“It’s sad that it had to close, but there’s not much you can do about it,” former St. Paul Lutheran Church (also known as Big Springs Lutheran) deacon David Kiehne remarked.
The church’s last service was held on June 26, 2016 with a time of reminiscing and fellowship following the service.
At the church’s final annual meeting earlier this year, the group began working on the process of selling the church and the items it held. They decided to try to sell it on their own without a third party. Unfortunately, they kept running into issues with zoning. Because of the location of the church and the zoning laws there, the building could only be sold as a church or storage building. After not getting any bites, it was decided to send it to auction. The church members contacted several area auction companies to find out the fees they would charge. Gehling Auction offered to run the auction at no cost to the church.
“We primarily worked with Denny Brusse (from Gehling Auction) on most of the sale set-up.” Kiehne said. The church started working to put a sale bill together in August of 2016. Earlier, they had put together a list of everything in the church, figuring that it might come in handy to protect the belongings after the church closed its doors. That made it easier to finalize the details of the sale bill. Working with the available dates that Gehling Auction had, Saturday, September 24 was chosen as the day of the auction.
Many of the members of the church worked hard to set up for the auction together. The agreement with Gehling Auction included the stipulation that the church body would do the work, and Gehling would run the auction. As the church wasn’t being charged for the services, they felt it was a very fair deal.
“The sale went very well. It didn’t rain!” Kiehne chuckled. The church members were happy with the way the sale went when all was said and done. The building ended up being purchased by a group based out of Chatfield that operates as a church. St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Chapel had been meeting in members’ homes, but had outgrown the small spaces. The Big Springs Lutheran Church fit their needs.
On November 16, 2016, the deed of sale was recorded for the Big Springs Lutheran Church, and funds began to be dispersed. All of the proceeds from the sale of the church and its belongings went to non-profit organizations. St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church of Granger, Greenfield Lutheran Church of Harmony, Christ Lutheran Church of Preston, the Harmony Fire Department, and the Harmony Ambulance Service each received $5,000. Monster Bash and the Fillmore County Relay for Life were given $2,000 apiece, and the Fillmore Central Milk Fund received $500.
The biggest portion of the funds went to the Big Springs Cemetery Association, which received a total of $15,000. The cemetery had always been divided into two sections, one for the Big Springs Cemetery and the other for the St. Paul Lutheran Church Cemetery. Since the sale of the church, the church’s section has been merged with the Big Springs Cemetery. A memorial bench will be installed in the cemetery to recognize that the St. Paul Lutheran church was a part of the cemetery for over a hundred years.
The former congregation of the St. Paul Lutheran Church has moved on to join other area churches, but they will always fondly remember their time at Big Springs Church.