It was a joyous day on Sunday, January 29, 2017 as the new Henrytown Lutheran Church and it’s congregation opened the doors to welcome all of God’s children inside to see and appreciate their new house of worship.
After the loss of Henrytown Lutheran Church to a fire on April 16, 2015 the congregation drew strength from God and each other to begin looking forward without haste.
Upon entering the new church, and especially the new sanctuary, many members of the congregation took a minute to just “soak it all in” before finding their seat for the first service in the glorious new church.
Those gathered for worship were blessed with hearing the “Henrytown Angels” Sunday School choir sing to begin the service.
Songs by the children included “Stand up and Cheer,” “Jesus Loves Me” and “We’re going Fishin,” which they sang with joyful voices and faces to match.
Brock Bergey, vice-president of the church council, addressed those in attendance saying “wonderful morning” to everyone as he explained it was beyond a “good morning” in Henrytown.
“We open our doors and our hearts to you,” stated Bergey as he welcomed friends and neighbors, including those from Union Prairie Church of Lanesboro, Minn., and Assumption Catholic Church of Canton, Minn.
Bergey stated that the last time the congregation worshiped inside Henrytown Lutheran Church was on April 12, 2015, four days before the fire on April 16 of that year. Construction on the new church began on May 4, 2016.
“It’s good to be back,” stated Bergey, but added it was also very emotional as they had lost what was “so cherished and so special” to them; a church that held generations of memories.
“The church is not a building – a church is the people,” said Bergey, adding that prior to the fire, the congregation may not have understood that but since the fire happened, the people and the congregation have grown stronger. “Stronger relationships with each other and with Jesus Christ,” notes Bergey.
“In preserving our past we are now focusing on the future and it is a wonderful thing,” noted Bergey.
The building committee members were recognized for their many hours of research and planning. These members included Karen Bergey, Howard Coyle, Rochelle Middendorf, Fay Garness, Darrell McCabe, Roman Yoder, Ben Stelpflug, and church council President Butch Helgeson.
On behalf of the congregation and the church council, Bergey thanked all of the work crews involved during construction of the church, Union Prairie Lutheran Church and Assumption Catholic Church for allowing them to worship there, the area council of churches and other communities of faith near and far.
Bergey also recognized Pastor Paul Thompson who “led them through the transition” and wishes Pastor Thompson well in his new call to service at other parishes.
Lastly, Bergey thanked all current and former members of the church for “going above and beyond”, which he says “truly speaks to what Henrytown Lutheran Church is all about”, adding that from the day of the fire everyone stepped up to help in many different ways.
Bergey then introduced the congregation to Pastor Dean Safe, their new contract Pastor for the next six months. Pastor Dean grew up in Cannon Falls, Minn., where he helped milk cows on the family farm. After graduating high school in 2008, he attended Waldorf University in Forest City, Iowa receiving a B. A. in English Literature and Creative Writing.
After college he states he “felt a draw to seminary”, but wanted to be sure it was his calling, so he moved to the mountains of Washington State and served in a Lutheran community called Holden Village.
“It was there that I cooked and baked and lived in community for a year before finally realizing the call to ministry,” states Pastor Dean in his printed introduction in the church bulletin. He attended Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., in the fall of 2013 and completed his studies in December of 2016.
Pastor Dean welcomed everyone “home” to Henrytown Lutheran Church, stating this is his first call to serve and stated he “is very excited to be among you” and is “thrilled to be serving” at Henrytown for six months.
“Today we look back at what was, but today is also a new day filled with courage in the beginning of a new era of ministry together,” stated Pastor Dean.
“I am so very thankful to be joining you at this pivotal juncture in your story as a community of faith and I am looking forward with enthusiasm to getting to know each and every one of you and the varied gifts you bring to this place,” commented the reverend.
In his sermon, Pastor Dean spoke about what it truly means to be a servant to others and how to live a life of a servant.
Following the worship service, a fellowship dinner was held to celebrate being back home in the church and to welcome Pastor Dean into his new church family.
There are a few things left to be completed as the altar, lectern and baptismal font are still being built, but should be in place within a couple months. A stained glass window, which will be a replica of the altar painting “Jesus knocks on the door” that was lost in the fire, will also be in place soon.
Highlights of the new church are modern technology such as large screen televisions that show the worship service information and a new sound system. Many beautiful stained glass windows, which were graciously donated, are located in the main gathering area as well as in the sanctuary.
The sanctuary can hold approximately 140 people and another 140-150 people can be seated in the main gathering area. The walls between the two areas can be opened up for overflow as was done during the first service, which was highly attended.
Henrytown Lutheran Church was the special guest of a shower that was held on Saturday, January 14, 2017 and hosted by area churches. Many wonderful items were brought in to the church, including embroidered kitchen towels, roasters, cake pans, coffee pots, serving spoons, pot holders, kitchen stools and so much more, which provided the congregation of Henrytown Lutheran Church with the essentials they need in order to hold worship and enjoy fellowship for many years to come.
Worship services at Henrytown Lutheran Church will be held each Sunday morning at 10:30 and all are welcome. The address is 36190 County 18, Canton, Minn.