Saturday, June 19, 2010

Church Celebration

For those who don't know us well, this post may be tedious. Please come back on Monday morning to learn more about farm life in GriggsDakota. For the rest of you, 
"Welcome Home!"

Last Sunday, our beloved little church in GriggsDakota celebrated 125 years of existence. We are not founding members of this congregation. Our pioneer roots are in other area churches, but this is the church our family chose, near to where they eventually settled and now, dear to our hearts.
By the time my parents married, both of their families were members. There have been family baptisms, confirmations, weddings, anniversaries, and funerals held in this church. Generations have listened, learned, come to faith, been comforted, and sustained by the pastors and our church friends who have loved us through our best and worst. We have eaten lots of hotdish, buns, Jello, and cake in the church basement.
 If the coffee isn't cooked, it is always in the well stocked cupboard and anyone is welcome to make a pot or a pitcher of KoolAid. In recent years we have started to prefer lemonade instead of the red Koolaid of my childhood, but sometimes we revert back to our traditional ways.
The first church building, built in 1897, burned down and was replaced with this structure in the early 1950's.
But the day was not about the building, it was a celebration of life.
The oldest living member of the church congregation is Iris, our aunt, great aunt, great grand aunt, and great great grand aunt.

In the choir loft last Sunday were:  Grandpa Sonny, Cattleman Jim, Momma Jane, Robbie,
 Farmhand Kirsti, Joseph, Hunter, and Little E who was fascinated with the organ and joined the choir spontaneously on the festive day.
During the opening hymn each Sunday, children bring pennies to the front and deposit them into the "Pennies for a Purpose" jar. If a child comes forward without pennies, our pastor usually has a pocketful. When the jar is filled, the money is given to our local nursing home. Children are cherished here.
Following is the church blog post which includes the Anniversary Program from the Celebration for anyone who is interested: 

125 Years of Ministry

The Day of Celebration for 125 years of ministry has passed and I hope all of you who attended felt welcome and blessed. It was a day to long remember.
Sundahl's doors were thrown wide open. The woodwork and sanctuary floors inside gleamed with new varnish and elbow grease. Original art, painted by Gerald Hamlin in 1985, was chosen to grace our Anniversary Celebration Program cover. This painting hangs on a basement wall of Sundahl. Following is a copy of the program beginning with the cover and continuing with the Worship Service. Click on the image to enlarge.

The worship service was powerful and meaningful. I hope that the images are readable when enlarged on your computer. You will see that we had special music by the Sunday School and that Taylor Webster, representing the seven generations of continuous membership in Sundahl for her family, lead a dialogue of Thanksgiving. Former pastors read scripture. Our pastor, Rev. Ken Iverson, gave the children's sermon. Bishop Bill Rindy of the ELCA Eastern ND SYNOD gave the sermon. Allyse Hoge, sang a solo in her clear and sweet soprano voice. As the choir sang one could imagine that they were an echo of a heavenly choir of former Sundahl singers whose perfect eternal voices were leading the church choir through the songs. It was that kind of day. 
Former pastors sent written greetings which are on the following images:
Following Worship there was a Meatball Dinner served in the basement. Tim and Jill Haakenson and Russ and Marilyn Hoge served as hosts for the dinner. Each table was decorated with a pieced center cloth representing the thousands of quilts that have gone out into the world from this church. Made by the women each winter, this year they made a point of constructing 125 quilts. The quilts are distributed through Lutheran World Relief, as well as locally to those in need of warmth or comfort. The centerpieces on every table were pitchers containing flowering garden plants. This traditional pioneer table decoration brought back memories of long ago Ladies Aid suppers. It was during the meal that those in attendance began to reminisce. There were videos and photos on display in the entry area of Heritage Hall. Time passed quickly and soon all were being called into the sanctuary for the program:
This was a time of laughter and tears. Bill Miller, as Master of Ceremonies, shared excerpts from long ago meeting minutes of Sundahl Ladies Aid. There were greetings from Paul Retzlaff, President of Sundahl Congregation, and Kay Sundquist, WELCA President. Joan Huso, a great granddaughter of founding members,  gave a historical presentation on the name Sundahl and its connenctions in Norway. We heard from John Furu who brought greetings and a cast iron candle holder from Sunndal, Norway. He is a great grandson John Mehle, a founding father who later returned to Norway and raised his family there. 
Logan and Norway Congregations were recognized and the descendants of the respective  founding fathers were asked to stand.
 Paul Huso and Joe Miller spoke of gratitude in their hearts to the congregation, and of the grace of God which has spread the Word out from this remote little church to ends of the earth. The music was inspiring with Robbie Lukens singing a solo as he accompanied himself on guitar. The Daughters of the Congregation, which was defined in this instance as singers who were confirmed at Sundahl, sang as a women's chorus. The men's chorus, who Bill joked would have been a Huso chorus except that Tim Brakke and he had infiltrated to give it some class, sang Beautiful Savior. And the beloved Sundahl Choir, this time directed by former director, Rev. Arlyn Anfinrud, sang The King Is Coming. When they were finished, we wondered if the Lord would indeed return today.
The program was followed by cake and coffee in the church basement served by the WELCA officers. That group used to be called the Ladies Aid. 
Which leads me to a story that my grandmother told:
When the women were serving meals and lunches in the early days, much of the baking was done at home in a wood fired oven. I can barely imagine how difficult it would be to regulate the temperature and properly bake something as delicate as a cake. It was a challenge that often resulted in a slightly burnt corner on the cake. The frugal baker would carefully disguise the darkened area with frosting. She then would try to eat that piece herself, and no one would be the wiser. 
Once, as Grandma was trying to set aside a piece of burnt cake for herself, a well-meaning neighbor took it. 
Grandma told her, "No, I will eat that one, it is scorched on the corner."
"That's all right," her friend replied. (my mind always hears a thick Norwegian brogue in this reply) "I like burnt. It makes you good to sing!"
The cake on Celebration Sunday was perfect in every way. But I think perhaps there has been a lot of burnt cake eaten in the Sundahl Lutheran Church basement. 

Faith of Our Fathers, Joy to Our Mothers. Thank You to All the Cheerful Workers for preparing such a Wonderful Day! 
Thanks Be to God!

Click HERE to visit the Sundahl Lutheran Church blog. 


  1. I'd love to see photos of some of the attendees. It's been way too long since I've been able to sit and enjoy the peace and love that is Sundahl Lutheran Church.

  2. My family is from Sunndal, Norway area. I just talked to my cousin Mary-Anne today! How are things in North Dakota today? Did you get any of that snow we are getting in Minnesota?

  3. Things are great here. We missed the snow this weekend, but it is winter cold and windy. Thank you for reading our blog!