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Dennis Johnson, one of the members of the cemetery association, stands inside Frank Lake Covenant Church. The 112-year-old church, top, has been purchased by Kathy Weckwerth, executive director of Best Life Ministries. The church will serve as the home base for Weckwerth's Best Life Ministry. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

A new life, a new ministry for Frank Lake Covenant Church in Swift County, Minn.

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West Central Tribune
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Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

MURDOCK -- Prayer and a little publicity helped connect a doomed country church with a buyer.

A dollar and a hymn sung in Swedish sealed the deal.

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The result is that the Frank Lake Covenant Church, which was listed for sale on craigslist and could have eventually been demolished, will have a new life and a new ministry in a new home just 20 miles away.

Kathy Weckwerth, executive director of Best Life Ministries, said Thursday she has purchased the 112-year-old church and will move it late this summer to her rural home south of Benson.

"It was exactly what we had prayed for," said Weckwerth, who's been involved with Christian ministry for the last 20 years.

The church will serve as the home base for Weckwerth's Best Life Ministry. Once it's settled in a grove of trees on the farm where she and her husband, Dean, live, the church will be used as an office as well as worship and conference space for Bible studies and a variety of faith-based programs she coordinates for women.

"It'll be a great blessing to us and the ministry and encouraging people in the future," said Weckwerth.

"We're so tickled," said Dennis Johnson, who grew up in the Frank Lake Covenant Church and was one of five members of the Hillcrest Cemeteries Association that has been taking care of the small, white church on a quiet gravel road about equal distance north of Murdock, west of Sunburg and east of Benson.

The church measures 42 by 36 feet and features stained glass windows, a decorative tin ceiling and rows of sturdy wood pews. It was built in 1900 after a fire destroyed the congregation's original structure that had been built in 1887 by the Swedish immigrants that formed the congregation.

The church was well-known for its music, especially hymns sung in Swedish. The congregation, including Johnson, made a recording of those Swedish hymns in 1965 in the sanctuary of the small church.

The church hasn't been used for regular worship since the mid-1980s.

Because the association needed to dedicate its limited funds to care for the cemetery, members decided to put the church put up for sale for $1.

Johnson said last week in an interview with the West Central Tribune that if a buyer wasn't found, the church would eventually have to be torn down or burned down.

Weckwerth, who had been looking and praying for a church to buy for months, read the Tribune story and met Johnson at the church that afternoon.

Weckwerth said she could feel God's presence in the sanctuary as soon as she walked in.

She also saw a piano and sat down. A church pianist since she was 12 years old, Weckwerth grew up in Iowa with a neighbor from Sweden who taught her to sing hymns in Swedish.

Weckwerth said she and Johnson sang Trygarre Kan Ingen Vara (Children of the Heavenly Father) together in Swedish in the empty sanctuary.

Other than a few repairs to the roof and foundation, Weckwerth said she intends to leave the building intact.

While searching for a church to buy, she said the Bible verse from Isaiah 58:12 kept going through her mind. The verse, "Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings," seemed more than a coincidence.

Before the church is moved, Weckwerth said there will be a farewell celebration to bring former members back to the church for a time of remembrance and a time to "pass the baton" to a new phase of the church's ministry, which she said will continue to include music.

Johnson said he fielded calls from other potential buyers last week, including one from another church that wanted to buy the building for a youth program, as well as a couple calls from people who wanted to buy the church for a cheap place to live.

"We should've had more churches to sell," said Johnson with a laugh.

He said knowing that the church will continue to be used for ministry is great comfort to those who spent many years praying, worshipping and singing there.

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Carolyn Lange
A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers county government and regional news with the West Central Tribune.
(320) 894-9750
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