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St. James Plaindealer - St. James, MN
  • Kansas Lake’s 138 years of worship comes to a close

  •   “The building will be taken down, but the grounds will remain. The trees and gravestones will survive. Each of us who had the opportunity to be part of this church will carry it with us always.” -- from Barbara Johnson Anderson’s “I am the Church”    The Ka...
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  •     “The building will be taken down, but the grounds will remain. The trees and gravestones will survive. Each of us who had the opportunity to be part of this church will carry it with us always.” -- from Barbara Johnson Anderson’s “I am the Church”
        The Kansas Lake Evangelical Lutheran Church had their final worship service last Sunday, June 21st. This wasn’t your run-of-the-mill church send off. This parish has celebrated nearly every Sunday for the past 138 years. It is truly the end of a long and storied era of Christian worship.
        By all accounts, the decision to cease operation was difficult. In a letter to chuch members from March 1st, the late Howard Nelson, former President of the Kansas Lake Lutheran Council, talked about the many challenges the parish has overcome. Those challenges were often biblical in nature, including a grasshopper plague, a fire from lightning that burned down a church, and periods of time without a called pastor. Nelson writes that through all the hardships, there were “many more blessings than struggles,” including the opportunity to minister in mission work.
        Ultimately, the changing face of the rural community over the last 30 years forced the congregation to discontinue their ministry. With this ending, the congregation took the opportunity to look back, celebrate and honor their past.
        On Sunday, June 7th, the church welcomed back former members for a reunion of sorts. Over 200 people attended the worship service and celebration that followed, demonstrating how deep the Church’s roots run.
        Eunice Johnson is one of the final members of the Kansas Lake Evangelical Lutheran Church. She described the mood of the event:?“I think the word that sums up the mood best is ‘bittersweet.’” Eunice estimated there were 30 people on hand who were direct descendants to the founding members of the church.
        Last Sunday, June 21st, was the final worship service. Though much smaller than the celebration two weeks earlier, it was every bit as meaningful.
        “Certainly there were tears at the loss,” says current Pastor Joel Xavier. “But it’s kind of like a funeral for a beloved family member. You’re sad to lose them but there’s joy in remembering their rich and full life.”   
        The Church that now sits off county road 10, near Kansas Lake, will be demolished likely this fall. There are plans to put a memorial at the site. Records of the church as well as other items from the earliest times will be taken to the Augustana Synod Archives at Gustavus Adolphus College at St. Peter, MN. An auction to sell other odds and ends from the church is scheduled for July 18th.
        To understand the history and modern-day life of this church, one must look at the role of immigration. The parish was established by settling Swedes in 1871. At that time the church was known as the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Kansas Lake Congregation. It wasn’t until 1962, when the church merged into the Lutheran Church, that this parish adopted its full name.  See more in the June 25 Plaindealer.