I have an affection for country churches and I’ve been trying to figure out how to channel this into something that can be shared with any who might be interested as I am. Perhaps it will turn into a separate blog but for now I’m going to share some of my country church adventures here.
Since moving back to Minnesota nearly two weeks ago I have come across a TON of Lutheran country churches – because there are just SO MANY here. I always knew that but had kind of forgotten after being away and serving churches in other states for the last 16 years.
Upsala was not the first country church I went to find – but it is my favorite so far because it is so tucked away that one would not ever know it is there if you just stayed on the paved roads. It is north of Detroit Lakes on highway 59 about 7 miles, then turn right on 240th avenue until you come to “Upsala Church Road” and turn left. As you wind your way on the gravel road that cuts through the grassy hills, eventually up ahead you will see the steeple of Upsala peeking out above a grove of trees. The church itself has a long driveway shaded by oaks – as I drove in I decided I would have to come back in the fall and take more pictures when the leaves are at their best.
Upsala was established in 1871 which makes it older than most of the other churches in this area. It may even be the oldest but I need to do more research to determine whether or not this is true. I walked around the beautiful cemetery and took many photographs, and of course, I had to check to see if the door to the church was open and fully expected it to be locked as every country church in Minnesota usually seems to be. The front door was locked – but a back door was open!! I was full of glee to be able to actually see the inside of this structure which has not been used for weekly worship since 1964!! The altar rail and pulpit were very typical of the Scandinavian style from the late 1800’s.
There was an interesting article hanging on the wall about how the church had been used for Midsummer Night celebrations even after its’ closing and that there was a small group of people who were committed to caring for the building and keeping it nice. I wonder who those people are now and where the church records are kept. The article also said that the church closed because the area was simply “overchurched” at the time. This is not hard to believe since one can practically see Richwood Lutheran (ELCA) from there if there weren’t hills and trees in the way and I believe Lund Lutheran (LCMC) is close, too.
The setting of this church is quite simply one of the loveliest places I have seen. Unfortunately, a home has been built quite close to the church so if you look in that direction the illusion of stepping back in time is spoiled, but nevertheless, when one is in that church yard you can practically picture the early settlers arriving at worship in their wagons, the pioneers coming early to put wood in the stove to warm the church before service, or the preacher coming in on horseback.
I’m so glad this beautiful building has not been torn down so that we can still have a glimpse of what these original churches on the prairie really looked like.