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Born again: Shuttered western MN church finds home for its fixtures in River Falls

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It's not the kind of classified ad you see every day.

An altar, a pulpit, pews, and an organ – all available for the taking in the western Minnesota town of Ortonville, the ad in The Lutheran said. And, lo and behold, they were exactly the items a congregation in River Falls, Wisconsin, needed for a brand new church building.

The River Falls Journal has the story of how the items from the recently closed Eidskog Lutheran Church are finding a new home 200 miles east, where members of Hope Lutheran Church are constructing the first building to house their 10-year-old congregation.

One church closes

Eidskog Lutheran ended its 130 years of ministry in Big Stone County by holding its closing worship service on Sept. 20.

The Journal reports services at Eidskog were conducted in Norwegian until 1924, then English and Norwegian were spoken on alternate Sundays for another 18 years.

Eldon Knutson, whose great-grandfather was a charter member, tells the paper that at its peak the church had four "ladies circles" and more than 100 Sunday school students.

But after reaching the end of its road this fall, what would happen to everything in the church?

Another church is built

Nine days after the final service at Eidskog, Hope Lutheran Church held a groundbreaking ceremony for its building in River Falls.

Dick Jackson, a member of Hope Lutheran who grew up in the western Minnesota town of Madison, tells the Journal: “We took the church pews (32), the whole kitchen -- including the stove and refrigerator -- folding chairs and tables, even five fire extinguishers."

While it's been painful to see Eidskog close, organist Kathy Haukos told the Journal, "I think it is very cool that we can help Hope make their church dream a reality."

When rural churches close

With shrinking populations in rural Minnesota, Eidskog's fate is certainly not unique.

In 2002, filmmaker Mark Brodin made a documentary called "Delafield." It traced the closing of a 125-year-old Lutheran church in the southwestern Minnesota town of Delafield and followed the church's members as they auctioned off its contents, disassembled the building, and saw it moved 22 miles to the Fort Belmont tourist site in Jackson.

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