Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Vacation Bible School, past & present August 11, 2017

Maker Fun Factory: “Created by God, Built for a Purpose” was the theme of this week’s Vacation Bible School at Trinity Lutheran Church in Faribault.

 

MY, HOW VACATION Bible School has changed.

 

Volunteers, led by my friend Steve, created this amazing factory-themed set for VBS.

 

Back in the day, I joined other children in a one-room school singing familiar hymns to the accompaniment of a foot-pumped organ.

Today’s kids gather in an expansive sanctuary, belting out catchy tunes written specifically for VBS. They mimic the hand, arm and other motions in a video airing on multiple screens.

 

Volunteers created several robots for the set.

 

Back in the day, I sat on the steep steps of a Lutheran church devouring my peanut butter and jelly sandwich wrapped in waxed paper.

Today’s kids delight in heart-shaped Jello served with fruit and whipped cream in individual servings delivered by volunteers in an air conditioned fellowship hall.

 

Who knew painted cardboard boxes could be so much fun? Kids stacked and restacked these boxes, following the theme of “built for a purpose.”

 

Back in the day I laid and glued toothpicks side by side on a cardboard cross cut-out.

Today’s kids adhere self-adhesive foam stickers to foam crosses.

 

Steve crafted this musical instrument from PVC pipes with paper covered fly swatters used to hit the tops of the pipes, thus creating sound. Numerous interactive “toys” lined a hallway.

 

Back in the day I dreaded the call of “Red Rover, Red Rover, please send Audrey right over!” as I ran and tried to bust through the brawny arms of strong farm boys, failing every time.

Today’s kids stand in a line passing a ball backward into paper cups in a game of teamwork.

 

 

Back in the day I listened as the pastor read a bible story.

Today’s kids listen to a retired Christian day school educator share a bible story in an interactive and memorable way.

 

 

Back in the day, I learned that Jesus loves me, that he is always with me.

Today’s kids learn that Jesus loves them, that he is always with them.

While times change, certain truths remain. Unchanged.

 

TELL ME: If you have stories about Vacation Bible School, past or present, I’d like to hear.

 

FYI: I volunteered this week as a crew leader at my church’s VBS. In past years, I’ve done the photography. But because of my shoulder injury, I didn’t have the stamina yet to shoot photos for two hours. And that’s OK. I loved working directly with the kids. Sometimes change is good.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Free fun for the family at fall festival in Faribault October 15, 2016

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My good friend Mike created this welcome display outside the gym.

My good friend Mike created this welcome display outside the gym.

GOOD OLD-FASHIONED FUN. That defines an event planned for Sunday afternoon at my church, Trinity Lutheran in Faribault.

This game involves tossing hoops over scarecrows.

This game involves tossing hoops over scarecrows.

From 2 – 4 p.m. in the school gym (along Fourth Street across from McDonald’s), kids can play games, paint pumpkins, decorate cookies, pose for photos in the photo circle and enjoy treats at the snack bar during the Family Fall Festival.

Sorting candy for game prizes. There will also be non-candy prizes.

Sorting candy for game prizes. There will also be non-candy prizes.

And, the fest is free. Yes, free.

Here's an overview of the photo cut-out circle. Bring your smartphones.

Here’s an overview of the photo cut-out circle. Bring your smartphones.

So if you are looking for something to do tomorrow, join us. I’ll be there taking photos for the church Facebook page and in-house PR. My husband will be running the tic-tac-toe game and many friends will also be volunteering.

Kids can paint and take home a pumpkin. Yup, that's free, too.

Kids can paint and take home a pumpkin. Yup, that’s free, too.

If I was a young mom, I’d bring my kids. If my granddaughter was older than six months, I’d invite her and her parents.

When we were setting up Friday evening, I asked my friend Patty to pose in a photo cut-out. She obliged.

When we were setting up Friday evening, I asked my friend Patty to pose in a photo cut-out. She obliged.

We’ve worked hard to pull together this festival that celebrates the harvest season. Games are homemade. Photo cut-outs have been handcrafted. And we’re focused on families. Come, join us.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

How my church is connecting to young adults April 11, 2016

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I purchased Scripture cards from christianbook.com to enclose in the greeting cards.

I purchased peace-themed Scripture cards from christianbook.com to enclose in the greeting cards.

FOR AWHILE NOW I’ve thought my church, Trinity Lutheran in Faribault, should mail care packages to college students. Finally that idea, although a bit modified, has become a reality.

Artist Arlene Rolf, a friend and Trinity member, donated greeting cards for the outreach project. The cards are feature images of her batik art.

Artist Arlene Rolf, a friend and Trinity member, donated greeting cards for the outreach project. The cards feature images of her batik art.

Four of us, who are working on outreach as part of a visioning process, recently mailed greeting cards with encouraging messages, Scripture cards and gift cards to 23 young adults from our congregation. That option, rather than the more costly care packages, realistically fit our finances.

We can complain all we want about youth disengagement from the church. But if we don’t do something about it, then we really ought to stop whining.

I also ordered joy-themed Scripture and inspirational cards from christianbook.com.

I also ordered joy-themed Scripture and inspirational cards from christianbook.com.

I’m not so naïve as to believe this first project of the College Plus Connection Team is going to bring young people back to church. Yet, I am optimistic enough to believe these mailings, this connection, at least shows that we care. I care about these “kids” because they are part of my faith family. Many are also the sons and daughters of friends. Anytime someone cares is a positive. And that can make a difference in the life of a young person.

Another one of Arlene's batik print greeting cards.

Another one of Arlene’s batik print greeting cards.

Implementing a project like this can be a challenge. We started with a list of about 70 names. It’s really really tough to track down addresses and other information when many people no longer have landlines. Publicizing our efforts didn’t help either.

Rather than despair, our team decided that if we reached even one young person, we succeeded. So we succeeded 23 times. We mailed cards to young adults who are in college, working and/or serving in the military, thus the name College Plus. They live in places ranging from Faribault to Boston to Thailand and the Netherlands. They now know that we at Trinity care about them. And that’s important in any ministry. We all want to feel valued and connected to others, whether in a faith family, a school family, a work family or even our adoptive or blood family.

I’d like to hear more ideas on how a congregation can connect with young people once they’ve left home. Please share.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

With joy & thankfulness on Easter March 27, 2016

This stained glass window of the women at Jesus' empty tomb rises above the altar at Holden Lutheran Church, rural Kenyon, Minnesota.

This stained glass window of the women at Jesus’ empty tomb rises above the altar at Holden Lutheran Church, rural Kenyon, Minnesota.

Why do you look for the living among the dead?

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

This depiction of the risen Lord centers three stained glass windows above the altar at Trinity Lutheran Church, Wanamingo, Minnesota.

He is not here; he has risen!

© Photos copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Scripture text from the New International Version of the Holy Bible, Luke 24:5 & 6

 

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

 

Valentine’s Day love at Sunday School February 14, 2016

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SS Valentine's Day, 48 stack of valentines

 

HOW WAS YOUR Valentine’s Day?

Except for the hour I spent photographing Sunday School students and their families, mine would have been just another Sunday. Early to church, followed by bible study. Then brunch at home prepared by my husband.

But because I’ve recently become the go-to person to document happenings at my church, Trinity Lutheran, I pulled photography duty this morning. And I’m fine with that because I enjoy photography. Now if I was asked to give a minute-man speech (which I’ve been asked to do) or count money or serve on a board (which I’ve been asked to do), I wouldn’t do it. My talents and interests don’t lie in those areas.

Ask me to bring my camera, however, and I will likely be there.

In the one hour I covered the Sunday School’s Valentine’s Day event, I shot some 200 photos.  But, because these images are for church use, I can only share a few generic photos with you.

 

SS Valentine's Day, 16 close-up hands making valentine

 

I can tell you, though, what I witnessed. And that was kids and parents, and, yes, even some grandparents, celebrating the gift of love. Kids made valentines, stacked candy hearts and unwrapped Hershey’s kisses with mittened hands. But the most memorable moment came when parents applied sticker dots to their children’s faces—each dot representing a quality they love about their children. I heard words like beautiful, smart, kind, my first-born…

 

SS Valentine's Day, 138 I love God because dots

 

After those professions of love, the kids stuck the dots to portraits of Jesus with the children, expressing their love for Jesus.

 

Valentine's Day Trinity SS 039 - Copy

 

I left feeling like I’d gotten the perfect Valentine’s Day gift—a reminder that I am—we are—loved.

TELL ME, what made your Valentine’s Day special/memorable?

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Celebrating God’s Creation at Trinity Lutheran in Faribault February 8, 2016

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Worship opened with the hymn, "All Creatures of Our God and King," shown on the big screen next to a mountain crafted for the 2015 Mt. Everest themed Vacation Bible School.

Worship opened with the hymn, “All Creatures of Our God and King,” shown on the big screen next to a mountain crafted for the 2015 Mt. Everest themed Vacation Bible School.

GOD’S CREATION FOCUSED every aspect of worship at my church, Trinity Lutheran in Faribault, this weekend.

Quilted snowflake art by Kevin Kreger, who coordinated the Creation themed art display,

A snippet of snowflake art quilted by Kevin Kreger, who coordinated the Creation themed worship service.

The theme seemed ideally suited for a February weekend when a blizzard was forecast for portions of the state.

A painting of sunflowers jolted color

A sunflower painting jolts color into an art display.

Come this time of year, Minnesotans are beginning to long for green grass, sunshine and warmth.

The Rev. Paul Rieger uses a book to showcase Creation during the children's object lesson.

The Rev. Paul Rieger uses a book to showcase Creation during the children’s object lesson.

Singing about, hearing about and viewing depictions of God’s creation lifted my spirits. The words of my favorite hymn, Beautiful Savior; a scripture reading from Genesis; and a display of artwork brought in by worshipers highlighted Creation.

Viewing the art after the 8 a.m. worship service.

Viewing the art after the 8 a.m. worship service.

God's creation of fish depicted in this crocheted art piece.

God’s creation of fish depicted in this crocheted art piece.

Lots of Creation art in many mediums.

Lots of Creation art in many mediums.

After worship—after the singing and preaching and listening—congregants perused art displayed within the sanctuary. Creation worked into fabric and photos, yarn and paintings, wood and paper, and more. So much talent crafted by the hands God created.

Crosses, because they are made of materials from the natural world, were interspersed with the other art.

Crosses, because they are made of materials from the natural world, were interspersed with the other art.

And then there was the-feet-in-the-hammock photo that flashed onto the big screen during the pastor’s sermon. He used the image to illustrate that “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”

A simple bowl of fruit rests as a work of art and and example of God's Creation.

A simple bowl of fruit rests as a work of art and and example of God’s Creation.

Slight laughter rippled across the pews of the Lutheran church. Yet, the point was made. God rested. And so should we. But do we?

BONUS PHOTOS:

More artistic examples of God's Creation.

More artistic examples of God’s Creation.

Autumn leaves in fabric...more of God's Creation.

Looking up at autumn leaves in fabric…more of God’s Creation.

An overview of the major portion of the art display, including my photo on the big screen.

An overview of the major portion of the art display, including my photos on the big screen.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling