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Farewell service set for rural Murdock, Minn., church headed for new home

Kathy Weckwerth sits inside the Frank Lake Covenant Church, which she is purchasing and moving to her family's farm 22 miles away in rural Benson. A farewell church service and celebration is planned Sunday. Weckwerth intends to use the church for women's conferences and Bible studies as part of her Best Life Ministries. (Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange)

MURDOCK -- When Kathy Weckwerth looks at the Frank Lake Covenant Church, she looks past the peeling exterior paint and the stained glass windows that are in need of a good washing.

Instead, she sees a rich history of faith and community that was embodied in the small country church for decades before it ceased to be used for regular church services some 30 years ago.

And Weckwerth also sees the promise of new faith and community that will take place in the church when she moves the building next month to her family's farm south of Benson.

Weckerth intends to use the church for conferences and Bible studies for women at Best Life Ministries, the west central Minnesota nonprofit organization in which she serves as executive director.

Built in 1900, the church currently sits along a quiet gravel road between Benson and Sunburg, surrounded by farm fields and a grove of towering trees. A well-maintained cemetery is in the back.

In May, Weckwerth purchased the church for $1 from the Hillcrest Cemeteries Association. Its members were no longer able to financially maintain the structure and feared it would one day have to be torn down.

Instead, it will be moved 22 miles down the road, cleaned up and put back to use.

"We're going to rescue the church from its 30-year rest," she said. "I'm looking forward to being in here and doing some good ministry."

On Sunday a farewell service will be conducted that will include worship, prayer, sharing of memories and "blessings on the past, along with vision and prayer for the future," said Weckwerth.

"Many of the family members, whose descendants are buried there in the cemetery, are coming and bringing old photos, programs and memorabilia to share that day," she said.

The Rev. Richard Lundgren, who is the only living pastor to have served the Frank Lake Covenant Church, will be coming back from the West Coast to speak.

There will also be a reunion of the church's former Swedish Choir that had been part of the strong cultural heritage of the church.

Led by Best Life Ministries, the service will also include a taste of the contemporary Christian music that's typically featured at Weckwerth's conferences.

Lemonade, iced tea and cookies will be served on tables with red-checkered tablecloths under a large white tent.

Weckwerth said she hopes the service will provide a time to remember the people and the faith of the past and that it will bring positive closure to those who will miss seeing the church on the foundation where it's stood for 112 years.

"Change is hard, but this is a really good change," said Weckwerth. "We are going to use it and love it."

Weckwerth and her husband, Dean, have been preparing for the move on both ends. The day after the church service, movers will dig around the church to examine the joists to make sure they're solid enough for travel or if they need reinforcing.

A route is being selected with minimal roadblocks, like overhead utility lines, in preparation for the mid-August move.

"The energy is just building and building," said Weckwerth, who is also planning fundraisers to help with the cost of moving the church and making some minor renovations, including adding restrooms and a handicapped entrance.

After making the move down the road, which is anticipated to take about six hours, the church will be nestled near a grove of trees on Weckwerth's family farm on a 42-by-36-foot spot that has stubbornly refused to produce a crop or a tree for years.

That's the exact size of the church building, said Weckwerth.

Once the church is settled into its new home, there will be another celebration to inaugurate the building's new purpose. But Weckwerth said the memories of the past will still resonate. Weckwerth is making large copies of old photos from past Frank Lake Church events that will hang in the church "to remember those who served God faithfully, before us," she said.


Frank Lake Covenant Church farewell

A final farewell service will be at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Frank Lake Covenant Church, located just off of state Highway 9, between Sunburg and Benson.

The service will include a hymn-sing by participants, a time of sharing memories and hymns sung in Swedish by former church members.

The Rev. Richard Lundgren, who is the only living pastor who had served the Frank Lake Church, will be traveling from the West Coast to speak.

After the service refreshments will be served in an outdoor tent.

In August the church will be moved to the home of Kathy and Dean Weckwerth, about 22 miles away, and will serve as the home base for Best Life Ministries, which conducts conferences and Bible studies for women.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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