Skjeberg Lutheran Church rises from the ashes near Drayton, N.D.
Congregation rebuilds structure after a 2018 fire.
DRAYTON, N.D. — The Skjeberg Lutheran Church congregation will hold a service Sunday to dedicate a new structure built on the firm foundation of their ancestors.
Construction on the new church was completed in mid-September, a year and a half after the old one was destroyed by a fire that is believed to have been started by lightning. Church members voted by the end of April 2018 to rebuild the church and construction on the new church began in October 2018.
Among those attending the 10 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 27, dedication service, and the open house the day before, are nine members of the Lutheran church in Norway for which the church was named.
“Skjeberg Church has a special place in our hearts, ” said Birgit Ravneng, who sings in the choir of the Skjeberg Lutheran Church in Norway. “We were so sad to hear about the fire. I said if they are building a new church we have to be at the dedication, and here we are.”
Liv and Truls Hauge also traveled from Norway to the weekend celebrations at the country church near Drayton. Truls Hauge’s ancestor, Edward Hauge, emigrated from Skjeberg, Norway, as a boy, and was the first secretary of the original church built on the grounds. Edward Hauge is buried in the cemetery a few feet from the church.
Construction of Skjeberg was funded by insurance money from the old church, funds the church had in its savings and donations from across the United States. Meanwhile, some closed churches in northeast North Dakota and northwest Minnesota donated items. Among them are kitchen equipment, collection plates and pews. A wooden hymn board, from Pleasant Valley Lutheran Church, rural Park River, N.D., was refurbished by Keith Kjelland and given to Skjeberg. Pleasant Valley Lutheran, which closed several years ago, also donated an altar and communion rails.
“We’ve been given everything we need to get it running,” said Kris Heine, Skjeberg Lutheran Church Council president. “It’s just so awesome because we have everything we need.
“But we weren’t worried about it — God provides,” she said. “It feels amazing. It’s so fun to see all of our hard work come to fruition.”
The Hauges and Ravneng are pleased with the appearance of the new Skjeberg Lutheran Church.
“It is so pretty,” Ravneng said. “The mix of the old and the new things.”
“It’s marvelous,” Liv Hauge said. “It's important they have got things from other churches that they have reused here.”
Besides the items donated from other churches, Skjeberg Lutheran Church also contains a few things found in the ashes of the old church. Besides the bell, members also rescued a cross, which they fixed, polished and placed on the new church’s altar.
Meanwhile, a page from the Lutheran hymnal with the song “Oh that the Lord Would Guide My Ways” survived the fire mostly intact. The charred hymnal page is encased in a glass box in a cabinet.
“We kind of feel that was a message from God,” Heine said.