cake, strawberries and chocolate cake, whatever you choose.

Lots of coffee to go around.

Lots of coffee to go around.

Diners file through the food serving line.

Diners file through the food serving line.

The backs of the folding chairs are labeled with the church name.

The backs of the folding chairs are labeled with the church name and the same strawberry decorations are pulled out every year.

First I ate my pork sandwich and potato salad.

First I ate my pork sandwich, potato salad and pickles.

Then I returned for a generous bowl of ice cream heaped with fresh strawberries. I couldn't eat all of it, so my husband finished off the delicious dessert.

Then I returned for a generous bowl of ice cream heaped with fresh strawberries. I couldn’t eat all of it, so my husband finished off the delicious dessert.

Diners exit the church.

Diners exit Moland Lutheran Church.

I love church festivals. For the food, the fellowship, the friendly folks, the history, the often beautiful setting…

PLEASE CHECK back for additional photos from Moland Lutheran.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Gather with the Norwegians and the Lutherans this weekend in rural Minnesota June 21, 2013

IF YOU’RE NORWEGIAN (which I’m not), appreciate historic country churches (which I do), rejoice in the preservation of old buildings (which I do) and value worshiping God in a rural setting (which I do), then venture into Monkey Valley this weekend.

If you can’t resist a tasty meal in a church basement (which I can’t), love strawberries (which I do), enjoy good fellowship with the locals (which I do) and delight in a beautiful and historic country church (which I do), drive south of Monkey Valley to Moland on Sunday.

A rear view of the Old Stone Church, a simple structure with three shuttered windows running along each side of the building.

A rear view of the Old Stone Church, a simple structure with three shuttered windows running along each side of the building.

Within miles of each other, two area churches are celebrating this weekend, first with a Norwegian church service in an 1875 limestone church, appropriately called the Old Stone Church and located 2.3 miles south and west of Kenyon along Monkey Valley Road.

A stone's throw from the Old Stone Church, a view of Monkey Valley.

A stone’s throw from the Old Stone Church, a view of Monkey Valley.

The road name alone was enough to draw me to this ethnic worship service three years ago. As one story goes, monkeys escaped here from a traveling circus and fled into the woods. True or not, I’m buying it.

During a worship service filled with music, choir and congregational members sing in Norwegian, "Ja, vi elsker."

During a worship service filled with music, choir and congregational members sing in Norwegian, “Ja, vi elsker.”

To read about the Norwegian worship service I attended in 2010 and to learn more about the Old Stone Church, click here and here and here.

Sunday’s once-a-year worship service begins at 9:30 a.m.

Moland Lutheran Church, a Norwegian Lutheran church south of Kenyon in Steele County, the subject of my post which was Freshly Pressed in July 2010.

Moland Lutheran Church, a Norwegian Lutheran church south of Kenyon in Steele County near Owatonna.

About the time the service wraps up at the Old Stone Church and you’ve finished mingling, you’ll start thinking about lunch, conveniently served at Moland Lutheran Church a few miles to the south and west at 7618 84th Avenue N.E., rural Kenyon, close to where the counties of Rice, Steele, Dodge and Goodhue meet.

From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Moland folks will serve pulled pork sandwiches, potato salad, strawberries with angel food cake and/or ice cream, chocolate cake (if the menu is the same as in 2010) and beverages. As church meals go, I’d highly recommend this one for the food, the hospitality and setting.

Be sure to check out the sanctuary and history of this 1884 country church before leaving. Moland reminds me of the Lutheran church I attended growing up in southwestern Minnesota.

The Moland folks serve a generous amount of strawberries with two scoops of ice cream.

The Moland folks serve a generous amount of strawberries with two scoops of ice cream.

To read my 2010 post on the Moland strawberry festival, click here.

My Moland post, “In Praise of Preserving Country Churches,” was featured in WordPress’ “Freshly Pressed” on July 9, 2010. That’s a huge honor for any blogger, to have his/her work selected as among the best of the day from WordPress blogs world-wide. You can read about that honor by clicking here. Last year I was also featured in WordPress and you can read that post about the Faribault Heritage Days Soapbox Derby by clicking here.

The real honors, though, go to all those men and women out there who preserve country churches and serve all those delicious meals in church basements.

FYI: To read about more church dinners/meals, check out the Faribault-based blog, Church Cuisine of Minnesota, by clicking here.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling