The bells still ring at St. Pauli Church near Thief River Falls
THIEF RIVER FALLS--Times change. People move away. But for 115 years and counting, they have been keeping Christmas in a little country church just south of Thief River Falls. And they still are ringing the bells.
THIEF RIVER FALLS-Times change. People move away. But for 115 years and counting, they have been keeping Christmas in a little country church just south of Thief River Falls. And they still are ringing the bells.
This Sunday morning, a dozen children will take part in the annual program during the 10:30 a.m. service in St. Pauli Church. Parishioners will take turns ringing the bells high up in the steeple of the stately white church on the prairie. They will be ringing the bells again for next week's Christmas Eve services.
Parishioners have nurtured and cared for the traditional church. It is clean, nicely painted. There is an automatic chair lift for those who might have trouble on the wide, carpeted stairway that leads down to the kitchen and dining rooms in the basement.
This is important for the members who are older. And the congregation has numerous dinners and dessert sessions.
The church was founded when newly arrived Norwegians were settling on Minnesota soil to stay. The first Christmas services in its present home were held in 1901.
Services then were in Norwegian. And with a long-ago gift of land from one of the parishioners, a cemetery was established nearby.
Pastor Carl Hansen, a retired Lutheran pastor, now serves part time for St. Pauli. Parishioners come out from the area. The church is reached by going 3 miles southeast of Thief River Falls on U.S. Highway 59. Then there's a turn south on 170th Ave. NE (or County Road 20). After continuing south about 3 miles, the church is on the west side of the road.
Nelson, Helgeson, Vigen, Swanson and Torkelson are among the mostly Norwegian names on the gravestones at St. Pauli cemetery.
During this season, St. Pauli is one of the dwindling number of country churches still open and celebrating Christmas. With its devoted members, it continues as a robust place of nurture and growth. Church members step up and take their turn serving dinners during the year. Volunteers perfectly maintain the grounds. And they keep ringing the bells that sit high above in the church steeple.
Some of them remember the years when Nels Nelson could lovingly ring the bells for hours at a time. In these times, members take turns and keep the bells sounding over the snow covered Minnesota farmland.
Reach Marilyn Hagerty at email@example.com or by telephone at (701) 772-1055.