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Closed church’s legacy lives on

By Nate Jackson S

mall business closings across the country are quite com- mon. When the accountant

and attorney say, “Te time has come,” typically employees are let go, merchandise is liquidated, doors are closed and consumers move on. But what happens when a church

comes to the reality that it’s time to stop ringing the bell to wor- ship? Former members of Eidskog Lutheran know this story well—the small church in western Minnesota closed Oct. 1, 2015. “Te whole process (closing the

church) has been rather like dealing with a terminal illness,” said Kathy Haukos, who married a lifetime Eidskog member in 1969 and played the organ there for 35 years. “You know the end is coming, but even so, you’re not totally prepared for that day.” Eidskog’s origins

date back to the late 1800s when Scandi- navian immigrants started worship- ing together in the rural area of


‘We were very elated that our church furnishings would be used for the

purposes for which they were intended.’

Ortonville and eventually built a church. Sermons at Eidskog were delivered solely in Norwegian until 1924 when church leaders decided to use English every other Sunday, a practice that continued until 1942. In 1988 the congregation became

affiliated with the ELCA and offi- cially changed its name to Eidskog Lutheran. At its peak, the congrega- tion had a choir and four “ladies’ circles” and was educating more than 100 Sunday school students, said Eldon Knutson, Eidskog’s last president. He said up until the late 1990s about 50 to 75 people would regularly show up for Sunday worship services. “Rural areas are


shrinking, and schools, businesses, elevators and churches are either

Alyssa Boock carries out items from Eidskog, which closed in October 2015.

Dick and Carolyn Jackson wrap pews from Eidskog Lutheran Church (top photo) in Ortonville, Minn., to be used at the new Hope Lutheran building in River Falls, Wis.

consolidating or disappearing,” said Knutson, whose great-grandfather was a charter member of Eidskog. When the church decided to close, he added, Sunday attendance had dwindled to about 10 to 25 people. Te shrinking size of Sunday

worship affected the church’s viability. “I know in the Bible it says ‘where two or more are gathered ...,’ but that doesn’t necessarily pay the bills,” Haukos said. When the decision to formally

close Eidskog was finally made, Haukos said leaders’ discussions turned to what to do with the church’s many fixtures, paraments, dishes and other belongings. “We were pretty sure we didn’t want to have an auction,” she said, saying it was her hope “that our church furnishings would be used for the


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