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

 

Part IV from Wanamingo: Touring Trinity Church March 24, 2016

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Trinity Lutheran Church, 301 Second Avenue, Wanamingo, Minnesota.

Trinity Lutheran Church, 301 Second Avenue, Wanamingo, Minnesota.

THE LUTHERAN CHURCH STANDS solid on a corner lot a few blocks off Wanamingo’s Main Street. Brick strong. Enduring strong. In the faith strong.

The cornerstone of this ELCA church is dated 1922, to the left in this photo.

The cornerstone of this ELCA church is dated 1922, to the left in this photo.

A cornerstone on Trinity Lutheran Church simply notes LUTHERAN CHURCH 1922. I know nothing more about the history of this congregation, of this building.

The beautiful sanctuary as photographed from the balcony.

The beautiful sanctuary as photographed from the balcony.

That matters not. For I appreciate churches like this which are lovely houses of worship. For these truly are houses to the families of faithful. Therein, worshipers, if not related by blood, are related by the commonality of faith and lives shared. They truly become family in joy and in grief.

One of my favorite stained glass windows in Trinity is this one of Ruth gathering grain to help support her mother-in-law. The window is partially covered by the balcony.

One of my favorite stained glass windows in Trinity is this one of Ruth gathering grain to help support her mother-in-law. The window is partially covered by the balcony. To me, this window symbolizes deep love and devotion to family.

This trio of stained glass windows rises above the altar.

This trio of stained glass windows rises above the altar.

One of the windows flanking the side of the sanctuary.

One of the windows flanking the sanctuary.

Within the walls of an aged sanctuary like Trinity, visual symbols of faith embrace those who enter therein. Intricate stained glass windows shine the light of grace and of Scripture.

One can only imagine the messages delivered from this sturdy pulpit.

One can only imagine the messages delivered from this sturdy pulpit.

The sturdy pulpit with its handcarved trim looms as a time-honored place for preaching of the Word, the wood dulled by the hands of many preachers.

Balcony pews.

Balcony pews.

Worn pews reflect the history of generations.

Another view from the church aisle.

Another view, this from the center church aisle.

Art, history and a heavenly presence prevail. It is here, within the walls of Trinity. Visually. And in spirit.

BONUS PHOTOS:

The risen Lord centers the trio of stained glass windows above the altar.

The risen Lord centers the trio of stained glass windows above the altar.

A basket holds church bulletins and other worship essentials.

A basket holds church bulletins and other worship essentials.

Church mail slots.

Church mail slots.

A final message for worshipers is posted on a window next to an exterior front door.

A final message for worshipers is posted on a window next to an exterior front door.

FYI: Please check back next week for more posts in my “from Wanamingo” series.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A creative contest to celebrate a church anniversary June 21, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:10 AM
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EVERY YEAR FOR AS LONG as I can remember, the Faribault Daily News has sponsored a “Lord of the Things” contest during our community’s annual Heritage Days celebration. A photographer photographs snippets of items—maybe a sign, a decorative cornice on an old building—to be published in the newspaper. Entrants then identify the objects and their public locations.

Recently I adapted that idea for a 140th anniversary celebration at my church, Trinity Lutheran in Faribault. Wanting a scriptural theme, I pegged the contest “SEEK & FIND,” based on Matthew 7:7: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

I photographed half of Jesus' face in a stained glass window as a focal point for a posterboard displaying 4 x 6-inch contest photos.

I aimed to provide a fun family activity, to increase worshipers’ awareness of their church surroundings, to focus on church history and to get people to our 140th anniversary reception. All of those goals were achieved in a process that began months ago.

Back in April, before anyone knew I was planning this activity, I roamed the church campus photographing perhaps two dozen items, which I narrowed down to 14. I discovered, then, that I’ve not even noticed some of what surrounds me.

How long has that painting of Christ, gazing at a baby, hung above the drinking fountain?

How long has “Trinity Lutheran School” been chiseled in granite?

Why have I not seen that angel in the stained glass window until today?

This contest, I determined, could present a challenge to those who entered. I was right.

Dennis, one of the contest winners, shares with me on Sunday—the day SEEK & FIND winners’ names were posted at the anniversary reception—that he puzzled over a single photo. “I thought it was a window,” Dennis tells me, explaining how he searched for 45 minutes. But his story takes a humorous twist. After informing his wife, Pat, that he can’t identify the geometric pattern, she instructs him to look down. Dennis is standing on the elusive tile floor in the photograph.

That entertaining story makes all of the time and energy I invested in this contest worth the effort. But so does the story from Marilyn, who brought her three grandchildren to church—twice—to ferret out the photographed objects. The first time, a carpet cleaning crew kept the group from entering the sanctuary. The second time, they tread quietly within the church as a musician tuned a piano.

Then you have Lee and Laurel, who began hunting for the photographed items after the late church service one Sunday. With the clock ticking toward noon and morning worship volunteers wanting to go home, the couple finally had to give up and leave, or be locked inside the church.

Such stories amuse, and please, me.

I would have been even more pleased had more people entered the contest. Only 31 entries in the two divisions—adult and youth—were submitted. I expected three times that many, especially after publicizing the competition in church newsletters and bulletins, via word-of-mouth, by e-mail, via announcements and by handing entry sheets directly to church members.

But…, I tried. And I am confident that the 17 entrants who won are quite pleased with prizes that included homemade pies from the Trinity Pie-makers, gorgeous lily bouquets from Virgil and Jane’s garden, Ryan and Sara’s homemade maple syrup, Roy’s handcrafted fretwork cross, gift certificates to local businesses, and more.

I’m not discouraged by the lack of response, only disappointed.

But I’m also encouraged. Already, one contestant has asked: “Are you going to do this again next year?”

Uh, no, but maybe in 10 years, when Trinity celebrates its 150th anniversary.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A place of peace, inside Friedens Kirche April 8, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:41 AM
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Friedens Evangelical Lutheran Church near New Prague

ONLY 34 YEARS AGO, the last German services were held in Friedens Evangelical Lutheran Church, rural New Prague.

This surprises me—that German services continued up until 1976.

But I find that fact, printed right there in a church brochure I pick up recently while en route to Jordan, Minnesota. These days, lured by their historical and reverent beauty, I can’t pass by an old country church without stopping and tugging at front doors, hoping to get inside.

Typically, I am disappointed because most often church doors are locked.

On this March afternoon, though, I feel blessed because a side door to Friedens is open. A worker, who is laying new flooring, is sitting in a van next to the church eating his lunch.

“You can go inside, but I can’t give you permission to go inside,” he insists several times. I am persistent, though, and he finally concedes that my husband and I look like “decent folks.”

We are, and I intend to enter the church with or without his approval.

My only desire is to see the interior of this old, stately double-spire brick house of worship that stands proudly along Le Sueur County Road 30.

Once inside, I am not disappointed. In fact, I am pleased to discover that the sanctuary resembles the Wisconsin Synod church of my youth, St. John’s Lutheran Church in Vesta.

The ornate gold-trimmed white altar, specifically, takes me back decades to the place where I worshipped every Sunday. Friedens’ altar appears a carbon copy of the altar in the old St. John’s church building. I figure this altar is typical of that era—Friedens was founded in 1864 and this building constructed in 1913.

Inside Friedens Lutheran

The ornate altar and the statue of Christ are similar to the ones that once graced my childhood church in Vesta, Minnesota.

Inside this old Wisconsin Synod church, I admire the gentle curves of the balcony, sunlight streaming through beautiful stained glass windows, lamps dangling from chains above the pews, even the twists of the bell rope.

Looking toward the curving balcony of Friedens.

Jesus invites the children to come to Him in one of many stained glass windows inside Friedens.

Friedens' German heritage is reflected in this stained glass window, which translates, "My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth."

This house of worship inspires me, brings back so many memories, even though I’ve never been here until today.

But then my husband brings me out of my reverie. “Should I ring the bell?” he asks.

I admit that it is tempting to grab the rope and pull as I round the stairs into the balcony. This, I know, will surely prompt the floor-layer to evict us and label us anything other than “decent folks.”

I walk past these two windows on the stairway leading to the balcony.

Mary and Martha depicted welcoming Jesus in this balcony window.

Soon I have finished photographing the interior of this lovely old church. I am standing outside now, braced against a brisk March wind taking pictures of the exterior.

Back inside the car, we begin to pull away when a man in jogging clothes emerges from the house across the roadway. He’s half-walking, half-leaping, struggling to pull on a pair of shoes. He is, I figure, the pastor, and I am right.

We stop and the Rev. Henry Koch introduces himself. I explain that I am a writer and that I love old churches and that I was raised Wisconsin Synod Lutheran. We laugh together when I say I’m not a traitor because today I am a member of a Missouri Synod Lutheran congregation. My conservative Lutheran guilt prompts the synod transfer confession.

We talk a bit about the weather, which has been an adjustment for this clergyman. He moved here from Florida several years ago, likes it here and says this is a good place to raise his son.

As I look around this rural setting, I understand. Here, in the shadows of a church that bears four crosses high atop four towers—two on the original church and two on the fellowship addition—seems an ideal place to raise a family.

And under the care of this congregation—Friedens, the German word for “peace”—I can only imagine the peace that also comes in living here upon the land settled by Hannoverian German Lutheran families in the mid-1800s.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Easter hope April 4, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:37 AM
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German words on a resurrection window at Trinity Lutheran Church, Faribault Minnesota.

IN THE LANGUAGE of our forefathers, the German words are as powerful, meaningful and promising today as they were yesterday.

“Ich bin die Auferstehung und das Leben.”

I am the resurrection and the life.

Yes, Jesus is the resurrection and the life.

As you celebrate Easter, may those words assure you of everlasting life through our risen Lord.

He is risen. He is risen, indeed.

Alleluia!

"I am the resurrection and the life." A stained glass window in the Trinity Lutheran Church sanctuary, Faribault, Minnesota.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling