Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Sunday thoughts about worry, connecting & faith March 29, 2020

On the Trinity Lutheran Church Facebook page, you will find daily inspirational bible verses such as this one posted last week.

 

I TEND TO BE AM a worrier. I overthink things. I consider all angles and possibilities. Maybe my journalism persona is partly to blame. Lessons learned in college classes and in my days of news reporting called for balanced, unbiased reporting. Consider all sides of a story.

But, in all honesty, my personality is such that I ruminate. I don’t particularly like change. I like to feel some sense of control. I expect that applies to many of you. Especially now.

These are days that challenge us in so many ways. The uncertainty. The fears. Separation from loved ones. The reality of COVID-19 touching us personally. Our families. Our friends.

Now, more than ever, I rely on my faith. To calm me. To give me hope. To reassure me.

This morning I listened, for the second week in a row, to worship services online, live-streamed from my church, Trinity Lutheran in Faribault. This was a gospel service with violin and piano music and old familiar hymns. Volunteers and staff practiced social distancing during that service. Not to worry.

As I listened to the music, the sermon and Scripture read, and prayed, I remembered the pastor’s opening words that we can still be “spiritually present with one another.” Yes, we can. I miss my faith family, people who mean a great deal to me. People who have supported me during really difficult times. People who have celebrated with me. People whom I care for deeply.

I care about you, too.

 

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

 

While listening to the songs played today in the Trinity worship service, I jotted down these especially meaningful snippets:

O Mighty God, great is your love.

All to Jesus I surrender, Lord, I give myself to thee.

Let trials turn us not aside.

In the children’s message and pastor’s sermon, we were encouraged to “go” (without “going”) and do what we can—even in this time of isolation—to spread the love of Jesus. Make cards. Call people. Connect.

 

Vintage art from the Trinity radio room. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

We all have the power to do exactly that. From our homes. Even when ordered to stay home, to social-distance, to isolate, we can support and encourage each other. Be there for one another. Work together through the fear, worry and anxiety. I turn to Scripture, too, to uplift, encourage and give me peace. I pray.

And I write, because writing is a way to help myself and others through the COVID-19 crisis. Click here to read my latest Warner Press blog post, “Past Plagues Remind Us of God’s Power & Compassion,” published as part of our new Sunday “Scriptures of Hope” series.

These all help me deal in these difficult days… Be well, my friends.

PLEASE SHARE WITH ME ways you are connecting with others, dealing with your personal concerns, etc. I’d like to hear. We can all learn from on another. Watch this week for posts showing ways people in my community are sharing the love.

FYI: To hear this morning’s Trinity worship service and more, click here, for Trinity Radio and Video YouTube videos.

Disclaimer: I am paid for my work as the Warner Press blog coordinator. 

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

How faith families are adapting, connecting, reaching out… March 22, 2020

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

ON A TYPICAL SUNDAY MORNING, I would be awake by 6:45 am, showering, grabbing breakfast, preparing to leave for 8 am church services.

This morning I awoke a half hour later, followed the regular Sunday morning routine, then sat down at my computer to watch live-streaming of the Trinity Lutheran, Faribault, church service. I expect many of you did the same—utilizing technology for worship.

 

The original microphone used in 1948 for Trinity’s radio broadcasts on KDHL radio, Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Trinity has had a video ministry for years. And a radio ministry for more than seventy. I am thankful those outreach ministries were already in place, making it much easier to connect with people during this global pandemic.

Difficult times call for us to be creative and to adapt. Our family ministry leader also brought Sunday School to our kids in a YouTube video. Click here to view that.

 

From the Trinity, Faribault, Facebook page.

 

During the past week, I’ve worked, from my home, with a team that’s expanding Trinity’s ministry via social media. Daily uplifting and encouraging scripture has been added to our Facebook page. And our pastor is penning daily devotionals, which I am editing and proofing. I’m happy to use my talents to help.

At Warner Press, an Indiana-based Christian publishing company where I am the paid blog coordinator and a blogger, we’ve launched a weekly series, “Scriptures of Hope,” to encourage and uplift people during this COVID-19 crisis. I encourage you to check out that first post by clicking here. Members of our Warner Press family selected bible verses that carry them through difficult times, sometimes adding their personal insights. We are committed to doing our part, through our blogging ministry, to bring hope.

I’d like to hear from you. How are your faith families connecting and continuing their ministries? Together we can learn from and support each other. Now, more than ever, we need to share our ideas and to connect.

FYI: Click here to reach the Trinity Radio and Video website to view today’s worship service and the Sunday School video (click on YouTube).

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Celebrating Faribault’s holiday generosity December 12, 2019

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I’VE WRITTEN THIS BEFORE, but I’ll repeat it. It’s more blessed to give than to receive.

Example: Randy and I visited some older folks last Sunday afternoon, delivering poinsettias as part of a shut-in outreach at our church, Trinity Lutheran. We talked everything from art to farming. We remembered, laughed, delighted in the conversations which took two hours out of our day. Two hours. Time is a gift. We gave it and experienced the joy that comes in connecting with those who can’t get out and about like they once did.

This coming Sunday afternoon we’ll gather with friends to wrap a whole lot of gifts for individuals and families in need through Trinity’s Angel Tree Project. My friend Mike heads that annual endeavor and tells us we have more gifts than ever to wrap. The need is great. But so is the generosity of those who each December amaze us with the items they purchase for Angel Tree gift recipients. It’s more blessed to give than to receive.

 

A Community Christmas Dinner sign banners the front of Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church, Faribault.

 

Another Faribault church, Fourth Avenue United Methodist, is also giving back to the community this Sunday with its annual free Community Christmas Dinner. We’ve attended numerous times, delighting in the company of other guests and of this friendly congregation. A dinner of chicken breast, meatballs, King Hawaiian stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, coleslaw, candied carrots, dinner rolls and cupcakes will be served from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. in the church basement.

 

Another giving and embracing message posted outside Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church. Love this.

 

But Fourth Avenue United Methodist is doing more than serving food. A free-will offering at the dinner will go toward Believet Canine Service Partners, a Northfield-based nonprofit which provides service dogs to disabled veterans at no charge. Since 2015, Believet has paired 12 dogs with vets. Cost to train and place a single service dog is approximately $28,000, according to the Believet website. It’s more blessed to give than to receive.

 

Inside the historic Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Also this weekend, the Faribault-based choral ensemble Beau Chant (French for “Beautiful Singing”) presents two holiday concerts in Faribault. They will perform “Tis the Season” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, December 14, in Newhall Auditorium at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School and at 3 p.m. Sunday, December 15, at the Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour. Cost is $12. When I consider the time these singers commit to practicing and then performing during the busy holiday season, I realize that this, too, is a gift. It’s more blessed to give than to receive.

 

A streetscape shot along Central Avenue shows the restored marquee at the historic Paradise Center for the Arts. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo December 2019.

 

And, finally, the Faribault Area Community Band gives a free hour-long holiday concert at 7 p.m. Sunday, December 15, at the Paradise Center for the Arts. It’s more blessed to give than to receive.

Now it’s your turn. Tell me how you, or others in your community, are giving back this holiday season.

 

NOTE: I have highlighted here only a few of the many ways individuals and organizations in my community are giving to others during this holiday season.

© Copyright 2019 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

 

Joyful in service: Supporting a Faribault family at a breakfast & silent auction fundraiser July 26, 2018

WHEN MY FRIEND LISA’S HUSBAND died from complications related to cancer while traveling in Sweden nearly two months ago, I was heartbroken. Heartbroken for my friend and her daughters. But also heartbroken for myself because Michael was my friend. And pastor.

 

A story I wrote about the fundraiser which published in the Faribault Daily News.

 

From 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. this Sunday, July 29, my faith family, Trinity Lutheran in Faribault, is hosting a breakfast and silent auction fundraiser for the Nirva family. Proceeds will help cover medical and other expenses related to the unexpected death of their husband and father.

We are all called to serve others. I firmly believe that. I am honored to be on the team planning and implementing this fundraiser by handling the publicity and by coordinating the silent auction. The generosity of people donating primarily handcrafted and homegrown items humbles me. I purposely sought donations from creatives at Trinity rather than hit up local businesses. From garden art to garden-fresh bouquets to quilted items, woodcrafts and much more, the variety of auction items showcases a wide range of gifts.

Gifts. That’s an important focus in helping others. Not only will this benefit yield financial gifts. But, perhaps more importantly, it represents a show of love and support for a grieving family. And that is the real gift.

 

Thrivent Financial is providing seed money for the fundraiser through its Thrivent Action Team Project.

 

If you live close enough to attend and are moved to help this family, please come for the breakfast of pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausages, fresh fruit and beverages prepared by a caring crew of Trinity folks. (Unfortunately I can’t be there given a previous commitment.)

Give as your compassion moves you and your finances allow. There’s no set price for the meal, but rather a free-will offering.

 

 

I also encourage you to check out the silent auction, which opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 11:45 a.m. All 50-plus items will have a cash-and-carry option, meaning you can pay a preset price and the item is yours, no bidding necessary.

In a few days, our crew will be in full pre-fundraiser work mode. Even with use of only one hand, I can write and organize. We each have gifts that we can use in serving others. That’s so important to remember in a time when the world too often seems self-centered and angry and just plain mean. We need to refocus on kindness and goodness and being there for one another.

In the words of Mother Teresa:

Faith in action is love—and love in action is service.

And one more great quote:

Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.

Who can you help today?

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The faith of our fathers still flourishes in a long-time Faribault radio ministry April 26, 2018

A temporary display in the sanctuary of Trinity Lutheran Church celebrates the radio and video ministry.

 

FROM MINNESOTA to Sweden to Saudi Arabia, people are listening to worship services from Trinity Lutheran Church, Faribault.

 

 

That may not seem remarkable in this technological age. But the longevity of this Minnesota-based ministry—seventy years—and its basic beginnings are remarkable. In April 1948, a group of men founded the Trinity Radio Council with the goal of broadcasting services on KDHL radio in Faribault. Just three months after that station formed and weeks after the Council initially met, the first Trinity worship service aired at 8 a.m. on April 25, 1948.

 

The original coverage area for KDHL radio.

 

With promised payments of 35 cents per broadcast per Council member, this ministry into the southern regions of Minnesota, western Wisconsin and northern Iowa launched. Today those live radio broadcasts cost $175, but reach a much wider audience. And well beyond radio.

 

 

Worship services (at 8 a.m. Sundays and on other special church days) are also live-streamed, available for online viewing, aired on the local community cable channel and shared with care center residents.

 

The original microphone used in 1948.

 

 

 

The transmitter.

 

From a simple RCA microphone, a basic switchboard and a transmitter, broadcasting has advanced to high tech with multiple cameras, computers and more.

 

Art suspended in the sanctuary denotes radio waves and the focus of the radio ministry.

 

 

Yet, the purpose of sharing these worship services remains unchanged. And that is to bring Christ to the nations, to spread the good news of salvation. In a recent sermon, Trinity Senior Pastor, the Rev. Dr. Michael Nirva, referenced Romans 10:17 as he noted the Trinity Faribault Radio Club’s 70th anniversary: So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

 

A view inside the studio and overlooking the sanctuary through the studio window.

 

Vintage radio room art, currently in the historical display case.

 

 

 

That word of God centers worship at Trinity. And that’s visible in the radio room angled into a corner of the sanctuary. Todd Voge, who today leads the radio and video ministry, gave me a quick tour. While Todd showed me the brains of the operation condensed on a computer screen, pointed out the transmitter and more, I noticed two bibles sandwiched between a telephone directory, song books and devotionals. In a cramped room filled with all sorts of high tech stuff, the printed bible still holds a place of importance.

 

 

This ministry remains important to Trinity with generations of families involved and committed to its continuance. Within my family, my husband once a month takes a DVD of the morning’s worship service to a local care center and shows it to residents. And when my son was in high school, he volunteered in the radio room. While I’m not a volunteer—the computer aspect is enough to scare me—I’ve occasionally listened to worship services on KDHL when I couldn’t make it to church.

 

Original meeting minutes are currently displayed in the narthex history case.

 

I am grateful to the original Trinity Radio Council members for having the foresight and the faith to start this ministry. They saw the potential in radio, in a ministry which has endured for 70 years. And expanded well beyond what they ever imagined.

 

An overview of the historical display.

 

FYI: To learn more about the Trinity Faribault Radio Club and/or to listen to/watch worship services, click here.

© Copyright 2018 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

 

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